It’s deeply unfashionable, it’s not even on a label, and it involves guitar solos. And GARY STEEL quite likes it.
It could almost be a lost relic by some unheard-of space-rock group from the early ‘70s – think Hawkwind with a mystical ethos. Then again, at times it’s a kissing cousin to the kind of instrumental jams guitar heroes like Jeff Beck and Allan Holdsworth dug so much.
Infinity is the Hawkes Bay-based project of two experienced musicians with almost identical pointy beards and shaved pates: Pateriki Hura (guitars and assorted supportive musical devices), and Cameron Budge (drums).
Perhaps knowing that their self-titled debut would be deigned unfashionable in the hands of big-city critics, they’ve pointedly made it as diverse as possible. So my hopes of drawing a far-fetched connection between Infinity and that other great Hawkes Bay band of space warriors, Ragnarok, were dashed with the perky grooves of ‘Caris’ Land’ and the obvious African influence of ‘Camerooned’.
So then, what is the guiding thematic of Infinity? Clearly, it’s a vehicle for Hura’s rather excellent guitar skills to find their way to ears that might enjoy them, and while there’s virtuosity on display, it’s never of the super-flash ‘look at me’ Steve Vai variety. In fact, Hura has obviously gone to some effort to build backgrounds that act as both musical and atmospheric support for his guitar antics, and he contributes quite a bit of synth – sometimes fashioned to sound like a synthesiser, other times like steel drums or mallets – to add depth.
Hura’s synth-bass is the weakest link. It’s not that the bass lines themselves are poor, just that they lack the energy and texture of a real bass player, and have a negative impact on Budge’s work, which tends to sound a little hesitant and laid back and at times, too reliant on the hi-hat. A real bass player – a good real bass player – would have transformed Infinity from a very pleasant listening experience into something that sounded alive and intense where it needed to, and given Budge more to work with.
Still, there’s something enjoyable about Infinity that I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps it’s because they’ve poured their love into the project with no commercial imperatives or industry interference, and have delivered exactly what they wanted to; or at least, as close as they could do on a no budget. Maybe it’s also because there’s a very Kiwi happy vibe to the whole project.
Personally, I’d buy this for the ‘The Way’ alone, with its “fluid as Jeff Beck” (note: subtle Frank Zappa reference) guitar lines and mystical Asian influences, if not the fake flute. I’d love to hear Hura really yank that crank and make that electric baby scream, but I like the fact that he knows restraint, as well, and how to measure his medicine in sensible dosages. And I like that he’s been given the opportunity to get his compositions out there: he’s not just shredding, he’s performing his rather excellent melodic lines.
While the recording isn’t mastered for maximum depth or dynamic, it sounds clear and clean and unencumbered by unnecessary processing; and because there’s no vocalist vying for attention in the upper-midrange, it’s a record that sounds great loud, rather than turning all brittle and unlistenable (like at least 75 per cent of the current commercial crop).
I hate the word ‘promising’, because it sounds like I’m damning him with faint praise. But this is a genuine case of promising, and I hope he gets the funding together next time to afford a Jack Bruce-type on bass just to, you know, jack up the energy and texture.
Purchase at www.infinitymusic.co.nz