Chris Letchford
Lightbox


4.3
superb

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
July 17th, 2014 | 30 replies


Release Date: 07/15/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The (Jazz) Collective

Lightbox is about as unsurprising a choice for a solo album as Scale the Summit mastermind Chris Letchford could make at this point in his career. Many of the influences you'll hear on Lightbox are similar to those you'd hear on an album like The Collective, but heavier on a jazz technique Letchford has been perfecting throughout his time in the progressive metal arena. With enough time counted perfecting that underlying technique, why not let it show?

Lightbox as a concept is built from the ground up to do just that. Played without distortion, the album makes the most of a clean and smooth sound that compliments its bass-heavy swagger and airy piano backdrop. Given the propensity of Scale the Summit to play quite a few clean passages in their normal sound, it's again, nothing out of the admittedly complex routine for Letchford. But while a bit expected, it's still enough of a curveball to breathe some fresh air into fans of Chris's virtuosic style of progressive metal.

Another welcome, exciting, and expected "curveball" comes in the inclusion of Danny Pizarro and Steven Padin, members of The Reign of Kindo, on piano and drums. Naturally, both Kindo members (who may be even closer to this style of jazz-rock than Letchford himself) contribute more than ably, as do bassists Evan Brewer (Reflux, The Faceless) and familiar face Mark Michell (Scale the Summit), who work with Chris to provide a staple groove on every track. Truth be told, though the influence from the Kindo camp is lighter, Lightbox has a vibe of Kindo and Scale the Summit getting off a smoky nightclub stage they'd shared together moments ago only to relax with a musical conversation outdoors on a breezy summer day.

Of course, the topic at hand is jazz, and while jazz has always played a more subdued part in the overall rock and metal mentality of Scale the Summit, Lightbox flips the formula on its head to drive jazz out on top with metal influence driving the change-ups on the record. Low-end leaning guitar and bass lines are given precedence in most situations, while leads err towards meandering while never feeling like they've hit the unbeaten jazz path of improvisation. Again unsurprisingly, Letchford has a rather clear roadmap for all of the instruments heard on Lightbox, but, true to form, his meticulous craftsmanship lines each note up perfectly to provide just the right amount of substance and breath.

Like much of Scale the Summit's work, the music on Lightbox feels reminiscent of a musical landscape. While it bears the heavyweight consistency of an album like The Collective, it shows off a brightness and openness that, again, separates it from the jazz contingent and brings it closer to its spacious and majestic cover art. There are dark clouds off on the horizon that shade some of the tracks here, but blue skies and bright, arid ground shape the majority of the musical landscape.

Yet one of the most enjoyable things about Lightbox is that it's an album you can both let wisp right by you and delve into. Tracks like "Sign of Four" have enough open chord progressions that you can relax to it in bed or outdoors on a warm summer day, yet it's complex enough to give your brain the jolt of alertness needed to plow through studies or a slow workday. "In Force" (which is easily the track most similar to Chris's Scale the Summit outings) bears enough dark edge that it feels like it could have been a part of The Collective, while "Ghost Orchid" is driven by its quiet, but impressive drumming and flighty, piano-based treble. With so much to offer, it's a surprise that the album is almost entirely devoid of missteps.

Or is it, really? Letchford is such a consistently brilliant musical force that his musical acuity is almost guaranteed. It can be easy to take that for granted, but it's even easier to recognize the prize that Lightbox is. Wonderfully adaptive and a treat from start to finish, Lightbox intrigues and succeeds by flipping a tried and true "jazz to rock" ratio on its head. Sure, the ratio may have just switched from 40:60 to 60:40, but with cerebral and organic instrumental ventures like these, who's going to argue?




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user ratings (34)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2014


2010 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

I have a promo of this coming, but it takes a while and I've already been grooving to it on bandcamp all day e'eryday

The musical choices on this are as surprising as the fact that I love this album.

Digging: Thank You Scientist - Maps of Non-Existent Places

benkim
July 17th 2014


2165 Comments


Sounds like a great listen. I really really need to get this. Good review too.

botb
July 17th 2014


9722 Comments


i'll definitely check this out. letchford is up there in talent or even past with some of the dudes that get their dick ridden by metal kids everywhere. tl;dr hes just as good as tosin

Digging: Solstafir - Ótta

benkim
July 17th 2014


2165 Comments


^^
I can't stand Tosin and AAL for obvious reasons.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2014


10310 Comments


What are your super-obvious reasons? Because Tosin writes some pretty sweet jams, if The Joy of Motion taught us anything. I didn't think he was anyone terribly special until that release- one of my favorites from this year.

Nice work Tom! Love that opening paragraph.

climactic
July 17th 2014


19591 Comments


i'll check this /eventually/. havent been big into scale the summit/AAL type stuff for a while now, but i don't doubt that this is good

Onirium
July 17th 2014


2165 Comments


Great review, didn't know he had a solo project, sounds pretty cool

Digging: North Atlantic Oscillation - The Third Day

Calc
July 17th 2014


12255 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Take Scale The Summit, turn off the distortion, add piano = this.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2014


10310 Comments


So what you're saying is that this isn't a jazz album

Calc
July 17th 2014


12255 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It sounds like Reign of Kindo instrumentals to me.

YakNips
July 17th 2014


12207 Comments


man as soon as i turned this on it started cheesing :[

Digging: Vi Som Alskade Varandra Sa Mycket - Den sorgligaste musiken i varlden

climactic
July 17th 2014


19591 Comments


http://www.sputnikmusic.com/forums/image.php?u=1027260&dateline=1405645554

YakNips
July 17th 2014


12207 Comments


http://www.sputnikmusic.com/forums/image.php?u=1040999&dateline=1405645883

climactic
July 17th 2014


19591 Comments


http://www.sputnikmusic.com/forums/image.php?u=249789&dateline=1405645934

wacknizzle
July 17th 2014


13540 Comments


Nice review, digging this so far, the guitar tone is tits

Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2014


10310 Comments


In related news, Chris Letchford has become a fitness junkie.

ExplosiveOranges
July 17th 2014


3256 Comments


The guitarist of Scale the Summit starts a solo project? I'm sold. Great review.

Digging: Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2

beefshoes
July 17th 2014


4242 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Comparing Letchford with Abasi is like comparing Steve Howe with Robert Fripp.
Same techniques in many cases, but the sounds and styles are completely different


Digging: Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel

RondoToKG
July 17th 2014


44 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Watched both Tosin and Chris both play full sets from about 5 feet away (Chris twice). Whenever the
music got a bit more convoluted Chris got a little sloppy here and there. I walked away
being much more impressed with Tosin but I'm being pretty critical here. I don't play much guitar at
all either.

Also what the guy above me said. It might have just been easier to detect sloppiness with Letchfords
style compared to the speed of Tosin.

CaptainDooRight
July 18th 2014


30063 Comments


track 'In Force' sounds legit

Digging: Fleurety - Min Tid Skal Komme



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