Intuitive Logic (2015)
Mark Halliwell returns with treasure and tales from his latest musical expedition, Intuitive Logic. Inspiration and ideas were evidently in plentiful supply at the Zala Music recording studios this time around. The result is a sterling addition to the Halliwell catalogue, building on the manic jazz themes which abounded on the previous ‘Guitar Suite’ album.
Opener ‘The Rainbow Groove’ is admirable for its amalgamation of two enduring Halliwell obsessions - jazz and synthesizers. The wide-open spaces suggest an unusual restraint, as if not wanting to over-burden the soundscape. Later, the ephemeral ‘Magenta Page’ rises, falls, huffs and puffs with similar spacey jazz whimsy. ‘Once Upon a Time in the South West’ comes on as a confident phased-guitar rocker, which begs repeated listening.
From here, things get even better. ‘Labyrinth of Fives and Sevens’ immediately launches itself into a double-kick percussive deep groove. An awkward time signature disarms and then gives way to some heavy rock and dreamy jazz jam sessions. ‘Labyrinth’ is a typical example of an album that both challenges and engages, full of possibility and brimming with a kind of lazy grandeur.
It’s almost as if the music itself is surprised at the sudden changes in bearing and altitude, and is not sure whether to push the sonic boundaries even further, or to make a beeline for the nearest ocean boulevard retreat, blissed out and content amid the garish bars and swaying palm trees. The year could be 1972, and Eric Clapton could still be living at number 461. Who would know the difference?
The truth about Intuitive Logic is that we never do find the answers to such metaphysical questions, and nor do we need to. This is, after all, an instrumental album. A soundtrack for your imagination. Perhaps the majestic ‘Fives (Extended Return)’, which closes out proceedings, is all the answer we need.
If this song collection is ‘something’ in any tangible sense, then it is the chance to create your own narrative, and Halliwell albums have the peculiar quality of meshing groove and snappy melodies with a yearning for something higher. That’s why you might find that you have a slight spring in your step on the way to work the next morning, and that your logic has become absolutely 100% intuitive…
Guitar Suite in the Key of Enlightenment (2012)
Mark Halliwell has delivered the promised instrumental ‘guitar’ album, bookending one era and signalling the arrival of a brave new world of fusion, funk and guitar-solo heaven …
This record is not the usual virtuoso fare designed to thrill your average obsessive guitar geek.The strings of the Halliwell guitars may strum, bend and twang in a suspiciously virtuosic manner, but they are only there to serve the breezy melodies and swirling rhythms which are the hallmarks of this incredible recording. Also, for a record intended to pay homage to the hallowed chunk of maple wood, keys and lilting piano abound a-plenty. Add in a few generous doses of funk, jazz and rock fusion, and you have Guitar Suite in the Key of Enlightenment.
Opener ‘Space Funk Baby’ does not disappoint with fuzzy bass riff and airy guitar solos, and neither does ‘The Golden Ratio’ with its gentle acoustic sounds giving way to some floating guitar and keyboard riffology. ‘Fusion City Groove’ is a confident statement, taking the listener on a sojourn of jazz and rock fusion. This is the sound of cruising through a bay-side metropolis in your convertible, the top down as you make for the palm trees and surfside views…this could easily be Halliwell’s 461 Ocean Boulevard.
‘Crazy Patchwork Guitar’ is experimental with odd scales and notes juxtaposed to create a slightly uneasy guitar-scape, while ‘Suite Ensemble’ comes on with a welcome warm acoustic serenade, lulling the listener before it seagues into an inflective hard rock groove. With Halliwell, things are never quite as they seem, as per the eighties-style pop beats of ‘Flower of Life’ which are overlaid with atmospheric riffs, and then replaced by an extended outro of edgy jazz rock n roll. ‘Sweet as Applepie’ starts with a plaintive lilt before taking off with trade-mark harmonised guitar solos.
It’s a brave new world, nothing is quite as it seems, and cruising through a city in a convertible is cool. These are the messages which flow from Enlightenment. So why not get in and go for a ride?
(2003 - 2011)
Completed and released in 2003, Trips of the Trade is a startling listen. As hinted by its shimmering title, the album is layered with (apparently) chemically-induced imagery and a soundscape reminiscent of Bowie and Dylan at the height of their powers. Songs like ‘Silver Smiles’, ‘The Solar Trip’ and the title track all demonstrate the potential of a song-smith who was reluctant to allow a natural drive toward guitar-virtuosity to subvert a cutting-edged creativity.
Halliwell proceeded to go forward at brake-neck speed. In 2004, the majestic bombast of 'Disjointed Themes' followed rapidly on the heels of the more whimsical ‘Trips’. This collection of manic hard rock and art-metal provoked everything from casual intrigue to unhinged excitement. Halliwell is inclined to refer to ‘Themes’ as a “concept album”, yet the tracks on the record are as separate and distinct as they are united (a paradox heightened by of the ‘disjointed’ descriptor in the album title). But from the moment the disc is spun, semantics fade as the listener is pounded by Sabbath-laden riffs in ‘The Black Sense’, mesmerised by the rhythmic incantations of the ‘Concentric’ compositions, and transported by the folksy sunset cinema of ‘April Evening.’ The popularity of the latter track lead to the release of the limited edition April Evening/Ballad of Resolve EP in 2006.
Next came the ethereal laid-back ride of Aural Sculpture Volume 1, (2007). A whirling conundrum of paranoid psychedelia, infectious looped rhythms, chiming guitars and haunting string sections, this album is an arresting, carefully crafted work. Like any classic record, it defies easy description and conventional analysis. Lyrically, Halliwell effortlessly invokes the biting satire of Iggy Pop, the delusional musings of Maynard James-Keenan, and the menacing post-punk despondency of an Ian Curtis. From the inspirational tale of rebirth in ‘The Hitman’ to the mesmerising splendour of the closing track, ‘Opium suite opus’, this album seems to bend space and time in a manner that would confound physicists and spiritualists alike.
‘Volume 1’ was not strictly a solo record, having originated from a hazy jam session with band-mates from Warrnambool cover-specialists, Phase 3. Through the lens of Aural Sculpture, Halliwell applied musicianship, expanding studio knowledge and flashing imagination to reincarnate a commercial covers band as crazed merchants of hallucinogenic rock n roll.
In 2009, Halliwell was abandoning new musical innovations in favour of a classic rock sound. Awaken from a Coloured Daydream pays overdue homage to legends like the Beatles, Bowie, Dylan, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young. It is a masterful record that effortlessly evokes these influences without degenerating into the kind of plagiaristic nostalgia which sink the albums of better-known artists who attempt the same thing. Lyrically, ‘Daydream’ finds Halliwell in a reflective mood as he wrestles with the conflict between despair and inspiration. But this record really finds its feet and spreads its wings in the music. ‘Now and Then’ is a shiny sound-of-summer exhortation to stop dithering and get on with it, while ‘The Closing Prayer’ rumbles and rises in the manner of an epic psychedelic rock anthem straight from the early seventies.