Experimental rock musician Del Suelo got all of our attention with I Am Free back in 2016, and now he’s taking over the indie world with The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme. I’ve been in the music industry for most of my life, and only a few other times can I say that a record has been as widely anticipated as Del Suelo’s latest release. The Musician’s Compass is an emotionally charged concept album that dabbles in everything from traditional jam band music to more focused, straight forward hard rock, but in the aftermath of I Am Free’s experimentalism I expected this album to be nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. My expectations proved true, and I can now personally vouch that Del Suelo has produced one of the most thrilling listening experiences of the decade.
There’s a smorgasbord of richly effective influences to be found in the twelve songs contained in The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme, from freewheeling crossover jazz to bone shattering heavy metal thunder, but unlike I Am Free, Del Suelo was careful to smooth out some of the rougher edges in his sound to make this release a much more accessible listen from start to finish. His trademark experimentalism is still alive and well, but there’s a certain cleanliness to this production that tells me that he’s done a lot of growing up in the last couple of years. His reputation for insanely intimate live performances has added to his character, and I think his work as benefited as a result.
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The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme is an extremely appealing progressive album during a time when fans of pop music have been complaining left and right about mainstream music becoming too stripped down and simplistic in both lyrics and musicality. Del Suelo didn’t spare any expense in making this album a total package that would take even the most studious music expert a lot of time to take apart, and I myself don’t feel that I’ve even started to scratch the surface of its deeper narrative (and this is after listening to the record uninterrupted at least twenty times since its release). There’s just so much to comb through, so many finely sewn details to explore that I don’t think I could ever tire of studying the ins and outs of this album.
I’ve always been a lot tougher on concept records than I have any other format that I review, and it’s not because I don’t enjoy progressive music. In fact it’s for reasons quite the contrary; I expect concept records to be explicitly more intriguing and provocative than any other that I listen to, and when they fail to fire on all cylinders I’m not just unamused by the material, I’m disappointed. As snobby a critic as I like to consider myself, when it comes to breaking down The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme, I have no remarks other than positive ones. Del Suelo made something so intently hypnotic and connective that you really have to hear it for yourself to understand its exemplary style.