Alive Like the Spine – Jeff Bujak
When an artist is just starting out, there is sometimes a tendency to put all the available colors on the canvas. This attitude is often underlined by a need to fully express oneself while continuing to find what it is one actually has to say, think, or display, as the case may be. In music, the desire for melody, with a latent option of experimentation, can lead some apprentice artists down a dead end road to self-absorption. For others, they find their style, their voice, as it were, early on, and only seek a subject that is interesting.
Jeff Bujaks third solo album in as many years finds the developing musician at an artistic crossroads where his melting pot of melodic motifs may have found some early answers to the aforementioned creative challenges. On Alive Like the Spine, Bujak plays acoustic and electronic keyboards, acoustic guitar, and melodica on eight tracks which are divided into two sections of four tracks each. Most are filled with sharp little ideas that overlap on to each other without resolution. Never quite content to let a thought reach its climax as one expects in either the improvisation or electronica mind(jam)-fuck(dance) genres, Bujak saddles up to a peak with a shifting swirl of overdubbed keyboards, piano and drum machine layers, and then moves immediately into another thought, which is unpredictable and exciting, but occasionally frustrating.
The two opening tracks excel at venturing through idea after idea before hitting a wall, and then slowly backing away, to find another exit. Sea contains a wonderful passage of piano-filled scenery while logging many ethereal geographic miles, and Nomadd lives up to its 21st century way of title-spelling by wandering from locale to locale and is quite adventurous. But again, expectations were tweaked as the pay off was either modified or only suggested. Mutator is brief and doesnt seem to hold together as well as the longer tracks (odd, that), while Yogoque, which concludes Side A of the old school shaping of the album, contains some rather passionate vocals from Justin Eck and Christine Devlin Eck, particularly the latter as she finds the spine early on.
Side B coagulates the disparate elements into a much more coherent vision. Kicker is another long track at 13 minutes plus, and Bujak wisely shifts between various overdubbed instruments over countless third-eye sonic scenery changes to find himself with a track that is heady and danceable. Elements of reggae, funk, metal, pop rock, and just plain sweaty electronica find themselves wrapped together, or scattered throughout, on a track which even showcases Bujak on a fine acoustic guitar interlude. Prodigium contains samples of a John F. Kennedy speech, which can detract at times, but Bujak is smart enough to keep the song consistently melodic. Hepsira both slows down the tempo, and adds further exploratory colors to Bujaks canvas, but also effortlessly moves through scene changes as if Bujaks slight ADD has been momentarily curtailed. Utopia contains vocals by Bujak and Amanda Milazzo, and like Yogoque serves as a nice bookend to an album that has many ideas that are sometimes given coitus interruptus too soon, but Id listen to Bujak again because what he is trying to paint is often better than what others have offered in a more definitive way.