Monday, 2 August 2010

The Definitive Review of Best Regards

So. Here it is. The only review you will need for Buckethead's latest effort: Best Regards.
I also think that this could be the longest post I've ever done on this Blog... Unless you count the Honduras Diaries or Internet Diaries as one post being segmented.
I will do a track-by-track dissection of the set, trying to describe the style of music on each differs from the others where applicable. I don't usually like this method of writing reviews, because I know it can be boring. So, for that reason, I will label the ones I think are imperative to the set so you don't have to read through the ones I'm not especially keen on.

I
II
III
IV
V

There are some real, actual, structured, well-made tracks on here. Others are what you should expect from a Buckethead Limited Edition release such as In Search of The... or Cyborg Slunks. The ones that are clearly planned are ones that I would not be disappointed if they were to be on a regular album release. However, these are not the 'usual' kind of music from Buckethead, but more of the niche albums like Dragons of Eden or Population Override, sans the Travis, who is replaced by Melissa.

I will review this as I would in order of the discs coming out of the box.

Blue

I. The opening track on Blue disc is amazing. Track 1 is pretty 'epic'. By that, I mean it is epic in both the Soothsayer/Forgotten Trail way, and also that of the way Padmasana or Mrs Beasley way. This disc plays out like I expected: Amazing opening track, but in my mind I was thinking: "There is no way it can be this good throughout". I was partially right. Each disc has it's highs and lows, but there aren't any discs which don't have their share of both halves.
The Blue disc, as I said, opens amazingly. A trumpety, heroic sounding battlefield soundtrack which you could easily put a slow motion, lachrymose montage of images to. Track 1 finishes, leaving me thinking I had struck gold.
Track 2 happens.
I check... Is this the same disc? Yes. From the loud and monumental opener comes an odd collection of clicks and killswitch things, with the pitter-patter of drums behind it, and a variety of odd sound effects (likely from Melissa's keyboard). These include whirring, whistles, canned applause and dripping water. Eventually, it slows to a more 'conventional' sounding LE track. Buckethead doing oddness and the occasional drum tapping.
Eventually, Track 2 ends. It's been a long haul, but I think Track 3 makes up for the second's randomness.
II. It's a swirly, spacious chamber of sound, which has some slow and melancholic guitar in it. No drums here. It reminds me of an Aphex Twin/Selected Ambient Works Vol. II kind of feel, or even something more like Death Cube K's Maggot Dream, which I don't see as a bad thing. I think that once you get into the envelope of this one, it can feel as big as Track 1. I really like this one. Good thing I am, too. It's a long'un at 15:02.

Orange

The first track on the Orange disc follows a similar pattern to that of Blue Track 2. It opens with some sounds that don't seem to fit together that well, and a low hum in the background which I thought originally was my CD player. I realised it wasn't when it changed pitch to match what Buckethead was doing. This isn't the best track. Nowhere near. I'd rank it higher than Blue Track 2, but not by much. It's odd throughout, with very little in the way of 'music' as I would say. Regular kind of ISOT styled stuff here.
III. Track 2 opens with a quiet, soft piano type thing, followed by a nice smooth guitar, and slow drums to match. I think this could be a contender for one of the favourites on the set. Buckethead continues to do the guitar, while Melissa seems to be more active in this one than in previous tracks, as she provides the 'lead' as the guitar gives the slow, steady backing. If I had to say what other track it was like, I would say either like Padmasana, Track 8.1 from ISOT or Aunt Suzie from Cyborg Slunks. A long, slow and very nice track. This is what I wanted from the set. This is my favourite style of Buckethead - The Real Diamond/Shadows/Electric Tears type.
Track 3 opens sounding similar to Track 1, but quickly you realise that it is certainly one of the structured ones, eventually creating a repeating section and a relative tune. It's pretty samey throughout this one. Not a huge fan of it, really, but it's better than the 'noise' tracks.

Green

Track 1, again, is similar to the other non-musical tracks. It's the second-longest on the set, at 30:53. For the most part it is a selection of noises and beeps put together in a kind of semi-tune. Every few minutes thought there will be something which hints at a real tune, where the three instruments work together rather than fumbling around trying to find sounds which will match together.
IV. The second Track on the green CD is another one of those that don't have much to live up to by going from previous tracks on this disc. This one, however, is a beautiful, Colma-styled, echoey mythology, which goes on for only 10:18. They keyboards on this one are styled to make a violin/orchestral sound, and it works together brilliantly, and similar to Blue Track 1, could easily be used for a meaningful montage towards the end of Saving Private Ryan. This is also a strong contender for the favourite.

Yellow

Track 1 on Yellow opens with a very short, but odd sound. The first second is what sounds like a chicken noise being made on the guitar. I don't know why we don't hear this more often on Buckethead's albums. Despite the odd opening few seconds, it turns to a track which is not actually that bad, but a bit repetitive. I like the drumming on this one, and the keyboards are set to a kind of backwards Stylophone thing, which I'm not sure if I like. Buckethead's favourite effect returns, just like it did on ISOT. I'm not a fan of this effect to be honest. So, Yellow is not off to a great start.

Track 2 is not very good either, really. It sounds a lot like Green Track 1, in which it is a mush of sounds floating around hoping to work well together. Melissa making plane noises, Brain rustling on the drums and Buckethead fidgeting. The guitar effect on this one is similar to the sound of the acoustic guitar in Can You Help Me? off Bucketheadland 2.

V. Track 3 on Yellow is another one which is very clearly inspired by Dragons of Eden. Slow, smooth and almost upbeat sounding, but not too much so. This track is long and calm, with Melissa using the sad-violin sound on the keyboard, and Brain doing steady drumming. This track is most similar to Orange Track 2 because Buckethead provides the backing music while Melissa and Brain are more in front than they would normally be.

Yellow Track 4 is similar to Track 1 on this disc, in that Buckethead does fidgeting, Melissa provides the backing hums and Brain pretty much leads the song with lots of fast drumming. This track, I think gets better the further you get into it, and like Green Track 1, has moments of good matching. Most of it however, is a bit messy.

Purple

The first track on Purple opens with high pitched jingles on the guitar. Drums kick in and the whole thing evolves into a semi-organised mess. More organised than tracks like Green 1, but a lot more improvised-sounding than the better tracks on the set. As it progresses, the guitar becomes more electric sounding, but the drums remain pretty much the same throughout. Melissa occasionally chimes in with what is similar to the opening sounds of Blue Calx by Aphex Twin.

Track 2 on the Purple disc is the longest on the set, coming in at 31:53. Brain seems to lose the full drumkit on this track to replace them with a set of bongoes, making a rhythmic, almost African-sounding background. It is also quite similar to Slapatron by Pieces. Eventually, the amount of bongo decreases, and is replaced by electronic drums, likely by Melissa. Throughout this, Buckethead is messing on with a variety of hideous effects which I don't care for too much really. Occasionally he will chime in with something which sounds pretty good, but like the other improvised tracks it rarely lasts more than a minute or so. Towards the end of the track it tuns into something I wouldn't be surprised if Aphex Twin had released it. Fast electronic drums, guitars which sound like synths and repeating loops.
I'd say Purple is the weakest disc in the set, being the only one which doesn't have what I think is a 'good track'. I don't think the Purple disc would feel out of place if it were put into ISOT back in 2007.


So there it is. What I would call a well crafted and in-depth review and overview of Best Regards. It took less time than I was anticipating...
In conclusion, I really like this set. I was very pleasantly surprised when there was a good percentage of the tracks that I actually really like. Maybe the others will eventually grow on me in a similar way to what ISOT did. First impressions were much better than that of ISOT, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a victory.
Was it worth my $75? I think so.

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