Hailing from the great city of New York, ARJUN is an instrumental rock band that has been a part the local scene since 2003. The three-piece line-up consists of lead guitarist Eddie Arjun Peters, drummer Lamar Myers, and bassist Andre Lyles, who all draw their inspiration from classically trained instrumentalists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, and Eric Johnson. The band’s debut LP, PIECES, was released in 2006, and in 2013, the trio unveiled the first part of an ongoing, expansive trilogy. The record was titled SPACE, and was met with critical acclaim from the online community and various independent outlets. Now the guys are back with the second installment, CORE, soaring to new musical heights with a remarkable collection that is filled to the brink with raw emotionality, impeccable technical finesse, and soulful musicianship.
Comparing the sound of CORE to Joe Satriani wouldn’t be too far of a stretch. In fact, it rolls with the same smooth pace, baring a strong resemblance to the virtuoso’s otherworldly approach to the electric guitar, which is front and center on almost every composition here. The opening track is an excellent example of this, showcasing a soothing, spacious guitar melody that is backed by jazz-fueled rim-shots on the drum kit. The whole track has a very peaceful and relaxing new-age vibe going on, and is peppered with a couple of intermittent blues licks to keep you from falling into slumber. This formula continues throughout the next tune, Deep Impact, which is a slightly more free-flowing and groovy affair. It has no real structure to it, and it feels more like a casual studio jam than a carefully mapped out journey. Once again, the drumming, like on the majority of the album, is clearly embedded in the mold of experimental free-jazz, adding a somewhat surprising twist to a genre that is otherwise known for leaving the drums on the back-burner. The percussion here is alive and kicking, not just providing a simple beat for the guitar to play against. It also adds an extra layer of spice to the dish, so that the guitar never becomes too dominant, to the point of exhaustion.
The title track is a straight-forward blues ballad, albeit a very catchy one! It recalls old-school BB King at his finest, starting off with a deliciously chaotic church organ played by renowned keyboardist and composer John Medeski, founding-member of the avant-garde jazz-funk outfit Medeski Martin & Wood. A frantic marching band drum-pattern then blends into the mix, before a complete but quick instrumental break transitions into a beefy, masculine guitar-line. Things get more exotic on the following sunshine odyssey, Crystalline, which feels like an open door into a summer wonderland of sunny beaches, hot weather, and high-tide surfing. Easily one of the most well-executed cuts on the record. However, it does not quite beat the insanity that is Lavalust, a bouncy and playful exercise in John Frusciante funkadelia and Flea-like slap-bass. It’s so thick and rhythmically schizophrenic, I’m sure Red Hot Chili Peppers could write one hell of a song around it. Someone call their manager and make that collaboration happen.
As a whole, Core is a superbly crafted instrumental rock nugget, high on energy and organic production. It is warm and enveloping from start to finish, performed with tremendous skill and precision. You really get the feeling that you are right there with the band, not on stage, but in the studio as they are recording. It doesn’t sound like parts being stitched together on a computer, but more like a continuous stream of live inter-play between three incredibly talented musicians. Their biggest weakness as a group, however, is that they tend to lean towards familiar sounds of already established artists. With a few exceptions, the album could easily be mistaken for a number of other instrumental rock releases, and I kind of wish they had left even more room open for additional instruments that would set them apart from their peers. Maybe some bells, whistles, synthesizers. Anything that could give them a unique signature and fingerprint. Something that would instantly tell us, this is ARJUN! I suppose the somewhat unconventional drum-work could be that special trait, but I still think they need to push themselves even closer to the edge of their creative capabilities, because there is huge potential to be harvested. As of right now, they have pretty much everything going for them, except for the one ingredient that will ultimately make them stand out from the crowd. The business of instrumental rock music can be tough, especially when there are thousands of others that can play just as well as you do. These guys are confident, and Core is certainly a very confident record. It just lacks innovation and risk-taking, that’s all. I do think it’s their best work to date, but I also believe they’ve got so much more to offer. They have to reach for the sky, if they want to make a bigger mark. That being said, there is no denying the sheer power and force of the music being presented to us. A must for fans of this kind of music.
BUY THE ALBUM: http://arjun.bandcamp.com/album/core