View - Bryan Beller

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by beermonkey, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Uber bassist Bryan Beller's first solo album released today. Do yourself a favor and go buy it. Now. I can't say enough wonderful things about this album.

    Check out a few full length songs at his site, then order it!!

    click me for enlightenment
  2. I'm going to repost what I wrote for my site last night because it far too wordy to be reproduced in part. ;)

    "A Bassist's solo debut" - The sentence that drives fear into the hearts of musicians worldwide, and boredom into music consumers universally. You see, in the realm of progressive/technical rock, the vast majority of "solo bass" recordings are simply an excuse for frustrated guitarists to showcase their ability to play Flea inspired slappity-slap white boy funk, Billy Sheenan-esque tapping runs, or Jaco fretless fills at 200 beats-per-minute. Hell, I'm a bassist who listens to a great deal of music in this genre, and apart from Tony Levin's catalog I can't think of a single bassist that had produced an album's worth of material that can be consumed in one sitting…

    Make that two, because Bryan Beller has changed the notion of a solo album by a member of the traditional rhythm section with his new release, View.

    I'll be upfront with my non-objectivity in this matter. Beller, or "Bassboy" as the legion of fans from his work with guitarists Mike Keneally and Steve Vai among others refer to him, has been an influence as both a bassist and writer to myself since becoming aware of both via his now-deceased column in Bass Player magazine. While not a fanboy in terms of the ability to critique and criticize, I do enjoy a friendship with the man. That being said, I've also never skirted away from the opportunity to mock him at a given opportunity so I'd consider the scales to be balanced.

    Unlike the vast majority of (mostly, in this case) instrumental albums (and these days most albums period), View is less a collection of individual songs and more a gathering of interlocking pieces along the same theme. Much on the same level as Pink Floyd's The Wall, or Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral, View is a loose concept, one Beller has described as a collection of "alone on a dusty highway" songs. He succeeds greatly in this regard, as all of the songs flow together with ease. The only jarring moments are the ones planned for in advance.

    The CD starts off with one of three pieces featuring an acoustic bass guitar, "Bear Divide", which sets the outdoors vibe perfectly. You can just imagine a dusty artist playing this by a campfire in the western desert, alone except for the thoughts expressed by music. The tone of Beller's Taylor acoustic bass shines on this track as well as the others, not sounding like the pale imitation of an upright bass but as a true "bass guitar". Most players are hardpressed to play chords on bass without them sounding like mud - Beller chooses his intervals wisely, and it shows in the clarity of the music.

    "Seven Percent Grade" follows, showing off the interplay of guitarist Rick Musallam and Mike Keneally on piano, with Beller not simply holding but flying over the low end, mid-range and high end - all without losing the cohesiveness that bass brings to music. Drummer Joe Travers manages to keep things in lockstep, a task I do not envy.

    "Supermarket People" is a bit of a conundrum: Is it jazz?… well, it's jazzy. The blues? Elements of, yes. Funk? Most definitely funky, but certainly not slap-funk. Gospel? Owing to Jeff Babko's monster Hammond organ riffs, it could be thought of. One thing's for certain - it's a monster piece that grooves, featuring self-proclaimed "I dislike soloing" bassist Beller who manages to pull what most bassists strive for - complexity with melody. This solo isn't lying on top of the music, it's very much a part of it.

    The distortion-heavy piece "Elate" is next, fading in bass chords like modern day Bach and setting up "Get Things Done", a pure driving song if ever I'd heard one. This screams to be blasted from a convertible with the top down on a stretch of open road… with a finger-blistering solo by Beller. Fingerstyle and chords flow together with a bebop-like structure. I'll take this moment to say:

    Beller, stop telling us you can't solo. You're doing a damn fine job of it here.

    The second acoustic bass song is a cover of John Patitucci's "Backwoods", and a masterful job is done adapting it to the realm of bass guitar instead of a straight cover. Pulled, almost "snapped" chords share space with arpeggios and fingersyle riffs, creating a mesmerizing mood piece that is the perfect setup for…

    "Bite", the album's first song featuring vocals and most certainly the most traditional "rock song". It's distinguished by tandem rhythm/lead bass by former Duran Duran bassist Wes Wehmiller and Beller, cut-to-the-bone lyrics, and the vocals of Colin Keenan. Heavy in a Stone Temple Pilots fashion, it's down and dirty on the floor and proud of it.

    "Eighteen Weeks" can be called the epic of the album. The addition of vibes, keyboards, multiple tracks of electric and acoustic bass, and a string trio give this track a sense of ambitiousness without becoming overblown. In other words, it never quite crosses the line into "prog", owing to the strength of the melodies and the arraignment and not the number of notes it contains. Ambitious progsters would do well to take a note from Beller's playbook.

    Beller's first stab at vocals follow on "Projectile", and it's a sledgehammer to the frontal lobes in classic industrial fashion with distorted vocals and rip-'n'slash guitars by Seattle's Yogi. Short, not quite sweet, and to the point.

    "Wildflower" starts off with a plaintive piano figure that would fit one of Trent Reznor's quieter pieces from his deconstructionist CD Still and straddles the border between that and a Tori Amos ballad quite nicely (guitarist Rick Musallam 's wah-inflected playing shades the track with a vibe borrowed from longtime Tori guitarist Steve Caton). Again, vocals by Beller, but this time they're upfront and uncovered.

    Folks, he's a singer as well. A good one.

    "No" is the last solo bass piece, and possible the most technical of the trio. It still manages to be memorable and not a NAMM show riff-o-rama, thanks to its recurrent walking line/chordal interplay punctuated by harmonics and lead lines.

    "See You Next Tuesday" (no, it's not meant to be alluding to that) is a fusion stomp by the mid-nineties classic "Beer For Dolphins" line of Beller, Keneally and Toss Panos on drums. Think you know the capabilities of your respective instrument? Give this a play and join me in the woodshed.

    The album closer is also the title track, and wonderful chance to reflect on what's come before it, with a pensive piano track and lead guitar courtesy of Griff Peters. Given the variations on mood and sonics though the previous hour, it's much needed.

    Can any album be perfect? I doubt it, as perfection varies greatly from person to person. View, however, is bound to contain a song, a mood, a lyric that will undoubtedly strike a chord with just about anyone that comes in contact with it. I'd never suggest that you "steal this album". It's unethical, immoral, and besides - it's only available online.

    ...however, feel free to steal the money to purchase this album.
  3. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    This is...interesting stuff.

    the two tracks online that is.

    I didn't like the second one much at all, but the first one is pretty neat.

    He sounds a lot like jaco.

    I'm undecided if I really like this though, there is so much going on, it's kind of cluttered, but it still works.

    Yeah, it's good stuff, not really what usually rocks my socks but it's good.
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