Spastic Ink, well there's a name to conjure with and one that didn't initially fill me with anything other than dread. Unlike Claude I had not previously encountered this band and mulled the thought that SI had mistaken us for the Dutch Punk Rock Page. However as I quickly looked through the CD booklet I noticed the name Jarzombek - oh yeah I've heard of this guy, all may not be lost. Some readers may be familiar with Ron Jarzombek for his involvement with WatchTower, personally he is guy I've read about, but have heard little of his playing.
Musically we are in heavy terrain, with the emphasis on a mixture of ultra technical/prog metal/fusion with the vocal tracks steering us towards the metal end of the spectrum. The arrangements are complex, totally off the wall and even after innumerate listenings I am still struggling to understand what is actually going on here, or even why. This said I find the music totally intriguing and have played the album (mainly in short bursts) over and over again. The fascination with Ink Compatible doesn't just revolve purely around Ron Jarzombek's guitar work, but also with the incredibly tight musicianship displayed by the band and guest musicians.
Where to begin ?
Well I normally start with the rhythm section when listening to any music and the core of Spastik Ink - Bobby Jarzombek and Pete Perez both deserve medals for their comprehension and performances of this material. Ron Jarzombek is responsible for the writing of all the material which he has been creating over the last four years and presumably with the aid of computer technology. The tendency with this medium is to write material that is then not possible to be reproduced by humans and although I get the impression Ron may have fallen foul of this to a certain extent, hats of to the musicians assembled on Ink Compatible that they have been able to do so. Special note should also be awarded to David Penna for his contribution to the ever (some forty or so ?) changing tempos in Words For Nerds, which sounds like an easy copy and past exercise for a music programme and a minefield to master and play.
Of the music - as mentioned earlier it is in the realms of metal/fusion, but not mentioned before is the quirkiness which could well derive some influences from some of Frank Zappa's wonderfully torturous arrangements and some of the weird and wonderful keyboard solos. Checkout Jens Johansonns contribution to Aquanet or Dave Bagsby's splendid solo in Words For Nerds. Perhaps we could also look to Mr Zappa's influences in the zany "dialogue" that juts in and out of most of the tracks.
Outstanding moments or the obligatory highlights - impossible! Each track had its truly wonderful moments but it really would be impossible to single one track above another.
On the downside for the album I have to say that the vocals did nothing for me and seemed totally out of place within this technical maelstrom of instrumental prowess. This is not to cast scorn on the vocal performances, but more that they seemed ill fitting in the scheme of things. Even Daniel Gildenlow did not raise the stakes for the vocal contribution. Continuing with the negatives from Ink Compatible, there isn't a moments rest to speak of and at the end of it all you just feel you have been pummelled to death. So back to track one then! On the upside we have amazing playing throughout, with stella performances, thought provoking arrangements (if not at times overly complicated for their own good) and a display of musical karate you are unlikely to witness more than on a few rare occasions in a lifetime.
This is a difficult album to get into and I'm still on with it. If you think that all that can be said or done with the "guitar" album and that the boundaries of such albums can go no further - then this album may well change that perception !