Martin Webb - "Anjar"
(Self-Released 2011, Digital Download)
From Aural Innovations #43 (October 2011)
Martin Webb inhabits that gray zone between progressive rock, jazz fusion and world music that only a brave few (Steve Tibbetts, Terje Rypdal and Mark Isham, for instance) have heretofore ventured into. And like these few who've come before him, Webb works with a sound palette that's both eclectic and esoteric, utilizing middle eastern scales, syncopation, tribal drumming, fusion-fueled guitar pyrotechnics and a melodic sense often "outside" the boundaries of conventional rock. Musically, Anjar is an unqualified success, and the stellar production job is just more icing on the cake for stereophiles. The hypnotic opening track Desert Sand pits droning synths and simmering percussion against Webb's fiery guitar attack and microtonal scale constructions, resulting in a piece whose cinematic sweep is both alluring and intoxicating. The atmospheric Moondance features fluid jazz runs on top of a languid keyboard refrain, achieving a sense of mystery and melancholy. The more up-tempo Puzzles, with its exotic rhythm track, has plenty of superlative guitar work and evinces an almost Kashmir-like feel in its key changes, though the piece itself has little or nothing in common with Zeppelin's eastern psychedelia-cum-heavy metal excesses. Sacred is almost Tibbetts-esque in its use of hand percussion, soaring e-bow guitars and simple folk-derived melodicism. It's a singularly beautiful track that evokes calm and quiet while retaining a sense of steady motion, much the way a caravan makes its way patiently toward some imagined oasis. Nightmare in Tibet isn't quite so forbidding as the title implies. In fact, it's heavily syncopated rhythm and cool veneer of jazz-fusion comping make it the album's most accessible track. As a consequence, Nightmare in Tibet fits somewhere between the flash of Jean-Luc Ponty and the sparkle of Group 87. Anjar is a superb effort throughout and, if you're reading this, Manfred Eicher, acquaint yourself with Martin Webb and sign him immediately to ECM.
Anjar is available for sale as a digital download from Cdbaby, amazon.com, iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, and Bandcamp.
Email Martin Web at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by Charles Van de Kree