Blue and green record exploding into shards

Keith Robinson
Potent Sonance EP

Instrumental guitar rock is usually associated, if not with experimentation, then at least with virtuosity. This EP offers neither, although all three tracks are an instrumental showcase of a guitar ability of some sort. If you are looking for mind-bending craziness in 7/4 at eight different tempi a la Steve Vai, or juxtaposed melodic gradations and polyphonic interplay like Satriani’s, or simply sheer neck-breaking speed of Michael Angelo Batio, then there is nothing of that sort on this EP.

The opener ‘Potent Sonance’ offers some vocal-phrased 1980s style melodic rock guitar played at an unhurried tempo over a basic harmonic progression. It displays a surprising lack of structure or centre, going nowhere in particular and arriving… yes, you’ve guessed it – nowhere in particular. It is monotonous in pace and in shape, doesn’t have a strong melody line to build on and all the ideas it displays sound like middle eight parts of some other song – the one which probably does have a strong melody or at least a structure of a song.

‘Footless Path’ is a solo to a bluesy rock ballad stretched over four minutes. It is by no means a fully structured independent composition and everything about it is forgettable, from the conventional tone to the predictable harmony. Here Robinson bows to Gary Moore (one of his heroes), but the track sounds aimless, failing to build any kind of tension and, consequently, robbing the listeners of a release and a meaningful closure.

My main problem with this player, I guess, is the fact that his music doesn’t tell a story. Rock guitar is about entertainment and all successful entertainment evokes that primary ‘what happens next?’ tingly feeling that gets people excited and makes them care. This player fails to deliver this intrigue because Robinson neglects to shape the narrative in which he operates in the first place. You feel left without direction in his music, which flows aimlessly from one point to another in no specific direction and with no particular purpose – it doesn’t take you anywhere.

‘Time and Tide’, the closing track, is so fragmented that it reminded me on one of those ‘Teach Yourself Rock Guitar’ audio tapes you could buy in music shops in the 1980s that taught you different licks, arpeggios and runs, usually all combined in one track. Even though harmonically this piece is more challenging than the previous two, it is still rather shapeless and sounds retro beyond belief, just like the rest of the material on this EP.

As a guitarist in a retro 1980s rock band Keith Robinson could do well (the point of having a retro 1980s rock band is a different issue entirely). He could contribute nicely to a strong primary songwriter, but, on this offering, I don’t see him as somebody who could independently write a complete musical work.

Mind he could, of course, prove me wrong by delivering a self-standing, complete and properly structured musical piece.

Guest article from Alyssa O.

Written by Guest Writers on

Between 2003 and 2009, [the-mag] had regular contributors from music correspondents covering their local scene. You'll find them all in the guest writers section. The specific writer is mentioned at the bottom of each article.

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