Doug Snyder and Bob Thompson - "The Rules Of Play"
(Dead Earnest 1999, DER NCD 44)
From Aural Innovations #9 (January 2000)
Doug Snyder and Bob Thompson are an Ohio-based duo who have been playing together since the early 70's. According to the promo material the two released an album in 1973 called "Daily Dance" which is described as having influenced "loud and abstract guitar-based music". There are three tracks on this CD. The 44 minute title track was recorded live and features Thompson on drums and percussion and Snyder on Midi guitar. The last two tracks are studio recordings with Thompson again on drums and Snyder trading in his guitar for keyboards.
The music on the lengthy "Rules Of Play" is difficult to describe. It's like a spacey form of jazz fusion. Snyder solos continuously in a standard fusion guitar style, but I also hear Frippoid soundscape washes in the background as well. I gather he's accompanying himself with loops or something like that. Thompson's drumming is varied throughout. Sometimes playing driving fusion, and at others creating the atmosphere along with the guitar. I can't say there's a lot of variety here. The pace of the music and aggression level changes a lot and that's what kept it interesting for me. The most exciting parts are when Thompson is bashing away madly while Snyder blasts the fretboard sounding like a Krautrock version of John McLaughlin. I think this could have been a really good track if were held to a more manageable 10-15 minutes.
On the second and third tracks we take a side road into what for me is far more interesting territory. On "They Would Not Be Turned Away", Snyder plays a cool sounding high-pitched haunting organ melody which accompanys Thompson's manic drumming. Like a spaced out Phantom of the Opera playing in a rock band. This keyboard/drum combination is continued on "The Inertia Of Youth". On this track Snyder's keyboards have a more spacey prog rock sound, playing an orchestral style, but again against Thompson's energetic drumming. A simple melody plays opposite a heavy, almost industrial space backdrop, and with a repeating synth pattern thrown in to add to the beat. Later in the tune a blazing, almost ear splitting line that sounds like a guitar passes through briefly but makes its presence clearly known.
Overall, it was the keyboard/drum tunes that tripped my trigger on this disc. There's a creative cooperation and contrast between the two musician's playing that I found intriging and enjoyable on these tracks. I wouldn't, however, write off the style played on the title track and as Yellow Springs is only a short drive from here I'd really like to see the two perform live.
For more information visit the Dead Earnest web site.
Available in the U.S. directly from Doug and Bob. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz