(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
Former Frank Zappa axe slinger Mike Keneally is back with a new album entitled Evidence Of Humanity, this time collaborating with German born drummer Marco Minnemann. Minnemann has built an excellent reputation in the music world and has worked with the likes of Paul Gilbert, Nina Hagen and many others. He currently resides in the United States and in 2007 joined the German metal band Necrophagist.
I was really impressed with Keneally’s last CD Scambot 1 and like that effort the new album is just as good. In fact it may even be a little better which is high praise indeed considering the quality of his previous work. Keneally plays a multitude of instruments and his virtuosity shines throughout. Not to be outdone, Minnemann also does an excellent job. His presence is perhaps more understated but his off kilter rhythms ,short drum fills and delicate cymbal work is exceptional. In essence a fifty-two minute drum solo upon which Keneally forms his guitar assault.
There is a definite Zappaesque feel as is to be expected and Keneally’s left field avant-garde approach and high degree of experimentalism can be found but for those not familiar with more, shall I say, difficult music, please do not let that stop you from listening to this disc. Rarely has complex music been so utterly listenable as on Evidence Of Humanity.
The album begins with “Respect?”, a tune laden with that trademark Keneally guitar and some fine drumming from Minemann. Keneally really sets the frets on fire with his fusion style guitar and his bass work is also excellent as he lays down a solid groove over a bed of keys. Throughout the disc the keyboards never overextend their welcome but add a nice accent on many of the tracks. The short title track takes a couple of twists and turns, usually reserved for much longer compositions and leads directly into “Three People Ran Naked Through School”, a brief but pretty acoustic number. The experimental “Tooth and Cold Stone Pew” features some mind warping acoustic guitar and interesting chord structures along with Minnemann’s outstanding drum fills. The superb musicianship in “You, And Your Problems” is another highlight as is the somewhat spacey “Rough Time At The Hotel” where atmospheric instrumental parts match well with Minnemann’s stellar drumming. Crashing cymbals break the trance-like state the music invokes before paving the way towards some interesting guitar and keyboard effects.
One of the best songs is the ambitious “Clown Removal” where fusion guitar and well placed keys gives this one a melodic sensibility in its own unusual way. If you dig complex music, this track is for you as both musicians offer up some magical playing.
My personal favourites are the last two tracks; “Trying” and “A Place To Stay For The Night”, with the former featuring gentler guitar and an overall dreamy quality, while the latter is a moodier piece with Keneally’s guitar work bursting through the surface in moments of pure clarity.
Also included is a DVD that showcases a different but entirely improvised performance in what looks like a storage facility. This is as spontaneous as it gets with Keneally playing keyboards and guitar, at times simultaneously, and Minnemann showing his mastery of the drum kit. This is powerful stuff and a must have for anyone interested in improvisation and free form playing. Watching the two musicians completely within their element was a joy to behold. The second segment features an interview of both musicians while cruising down the highway on the way to Salton Sea. It is an informative conversation offering insight into the mindsets of two wonderful players.
If you are looking for pure ear candy you may be wondering what you have gotten yourself into but for those who find beauty in complexity and appreciate insanely good musicianship, Evidence Of Humanity is an essential piece and belongs in your collection.