Steve Cichon - 'Cranial Feedback' (Nightmare Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Russ P   
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 06:00

Steve-Cichon-Cranial-Feedback176pxIt's funny what perception does to you. I know that I'm going to be listening to a guitar album this afternoon and I'm assuming that it's going to be fast and neo-classical. The cover doesn't give me much of a clue but then I catch a glimpse of the photograph of Steve Cichon inside. He's got a sunburst Les Paul positioned above the waist and his hair is dark and slicked back. Al Di Meola anyone? Perhaps this is not as cut and dried as I imagined. Perhaps I'm in for some serious jazz fusion here. Well, I'm right and I'm wrong. There is a smattering of 'Egyptian Danza' - or at least a Spanish guitar - on this record but it's not enough to hold any Al Di Meola comparison beyond the cosmetic and superficial.


The album starts and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is in fact a live album. The screams of the crowd erupt every now and again between tracks to remind us that we're in an arena. But we're not. Surely we're in Rupert Pupkin's apartment standing in front of audience-patterned wallpaper? The end result makes me rather uncomfortable. As anybody who has seen Scorcese's 'The King Of Comedy' will understand.


'Richocet' certainly opens up like a concert, beginning with a theatrical guitar intro buoyed by fast, frenetic bass and drums. There's a brief moment of respite with some cymbal accents before a change of pace takes us into the main body of the song. The main melody is such that I can't stop singing UFO's 'Rock Bottom' along with it. The song continues to evolve and mutate through different passages until you're not quite sure where you are...until...'Rock Bottom' comes back in sans Phil Mogg.


'Siren' starts off atmospherically and somewhat bombastically like an Alan Parson's track but then goes all Peter Gabriel with some tuned wooden block rhythms coupled with some jazzy Kazumi Watanabe tones. Midway through the tune darkens with some tasty Egyptian melodies before returning to the Parson's like overture.


'Panacea' continues the stadium rock ambience with a strummed 12-string acoustic intro as if 70's rockers Supertramp have come on stage. The track soon gets down and dirty but is hampered by the willfully obtuse drumming which refuses to pick up the pace, go with the flow or get in the groove. Something which Satriani did on his first album was go for hypnotic monotonous beats which sound terrible on paper but really work amazingly well in context so it's a shame not to hear this kind of approach here.


By the time 'Headrush' starts in I'm having a hard time getting into the groove. There's not much restraint or simplicity here. Just a never-ending road of twists, curves and turns with a speed limit that reads "must go 70mph" and there's no suspension to cushion the ride. 'A Great Escape' is the perfect example of the song seeming like a collection of parts assembled in rapid succession - kind of like an ad-hoc rock instrumental medley - but without the superglue or the thread that runs through it all and binds it together.


'Sedated' by name, sedated by nature - is a much more pleasing track. The pace is slower and the melodies have time to seep out and linger in the air. There's also a clever dragging of rhythms in one of the guitar riffs that's cool.


'Northern Lights' starts with a hooky slide rhythm that's unfortunately immediately quashed by the drums with the song abruptly changing mood like a kid with ADHD. It's as if the needle has jumped off the metaphorical record into another groove - and possibly even one on another record. Where did it go? Bring it back! This turns out to be the most disjointed track of the album. It's like playing the Generation Game with three conveyor belts passing before your eyes.


'Kung Pao', despite nearly blowing out my speakers due to some kind of dB defying brick wall mastering, finally gets simple with straight Satchy boogie that lasts nearly a full minute before going elsewhere! Along with 'Siren' and 'Sedated' this is where Steve Cichon gets the flow just right.


When all is said and done this CD is heavy on showmanship and light on simplicity and restraint. There are far too many ideas on here when only a few would have sufficed. A leaner and meaner machine would've helped these tunes stick in my mind long after the CD had left the player.


Apart from 'Rock Bottom' of course. How could I forget that?