VONJ – RAUCH
Vonj comes out of the UK via Kenya, and it’s a good thing that it doesn’t matter on his new CD, Rauch, if you’ve heard him or not. As long as you like all of the elements he brings with some equally talented musicians, you’ll be wanting to check out more. The guitar in particular covers ground from Jimi Hendrix to John McLaughlin and even some Allan Holdsworth territory is covered for good measure. And if you like your covers reworked over to make a statement, then you’ll get it all and more. This isn’t a glossy produced work either.
It’s pedestrian when called for, and polished when needed. There are good and bad cliché’s to be found on most anything, but you won’t find the latter here. The music appropriately begins with the smoking hot drums of “Out Of The Mire” and it’s off to the races with congas and guitar fills to spice it up. The guitar fills are almost scratchy and it somehow adds an eastern flavor. But there is a lot of flavor to be tasted on this, and throughout every track as they fly by. This is not to go without mentioning several, and the burn up the speakers. Starting with “Skin Deep” with its monster bass grooves and extremely cutting edge guitar interaction. The thought that something can almost be too good, does go through the mind when hearing all on offer. You don’t get this next door. The album just gets more and more layered without losing any attraction if you’re looking for that, and who isn’t once in a while. You get the luxury of both playful jamming and serious musical workouts on most of these songs. With something like “Gold Rush” to simmer the jazz-heavy arrangements with a more down to earth rocking style, where you get a more gut-level vocal approach. It gets into not being fooled by the ways of the world. And if you are a bass junky, this will put a smile on your face, as it gets downright funky to the max before it gets back to the great advice worth listening to. Grab it and don’t let go of the soul. “Brilliance Street” is also a cool jazzy track to crank at high volume and get the blood pumping at any given hour. This is another slamming track with all of the collective elements the album contains in one statement, as it is the vocals that cover the most ground on it. But it’s about balance, and it does still find some. But it’s pretty hard to find anything out of place on the album. There isn’t a lot of room for change or improvement, it’s too well put together in both concept and studio performance outcome. It’s a long ride but an intended one that cuts like a knife without making you bleed. A truly spiritual effort. Another highlight is “Trails Of Eldoret” which is a guitar instrumental, so I don’t know what it’s about, but it’s an eloquent piece that adds one of several accessible gates to and album that doesn’t even need them. It just goes to show how many bases they cover.
But audiences for music of this sophistication level are vastly thinning out, so, Vonj is good to still have a round. It closes with a cover but not a typical one, of “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. And this has also been a thing some are insisting on doing lately, that have nothing to do with the rest of an album. But as long as people are making it their own and not doing carbon copies, I approve. And this one is worth hearing, but could as easy be a bonus track.