Some albums you might listen to are immediately perceivable for their musical scope and vision. Other albums, such as Abstract Point Of View, require time to settle in and time for adjustment to a fresh, new perspective. Always zeroing in on the guitar technique to give me clues to the relative prominence of the musicians involved, I was first struck by the guitar work on this CD so that I realized I needed to stand back from the trees to get a better look at the forest. This is because I immediately realized that there was more going on here than could be absorbed the first time through this strictly instrumental album.
The guitar work by Faraz Anwar on Abstract Point Of View covers a lot of ground and has some very intricate and speedy passages. Faraz being a self-proclaimed disciple of Allan Holdsworth, this came as no surprise to me after listening to the album and searching the liner notes for clues about his influences. One characteristic that I truly enjoyed about Faraz's approach, was that despite that he integrates a lot of outside harmonization and unorthodox scales, he does this in a manner that weaves this complex harmonization into cohesive music with a distinctive and readily-perceivable musical vision. This is truly a difficult objective to undertake, and Faraz has done this on this album with awesome success. Faraz has struck a tenuous balance between tonal exploration and cohesive musical vision that will keep captive the attention of progressive musicians in pondering it. This being said, I feel obligated to point out that much of the harmonization is outside and approaching dissonant boundarie,s and this may be difficult for some to digest, though I suspect that the educated ear is going to indulge in this harmonious feast.
A lot of times you may hear an album where the musicians are going for an exploratory, outside sound that incorporates odd time signatures and unorthodox scales, patterns, etc., and these albums do succeed in exploring new musical ideas but they come up short for listener accessibility. This was the issue that I struggled with most in absorbing this album. In order to incorporate some worthwhile outside harmonization, Faraz needed to push the boundaries of accessibility which he did do. But, the struggle that I feel that he underwent in producing this album, was that he put a lot of effort into orchestrating the exploratory tonality in a manner that made sense as a whole. Faraz has put the outside harmonization into a compositional context that allows the creative and boundary-stretching tonality to work in a synergistic manner rather than an impeding one. And, Faraz tactfully and sparingly deploys some consonent, melodious reprieves from the dissonance that further help to make the music more digestible. Upon the full realization of what Faraz had undertaken and achieved on this album, I was very awe-struck, because there are very few musicians that I have heard that have been able to balance outside exploration with musical cohesion.
Characterising the sound of this album is no easy matter either. It is definitely very progressive in nature and is on the heavy side with the aggressive fretwork and guitar tones used. But, once again there is some balance here whereby there are other elements that ground the sound from being strictly heavy. There are some wonderful piano / keyboard passages that highlight the music, though the guitar work is paramount in the focus. There are also some melodical, slower guitar sections that add yet another dimension to the music. The overall integration of the instrumentation is tacfully and well produced, making for a very coherent soundscape. The guitar technique covers a lot of ground, and though the music is decidedly guitar-intensive and shows off some impressive pyrotechnics, the fretwork does seem to be used more of a tool and within the context of a musical vision than for its own sake. And, because the guitar work is used as a compositional tool, there are places where the throttle is let down from the other places where the blazing fast runs dominate. But, this variance in dynamics actually helps the musical vision by giving it more scope and avoiding the pitfall of unrelenting speed that many guitarists fall prey. But, do not despair if you like your guitar served up hard and fast, because there is plenty of aggressive speed here for you to quench your thirst for scorching fretwork. It is just packaged in a format where it is accompanied by an enjoyable listen. Though the entire album is consistent in the fine level of playing and composition put forth, I thought to describe one track in particular to give an idea of the emotional content and how it is articulated through the advanced harmonization that Faraz deploys. The final track, "Why?", truly captures the feeling of a person struggling with some soul-torturing question that the composition voices. Faraz struggles with the question to the point where his mind is obviously tormented, plunging him ever downward, all conveyed by the energy, tonality, and feel, until he is on the brink of madness voiced by an eery piano passage. Then when it seems that all has been lost, an emancipating, melodic theme emerges from the bewilderment, and though it is laden with bittersweet, outside harmonies, this theme pulls Faraz out of the depths of his despair with an apparently new view or understanding of the problem he ponders in "Why?". This new theme changes the course of the music and opens up new exploration of the problem with musical articulation of the struggle that emerges from this change in direction with more positive sounding resolutions that are constantly being challenged by the outside sections. The struggle articulated is both disturbing and satisfying in musical content. And, the genius demonstrated, is that Faraz has been able to successfully capture the torment of what seems to me to be that of love lost. (I sure would like to know what "Why?" is really about, though!) So, in summary, I would say that Faraz is not for the meek or faint of musical heart. Faraz is very progressive in the tonality he incorporates into his compositions and he does not hold back his ripping speed. The compositions are abstract and are based upon some complex harmonization, so you had best be prepared for this if you are going to check this album out. And, be prepared for the shadowy darkness that lurks in Faraz's soul that gives this album its characteristic feel. Overall, I think this is a really cool CD and Faraz applies some very compelling judgement in the balancing of his exploratory tonality and compositional integrity / accessibility. Check it out!