Monday, 8 June 2020

Stone Rebel - Hole in the Sun (2020)



Country: France
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 1 Jun 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook

Hole in the Sun appears to be Stone Rebel's fourteenth studio album, so I'd usually be asking forgiveness at this point for not having heard of them. I won't this time, though, because they're a lot more prolific than old, this also being their fourth album this year. Given that we're not halfway yet, I would call that surprisingly prolific. They knocked out six albums last year and four more in 2018.

Now, prolificity like that is inherently suspicious. Surely, nobody will be able to maintain a reasonable level of quality over that volume of releases? After all, while there are gems in Buckethead's catalogue, there's a lot of, shall we say, lesser material too. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this album, which is of laid back instrumental rock, driven by noodling guitarwork that often continues at length. Of seven tracks on offer, two of them extend past the ten minute mark and a third well past eight.

I have no idea who's in the band or even if there is a band. This could well be a tight group of musicians who spend all their spare time jamming on new material. I'm hearing at least four instruments here: two guitars, plus bass and drums. Maybe there are four musicians going uncredited on Bandcamp and I wish they'd identify themselves so I can dole it appropriate praise.

However, it's well within the bounds of possibility that Stone Rebel is just one musician whose jam is to live in the studio and improvise new music. It has to be said that it's easier to make band practice when you are the band. If this is a solo project, though, I would have to express surprise at that musician's restraint, as I'm not hearing any keyboards here, let alone the exotic array of instrumentation that solo artists often layer in. Maybe it's all computer generated, though I doubt it.

Even though the song titles often suggest some sort of conflict (Hole in the Sun, Crashing Light, Psycho Monkey and others), this is fundamentally upbeat music. Sure, every track is introspective (somehow I know that the drummer's not the only musician sitting down), but there's a contentment and a comfort inherent in the music, even if that stems from an Escape from Reality. This is 2020, after all, and we've collectively only reached level six of Jumanji thus far.

The Bandcamp page for Stone Rebel states that the style is psychedelic rock, and that's fine by me, but thats a wide genre and this is light years from space rock or stoner rock as we tend to imagine them. I'd place this halfway between a Grateful Dead jam session and whatever New Age CDs show up at your local dollar store for a buck a piece. It's certainly good relaxation music: pop this on and feel your mood improve. However, it's worth a lot more than to just let it slide away into the background while you work because much of the fun is actively listening to those guitars.

Surely the most pleasant album I've heard all year, the question is whether it's likely to stay with me. I don't think I'm going to wake up with any of these tunes playing in my head tomorrow. The most obvious criticism would be that each of the seven pieces of music sounds relatively similar. The drums and bass are there primarily for support purposes, so they don't get to put their own mark on this. In fact, Dreamers does without drums entirely and I wouldn't say they were particularly missed.

It's all about the guitars and, if you're in the mood for soft and pleasing guitar and you want something with a lot more substance than New Age, then I would recommend this highly. I'm sure I'll be coming back to it when I next feel the need to be cheered up. Of course, by then, Stone Rebel may have released another half dozen albums...

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