Friday, 2 December 2011

Martin Motnik Invasion

Martin Motnik with Gregg Bissonette - Bass Invader
Album Review
Genre: Rock, Progressive Rock

Though German born bassist Martin Motnik mostly plays live gigs and hires himself out as bassist on other people’s projects, he has released one album of his own. It was recorded back in 2005 and is titled “Bass Invader - Martin Motnik with Gregg Bissonette.” It’s a well-formed combo, with Motnik on bass, the ever versatile Gregg Bissonette on drums, and a few nicely placed guest spots by excitable six-string guitarist, Mattias Eklundh.

Bass Invader is an intense 14-track collection that runs the gauntlet of tonal possibilities; every sound a bass guitar can make comes into play on this album. Most of the songs are originals, written by Motnik, but there are also a few featured remakes, and they are all extremely well thought out and very well performed.

As I put on my headphones, I was treated to a wonderful marriage between the defined, perfected recording technologies of the digital era, and the rich, real sounds of the instruments themselves. For someone like me - a child of the analog age - I am often torn when it comes to the newest computer recording techniques. I worry that the rough-edged reality of music can be lost when washed through a computer that only knows 1s and 0s. The music itself has to be good enough to survive the process and catapult me over the analog hurdles in my mind.

Bass Invaders seems to have done this without much fuss. My toes were tapping, my head was bobbing, and at the end of it all, I found myself ready to recommend it to all lovers of hard rock, progressive rock, Latin rock, and even The Simpsons.

Motnik is the kind of bassist who knows how to draw out each and every sound available from the instrument. He's also wise enough to pair himself up with the finest musicians. As a result, Bass Invader is an evolved, deeply melodic collection of soul moving songs.

Try this one through your headphones. Since Motnik makes use of all the technology available - synthetics, sweeps, pans, etc. - the 3D effect is great and gives your sense of balance a run for the money!

Motnik’s skill shines. Tapping, slapping, plucking, picking, and a seriously impressive use of harmonics - the listener gets a real schooling on the range of sounds available on the bass. As with other albums I’ve reviewed, I enjoy it when sounds are blended and woven into layers that flow into and around each other. No pigeonholes here. Motnik seems to know where the bass is traditionally supposed to be when combined with guitar and drums, and finds as many ways as he can to skirt around that place. In fact, there’s even a sign on the album cover that reassures the listener that all the sounds do indeed come from bass guitars! If you’ve never seen him play, you could be doubting - it’s just that diverse.

But…as I’ve said before, I listen to music as an amateur. I don’t always know the whys and wherefores of the technical stuff and could never slap iron in a showdown with a professional musician. All you gotta do is impress me musically. Does it sound good? Do the passages cause visual images to roil up in my head? Does your music cause the creativity in my own soul to arise? In this case, the answer is...yep.

The Tracks:

Bee On Speed - The opener features a dark, growling bass and great drumwork by Gregg Bissonette. As you might gather from the song title, it’s busy, fast, and hectic, and features a squealing guitar by Mattias Eklundh. That’s the sting!

Delayed - This one is a melodic, sweeping, solo bass number that showcases the computer technology - specifically delay effects (hence the name). Wear a seatbelt when you listen to this one through the ’phones. It’s gonna take a ride through your skull.

Where’s The Referee? - Third up is a heavy, aggressive prog rock song . Motnik sets off the Roya against a six-string ESH Sovereign bass. A hockey game? A boxing match? The two seem to compete for control. Great percussion - Gregg Bissonette knows how to keep up, that’s for sure.

Disease - This is a beautiful instrumental remake of the Matchbox 20 song. This time, the Roya meets up with an acoustic Ibanez bass, and there’s no referee required. Maybe my favourite track on the album. Too smooth.

Arizona Sunset - A moody driving tune. To me, it sounds like something that would go well in a Quentin Tarantino flick. Solo Roya with harmonics. More tasty drumming by Bissonette. I love the subtle underplay in this song. Each layer of bass is exactly where it needs to be. Not a single extraneous note. So precise that you don’t even notice.

Don’t Forget To Floss - Imagine a bass played along with the vibrations of an electric toothbrush to jangle it all up. Short and sweet. Pure experimentation.

Recepción Con Champán - A real Latin fire starter! Incredible beat. The beautiful Ibanez acoustic bass is featured again. Get up and dance! Increíble! Fantástico!

Vinyl Concerto - Originally recorded by Explorers Club, this is a tasty fifty-eight second sampler with some old fashioned vinyl record noise underneath. Remember the scratchy intro on Colin James’ “Just Came Back”? I enjoy this type of sound.

Stages Of Ages - A soothing, beautiful ballad with some riffs to fill it out. This one features both a fretted and a fretless Roya. Remember when I said that Disease was MAYBE my favourite track? The MAYBE was because this one is fighting my senses for top spot. Soulful and penetrating. And because it’s one of Motnik’s originals, there’s a nice peek into the man’s heart.

Pickpocket Prelude - Another short sampler. Classically influenced. I can see this fugue being played on an organ or harpsichord. Playing it on a bass is the epitome of Motnik’s wide field of vision. Love the ending. A lesson in bass harmonics. Wow.

King Of The Monsters - A beastly good rock piece, this was originally recorded by Racer X. Intense and heavy. On the Sovereign bass again - it chugs along at high speed. Another driving song, maybe this time right off a cliff. Grooving all the way down!

Simpsons Theme - Well, what is there to say? We all pay our respects at the altar, right?

YYZ - He who dares to cover Rush must have his act together. This is prog rock at its best. Three instruments as one. Drums, guitar, and bass moving like a well-oiled machine. Mattias Eklundh rides the wave on lead guitar!

Bee On Weed - The closer. 24 seconds of goodbye…specifically, out the left ear. Heh, heh.

Bass Invader has earned its place in my FAVES collection and Martin Motnik a seat on the throne of musicians who have impressed my amateur ears. I highly recommend it!

Martin's website lists all the places it's available for purchase. Just one note, if you choose to buy it from Martin's website, the order will be processed manually by Martin himself, so if you don't see an immediate download link, as you would on iTunes and the like, it's only because he'll be sending you the link himself. Personal service!

© 2011 CL Seamus for Thunder Row

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