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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Album Review: Asha - "Pleasures of Equality"



The fourteenth endeavor of Asha, and its guitarist Kike Caamaño, is titled “Pleasures of Equality”, an eclectic mix of rock songs that showcases the repertoire of a master guitar journeyman displaying his much traveled and well earned virtuosity on the riffs, chords, and solos of this unclassifiable, totally unique, and immensely enjoyable album.

Caamaño is joined on “Pleasures of Equality” by first time Asha vocalist Jacob Poulsen, whose strong, smooth, and clear vocals perfectly matches the varied and individualistic tracks on this diverse omnibus of rock songs that never tries to fit a standard, or conform to a preconception, but simply manufactures its own sound, borne over two and a half decades of honest effort coupled with innate talent.

When you’ve created thirteen albums over the course of a career and are facing the production of a fourteenth, what better way to kick it off than with the beautiful melodic stylings of . . . your 4 month old child. The very first track, “Newborn”, is an ode to Kike’s baby, in which he is able to structure a pleasant little ditty to accompany the baby’s cute jabber. Not your standard rock tune, and certainly nothing heavy here, just an indicator that Kike is no longer headstrong, as surely he must’ve been twenty years previous, but has instead matured to a point where he has no problem plucking the strings of his guitar simultaneously with those of his heart.

But never fear, the album quickly gets into a fast and fun number, “Welcome to the Lost Parade”, where the vaunted guitar work quickly comes into prominence, playing with energy and verve, deftly producing adept and prodigious riffs and chords that blend perfectly with Jacob’s clear, clean vocals before moving into blistering, almost awe-inspiring solos. This is a rock standard, the type of which fans of stoner rock have come to enjoy and look forward to in their favorite bands

“Here We Come Around” moves through a myriad of guitar riffs, in which Kike plays several different guitar tracks on top of a uniquely structured sing song cadence from Jacob, various quick and fun riffs sprinkled throughout that add a fun and unique spice to the song, while not abandoning the standard solo ensconced within the center.

Next is “How Could You”, beginning with an uptempo cadence, fast and boisterous on the guitar, full of varied and fun riffs that blend together to complement an exceptional vocal performance before entering a spacy but interesting interlude midway through the song, accentuated with a blistering guitar solo before returning briefly to the originally established structure, and then ending with a segue into something completely different but equally enjoyable. Caamaño takes the listener on a definite ride through lots of interesting terrain on this song, and throughout the entire album.

“Come Back (I’m Waiting For You) begins with a solo like introduction of slight distortion and significant length before moving into a few verses of harmonious vocals that are reminiscent of Americana music, interspersed with various renditions of the opening solo. A slight haunting quality to this song pulls slightly at the heartstrings while culminating in a choir-like invocation.

Funky, fun, and fast is the defining characteristic of “Unwritten Obsession”, quickly and deftly throwing out a variety of sounds, tempos, and structures. This song is completely full of a variety of intriguing and amusing sounds.

Another virtuoso guitar performance opens “Stuck In Our Moment”, accompanied by Jacob’s pure, clean vocals that carry you throughout the song in a foot tapping, finger snapping rendition, fun to keep time with, fun to listen to, and fun throughout.

“It Doesn’t Matter” displays some of the best of Jacob’s vocals and some of the heaviest of Kike’s guitar work on this album, never overbearing in any one place, moving in and out of interludes of heavier rock, interspersed with more vocally driven periods.

“The Deep Serenity” begins like a dual guitar blitz from Judas Priest or Deep Purple before dropping into the signature sound of Kike Caamaño, where time structures aren’t necessarily standard, but remain intriguing and fun, accompanied by the brilliant renditions of Jacob, who is amazing in matching his ardent intonations perfectly with Kike’s wonderfully unique and seemingly quirky guitar bonanzas.

A sound reminiscent of many guitar heavy songs from the late seventies is displayed on “Travels”, but briefly and uniquely accompanied by a short interlude of quirky vocal stylings.

“So Ends the End” again is structured in the unique way that Kike plays his songs, cramming lots of short but enjoyable guitar snippets throughout, demonstrating a wide array of sounds, from fast, clear, and high solo work to heavy, dense, thick, and loud distortion and fuzz.

The album ends with “Afterlife”, which starts slow and sweet with a simple acoustic pluck accompanied by a bongo like sound, and then the strings of long ago movie soundtracks. When the vocals are engaged then are displayed Poulsen’s most heartfelt and powerful production on this compilation. A psychedelic like feel permeates throughout, building slowly, growing louder, but remaining simple and pure in the instruments played before closing out with a simple, clear pluck on an acoustic instrument.

Kike Caamaño is able to do much with his guitar, combining the best of innate talent, years of experience, a knack for creating interesting and often unique music, and a clear desire to play and perform, having fun, sharing in the enjoyment of what he can do, what it evokes, how it makes the time spent listening to these unique and wonderful songs time very well spent. Here is not the standard stoner rock, doom, or sludge fare, and with only a sprinkling of the psychedelic, but Caamaño is a virtuoso with his chosen instrument, well worth getting to know in the intimate settings of “Pleasures of Equality”



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