Review Summary: To the instrumentally impaired: this is something you will warm up to fast.
London, Ontario, Canada. Besides Canada and possibly Ontario, how many of you are scratching your heads as to where on earth London sits within the country? London is home to a thriving bed of musicians that span a vast amount of musical genres and yet, seem to not garner the attention they deserve. It’s hard to sit here and not be a little frustrated when artists/ guitar wizards such as Greigg Fraser get overlooked while others steal the limelight, but I feel that other people in fairly medium sized cities around Canada are feeling the same about their local talent too. Not to play the biased card because he’s from my hometown, but it can’t be stressed enough how excited someone must feel when they hear musicians with this much talent from their area of birth. Greigg Fraser’s sophomore independent release Tech Noir
is entirely instrumental that rocks hard on the blues and synthy electronics as much as it does with Canadian progressive masters Rush.
The amount of area Fraser covers on this album is what many might find as a fault in terms of too much diversity. This petty argument should just be ignored for the reason that the songs are largely guitar driven with a bulky amount of synths and keyboards stretched across a strong programmed rhythm section; a consistency that plays throughout most of the album. The genre crossover should also be mentioned as well as the album dives head first into 70s psychedelic, 70s/ 80s Jeff Beck inspired guitar acrobatics and a 80s new-wave electronic sensibility that helps boost the guitar wizardry into actual songs. This is only a small generalization as each song will reveal itself to a plethora of subtle nuances within its nifty little riffs and leads.
Opener “Jump Gate” wastes no time getting down to business with a buzzing riff that is fuelled by plinkering electronics and a well thought-out series of screeching leads. What’s interesting about this track is the ominous mid-section where Fraser is allowed to tinker with his strings over some more commanding keyboard/ chord progressions. Despite the dominant upbeat feel of the intro riffs, it totally fits the direction of the song. “Superluminous” and “Bughunt” are the bigger anthems on here, pushing Fraser into some mind-scrambling progressive rock in vein with songs like “YYZ” by Rush where he lets go and explores a wide range of riff dynamics and beats that pack a punch. When Fraser wants to take it down a notch, he simply settles into some bluesy numbers courtesy of a few Steve Vai licks (“Stargazer” and “Voice of the Air”) and when the album calls for it, he tosses his hat towards the Pink Floyd camp (“Straylight” or the nimble figured acoustic ditty “Curved Ayre”). I think it would be stating the obvious at this point in time to restate how diverse Fraser really is.
However well this type of instrumental rock comes across to the audience, I think it’s worth pointing out how hard it is to do something truly original as an instrumental guitarist, but it’s even harder to create a collection of influences and tie it into your own sound. Greg Fraser shows on Tech Noir
that he has no trouble with this and comes up with a pretty stellar listen for anybody interested in the finer qualities of rock instrumentation. The fact also stands that since he is from a medium sized city such as London, Ontario and plays a rather unpopular style of rock, he will go relatively unnoticed. This is a shame really because he knows how to write killer tunes without all the guitar noodling fluff that’s usually associated with instrumental rock. Oh well, at least reviews like this can lend a helping hand in the exposure of local musicians and hopefully one day expose music like this to the masses and change the minds of people who like their rock as a dumb as Nickelback.