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Old 10-17-2021, 11:35 AM   #261 (permalink)
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Don't worry: I have a whole set of apartments now, just they're more used to house history journals than music ones. Besides, I know better than to upset your security guys. How many tours of Afghanistan did that really big guy do? What do you call him? Tiny? Really?
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Old 10-17-2021, 03:37 PM   #262 (permalink)
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I: Fading Glories

It's like a different world out here.

As my own original journal, The Playlist of Life, is in such a ruin now that it mostly resembles what a quick-witted, obsequious realtor would call a “fixer-upper”, as she flashed a hopeful toothy grin and desperately prayed that the potential buyer had more money than sense, I really couldn't see presenting this review there. It's been something of a sad process; sobering in ways too, as I slowly remove precious items from the Playlist and transfer them to new homes, and I can be seen most evenings, a constant figure as I kick closed the door (which is hanging off its hinges anyway, so why I bother I don't quite know), burdened down with boxes piled so high that I'm navigating on instinct alone, trusting my feet to find their own way and not betray me without bothering to seek confirmation from my eyes. The place is a poor shadow of itself, its glories long faded, the sound of typing, my own grunts of approval or disapproval and the thumping beat of my old stereo now stilled, and as Shakespeare once wrote, the rest is silence.

But the work goes on, and my original small modest house in which I built and created what became, and still stands as, Music Banter's most viewed journal – with almost half a million views as I write – has been expanded into a series of smart new apartments – in the more fashionable uptown district, of course - where such things as Trollheart's History Project, Trollheart's Guide to the Galaxy and Trollheart Falls Into The Twilight Zone have been born, and continue to be worked on. Few if any of these projects however now centre around music – I have the odd one: Prince's life story, the History of Classical Music, Stranger in Town and of course my History of Progressive Rock – but by and large, music reviews have been shunted into the past, and, with my original home, once the focus of my, if you will, journal empire, left to fall apart (rather like me!) there was nowhere left to write when I promised to review Plankton's latest opus.

So the man very kindly offered me the use of his journal, and as I said at the start of this piece, it's like another world as leave the downtown slums I've been used to frequenting. I'm reminded of that opening scene from The Sopanos, where Tony starts off driving through the poorest part of Jersey and then the landscape changes as he heads out into the suburbs, the boarded-up shops and narrow streets and broken-down cars falling behind as he heads for his mansion. No more sitting on rickety boneshaker buses as I head to Wikipedia Central for my research, no waiting in the rain shivering as I eye the dark road for the faint glimmer of pale yellow which announces the arrival of the return bus – two hours late of course – having just missed the previous one by moments. No more uneasy grunted half-sentences and monosyllabic quasi-conversations with drunks and those after the ever-elusive-and-never-properly-defined “loose change” (despite this seeming to mean any loose coins that may be rattling about in my pocket, I've found those who you foolishly condescend to attempt to provide these coins to at their request will happily accept notes of any denomination or in any amount! Loose change indeed!) and no more eating a packet of half-empty crisps while dreaming of a home-cooked dinner I'm never going to get.

No, this guy does things in style! Smart, freshly-detailed SUV (not black; the FBI have cornered the market on them, but a nice strong steel-blue) with silver inlays of tastefully-drawn guitars and music notes on the doors. Comfortable leather seats, air-conditioning throughout. The top-of-the-range stereo hums Dvorak and Grieg while all my enquiries directed to the impeccably-dressed driver are met with a curt but polite “Yes, sir,” or “No sir” or any other short response, always appended by “sir”, and always without his taking his eyes one millimetre from the road. A small wire at the back of his thick neck reminds me of the Secret Service, as do his mirror shades, and I begin to entertain the notion that he may be communicating with someone else, and that those “sirs” are in fact not addressed to me.

Down a beautiful tree-lined avenue we go, the car completely silent (electric, I expect, unless Plankton has discovered a way of converting his guitar talent into a propulsion source? Wouldn't that be something?) and not a cigarette butt, crumped cup or even a piece of errant paper evident on the pristine streets we pass. A happy child goes by on the pavement riding a bicycle. She is the only living soul we encounter as we drive. My attempts to strike up a conversation with my driver continue to elicit the same non-committal responses - “Yes, sir.” Yes, sir?” “No, sir.” “Of course, sir.” “Really, sir?” And so on. So instead I lean back and let it all wash over me, enjoying the quiet but powerful strains of Edvard Grieg's “Morning” from Peer Gynt, and watch the clean, neat, whitewashed houses march past like soldiers at attention, the passing of the SUV creating what appears almost a sense of reverence, as people look out from their gardens, stand at their doors or gaze in silent admiration from their windows. For one mad moment, I consider waving, like the Queen of England or the President of the United States, but I restrain the impulse. I don't think my silent companion up front would approve, and he looks like the sort of individual who might explain to you his deep disapproval in quite certain terms, something I instinctively know I do not want to experience.

At length, we turn a corner and the tree-lined avenues begin to thin out until we're travelling past open fields, rolling hills and lowering sky, the only signs of life a solitary tractor or combine harvester in the distance, working away in the fields. In a short while we reach a high gate, pearly white (I know Plankton's been described as a guitar god, but come on: pearly gates dude?) before which the SUV stops. The metal has been cunningly twisted and shaped into letters that spell out the word SOUTHDORK. I smile inwardly; Plankton and I are of the same generation, and I get the joke, doubly so, given his involvement with computers. Hah! As long as we never have to ask "Who shot Plankton?" we'll be all right. A muttered word from my driver, clearly not for my ears, and the huge gates swing slowly inwards, whisper-quiet, and we drive in.

It's a long driveway – more a road really – and as we advance I see some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen by the sides, some playing volleyball, some trimming hedges, some just standing around and being beautiful, often the main and sometimes even only requirement for these sort of women. They watch the car as we glide by, but there is something hard in the brief glances they give us. Later I find out these are all part of Plankton's elite security force, all possessing PhDs in one discipline or another – multiple ones, in some cases– and each and every one of them knows at least sixteen ways to kill a man without leaving a mark. They gain new respect in my eyes, and I mentally counsel myself never to get on their bad side.

Peacocks patrol the grounds as we slide silently on up the perfectly-asphalted drive, and over to the left, flashes of pure white on the wide expanse of the lake are swans, leisurely traversing the water, in no hurry to go anywhere. I reach out and touch the almost flush stud at the base of the window and the glass slides downward an inch or so with a hum, precipitating the sharp turn of my driver's head, and even behind the mirror shades I see - no, I feel the look he gives me, as if he wants to snap my neck.

“If you please, sir.”

There's polite menace in those words, and I quickly thumb the window back up; it closes with a slight sigh, like two lips parting. Before it closes though I hear the sound of birds in the trees, some sort of faint animal noises (probably from his famous private zoo) and the sound I had expected, the low, muted roar of a guitar in the process of shredding the **** out of a tune. Unnerved by the sudden rebuke from the driver, I nevertheless smile.

He does not smile back.

I feel honoured to be able to review the new Plankton album. He's something of an enigma, a prodigy for certain, but one who shuns the limelight. It's very hard to get an audience with him, never mind be able to hear his music and review it, and he's only agreed to allow me because he was so pleased with my handling of his previous effort, Krill, which really, as they say, blew my mind. But now the car stops without so much as a jerk, the engine presumably dies (being electric I can't say, as it makes no sound) and we have finally arrived at our destination.

II: Inside the Sanctum

I convince myself I'm not annoyed, but I have been waiting for two hours now. The various Plankton tunes piped through the public address system have taken my mind off the delay, but I'm still anxious to get going. I have my notes on the previous album, but this will be the first time I've heard the new one, and I want to get to work as soon as I can, while ideas are fresh in my mind. Pictures of the man's heroes and influences hang on the walls – Hendrix, Page, Moore, Gallagher – all the greats of course, but one picture holds pride of place, and it's not of a guitarist. It's a beautiful young woman, with energy and imagination in her eyes, and I know, as does anyone who knows him, that this is a portrait, specially commissioned by him at great expense, of his only daughter, Hanna.

“Mr. Trollheart? Sorry for the delay.” The door has opened and a pretty young woman dressed in a business suit, glasses perched on a rather attractive if slightly sharp nose pokes her head into the room with that air of apology that people have who don't usually feel they should be apologising.

“Quite all right,” I tell her, getting up, but, moving the rest of her into the room, she waves me back down to my seat.

“Mr. P. sends his regrets,” she says, standing over me while trying not to look as if she's looking down on me, “but he's struggling with a particularly tricky middle eighth, and he can't be disturbed.” She grins, a little self-consciously. “I'm sure you understand.” Her eyes speak the silent words You know how he is and I nod. I am concerned though.

“Is it cancelled then?” I ask, disappointed. “Postponed?”

She laughs, a musical, tinkly laugh, like silver marbles in a champagne glass. “Goodness, no!” she exclaims. “If you'll just give me a few more minutes, I just want to make sure everything is set up to your satisfaction, and then you can proceed.”

Those preparations must have taken some time, because it's over an hour later when she returns and beckons me to follow her. We walk up three flights of marble stairs, my eyes taking in the vista below and above me as we proceed, but my head is full of anticipation for the music I'm about to hear and I ascend behind her almost in a trancelike state, like someone sleepwalking. It's the assistant's voice that brings me back to myself when she smiles “Here we are. I hope this will suit your needs?”

Suit.
My.
Needs?


The place is like a cavern, in terms of size, but not in terms of furnishings. There are four easy chairs positioned in front of a roaring fire – a real fire, not an electric one: I can hear the sticks and logs snap and the lumps of coal occasionally pop as the flames devour them – with over to one side a long sofa with many cushions. There's a fully-stocked fridge and a bar, and over the fireplace is a massive seventy-inch flatscreen, while placed at strategic intervals along the wall are massive speakers. On the sofa is a remote, and this is handed to me by the smiling assistant.

“I'm sure you can appreciate the impossibility of providing anyone,” she explains, “even you, with an actual copy of the album. Hasn't been released yet, and he is determined no pirate copies will make it onto the internet.” I nod in understanding. “This however,” she produces a copy of the case, which when I open it is of course empty, “is the original artwork, liner notes, all you'll need for your review. And the remote there will allow you to play, pause, rewind and so forth every track shown on the case, so it will be as if you had the album,” she winks, “apart from the very important fact that you don't. Not that,” she is quick to assure me, “Mr. P distrusts you; he knows you would never betray his faith in you, and you are his friend. But, well...” She spreads her hands in a helpless gesture, an apologetic smile on her perfectly-painted lips, “You know how it is.”

I do indeed. What I hold in my hand now, despite the fact that there is no physical copy, is musical dynamite, and should this missile somehow explode on the web, the results could be catastrophic for Plankton's sales and indeed for his reputation. So I thank her, tell her I understand fully, watch as she leaves and then make myself a sandwich and pop on the kettle before settling down to do what I came here to do.

It is, after all, and always has been, when all is said and done, all about the music.
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Old 10-17-2021, 03:49 PM   #263 (permalink)
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III: It's All About the Music (Hey! What do you want from me? I've written nearly 2,500 words already and we haven't even begun the review! I'm running out of ideas here!)


The Dream – Planktons Odyssey – 2009

Ah, sure it's like meeting an old friend you haven't seen for years and years! Gentle, slowly jangling guitar with soft and measured percussion, and what sounds like, but surely is not, a flute there too (keyboards? Hell, could be made on the guitar for all I know, and given Plankton's expertise, I would not be surprised) takes us into “Rise” as the album begins on a slightly low-key note, more I guess restrained than much of Plankton's music, though no less brilliant for his toning it back a little. I'd venture to suggest, in my uninformed opinion, that there are a minimum of three guitars here. It is of course, as is almost all of Plankton's work, instrumental, and yet as often happens the man makes the guitar all but sing. And I don't mean by using a talk box, which I don't believe he's employing here: it's just he can be, and is, such an expressive guitarist that, in a Gallagher, Moore or Santana way, he literally can make that Strat or Fender talk. And it's a sweet poem that it relates. Lovely opener, very short; but then there's nothing long on this album, nothing over three minutes, and unfortunately only six tracks, but we work with what we have.

“Farewell to the Sea” takes me by surprise, with its superb and haunting piano intro, and what sounds like strings in the background as the guitar comes in. I'm assuming that's made on synth, since I don't believe Plankton has ever hired an orchestra or string section to help out on his music. Despite the soft and relaxed opening it's not long before the guitar is back taking control, shredding, squealing, firing off riffs left, right and centre as Plankton's fingers dance across, up and down the fretboard working his magic. Since he told me he only once worked with someone else who provided keyboards (“Canadian Mist” on Krill) I'm going to assume that's himself on the piano, and if so, well, his talent just grows and grows and continues to impress, doesn't it?

One of the most emotional and heart-rending pieces of music he's ever recorded (or that I've heard anyway), “Farewell to the Sea” has a yearning, melancholy and lonely quality that just makes you wish it was longer, but sadly it's less than two minutes. I know less is more and all that, but maybe he'll consider doing a longer version? At any rate, the guitar histrionics don't at all take from the beautiful piano backing, and this has certainly moved into my Plankton top ten, taking a position very near the top (though I doubt “Son of Soothsayer” will ever be toppled). Tremendous piece of music, fair brings a tear to a glass eye. Nicest thing I've heard since “Fields of Youth”.

“Metamorphosis” sounds like it starts on organ, and reminds me of the main melody of The Alan Parsons Project's “You Won't Be There” from the album Eve, then gains a sort of slow stride about it, a staggered guitar line running along the main melody almost like a keyboard arpeggio or something, while another guitar quietly whines in the background. Almost, but not quite, a sense of a Celtic reel or jig or something trying to break through. The main guitar then gets more ringing and sort of echoey as it fades out and “Power Process” sounds big and dangerous, with a synthy style growl to open it, weirdly sounding like an Australian didgeridoo! Guitar slicing through now in almost a Pink Floyd “Run Like Hell” kind of phased manner, before the main riff breaks through and punches you right in the face with a Maidenesque shred which just goes right for the throat.

This is the first time the music really rocks, and anyone unfamiliar with his work might, up to now, think Plankton was an ambient musician. He can, of course, be that too, but he's at his best when he winds it up and lets it go, and here he does just that, grinding out the riffs like the sun has set for the final time and this is his last chance. Music for the Apocalypse? Possibly. Got some cheering on there, don't know if that's real or taped, but hell, I'm cheering too. The penultimate cut (yeah we're there already, I know!) is “Flight of the Killer Plankton”, which has a very dark, almost industrial feel to it: slow and grindy, with what sound like marimba or something tapping out before the guitar riffs up and takes the tune. Sort of an early Metallica feel on this one, mixed with maybe mid-seventies Sabbath and a slice of Thomas Dolby into the bargain. Cool. It's one of the two longest ones, at nearly three and a half minutes, but still not long enough. So much riffing and shredding here you wonder the guy's fingers don't just fall off!

And all too soon we're at the end, with “Floating in Another Time” a spacey, atmospheric kind of opening, wind sounds and other effects before a very melodious and almost West Coast-style guitar slips in, soft but insistent percussion taking the track in a really relaxed direction. Luckily this closer has room to breathe too, running for just short of three minutes, and there's some powerful feedback to contend with too as Plankton starts to, quite possibly, leave this realm and ascend to a higher one of which we mortals are unaware and which we can only glimpse through his expressive riffing and mesmerising solos. It looks real nice up there though. Oh, there's a quote from Lewis Carroll at the end. That's... um, interesting.

TRACK LISTING


Rise
Farewell to the Sea
Metamorphosis
Power Process
Flight of the Killer Plankton
Floating in Another Time

I get the impression this is a concept album, whether it's the evolution of plankton (with a small p) or just a dream it's having that it could evolve, and I can follow the storyline if so, but it's very short for a concept piece. I think everyone knows me well enough now to understand that I won't pretend to like something just because it's created by a friend; I like to give as honest an opinion as I can, and while I won't deliberately crush anyone's hopes or rag on their music unnecessarily – one of my favourite get-out lines in those cases is “it's not my sort of thing but...” - I do like to be as positive as I can manage to be, within reason. At the same time, I also ensure not to lick anyone's nether parts, by gushing over an album just because it is by a friend or someone I know. That sort of criticism is pointless and disingenuous, and unfair also, I believe, to the artist.

Of course, there's little chance I'm ever going to be in such a quandary with the music Plankton makes. I may not love it all, but I certainly like just about everything I've heard to date (with the possible exception of “Shoveled”) and I've liked it not because I've tried to or forced myself to, or ignored any minuses within the music (in fact, I've usually gone to reasonable lengths to point them out, if they exist) and this short album does, in the main, continue that experience. However I would be remiss, and no friend, if I didn't sound a small note of concern which occurs to me.

I guess there's only one thing wrong with this album, and that is that there is not enough of it. Come on, man! Seventeen minutes? We want, as the man said, more. There are no bad tracks here, and one which will live in my memory for a long time to come, but it is, I have to say, not indicative enough of the talent of this guy. It's too short to get a real idea, if you haven't heard any of his other work, of just how good he is, the songs he can write, the things he can do with that guitar. Mostly, it's a pretty laid back album, with a few kicks to the groin yes, but not enough, and in that way it falls, for me, just short of greatness.

What am I saying? It is great. But it could be greater. I need something more to get my musical teeth into – longer songs, and more of them. These are amazing, but it's a little difficult to review an album that's over so quickly, almost as soon as you start playing it. Of course, as was said about George, Plankton isn't our bitch, nor would we suggest he crank out another twenty classics just because we want them, but I would love to hear more well-rounded songs and pieces that take me places I never expected to go. This is undoubtedly a great album, but it could be so much more.

So far, Krill still occupies top place for me, and this is unlikely to change that. But it's new Plankton material, and I'm happy to have heard it and get a chance to review it. I feel though, like I've heard the EP before the album.

Now, where's the album, Plankton?

Rating: 8.9/10

Note: No videos, but you can listen to the album in its entirety here
The Dream
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Old 10-18-2021, 07:35 AM   #264 (permalink)
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Ok, that was amazing.

...and I really don't know how to follow that up other than with a humongous thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Well, maybe just a couple of clarifications:
  • The Dream was my first album (is it really an album tho? lol) I created under the Planktons Odyssey name and it was created over a decade ago in 2009. Krill was immediately after in 2012, then Whale in around 2014.
  • The piano piece was a Zakk Wylde backing track. I'd love to have a full band at my disposal but thats usually too much drama. Ask me how I know this.
  • No flutes or synths were used. Every note played was from my newly acquired at the time Paul Reed Smith SE through a Zoom GFX8. It's still my #1 guitar to this day.
  • This was meant to be an EP, or kind of a demo. I figured you've reviewed most of my other works, so this would help to fill in any gaps and give a sense of how things had started and then progressed. Longer songs, bigger production, etc..

99.9% of the music I've made over the years is done as experimental practice with the record button pressed. It's never preconceived and is normally done using layered first takes with maybe a punch in fill here and there. Chalk it up to laziness, or maybe I'm trying to capture a stream of consciousness type of flow, but I've never sat down to actually write a piece out before consciously deciding to record it. It's always been in the back of my mind that I've always wanted to properly write and record an entire album, and I aint gettin no younger, so I need to knuckle down and do something before my fingers won't allow me to anymore. I put the guitars down a few years back to change over to something that would keep me healthier, which as you probably know is disc golfing. I've always been concerned with staying fit and sitting around plucking a guitar doesn't really facilitate that too well, but I think in the next year or two I'll more than likely hang up the discs for a while and try to follow my heart with at least one last hurrah. I mean, spending most of my life perfecting something just to let it all go seems a bit sad, pointless, and an exercise in futility. I need to get it done, and soon.

Again, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to listen, Troll my friend. Your writing style, the lead-in story, the full review, all of it. I was sitting here reading it last night with a big huge grin on my face. I hope that clarifying why it was such a short piece resolves any of the issues you may have had with it. Ultimately though, this all really fuels the fire to create more.
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Old 10-18-2021, 07:29 PM   #265 (permalink)
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Ah brilliant. Glad you liked it, my friend. I created that in my head the previous night, and had to get it down before I forgot it. Thought it might be a little more entertaining, since the album/EP was a short one, and I wanted to do the review justice.

I hope you do pick up the guitar again; that talent would be an awful thing to waste, though of course that decision is entirely yours.

What's that I hear down there in the courtyard? What are they chanting? Can you hear it? Sounds like...

PLANK-TON! PLANK-TON! PLANK-TON!
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Old 10-18-2021, 09:53 PM   #266 (permalink)
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lol Didn't fare too well on the DG scene today, but there's hope. There's always hope.

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Old 10-19-2021, 09:31 AM   #267 (permalink)
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A coupla Steve's doin a coupla Riviera's:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lwew33xsEwg


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x70G-NhyUPI
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Old 10-20-2021, 08:51 AM   #268 (permalink)
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUFPooqKllA
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Old 10-21-2021, 08:19 AM   #269 (permalink)
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhBnW7bZHEE
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Old 10-21-2021, 09:37 AM   #270 (permalink)
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWK63AP_D2s
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