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Mattias IA Eklundh - Freak Guitar: The Road Less Traveled Review
by Dan Upton

Just in case the title "Freak Guitar" didn't clue you in to the insanity you are about to experience, here are some other things to take into consideration about Mattias IA Eklundh: he's on Steve Vai's label (Favored Nations), has a music collection ranging from gypsy and Kiss to Slayer and Miles Davis, and considers everybody's favorite musical weirdo Frank Zappa to be a major inspiration. And if the Vai connection doesn't lend enough credibility to his chops, he's played on tribute discs to Yngwie Malmsteen and Jason Becker.

That said, let's dig into the disc. The 23 tracks float mostly in the range of 2-4 minutes, but actually stretch from the 15 second "One-String Improvisation" to nine and a half minutes of "The Woman in Seat 27A." Incidentally, these two songs serve well as endpoints on the spectrum of the music as well: "One-String Improvisation" is little more than slightly musical noise, done purely for entertainment's sake; "The Woman..." is an atmospheric piece that kicks in the distortion with 2:30 left (perhaps to bring you out of the trance induced by the first 7 minutes) but uses a clean guitar tone for the solo throughout.

There's the bizarre "There's No Money In Jazz," which alternates from a ridiculous machine-gun riff to a goofy melodic groove; "Print This!" which, taking a cue from Pink Floyd, uses the sound of a copy machine as an intro rhythm; the token ballad with vocals, "Happy Hour," sounds like a slight nod to John Mayer sans poetic lyrics. There's also a hyperactive cover of "Smoke On The Water" where Mattias freaks out on his guitar to play the melody-purists need not apply, but it's entertaining if you're into instrumental music and experimenting. Speaking of hyperactive covers, Mattias also gives a nod to his Gypsy jazz inspirations and performs a version of the Django Reinhardt standard "Minor Swing."

The sheer weirdness of this disc will undoubtedly turn a lot of people off--not everybody can appreciate songs aptly titled "Difficult Person Music." On the other hand though, Mattias definitely has the chops and the compositional ability, and just chooses to have fun with it instead of taking the stereotypical shred route and connecting blazing run to blazing run. If you can appreciate technical skill, creativity, and a sense of humor, the only question left to ask is: are you willing to take the road less traveled?

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Mattias IA Eklundh - Freak Guitar: The Road Less Traveled

Label:Favored Nations

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