Mart Juur’s review

Album of the week: UFO in a guitar laboratory

Mart Juur

Who plays the guitar in Facelift Deer? Who is the guitarist of The Sun? It wouldn’t surprise me to see Rasmus Rändvee and Tanel Padar themselves struggle with the answer. Who is the guitarist of the Arctic Monkeys, who plays solo guitar in Franz Ferdinand? That’s just the thing – I don’t know either. Rick Wakeman once said that no one talks about the people playing the instruments, good guitarists and keyboard players, everyone’s only got eyes for the singers. Wakeman was right of course; however, I believe things can still get a lot worse. The future belongs to bands, the singers of which will remain entirely anonymous.

In that sense Kalle Vilpuu is lucky – everyone knows him. That said, Vilpuu’s life as a musician began during an entirely different era. Almost everyone could recite the members of bands like Mahavok or Radar back then, whereas the highlight of the rock year – the Tartu Music Days – saw every self-respecting instrumentalist perform solos that baffled the audience and summoned forth awards from the judges. The far-away echo of the Tartu Music Days can be clearly felt listening to Vilpuu’s “Silver Lining” – the music is polished, arranged and tinkered with, engineering reigns supreme. Vilpuu has always been a fine-tuner and a perfectionist, bands he agrees to be play for can consider themselves lucky.

“Silver Lining” is no collection of solos left over from Ultima Thule or Seitsmes Meel. Even though it is the guitarist’s first solo album, guitar solos are relatively scarce here. Vilpuu plays with masses of sound and tones, dives into the electronic and classical, moves around chords and melodies, with bass player Henno Kelp and drummer Andrus Lillepea making for worthy partners in this space jam. Instrumental music of impeccable balance and holistic form where discipline rules over fantasy.

The canon of the genre dictates that every proper prog album must have a storyline. The story “Silver Lining” is telling belongs to the realm of science fiction, as suggested by tracks like “Anomalies”, “The Aliens (Have Landed)” and “The Touch of an Angel”. The album begins with far-away Morse signals and is concluded with dead air, the sound of UFO studies in a guitar laboratory. Estonian sci-fi rock has received considerable reinforcement.

Whatever it is you were expecting from Vilpuu’s solo album, the chance of being delivered a surprise is positively good. The synthesis of prog and metal sounds fresh and convincing. “Silver Lining” would feel right at home somewhere between Porcupine Tree and Opeth but not too far away from Kaseke’s “Põletus” and the latest Ultima Thule albums in one’s record collection.

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