For a band so far into their career, California Guitar Trio has conjured a surprising amount of vitality and inventiveness on their newest album, Andromeda. Full of layers and heart, it’s a captivating release that is diverse enough to dispel any presumption that eleven tracks of guitar instrumentals would get repetitive after awhile. These don’t.
The group formed in 1991 and still retain the same three members: Paul Richards, Bert Lams, and Hideyo Moriya. As per usual, this album contains guest players, including Tony Levin and Julie Slick. As both their first album of all original material and the celebration of a twenty year partnership (well, nineteen), Andromeda is, according to Lams, “…a culmination of all our work together…”
While every track on Andromeda is an exceptional composition, “Cathedral Peak” is a definitely a standout. Luckily, it also opens the album. Balancing fragility with tribal intensity, it’s a rollercoaster of emotion and virtuosity. The arpeggios interweave beautifully, and individual notes interact to create touching juxtaposition. Wow.
“Turn of the Tide” is simpler and more melancholic, and “Andromeda” has a lot of fun with reverb and looping, creating walls of sound greater than the sum of its parts. “Chacarera” makes guitar harmonics the star of the show, and “Middle of TX” establishes a classical structure with a sharp, electric country vibe. And the sheer majesty and construction of “Portland Rain,” with it’s infusion of violin over quick melodies and time changes, simply must be heard.
Just as impressive as the arranged pieces are the “Improv” ones, of which there are four. While perhaps more experimental and less accessible, they are certainly as valuable and remarkable, offering some of the most unexpected and intriguing sounds (“Improv VIII” especially) on Andromeda. Also, the tracks are fairly short, allowing them to convey their essences without ever overstaying their welcome and dissolving away from your attention.
California Guitar Trio has proven that it can still bring magic to music with Andromeda. The trio expertly exemplify, as they always have, just how versatile and profound their instrument can be, and the guest musicians add an extra level to the craftsmanship and engagement. These tracks are fascinating to hear through speakers, and seeing them performed live would be an amazing experience.