(if you don’t want to bear my preface, the actual review starts at the fourth paragraph…)
I have been into Sean Ashe for quite some time, I don’t even remember how I got introduced. My guess would be his Instagram but who knows. For the last year or so he let his followers follow (;-)) the development and recording of his first solo album, titled Flux. It was available for pre-orders on his Bandcamp page so I did and this week it finally came out.
Hemisphere and Luminescence were two tracks previously available and there I was, syncing the tracks to my phone, thinking, “well, this might as well be this generation’s Passion & Warfare”. Talk about expectations… The teaser track Memory Lane before New Year’s was equally daunting and promising…
Well, Passion & Warfare might be a bit farfetched in the end. Not because it’s not great but due to what it stands far. First I was wondering whether a statement like that would be fair to Guthrie Govan’s Erotic Cakes or Pete Thorn’s Guitar Nerd, but obviously it’s a very personal matter. What Passion & Warfare was for me – most likely it was a different album for you. But I digress from the actual matter: Sean Ashe’s brilliant debut album:
Sean Ashe’s Flux is of 8 instrumental guitar tracks. But: It’s not really a shred album (good) and it’s not a riff album (awesome!). I am not a fan of songs that feature a great guitar riff but lack a melody to carry the tune. Riff songs unfortunately bore me. Flux is a great selection of melodies that also happen to be played by guitar, in a very fluent manner. I am not the best at describing influences if I am not familiar, so could be saying something like Scofield and Satriani but would probably very wrong.
I like the variety of song styles. There’s a bit of folk guitar, there’s a ska-ish track, but also the instrument selection: It seems that he really puts melody at the forefront, and the instrument at second: Acoustic guitar, piano, and keyboards all have a moment to bow to the song and shine.
And then there is lots of fusion-y songs with many layers of electric guitar but carefully selected tones. Sean endorses Tom Anderson Guitars and I know he uses Mesa Boogie amps – no doubt are they happy because the guitars sound pristine and I am not just click baiting here. Lead and rhythm guitars sound stunningly good. Kind of what I would expect from a Pete Thorn record but not for a debut album – which Sean produced & mixed himself (with a little help, but still).
I knew the drums were done “for real”, but it has to be pointed out that Andreas Sjoen did a superb job playing and recording. The songs have punch and a dynamic range that comes through without disturbing the melody, rather supporting it.
In short, the only complaint I have is that the album could have been longer and that there could have been a tad more shreddage – we know he can play, so maybe just once give in and let us have it full-blast. But all in all, a must-have for fans of great melodies and electric guitar playing.
And if your in the LA area, go to Namm and check him out in person: