7 For 4: Contact 2000, Streetlife-Melody, 1002-08-01 CyberHome(s): http://www.7For4.de
It took me several listenings to Contact by 7 For 4 to get a handle on the musical vision of bandleader Wolfgang Zenk. The reason for this, is that Zenk integrates a number of different philosophies and musical approaches in the music that combine to form an unusual style. Contact is definitely guitar-centric and this is the first thing that is going to attract the listener's attention and focus. But, Zenk has an unusual repertoire of axe chops that are not from the standard progressive collection that one might expect for guitar-intensive music, but are instead from all over the musical map. This was the first adjustment that I needed to make to acclimate to the music on Contact. However, once I got a handle on what was and was not there in the guitar technique and vocabulary, I was able to begin to relate to the musical vision that lay behind the guitar work. And, therein lies the value in this album, Contact. What is good about this album is that it has a style and feel that is different and refreshingly new, something that is truly difficult to achieve.
After I overcame my initial prejudice to what I originally was thinking were shortcomings in guitar work, I came to realize that the phrasings and techniques were in fact carefully selected and orchestrated by Zenk to achieve a unique sound that satisfyingly fulfilled the musical vision on Contact. (I was at first a little over-critical and biased based on expectations from other music. When something is new in nature, though, you have to abandon your older preconceptions to appreciate it.) The musical vision and styles deployed to achieve that vision can be described as diverse, inventive, widely accessible, upbeat, energetic, alive, aggressive, soulful, witty, constantly shifting, and satisfyingly melodic and resolved, though the harmonization and rhythms are complex enough to keep a musicians interest. What really makes the music work for me is the unending changes that go in unexpected yet very pleasing directions both in rhythms and themes. The track "E-Gyptian" is the prime example of this shifty, multi-genre, attention grabbing yet well-resolved nature of the composition of 7 For 4 that drives home the musical ideas with the inspired guitar work of Zenk. "E-Gyptian"clearly demonstrates the musical genius of the band with the collage of musical styles that are seamlessly integrated defying conventional musical wisdom. Other standout tracks that make this CD worthwile are "X-Dreams", "Tokamak", "La Provence" (I really liked the progressions, changes, and solo work on this one... clever, accessible stuff), and "Rushian".
And though my overall impression of the CD is favorable, there were two tracks that left something to be desired for me. The vocals on "Catking" didn't seem to help the CD and I would have been happier with a strictly instrumental album (but you must take into account my general disdain for anything but virtuoso vocal efforts)... so nix the vocals next time guys! ;) "Highlands" seemed like it was a near facsimile of the Genesis song "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", though maybe a better rendition than the original... but if you're gonna pay tribute, why not just call it by its real name?
The guitar style that Zenk deploys is an unusual style and may take a few listenings for guitarists to absorb. There are obvious elements of advanced technique, but there are also simpler elements that are less advanced that are used more for musical effect rather than guitar domination and heroism. The common thread in the style is the vision, feeling, and emotional content that underlies the techniques utilized. I listened to this CD a number of times trying to sort this out before I could put it into a frame of reference. Zenk pulls some advanced techniques and speedy type sequencing into his style and also draws from simpler, but well-felt type playing, making the resulting style encompass a very wide, yet cohesive scope. Finally, I went up to the 7 For 4 website to find this confirmed when reading Zenk's influences who included widely-ranging guitarists including the technicians Vai, Howe (Greg, I am assuming), Gambale, and Methany, as well as the more gutsy-oriented players, Gilmour and Knopfler... all good influences. The overall sound of Contact might be described as what might happen if some progressive guitar work, swing jazz composition, neoclassical exposition, and multi-genre tid-bits had been integrated with the best musical compositions of Genesis, though I wouldn't want to pidgeonhole the style that narrowly because there are many more stylistic elements to the music than just Genesis. (And, when I say multi-genre, I mean within the same composition and not simply different compositions that articulate different genres.) It is very cool in some places on this album how these different stylistic elements transition from one to the next... very clever!
My suggestion to listeners is to detatch themselves from analyzing the guitar work the first few times through Contact, and instead focus on the music as a whole and the vision that is being impressed on the listener. Then, once you have a grasp on that musical vision, look at how the guitar work is utilized as a tool within the composition... artistry. The value of Contact lies within the musical vision and the album is not an exhibition of guitar prowess for the purpose of guitar heroism. The heroism of the guitar work is comprehensible once you understand how the guitar work is applied to achieve the musical vision. Forget about guitar technicianry for its own sake, this is good music intended for pleasurable listening! (though it is guitar-intensive too!) This is diverse and new stuff, give it a chance to settle in and take root.
Zenk's chameleon, sonic shape-shifting style of composition and guitar exposition is an accomplishment that all guitarists should check out, understand, and come to terms with. When the musical vision exceeds the sum of the technique and the resulting sonic canvass transcends the mechanics involved, what you have is musical genius. And, that is just what is clearly demonstrated on the better tracks from Contact. I hope that further efforts from the group will continue to develop this aspect of their music because the tracks "La Provence" and "E-Gyptian" are so superb in their musical character that they convey a type of deep insight into the psychological aspects of music that very few musicians have ever touched upon, and fewer have mastered.
Good job guys! A solid effort from start to finish! And, a very enjoyable listen!!! ... This one is going in the disc changer in my car. This is very entertaining music and I highly reccommend Contact by 7 For 4. This new band, 7 For 4, is one of the brightest new stars in the firmament of 21st century progressive music.
|3) La Provence|
|4) E-Gyptian(mp3 sample)|
|9) Subspace Distortion|
~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com
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