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Stride: Music Machine
2003, Label, CD-ID
CyberHome: http://www.StrideOnline.com

Music Machine from Houston, Texas based Stride is a progressive instrumental effort that is not easily pinned down to one particular style or genre of music. There are elements of progressive, instrumental rock, neoclassical, shred, and metal that are all present in varying degrees at different points of the album, though the neoclassical dimension seems to be the foundation of the sound. But, despite that it is not easy to categorize the style of music on Music Machine, it is easy to qualify the quality of the music because these four guys from Texas have put together an awesome collection of instrumental tracks that cover a wide range of territory in musical exposition. Though complex, the compositions are easy to grasp, absorb, and relate. The arrangements are predominantly theme-centric which gives them a stable center around which the explosive soloing and leadwork is conducted. The motifs and themes are highly accessible, as well as satisfyingly expressive with strongly conveyed emotional content that has an epic feel to it. The entire album has an epic, larger than life feel to it as well, probably due to the colossal guitar work, intensive instrumentalism, and relentless drive.

Though all instruments contribute in a meaningful manner and at times excel each in their own right, the music on this album is built primarily around the virtuoso guitar work of GIT graduate, Joel Gregoire. Gregoire's playing spans a wide range of technique with equal emphasis put on articulated speed, and well-fealt melody lines and themes. The diversity of guitar technique in Gregoire's style is impressive. He is careful not to overdue his lethal speed, keeping the compositions and his soloing well balanced in regard to the dynamics of his playing speeds. This careful balancing of techniques and their relative speeds causes Gregoire's blazing speed to impact the listener with far greater effect when he does apply his stifling fast runs, sweeps, and sequences. For instance, out of the midst of some easily flowing sequences, he unleashes bursts of furious speed that strike the entranced listener like lashes from a whip that wake them from the hypnotic themes and development sections. In other places, Gregoire chooses to sustain the speed with overwhelming effect in sections that just blister from the heat of the fury with which he traverses the fretboard. And, to keep things interesting, Gregoire goes outside with his harmonization in some of the speedy runs and developmental sections, even imparting a touch of Frank Gambale fusionistic chord phrasings in places.

Perhaps Gregoire's most notable accomplishment on this album is that he is able to frame his amazing guitar work into comprehensible, accessible compositions with clearly stated musical vision, direction, and emotional content. The purpose is clearly to construct meaningful music and not to just go off on a venture into egotistic guitar technique demonstration, as some technicians are apt to do. And, it is this very focus on the creation of musical coherency with his extraordinairy guitar mastery that makes Gregoire's guitar heroism all the more impressive.

Fans of progressive music, this is what it is all about... leading edge instrumental excellence combined with complex structuring that has easily tangible and satisfying musical content. On the scale of "into it", I give this one two thumbs up and a "very into it". This effort has carved out a niche with its distinctive style that should appeal to fans of guitar-centric progressive music. This album, Music Machine, is highly recommended for fans of progressive and neoclassical.

Joel Gregoire   Guitars
Matt Kanzler   Keyboards
Marcus Johnson   Bass
Rick Flores   Drums
1) Borrowed Time
2) Mental Floss
3) Travesty
4) Boogie Man
5) Carousel
6) Elevated
7) Moonroof
8) N. S. A.
9) Laboratory
10) Eargasm
~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com ~ October 2003




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