Chop Shop Project Earth Music (1998, Battlezone / Boss Cooper) Chop Shop Project is the brainchild of guitarist Mikhal Caldwell, a Berklee grad, 70s fusion explorer, 80s neo-classical shredder and host of the award-winning Detroit cable access show "Fretboard Frolics," and 90s leader of the avant fusion group True Stories Orchestra. Earth Music combines Caldwell's compositions and blazing acoustic guitar chops with the percussion of Charles Stuart. Earth Music features layered acoustic guitars, often multiple harmonizing melody lines over a rhythm ostinato or chord figure, plus layered percussion. The combination of acoustic guitar and percussion seems sonically appropriate, as the steel-string acoustic and especially the lighter percussion like timbales and tambourine have similar brittle timbres. However, the lack of any instruments higher or lower in the frequency range, even cymbals or a bass drum, leaves the other ends of the spectrum empty compared to the sharp midrange peak. Caldwell's playing is extremely fast yet precisely articulate. He features these blistering chops in extended solos and also as rhythmic elements in several of the songs, including the fast, low figure in "Silat" that serves as a bassline under the melody. In addition, he uses snappy and percussive attacks that compliment the sound of Stuart's percussion. With these elements, he skillfully uses his chops to fit the limited instrumentation of the duo format. The songs present interesting sonic experimentation and solid melodies, but too often they repeat riffs excessively. Most stretch over five or six minutes in length, very long arrangements for instrumental music of such sparse orchestration. Several songs move into completely different sections with little apparent relationship to previous parts, including the alternating sections of "Tribe" and the coda to "Open Hearts." The emotive melody of the ballad "Open Hearts" provides a refreshing respite from the non-stop barrage of acoustic shredding, and Earth Music concludes at six tracks, keeping the overall length of the record manageable given the sparse instrumentation. According to Caldwell's website at www.mikhalcaldwell.com, a second Chop Shop Project Record is "due 4/2001" and a live Chop Shop album was recorded. Fans of experimental and virtuoso acoustic guitar should check out Earth Music. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [email@example.com] More Info:
http:// www.mikhalcaldwell.com Track Listing:
Message (Percussion Solo) / Jihaid
Path Home Personnel:
Mikhal Caldwell: Guitar and Synth-Guitar
Charles Stuart: Percussion
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