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Joel Hoekstra:
The Moon Is Falling
2003, Undefined Music

Joel Hoestra rebounds from his phenomenal genre-exploring, debut release, Undefined, with a compositional masterpiece of completely original and unique instrumental material on The Moon Is Falling. The unexpected change in direction caught this reviewer completely by surprise and left me thinking that this follow up to Undefined should have been named "Unexpected - Redefined" because Joel Hoekstra has completely redefined his scope and artistic depth on this release. The album consists of complex, mind-bending compositions in a concept album format where the tracks are bound by a unifying thread of musical continuity that runs throughout the album giving it a paradoxical cohesion relative to the diverse musical ideas that Hoekstra explores. Though Hoekstra's guitar work is advanced and impressive, the fretboard finesse that Hoekstra demonstrates on the album is merely a tool that he uses to shape his musical vision that is dominated by the compositional genius that Hoekstra has achieved on this effort. Fans of Hoekstra's first release, Undefined, should abandon any expectations of a sequel that resembles in any way his previous effort. Hoekstra has taken aim on defying categorization based on his debut release and has succeeded in making a complete departure from his first album's style.

The album opens with a disillusioned descent into instrumental madness that is reminiscent of Ron Thal's impressionistic compositional style that uses musical motifs to paint emotional imagery targeted at the listener's subconscious psyche, though in no way infringes on Thal's patented style. Though Hoekstra at times sounds redolent of many other instrumental artists, the manner it is done leaves the listener with the uncertainty of whether it is due to true influence or coincidental exploratory coverage of the same experimental territory. Hoekstra delves into many complex tonal themes and savory chordal phrasings that are carefully crafted together into gripping, dynamic arrangements that leave the listener bewildered with amazement because of the seeming incompatibility of the enigmatic motifs that are woven together into confoundingly coherent, exotic compositions. And then, these multifarious pieces are complemented surprisingly on other tracks by translucent melodies that haunt the listener with their eery, unearthly harmonies. Some of these melodies summon nostalgic flashes of ancient, classic musical themes from a wide variety of epic tunes conceived by the likes of thematic masters such as JS Bach, Billy Joel, Eagles, Lyle Workman, and Steve Morse, among to many other disparate artists to even attempt to list. Though again, the similarity in these profound themes to the apparent influences leaves the listener with the impression that the flares of congruence are fortuitous. And, though these bursts of impressionistic flashbacks are striking to the listener, their role in the overall scheme of the compositions are more or less subservient to the overall dauntingly intrepid and captivating mosaics that they fit. The range of styles that Hoekstra seamlessly integrates throughout the compositions is staggering, traversing many genres such as jazz, fusion, funk, classical, and concept rock, as well as many styles and schools of thought within them. This transparent integration of diverse styles is done in a deft manner that makes the listener feel as though there were some natural affinity for these incongruous styles to belong together as incorporated in and revealed by Hoekstra's enlightening revelations of stylistic fusion set forth on this CD. The net effect of Hoekstra's colossal efforts on The Moon Is Falling is a modern epic of composition, technical execution, and conceptual content that will leave fans of instrumental musics in a state of astonishment pondering the visionary musical vision contained on this album.

As a parting note on this review, I will add that due to the originality and uniqueness of the content on this CD, this was one of the most difficult reviews that I have had to write to date. There really is nothing that I am familiar with that this CD could be compared to give listeners an idea of what it sounds like. The guitar work and incredible composition will surely be of interest to fans of progressive instrumental music. But, though this CD has found a fan in this listener's ear, I am not sure what audience this CD will appeal, even among fans of progressive music. The album has a very unusual dichotomy of complexity and accessiblity that makes it difficult for me to predict what listeners will acclimate to it. Be that as it may, I recommend that all fans of progressive instrumental music check out The Moon Is Falling from Joel Hoekstra and give it a chance to sink in. This is definitely not the type of album that most listeners will be able to fully absorb the first time through. But, this is the type of album that a listener will never grow tired because of its constantly shifting sonic soundscapes that relentlessly challenge the listener with one theme after another transitioning with constantly unpredictable directional changes that often resolve into profoundly and deeply satisfying conclusions.

Guitar Joel Hoekstra
Drums Virgil Donati
Bass Ric Fierabracci
Keyboards Chris Grove
1) The Moon Is Falling
2) Fire Island
3) Euphoria
4) Translucent
5) 9/11
6) Join Us
7) The Great Og
8) Baboons Are Dangerous
9) Antonia
10) Confessions
11) Snoop
12) Maybe Just at Parties
13) Kaleidoscope
14) Lull

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~ ~ Chris Ruel's Monthly Spotlight

Joel Hoekstra
2000, Joel Hoekstra
CyberHome(s): http://www.

Joel Hoekstra has come up with a collection of tracks that aim to make this album fall into the category of "Undefined" in your local music store. Though there is a definite thread of style that is woven through this album, Hoekstra is not easily pinned to one genre or style, and apparently likes it that way so that he is free to indulge in his wide-ranging musical fancies. Undefined squarely plants one leg in the realm of jazz fusion, but hops around with the other leg into a number of other musical styles resembling smooth jazz, progressive, instrumental rock, and sometimes just plain, goofy (though musically involved and entertaining) songs. But, Hoekstra is not contented by just staking his wide musical territory, and he is intent on proving his talent and capabilities in every venue that he ventures into.

The album opens with a slew of tracks that establish the groove-based jazz / fusion foundation of the effort. The tracks present accessible themes, rhythms, and grooves that are accentuated by Hoekstra's savvy brand of soloing. The stream takes a diversion with the sixth track, "Gorilla Man 2000", that introduces a more hard-edged rock style with its crunching, distorted rhythms and instrumental rock-like guitar solos. This new dimension to the album is a pleasant surprise because it offers a new direction that adds scope to the overall concept. But, Hoekstra does not stop there. The next track, "Kill Swing", ventures further out into the realm of musical styles by incorporating into the album the swing jazz underpinnings that are highlighted by the aggressive, fusionoid guitar solos that immediately bring Scott Henderson to my mind. This track, "Kill Swing", seems to me to be the point in the album where Hoekstra really opens up and lets loose in a manner that makes you think he was holding back up until this point in the album.

Now that he has grabbed your attention with his divergence from the low-keyed jazz / fusion that characterizes the early part of the album, Hoekstra continues on his boundary-stretching rampage with the next track, "Space Cowboy". "Space Cowboy" is a goofy, country / Western, finger-picking, cowboy jamboree that spoofs the old-time Chet Atkins guitar style with Western vocals. Though the song spoofs this type of Western, it actually pays an impressive tribute to the style of country / Western guitar work that it embraces and does so in a very entertaining way through the use of space-oid affects and the comical lyrics. The versatility demonstrated by "Space Cowboys" is reminiscent of Steve Morse's wide scope of styles.

Hoekstra is able to continue his romp through the realm of musical styles with the track "Slide Tune" that brings yet another pleasant surprise to the album. This track features some very melodical and well-felt slide guitar work. The themes presented are really classy and addictively accessible with their upbeat and inspiring nature. The feel is that of a straight ahead rock song, though strictly instrumental and thankfully so because the instrumental music stands on its own. "Slide Tune" is my favorite track from the album and is good enough that it could receive radio airtime on a number of different venues.

Sometimes you might listen to a new album where the musicians try to cover a wide array of styles to demonstrate their Steve Morse-induced need to prove their diverse capabilities. Once in a while, you will come across a new artist that is actually capable of pulling something like this off without seeming like an imitation, and, in fact, seems more like the genuine article. Hoekstra is the exception that can pull it off, and he has on Undefined. This guy is a the real deal and is worth checking out. If Virgil Donati thought this music was good enough to warrant his attention on the drums, this just might be an indication of the caliber of music that you will get on this album. It's not just good music here, it's good entertainment!

1) Electric Fields
2) Urban Experiments
3) Mad Bar
4) Homework
5) Corny
6) Gorilla Man 2000
7) Kill Swing
8) Space Cowboy
9) Reflection
10) Slide Tune
11) Plot In Motion
12) Afghanistan Blues
13) Spank Me

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~




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