Review Summary: Buckethead picks up the shards of acoustic material forgotten on many of his recordings, and offers it to the buyer in one neat little package.
Bootleg recordings have attracted a lot of bad press from the recording arts industry. For now though, leave your concrete opinions at the table, and enter the whacky world of Buckethead
, who possibly out of realisation for his fans wanting a more intimate unplugged sound, decided to release his 2007 album, Acoustic Shards
. Firstly, it has all those nuances that a bootleg would have: faint background noise, at times the presence of something sounding like a television, so much in fact that it really feels like a mate of his decided to smuggle in a portable tape recorder into Buckethead’s home and deviously record his friend playing random sketches on the acoustic guitar, as any bootlegger would. But unlike a bootleg this authentic recording is authorised by the artist himself, and therefore wont need to be obtained through shifty back alley deals, and/or peer-to-peer file sharing programs.
Imagine if the man stumbled into your house, picked up that old cobweb-ridden Yamaha in the corner and started playing in front of you with a whiskey on the rocks by his side. That’s the overall feeling expressed in Acoustic Shards that makes for a very diverse listen. Consider this; most of his music thus far diverges between experimental and conventional sounds. It goes from shred solos to cheesy pop riffs, in and out of blues scales and into major modes. But Acoustic Shards is void of all this for a more innocent offering that depicts the guitarist in a time of his musical infancy. It was reported that the recordings were harvested from an original recording done in June 1991 by Jas Obrecht
, but the material released hardly makes for an album of complete songs.
There’s plenty of worthwhile material to listen to in full like in “For Mom”
, “Who Me?”
, and “Little Gracie”
. All of which are sentimental, meaningful and inspiring in sound. Then there’s points where he’ll be playing something nice and casual and suddenly break into shredding or just something completely different, as a child would similarly do out of boredom while playing with a toy. Obrecht
, who also released the material, has certainly gone out of step by labelling the music as “one amazing composition after the next.”
They aren’t all completely compositions, especially when a lot of the time it’s clearly improvisation, but that doesn’t making it any less enjoyable to listen to. Nor does it make it any harder to realise the proficiency of his playing style that can have you questioning that there’s been several overdubs, when in reality, it’s Buckethead just screwing with ideas, trying to make a decent melodic company of notes out of an instrument that’s all too often abused with bad ideas. Sometimes he hits, other times he misses the target having some elements almost break bolts trying to enter an electric instrument of the same name – but that isn’t what this album is about.
What it comes down to is just hearing Buckethead in a different realm, as you do wither every new album from him. And for that Acoustic Shards is very fresh and full of wonder, but at the same time it’s not something you’re likely to want to listen to everyday, instead becoming more of an album for anyone looking for inspiration and guidance to their own acoustic compositions. It’s a fused album between classic pop-rock acoustic strums (“Ed's Rhapsody/Midnight Dance/Jars”
), vistuosic experimentation (“Spirals”
), and more traditional influences from manic Mexican-like strumming (“Serape”
) , to obscure flavours of avant-garde recipes (“Box Elders”
Don’t expect flattering performances without flaws, don’t expect pristine audio quality. But do expect to hear some pretty fascinating musical ideas from a very weird guy. Through his audible breaths of concentration, vocal frustrations, and of course that damn TV in the background, it’s about the closest you may ever get to him in terms of a human quality that’s rarely sensed in his alien mechanical style.