I first came across Phi Yaan-Zek as many others may have, through the pages and tracks on Prog Magazine, although at that time it didn’t really grab me. I was probably on a different musical phase ,as is often the way with me. However, I recently read a review of his latest album from a writer for The Progressive Aspect whose eloquent words piqued my interest, hence this review.
In all the years of my life I have never really been a big fan of Frank Zappa, although I can clearly see his influence in this music. I certainly like it here, for sure, and definitely in the humour contained within these tracks. Phi is certainly a very fine musician and can play a very mean guitar line when required. He also enlists an extraordinary cast of collaborators, like Andy Edwards and John Jowitt of Frost* and he also has a couple of Aristocrats in tow to give this music much flair and finesse.
It has strong touches of psychedelia along with certain hippyish elements, but these are woven into the overall sound of the album. I am certainly highly impressed by all of this excellent and exciting music, it is all wonderfully produced with excellent guitar skills on display. The music also has jazz elements at times, giving the sound a definite jazz/fusion blend.
An outstanding track is track Wickety Wickety, which is a cross between a rumbling song, something like Nelly The Elephant but with brass embellishments. It is rather a fun piece but utterly engrossing and captivating. This whole album is different, it is definitely a positive sounding album and will imbue feelings of well being and contentment. Above all, this music is good fun and we should all be glad of that, especially at this time. Also notable is Anomaly Temporal with an almost reggae swing and spoken vocal from , this also has a touch of Star Trek to it and rounds out with an excellent instrumental finale.
I really enjoy the instrumental flourishes that abound throughout this very imaginative album, it really is a fascinating and captivating listen. Phi is a very fluid guitarist, think of folks like Steve Vai and you won’t be far off the mark, but he is also very melodic in tone and, whilst he can shred with the best, he works for the track, not just to stun.
This is clearly shown on My Favourite UFO which combines his fine guitar virtuosity with a strong tune to fine effect. This track has a dreamy type of sound and reminds me of 10CC in parts, it also has great bass from Bryan Beller of The Aristocrats. The song speeds up towards its conclusion and this proves very effective, as is the vocal from Ellie Williams. The next track Floating gives room for some free reign musical improvisation which is taken by Phi with Mike Keneally in tow, along with the fabulous and dynamic Aristocrats rhythm team of Beller and Marco Minneman. With Phi’s guitar floating over the top most efficiently and effectively, it really is a sublime piece of intent delivered really well.
Final track The Puffball That Ate My Village is another monster track with a similar pace to Wickety Wickety but with fiery guitar interjections and interplay between Phi and Chanan Hanspal, who play off against each other in a six string orgy of soloing. It’s all highly effective, especially with Andy Edwards‘ drums and Steve Lawson’s majestic bass playing that anchor it all together seamlessly. The song also features lots of guests adding chant type vocals, which really sounds good. When this track end there is a brief pause of about 2 minutes before A reprise of opener The Interdimensional Garden Party plays, this is a fitting close to an exceptional album but wait, there’s more as there is a brief untitled track that is basically the words spoken backwards deliberately.
This is a truly entertaining album with fabulous music and performances throughout. Definitely one of my album of the year contenders, outstanding. In a year that has seen so many really good albums, this one can truly stand tall and proud and I recommend it without hesitation, especially for its weirdness and sense of fun.
Released 7th October, 2022.
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