(All Album Reviews by scooter_mcgrooter_13)
Ghosts of Pompeii is the "one man band" of Joe Shingler, one of our fellow Prog Ears members. This is GoP's seventh release, which was completed in April of 2002.
I have always been a fan of keyboard driven music. Not only that, I enjoy listening to the soundscapes that artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze have created over the years, which rely almost solely on synthesizers. Even the areas of electronica and ambient I find much enjoyment out of. Those are all good places to start a description of GoP's material. But that is ONLY the start. Shingler adds many influences and genres into his music, that it becomes very eclectic. Jazz, rock, dance, funk, ska, baroque/classical, space, a cappella harmonizing,Latin and tribal, and even just a smidgen of country/western all get their chances to be heard. But this happens all with his one sound and style coming through. Shingler is not an artist that takes himself too seriously that this becomes an over blown statement of music. On the contrary, it comes across with the love of someone that just wants to play and is having fun creating music. It is mostly evident in the bits of humor that get shown throughout the album. Shingler has created some intelligent music that can challenge the listener, yet still have them tapping their feet.
The album's opener "Virgin Sacrifice" shows off one of Shingler's best qualities, arrangement of sounds. The album is full of pieces that are very well put together. He seems to have a knack for using many different sounds, but woven together in a manner that fits well, and gives each track a very full sound. He also doesn't let songs go too far. If anything the listener might even think that some songs might be too short. And in a genre where songs can seem very repetitive this quality is a good thing.
The second track "The Four Horseman" continues to show off Shingler's arrangement abilities, yet not forgetting melody and hooks. "Caught in a Quagmire" adds some amble guitar work that shows off more through what is added to the sound of the track from the tone. Later his performance on "Kaleidoscope" adds to the list of very well arranged songs, all of these being the strongest on this release.
Other highlights on the album include "Introducing - The Velveetatones" which is all vocal. Though one can only assume that it is very realistic sounding samples and not actual voices. It is songs like this that break the album up in a well rounded and intelligently arranged track layout. "Gremlins With Power Tools" adds the eeriness of a dark subject manner juxtaposed with dashes of humor that the title would suggest. "Ignatius Possum Jones - Private Eye" adds almost 50'/60's surfing/rockabilly sound, while still sounding modern. "Eyes Behind the Veil" is more proof of Shingler's keen sense of genre mixing, here taking a middle eastern motif and adding an almost Pink Floyd like drone to the mix, very hypnotic.
"Just Happy to be Alive" gives you a taste of how good the sound can be. It starts off with driving drums (that sound very good for being programmed) ala "Rumble Fish Twist" by The Flower Kings. Then the song gets moving in another direction with horns giving it almost a Latin appeal or maybe even ska. The "Raptors Lair" tribal drumming is just plain cool! Yes, it would be more spectacular if it were not samples, but Shingler shows great attention to rhythms created and it is that which can be admired.
Joe Shingler's project Ghosts of Pompeii is quite a treat with it's wide array of sounds. His music will lead you to other places. You will soon find out just how many different places you can travel in a shade under an hour. If you are a big fan of the electronic genre and style, or just like good keyboard lead music, you need to hear Ghosts of Pompeii and this would be an excellent album to start with.