Riptyde is the debut release and brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Chris Hoard, and the result is an updated and accessible strain of synthesizer-based progressive rock, in which Hoard plays an array of keyboards, and several versions of the Chapman Stick. Many of the project's highlight feature brilliant, improvisational guitar solos by one of the masters of progressive rock and jazz guitar, Allan Holdsworth.
One of the releases highlights is "Time To Move On," featuring the powerful rap vocals of LA acclaimed underground sensation, DJ 4Zone, along with Holdsworth blistering through several solos, and finding an English legend for the first time in the company of a dope MC, acclaimed by many underground hip-hop sites, like rapreviews.com and urbansmarts.com. But while Riptyde draws heavily on hip-hop loops at it's rhythmic core, it also boasts an array of amazing keyboard sounds, including a vintage CS80 analog monster, which recalls Holdsworth's heady days with English supergroup UK. There are two "neoclassical" pieces as well on the album, and "Forgotten Planet Suite" features Holdsworth's only known guitar solo on a rare DeLap piccolo electric.
Riptyde is a pure fusion of many different styles, and "Jurrassic City" is in the mode of a hyper-Crusaders epic... fusion, jazz, and progressive rock fans, and hopefully those open a blending of hip-hop flavors will be enthralled with this daringly original release, composed and produced by Alternity Records co-founder, Chris Hoard.
"Man, I have to tell you- I LOVE this album!!! You really have done something new and different which is no easy task-especially to my jaded ears.I got out my bass and was playing along to the tunes..."
--Joe B. (Fusenet Digest)
Sonic Undertow is the culmination of nearly ten years of occasional studio finagling by multi-instrumentalist Chris Hoard, also one half of the team that runs the fledgling Alternity Records, which made its mark last year with its first release, Then!, an archival live release from '90 by guitar phenom Allan Holdsworth. Upon reading the liner notes, the concept of blending progressive rock with a certain hip hop sensibility held a potential for certain disaster. Surprisingly though, Sonic Undertow manages to fuse these seemingly disparate styles successfully into something that blends a sense of history with something completely modern.
Hoard's influences range as wide as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Steely Dan, with a portion of "Chasing Tsunamis" even re-interpreting a theme from the title track of Gentle Giant's classic, Three Friends. Some of the analogue synthesizer tones clearly hearken back to Keith Emerson, especially on parts of "Chasing Tsunamis" and "Pearls of Intuition." But while Hoard "...always longed for the musical exploration in rock that was crafted with such bravado and inspired cross-genre experimentation," he also recognizes the fact that time has moved on, that there are new textures, new rhythms and new harmonies to be explored. "Time to Move On," "Still Movin'" and "Free da Radicals," feature rap lyrics from 4Zone and incorporate a more urban rhythmic approach, still managing to feel completely in context.
As a composer Hoard ranges from the textural beginning of "Prelude: Undertow" to the more lyrical theme of "Time Off in Tannu Tuva," which effectively blends in a sample of Tuvan throat singing. As an instrumentalist Hoard demonstrates a solid sense of construction; his solos are well-conceived and sonically diverse, the result of using various analogue and digital synths, as well as Chapman Stick. But what really ties many of these tracks together is the appearance of Allan Holdsworth, who contributes a number of solos to eight of the thirteen tracks.
That Holdsworth has evolved a completely unique harmonic language over the course of nearly thirty years is without question. His own compositions speak with a singular voice that many attempt to emulate, but never successfully copy. What is always remarkable, however, is to hear Holdsworth in a guest situation, where he is working within a more conventional harmonic framework. Regardless of the context, whether it be the group Soft Works or adding solos to Anders Johansson's jam-based Heavy Machinery, Holdsworth somehow manages to alter the complexion of the artists' compositions, making them fit within his universe. And the same can be said about his contributions to Sonic Undertow; whenever he solos his personality is indelibly stamped, not just through the notes he plays, but in the way they alter the context of what surrounds them.
Sonic Undertow will be a treat for fans of progressive music who believe that the genre didn't peak and end in the '70s. Clearly there is room for modern cross-genre experimentation in a more advanced context, a concept that Hoard clearly understands.
~ John Kelman / Allaboutjazz.com