A free-form guitar is prominent among the traditional and progressive orchestral arrangements, soft messaged ballads, instrumental quiet time, and underwater think-tank oddities in Al Kryszak's new solo effort, Soft Clowns of The Sea.
The music sounds very much like the abandoned wood planks, moss covered stone, and occasional human artifact one might find looking at the bottom of a clear shallow lake. Even the swirling dead-key vocal arrangements sounds like the voices of drowned people, like the hapless harmonious chorus from an old Jefferson Airplane song.
"Catch Me Sleeping" has such a chorus. A funky pop beat gives way to nearly indecipherable murmuring vocals in which Kryszak sings "You won't catch me sleeping alone", while the helpless background vocals join him as if captured with him in an assured whirlpool. It's a soothing, George Harrison All Things Must Pass effect.
In contrast to those choppy waters, "Sun In My Eyes" is a stark and simple vocal arrangement with an insufferable sun bearing down on motionless waters. Tones of eastern global music, and Euro-minstrel mandolin spinning off the guitar strings gives it an otherworldly, quietly bizarre sound.
While the album is big and heavy on downbeat, Kryszak's guitar sometimes is the only positive major key instrument speaking in contrast to the general minor key chords he prefers. The guitar flirts, antagonizes and soothes the music, as busy and constant as a dragonfly over water. Its jazzy, free-form style has an assured blues sound that complements well the gentle musical waves lapping against the shore.
The music drifts, sometimes for long periods, into a jazz/folk fusion of quiet meditative music sparked by Kryszak's splendid finger picking. His electric playing is as fine. "Hold Them All" offers a fiery, siren-like jam on guitar that pierces the song's stony rock-blues platform like a Russian meteor shower.
This is a big, ambitious album with several musical themes working, and I'm unsure if it all equals a cohesive whole. It doesn't matter. It's thought provoking and the music is always engaging. A profound theme lies somewhere in these mysterious waters.
Yet, reasoning will not prepare you for the rock and roll assault featuring Mike Brydalski on drums towards the end of the album which adds a final touch of strangeness. It's a regrouping of all the album's musical components burnt to a crust of primal rock. It is a wonderful burst of sound.