ALLAN HOLDSWORTH — Sand (review)

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH — Sand album cover Album · 1987 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Atavachron
This is a weird one. Sand was Allan Holdsworth's embrace of the new possibilities in artificial music and it spotlighted his use of the dreaded Synthaxe; foe to all good-thinking guitarists. The record is a terribly antiseptic, cold-sounding affair with much of the 'guitar' work played and processed through the aforementioned device from Hell. But it allowed Holdsworth to phrase more fluidly, much like a horn player does. This had been his goal, after all, to do on the guitar what Coltrane had done on the saxophone. And perhaps the material suffers for it. But it is also a really interesting take on modern fusion and contains some fascinating music. It's not all void of real instruments, either; Bassist Jimmy Johnson is the anchor of this session and keeps an otherwise gravity-defying set grounded, and Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman have some fun on actual drumsets. And considering *no* keyboards are used (except a single solo), it was quite a breakthrough and probably deserves a more prominent spot in modern progressive jazz history.

A tone vignette introduces the title, a dissonant and off-putting number that lurches and irritates. 'Distance vs. Desire' wanders off into a cybernetic haze and is painfully long, but some neat noises and bizarre chords brighten 'Pud Wud', Husband drumming up a storm in the face of this synthetic takeover and featuring a nimble lead from Allan. 'Clown' crunches open and bops to a queasy beat before putting us out of our misery with a delightful synth phrase in 'The 4.15 Bradford Executive' with its nutty drum sounds and vibrating guitar part, and a Mac computer is used on the silicone 'Mac Man', quite a novel proposition in 1987.

The record failed to thrill and didn't show this alien technology in the best light, and at 35 minutes is short and sweet. But the world had become a new place, and Sand was among the first of a few brave ventures into that unknown territory.
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