Marco Minnemann – ‘EEPS’ [Review]

marco minnemann eeps

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If I’d recorded my reaction to this album’s opening bars, it’d be viral on YouTube by now. You have to ask: How does this guy do it? Most drummers would struggle with that very first high-speed drum flourish, let alone everything that follows. Let’s get stuck in.

Cheap As Fuck And Awesome As Hell sounds like Jeff Beck at his finest. The guitar is brutally tortured, notes squeezed to within an inch of their lives, there’s a super-cool keyboard line and some immense effects, and it all adds up to a fusion tour-de-force that, you’d assume, was created by a group of virtuosi working in collaborative harmony.

Only…it isn’t. On EEPS, Marco Minnemann plays everything. Everything. Vinnie Colaiuta may well be known as “The Alien”, but maybe it’s time that nickname jumped ship.

Anyway, we’re one track in. So…

After hearing OC DC for the first time, I called it a glorious piece of genre-splicing audio terrorism – and I stand by that still. Title track Eeps is by turns creepy, disturbing, and comedic; Live Ghost gets so funky it hurts in a good way with Zappa-meets-Holdsworth vibes; Soul Dance seethes and rumbles while acoustic guitars get all Steve Vai on us; and Obvious continues in a similarly Vai-like vein. Obvious in particular could fit well on Flex-Able – although there’s some beautifully djent-y guitar going on in the background that reminds us all that this was made in 2014. It’s also my favourite track on the album: Vai, a hint of djent, some unexpectedly catchy vocal and lyrical work…what’s not to love?!

Right On Time And Out Of Tune should, by all rights, be awful – as the title track suggests, this is an experiment like no other I’ve come across. Deliberately out-of-tune instruments and off-kilter rhythms add up to…immense, glorious, and seductive beauty. What?! This is the mark of a true genius – the ability to take something that should honestly never, ever work in a million years and not only make it work but make it incredible. I actually skipped back to the start of this track before moving on – it was that great. Kudos, Marco.

Sushi Cat Doll is the best track name on offer here – and if Quentin Tarantino decided to direct a film scripted by Kevin Smith, this would definitely fit on the soundtrack. More out-of-tune guitars tear and rend the ears before it all stops and we’re transported back to the glory days of prog. Chorused guitar and effected vocals and ethereal atmospheres team up to make something Robert Fripp and company would be proud to call their own. I’m tempted to go into a full stream-of-consciousness blow by blow account of this track’s full eleven minutes, but instead I’m just going to say: You have to hear this for yourself. Don’t worry, though – there are plenty of links through which you can get your copy of EEPS below.

Sunshine brings us back to the world of shorter track lengths and upbeat vibes as welcome and incongruous as Vai’s Sunshine Electric Raindrops, or Mattias Eklundh’s Happy Hour. Soppy and solid all at once, this is the perfect summer tune for those who break out in hives when they listen to commercial radio stations. The Split would also fit on that Tarantino-meets-Smith movie I mentioned earlier, with plenty of moody prog grit and sultry yet dominant grooves. A really cool bit of lead guitar later on reminds me of Joe Satriani; perhaps Marco should fill in on guitar for a song or two while he’s touring with the legendary guitar maestro? If you concur, make your voice heard via the social media links below!

By the time Painter drops, we’ve already passed ten tracks – and yet it’s not getting repetitive. This is yet another massive achievement; sustaining interest this long is difficult to say the least in the age of internet-enabled attention span massacres, but it’s done in style here. The track itself could, in places, blindside a dance festival crowd with its deep, heavy bass and poky synths; it’d be very entertaining to see how that would work out in real life! Dead Ghost combines delicate xylophone and gritty, languid guitar before mutating into the cop show theme from hell. Think Constantine meets Miami Vice, and you pretty much have the picture.

Douche is not the sort of track you want to put on when sealing the deal after a third date.

We’re nearing the end now – and still, it’s never boring. Synthetic Swans is appropriately graceful, smeared with distorted dirt and strewn with the kind of noises legendary beatboxer Beardyman would be proud of. When I Was Gone is another epic-length offering that opens like a hillbilly Dream Theater and drifts into cinematic splendour, syncopated synths, another great vocal, and much more besides. 360 Degrees wins with layer upon layer of assorted and perfectly blended guitars; Talking About LMR is how every episode of Behind The Music should have really been done; and then there’s Villain Vultures. One half twisted and broken bars of alt-fusion, one half bleak and attenuated soundscapes, it’s another perfectly-formed piece and a fantastic set-closer.

Overall, EEPS is all killer, no filler, and an ecstatically realised triumph. I can’t fault a moment of it – and it’s a long album. If you’ve made it this far, you know you need this album on your hard drive, in your pocket, in your ears, and soundtracking your life.

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Posted on 16 July 2014

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