Year of Release: 2007
Label: self-released/Net Dot Music, Inc.
Catalog Number: NDM DKM 001
Total Time: 53:19:00
Dave Kulju is one of two members of Electrum to have released solo albums in the past year or so (the other is Gino Foti). Abstract Expression is guitarist Kulju's entry, and it's an all instrumental affair, putting the guitar front and center, naturally. Joining Kulju are various guests - Frank Basile and Bryan Powers on drums; Joel Mahathy on theremin and a guitar solo ("Picnic At The Slag Heap"); an organ solo from Doug (or as listed Douug) Upton ("Somnium"); and Ian Cameron on violin ("Pleiades"). Dave himself handles guitars, bass, drums, guitar synth, keys and programming.
In the broad view, you can hear a strong Rush influence in most of the tracks (not just in the throaty, heavy feel, but also in the interplay between guitar, bass, keys and drums). But it's not a series of "YYZ" wanna-bees or anything, because it just as much as a decidedly fusion feel about it, too. Sparks fly in the jazzy "Picnic At The Slag Heap," for example, given an odd spin by the addition of theremin. Call it Rush influenced fusion with a metal edge, in a nutshell. Kulju is equally adept at shredding as he is at playing lighter, more fluid lines, and these can easily appear in the same song -- listen to "Don't Mind Me," for example, a track that demands you pay him mind.
"Hieland Road" has a churning sense of movement that speaks to racing down a highway flat out (professional driver; closed course; do not attempt). In fact, I'd say much of the music here lends itself to the iconic image of zipping along in a convertible, hair flowing in the breeze. (And didn't Rush evoke that with "Red Barchetta"? Not to harp on the Rush element? although it was evident in Electrum, too). And opener "Internal Combustion" is as fiery as the title suggests, a rocking-with-attitude juggernaut that isn't just overstated bravado, but progressive instrumental rock to asserts itself with assured authority.
"Pleiades" is a beautiful tune that incorporates piano (or piano-like elements) and violin to give it the requisite open feel, a Midwest feel. Darker elements come from slightly distorted guitar used sparingly; and Kulju interjects the mid-tempo arrangement with a peppy, though brief, guitar solo.
"Depth Of Autumn" begins as an acoustic pastoral piece, and then shifts into a shiny and bright contemporary instrumental. It's fresh and airy but far from lightweight. I used to listen to this mellow, mid-tempo stuff quite a bit, diving into much that Narada and Higher Octave (and others) was putting out? stuff that got thrown into the "New Age" section, but didn't quite fit there. The story here is told entirely by Kulju's guitar, resonant, chiming tones; Basile's drums defining the rest of the shapes.
In "The Water Discipline," synth washes and programmed drums (or so they sound) serve as back drop for Kulju's sweetly soaring soloing. It's another Narada moment, this one. It's a piece to give you an easy, peaceful feeling? but oddly, when the song comes to an end, and thus the CD, you expect there to be more? one more track. Good thing you just hit play again (or, better yet, set repeat).
The addition of organ to "The Main Attraction" recalls classic prog, a hint of ELP, a hint of Genesis, a hint of Kansas and more than a hint of 80s Rush. But the prog epic is the following track, the sprawling "Sominum." While glissandos, breathy piano, shimmering guitar, and effects create a liquid opening (not unlike mid-90s Marillion), this is merely the calm before the storm. Thenceforth, it becomes a churning, evolving piece that pays equal attention to guitar - fuzzed and throaty - as it does drums. The use of organ nearly throughout underscores its prog nods, subtly creating open space for the guitar and drums to dance and leap through (and right near the end, more fusiony, a la Niacin). Later, about half way through, swirling atmospheres return - watery keyboards overlying secondary beds of keyboards create that "frozen moment" feeling, whilst an industrial machinery marches alongside ? giving way a minute later to a piano interlude. Then we're on the move again, darting off into another racing passage. The piece takes on many moods, almost all upbeat and energetic, that to pin it down as any one style, or referencing any one influence is difficult. It's prog rock, fusion, guitar rock, contemporary instrumental, avant-garde-ish (at least right near the end) ? all flowing together. ELP-Rush-Crimson? those are three influences you'll find.
This is a fabulous CD that features guitar but doesn't overstate its presence. These are fully-fleshed compositions that demonstrate a breadth of styles that flow quite naturally.
Internal Combustion (4:42) / Don't Mind Me (4:35) / Hieland Road (4:32) / Pleiades (5:38) / Depth Of Autumn (5:57) / Picnic At The Slag Heap (2:19) / The Main Attraction (5:18) / Somnium (15:16) / The Water Discipline (4:59)
Dave Kulju - electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, guitar synthesizer, keyboards and programming
Frank Basile - drums (4, 5, 6, 7)
Bryan Powers - drums (1, 2)
Joel Mahathy - theremin, guitar solo (6)
Douug Upton - organ solo (8)
Ian Cameron - violin (4)
Abstract Expression (2007)
Genre: Progressive Rock