Back in 1972 Mike Oldfield went into the Manor Studios and recorded Tubular Bells, huge sound desk, multiple instruments and copious recording engineers. Now the likelihood is that a singular artist will record in the back bedroom/garage/shed at the bottom of the garden with an audience of faeries. Technology has shrunk the studio, so that very professional quality can be, and is achieved with software such as GarageBand. A favourite of mine for her prog-like quirkiness is Imogen Heap, who records at home – new baby permitting – with some intriguing material resulting.
Roland Bühlmann falls into that category, much of this album was recorded at home with limited input from others and it is all rather nice. Not in the disparaging “that’s nice dear” way, but because it is a series of very listenable instrumentals. Prog/Not Prog? It is no less Prog than the works of Steven Wilson, there is to my view a large amount of chilled house with rock overtones; with repeated listens there is often a sense of incidental film music – the better stuff.
The tunes have a jazzy overtone which I really quite like, lounge music with style and every time I listen something a little different appears; nice bass work, subtle keyboards, different sources and volumes, the ears are alive with the sound of music.
Breakthrough opens the album, a rocking little number that mostly moves along nicely with only the occasional threat to turn into a cul-de-sac. Everything is quite precise, hopefully though not a product of the country of origin; Switzerland. But enough stereotyping. If anything the direction is probably determined by the nominal number of players. I also think the nature of many a home recorded album lends itself to a certain amount of repetition; Aineo is no different, but the addition of complementary instruments lifts it above common or garden electronica/instrumental pieces.
It has its Mike Oldfield moments, moments that would fit within a film score, and those that seem close to chillout/Ibiza/trance/dance. It’s a little bit progressive, but not enough to warrant categorisation, only the last track sustains to my mind any true progressive element.
Ham’nagen has a jazz feel with some nice chilled guitar solos. Unexpressed is warm and fuzzy, and maybe a little Vangelis influenced, a mood piece before picking up the tempo and becoming Oldfield trance a few changes in which leads me to believe that perhaps my definition of Prog/progressive may be little narrow on this occasion. But these are just reference points and the music should not be considered as unoriginal. I think the majority of the drums and percussion are live, which probably helps to lift it above the horizon.
Title track, Aineo, is chillout jazz with an almost bossa nova feel, lounge music with repeating themes and melodies and some very nice guitar. Meldilorn and Kenosis are mood music again, but nonetheless listenable, if you like dipping into electronica this may be for you. It has been good to drive to, good to read to, and nice as background whilst cooking. It lets me multitask (!!).
I have particularly enjoyed this album in the car, it makes a change to listen to instrumentals rather than those albums where I attempt to sing along. Would I recommend? Try before you buy but it has a lot going for it. I would really like to see where Roland’s journey would go with a band.
01. Breakthrough (6:23)
02. Ham’nagen (7:04)
03. Unexpressed (7:04)
04. Aineo (6:00)
05. Meldilorn (8:19)
06. Kenosis (5:55)
07. Contemplation (11:08)
Total time – 51:53
Roland Bühlmann: Electric & Classical Guitar, Mandola, Bass, Voice
Loopmasters.com: Drums and Percussion
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Year Of Release: 2014
Production: Roland Bühlmann
Mastering: Matthias Heimlicher
Artwork: Roland Bühlmann