I’ve always found that instrumental albums based around one instrument can get old fast. Many artists don’t put enough variety into their collection—we hear the same styles over and over again—resulting in redundancy before too long. However, on their second release, Original Scores, The Andreas Kapsalis Trio accomplish something fantastic—an album of guitar pieces that never gets boring or repetitive. Coupling a diverse array of strings and percussion with shifting dynamics and several styles of playing, it’s captivating throughout.
Consisting of “steel string ten finger tapping guitar prodigy” Andreas Kapsalis, multi-instrumentalist Darren Garvey, and drummer Jamie Gallagher, the trio released their self-titled debut in 2004. Focusing on “eight-fingered guitar virtuosity, outstanding melodic themes, and rhythmic variation on percussion,” they’ve quickly become a driving force in Chicago’s underground music scene. Hopefully, Original Scores will be their ticket to even bigger success.
“Ethnic Cleansing” opens the record with fast, ominous acoustic arpeggios complemented with hand clapping, guitar body tapping and tribal percussion. It’s interesting how they incorporate these elements to simultaneously craft melodies, offset the listener’s comfort, and keep time. The duo ventures out into different sections while continuing to reprise a single theme, giving the track a nice cohesion. Much of the album follows this template (albeit in unique ways, of course).
Elsewhere, Spanish horns adorn “Bashful Satyr,” bells dance freely in “Doppelganger,” a frantic energy dominates “Three Nickels,” and accordions wail in “Carousel.” With sad strings and slow momentum, “Pandora” sounds like a wonderfully subtle musical score. “Strangers to Fellini,” with its alternating tempo and carnival-esque production, perfectly captures the playfulness of the visionary’s classic “Amarcord.”
Each track on Original Scores offers something new, and it really flows well when played continuously. Kapsalis and crew present dichotomous music; one track may be serious and guitar heavy while the next may be silly and more eclectic. It’s a great balance which results in a continuously strong momentum, and seeing them replicate it live would be astounding.