It didn’t really occur to me when I reviewed Levin-Minnemann-Rudess, but Marco Minnemann was the brilliant drummer behind Trey Gunn’s Modulator – both of which are important for this review. Now he is back with ‘Eeps’, a solo effort in the truest sense of the term – playing all of the instruments and writing the songs, he delivers a breathtaking experience.
Musical Genre: Fusion / Prog-Rock
Artist: Marco Minnemann
From the artist:
A brilliant multi-instrumentalist, Marco wrote all the music and lyrics, played all the instruments and recorded and mixed half of the tracks on his newest solo record, “Eeps.” The album was produced by Scott Schorr and Marco and released on Lazy Bones in July 2014.
Starting strong and loud with “Cheap as F**k and Awesome As Hell”, ‘Eeps’ is clearly not for the meek. Not is it just a loud thrashing romp – in fact there is something here for pretty much anyone who is a fan of any area of jazz or rock music.
I mentioned his association with Levin-Minnemann-Rudess and with Trey Gunn, and those are important for different reasons. Starting with King Crimson, which has featured both Levin and Gunn in different incarnations. The opening of “Cheap as F**k and Awesome As Hell”, you have a screeching guitar sound that reminded me of Elephant Talk from King Crimson’s ‘Discipline’. In ‘Right on Time and Out of Tune’ there is a sequence that brings me back to ‘The Sheltering Sky’ from the same album. And throughout there is a prog-rock vibe
The other King Crimson related thought was more obscure … but here goes. In the song OC-DC, there is a very ‘Zappa-esque’ sequence, which for some reason triggered in my mind the thought process that Marco Minnemann played with Tony Levin who was in King Crimson along with Adrian Belew in the early 80s … and Belew played with Frank Zappa before joining King Crimson. Yeah, quite a stretch … probably more like Minneman was a fan of Zappa. Either way the flourishes like that in OC-DC are very much fun and appreciated.
The final reference is to Trey Gunn’s Modulator. On that recording, Minnemann had recorded a 55 minute drum solo, and challenged composers to write around his drumming. The results on Modulator were excellent – and I feel like some of the songs on Eeps used a similar process. What I like about them is that the technique produces rhythmically challenging songs
I will be direct in saying that not all of the songs are gems, but they are all at least solid. For example, ‘Douche’ reminds me of a song from old school rappers ‘Black Sheep’ (they used ‘F*ck You’ as their element), and ‘When I Was Gone ‘ is a solid rocker, but is one of the few songs that I would regularly skip from the album when I am shuffling my iPod. They are good songs that I would call throwaways – but having a couple of easily skipped songs out of 18 tracks … not a bad ratio.
The other distinctions I would make are about ‘drummer songs’ and ‘musician music’ – I have always been a fan of music that evolves out of the rhythm section, and having a powerhouse drummer and excellent overall musician at the helm of the compositions guarantees that my thirst for interesting rhythmic and harmonic structures. That feeds into my love of ‘musician’s music’ – that is music that is structurally interesting, full of technical details that are intriguing but not of note for non-musicians.
One of the big tests for me on whether I really like an album is when I drop it on my iPod in the car (I have an ancient 8GB iPod Nano ‘fatty’ 3rd gen) and hit ‘shuffle songs’. If songs from the album come up on my commute and I love them without realizing they are ‘review music’ … then it is music I love. Songs like ‘Eeps’, ‘Sushi Cat Doll’, ‘Live Ghost’, ‘Dead Ghost’ and more are just great songs that always grab my attention and show me more details every time I listen. I have been slow completing this review, but during that time I have listened to every song at least two dozen times … and none have grown stale.
‘Quick Hit’ Song: “Sushi Cat Doll” – it starts with a fairly basic whistled melody over a solid backing, then explodes with energy before pulling back into a new section that continues some of the original themes while totally abandoning others … all within the first 90 seconds! The song takes on a very Pink Floyd vibe into the guitar solo section, there is an introspective vocal segment, more high energy sections … parts come and go and intertwine and yet it ever feels disjointed. This one song feels like a synopsis for the whole record.
Would I recommend?: Absolutely! As I said, the album covers loads of ground from rock to metal to fusion to prog. There is incredible musicianship here, but there is much more – you feel like Minnemann has poured his heart and soul into every detail of the recording, and the combination of skill, fun, technical mastery, and creativity coalesce to produce an album that has tremendous breadth of listenability and passion.
Suggested audience: I ask the same question I did with ‘Levin-Minnemann-Rudess’: Do you love ‘musicians’ music’? Stuff that is technically insane and that you will listen to again and again to absorb the details of what they are playing and how they are putting it together? If so, this is an essential buy. This is the kind of album that reveals itself slowly over time, that has hidden gems you will discover as you repeat listening.
Source: Publisher provided review download
Here is Marco Minnemann’s song ‘Live Ghost’: