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Pat Strawser — Vignettes
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-06-08

Vignettes Cover art

Exposé readers will know Pat Strawser from his playing on the two excellent albums by Volaré back in the late 90s and as the keyboard player for French TV since Operation: Mockingbird (2017); he featured on the Echolyn spinoff Always Almost God Pounds His Nails; he was also featured prominently on the debut album by the late Sea Level guitarist David Causey earlier this year. What many may not know is that he’s been pretty active as a solo artist with around half a dozen solo albums to his credit, beginning with Synth in 2018 onward to Vignettes, which is the latest. He has eschewed the problems of dealing with record labels by self-releasing his material mostly as downloads, though I must confess to not having heard any of his earlier solo endeavors (they are available all on his Bandcamp page), but Vignettes certainly showcases his amazing talent as a gifted composer, arranger, producer, and player across the album’s fourteen instrumental tracks. The style varies from progressive rock to fusion to the more gentle introspective sounds, Strawser playing all the parts, which typically involve many layers of synthesizers, electronics, and skillful drum programming. One won’t hear many acoustic keyboards or even classic organ, Mellotron, or electric piano, so if you‘re looking for 70s retro sounds you probably won’t find it here, but he does manage to create some very impressive and engaging works works using his battery of synthesizers. One look at the studio tour on his website will offer a jaw-dropping look at his arsenal (and he’s got some of that classic stuff too, but he’s just not using them much here). “Floating” is a great example of his more gentle approach to arrangement, while opener “Into the Sun” encompasses the fusiony bombastic progressive rock sound; “Mercury Rising” has that grand spacy feel with a touch of Berlin style sequencing, while “Nebula” makes great use of the sparkly scintillating sounds with a deep bass pulse underlying, perhaps this writer’s favorite piece of them all. On the more funky and fusion pieces one can hear a Herbie Hancock influence, while the proggy stuff may remind the listener of Kit Watkins, and the spacy pieces may recall the style of the late great Vangelis, though Vignettes remains highly original on every level.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Pat Strawser

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