Album Reviews

Enrico Pinna – The Dream of the Whale

You know how it is when a renowned artist from a well known band goes off and releases a solo album, a lot of people consider it self-indulgent, as if the artist is saying “I’m famous now, I can release whatever I like and people will like it”. Well, for every great solo release, there have been multitudes of bloated excuses of self gratification and general twaddle, releases that prove that the artist in case should have stuck to their day job. When it’s an instrumental guitar solo release there is an added degree of complexity for me as, generally I love instrumental recordings and, guitar albums especially.

So, appreciate my quandary when the latest solo release from Enrico Pinna,  well known guitarist with one of my favourite bands Karnataka, lands through my letterbox, I think I can be subjective enough but, can I really keep Mr fan boy at bay?

A well renowned producer and engineer, Enrico Pinna has collaborated with many notable artists including three-time Grammy winner Mike Stern. After joining Karnataka at the end of 2006, he has gone on to become one of the most renowned guitarists and composers in the industry and has opened a studio in London, Quadra studios, where the band are recording their new album.

Enrico’s first solo release of a career spanning 30 years, ‘The Dream of the Whale’, has been described as ‘an ambitious suite of mainly instrumental music that draws on influences from world to fusion and progressive’ and was composed between 2010 and 2012 at his own studio. Multi-instrumentalist Pinna plays the majority of the instruments on the album but is joined by Philippe Honore on violin, Jane Fenton on cello and Clive Howard on viola.

The Dream of the Whale is a one track suite composed of 10 parts that intends to capture the majestical essence of the world’s largest mammal and is dedicated to these marvellous animals.

From an introduction that is composed of waves lapping against an imagined shoreline, there is an ambience to the music that draws you in and enraptures you with the sound of whale song. Everything is peaceful and serene, almost as if you’re in amniotic fluid and separated from the troubles of everyday life. The gentle drumbeat and sedate, smooth keyboards lay the foundation for an ambient treat as the guitar begins its lyrical style introduction. This is music that soothes the soul and takes you on an imagined journey below the waves, the intricacies of Pinna’s guitar work are exceedingly evident as it demands your attention and holds you in stasis.

The deft and dexterous fretwork is a highlight throughout this accomplished release but never does Pinna rest on his laurels, utilising the whole collection of his musical skills to hook the listener in to his fantastically realised world. When required to let loose with a touch of rock guitar this guy can riff with the best of them, leaving me in mind of the great instrumental guitarists like Satch, Beck and there are even hints of Zappa like inventiveness but, to me, it is the acoustic interludes and more laid back guitar pieces that really showcase what Enrico Pinna is all about as a guitarist.

The genius of this music is that it draws you in to the journey of the leviathans, as a musical release it must be listened to in one whole bite to appreciate what the artist is trying to achieve. The slow, methodical synth interludes seem intended to help you envisage the ponderous, slow moving world of these massive water bound beasts. The superb classical guitar pieces deliver further nuances to this intricate album as they segue from quick paced to ethereal and wispy, it is an ever changing sea scape of musical ideology.

The vocalised sections can seem slightly at odds with the rest of the album but added in to the Spanish guitar sections they add something rather than detracting. The album flows throughout to an impressive ending where the music takes on layers of intricacy to become something almost orchestral and very moving as you picture these majestical creatures venturing further into the unimagined vastness of the ocean depths.

If you don’t like instrumental music, this release will, in all honesty, not change your mind but, for those of us who gain pleasure from such music, Enrico Pinna has produced something of a minor masterpiece. Complex and deep but with an earnestness that has to be heard to be appreciated, ‘The Dream of the Whale’ is a piece of music that will move and comfort you in equal measure.

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