Brett Garsed & TJ Helmerich

Uncle Moe's Space Ranch

Brett Garsed & TJ Helmerich - Uncle Moe's Space Ranch ©2001 Tone Center
1. Colliding Chimps
3. Swarming Goblets
4. SighBorg
5. He's Havin' All That's His To Be Had
6. Minx
7. I Want A Pine Cone
8. A Thousand Days

One guitar pick. Two drumsticks. Three guitar-shaped instruments. Six men. Eighteen strings. Sixteen billion five hundred forty seven million two hundred fifty five thousand eight hundred ninety three notes. Zero melody.

Well, I'm exaggerating a little. There are a few melodic moments here and there, but this record is avant tout a rock/fusion shredfest, complete with stunning leads from Garsed, Helmerich and bassist Gary Willis and torrid drumming from Dennis Chambers and Australian phenom Virgil Donati (on one track). For the uninitiated, Brett Garsed and T. J. Helmerich are two of the most exciting, melodic, creative and utterly mind-blowing guitar virtuosos you are likely to hear in your lifetime. Garsed is a master of sublime legato phrases that always go somewhere, and Helmerich is a wicked two-handed tapper who's been branching out into sonic experimentation, in addition to being a superb engineer and producer. Bassist Willis is best known for his work with the popular modern fusion outfit Tribal Tech, and drummers Dennis Chambers and Virgil Donati need no introduction.

Garsed and Helmerich's first two albums together, Quid Pro Quo and Exempt, have been on my desert-island-album list since they came out, so my hopes were high for this record; and while Uncle Moe's Space Ranch is just about as far from mediocre as an album can be, I still find it somewhat lacking. As can be expected from this merry band of virtuosos, the musicianship is supernatural, and fans of experimental guitar la Vai/Cuccurullo/Gabrels/Thal should get a massive kick out of Helmerich's truly mind-boggling noises in "": his guitar sounds like all sorts of instruments that may or may not exist, including a DJ's scratching turntable, and Helmerich manages to keep the whole zoinkfest interesting and melodic, unlike, say, Tom Morello, whose noises are invariably boring and unremarkable. Willis delivers his trademark busy and grooving basslines, and Chambers' swinging skinsmanship is characteristically strong and exciting. However, the album's highlight is possibly Virgil Donati's guest drumming spot, "SighBorg", which single-handedly justifies purchasing two copies of the album: his ride and cymbal work during the song's chorus is simply jaw-dropping.

That said, the album often feels as though it could have used a little editing and stronger melodic hooks, especially when one is familiar with Garsed and Helmerich's usual supremely beautiful output. This is an excellent album to drive to, or a pleasantly painful reality check for musicians, but not the album I'd recommend for an introduction to the players' music.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 04/2004

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