Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Buckethead: Spinal Clock

Words By Brett R. Crossley

Buckethead’s recent releases have shown an artist that has grown into his sound. The resulting albums produced a throng of quality releases featuring multiple guitar anthems, and most importantly, Big B at his best.

His most recent release, Spinal Clock, provides listeners with an all banjo selection as Buckethead returns to his creative roots in search of a dark, eerie album. The influences of Bill Laswell and Buckethead’s alter-ego, Death Cube K can be heard all the way through the album.

Most of his work throughout the album is done with little, or no, backings other than the occasional tapping and spacey sounds. The effect doesn’t sound promising, but Buckethead once again heads into the unknown coming out sounding great.

Those listeners familiar with his Death Cube K work will find this album heavily influenced by that style of production. He uses space as an effect in some of the cuts as long momentums of silence provide the album with a real sense of something deeper.

And while this works on most of the tracks throughout, it does hit a wall with two notable songs: Overnight the Animatronics and Spinal Cracker. These songs seem to be lacking the ghostly atmosphere present throughout the rest of the album.

From Spinal Clock’s first track its clear Buckethead elected to move away from the bluegrass sound most banjo players are accustom to hearing. The normally upbeat fast tempo licks are traded in for a much darker sound with shades of Death Cube K sprinkled in throughout.

The album’s first track, Lafayette’s Landing, sets are dark tone for the album as it uses a heavy sounding banjo riff to provide an ambient backing. The banjo provides a creepy sound throughout as Buckethead jabs in licks overtop. It works well as Buckethead only ever gives the listener a sample of the album’s direction.

The album then progresses with a nice transition into its’ next track, Whale on This. The song builds for nearly eight minutes before Buckethead signals the climax with a speedy riff before finally slowing the tempo to a halt.

The album’s most complete track entitled Skeleton Dance does a very good job of showing Buckethead’s skill as he provides the rhythm and lead without any other musical accompaniment.

The song starts with a nice sample in the middle as Buckethead uses a slow build up to transition into the piece’s main solo. The final minute of the song provides a nice glimpse into his abilities as the absence of any instruments allows the listener to focus on his sheer speed and rhythm.

Buckethead’s final romp on the album, Bayou By You, is basically Buckethead showing off his uncanny speed on stringed instruments. The song also allows Buckethead’s precision fingering to take center stage as each shift and note can be heard throughout. It’s a fun listen and provides a glimpse of Buckethead most fans rarely get to hear.

The album’s title track, Spinal Clock, is an extremely creative piece in which Buckethead uses the banjo to mimic a clock which gets progressively faster. At times, it’s easy to wonder how he is even able to create some of the sound, and again this is done with no instrumental backing which emphasizes his speed and creativity.

Throughout the album Buckethead provides the listener with an extremely unique, and creative, take on the banjo. The usual guitar and bass heavy tracks are absent from this album while Buckethead crafts an experimental mix of songs using only his banjo.

The album is a complete success as Buckethead displays an uncanny ability to take his sound into different venues of music. His abilities on the guitar are well known throughout the scene as Spinal Clock provides his listeners with a new sound. This album deserves a lot of credit as Buckethead displays a lack of fear by venturing outside of his signature six string styles.



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