REVIEW: FOUNTAINHEAD – “Reverse Engineering”
Tom Geldschläger AKA Fountainhead is a name associated with awesome fretless guitar work and some of the finest music from the recent past. This includes The Fractured Dimension, The Pitts-Minnemann Project and famously German progressive act Obscura among many other guest appearances. His style of guitar playing I guess more than just being impressive it inspires. ‘Fear Is The Enemy’ was Fountainhead’s first solo album. As lovable as just about anything Tom would be involved in musically. Being a fan of Tom’s work across all his projects, I anticipated the follow up to FITE would be unlike anything he did in the past. I found it really mind blowing that Tom is able to maintain his identity in his music while still creating music that is individualistic in every sense of the term. And finally after a long wait comes Tom’s second solo record ‘Reverse Engineering’. Much like Tom’s past works, I could never guess how a new Fountainhead record would turn out to sound like. If you’ve been following his work so far, you should be having a fairly clear idea about a typical Fountainhead sound per se. That’s all I knew till RE revealed itself in all its glory.
Reverse Engineering starts out with the instrumental “999”. This song features a lot of Indian string and percussive arrangements topped with Tom’s delightful fretless guitar playing. An enigmatic start to the record with this warm and gentle song. The more you listen, the more you discover. It feels endless. Next up is “Ascension”. This too is an instrumental track. It takes over where “999” left off and brings in a new feel to the album so far. More than being just meditative song like “999”, “Ascension” leans more towards the aggressive side of things. Tom’s signature sounds that he is known best for are so brilliantly articulated on this song. The song brings in a lot of colour. Next up is “A Perfect Union” which is a two piece instrumental suit. Personally it is my favourite off the record and I am sure a whole lot of you might just share the same in good time. Give this a good listen, even better close your eyes and immerse yourself into the song. “A Perfect Union” is an experience. The fretless guitars are absolutely stunning on this one along with the fine work on the rhythm sections. Part two of “A Perfect Union” brings the suit to a mellow close. The song is a moment of absolute beauty, emotion and pure intention. The exchanges between the string sections, guitars and pianos are rudimentary of an intimate conversation. Following up this beautiful suit comes another two piece suit- “Reverse Engineering”. “Reverse Engineering” is another fretless guitar delight. Apart from the work on the guitars, the percussion’s on this song are crazy! Just as all the other songs on the record so far, this too has a ton of layers to it. Listen and listen well. Part two of ‘Reverse Engineering’ is a bass player’s delight. The sheer simplicity of the song shows Tom’s prowess in a different light. The singing on both songs is marvelous. There are a variety of sounds on both parts and the singing is simply superb!
The album has a surprise! A side B! Everything so far was part of side A. Old School is back and it is pretty damn cool! Side B features some of the instrumental songs with vocals. Do they ruin the songs or make them sound any lesser or worse? Definitely not! At first the instrumental and the vocal versions sound same but look deeper beyond just the singing and you would notice a lot more in these versions of the same songs. The singing takes the songs to newer heights. I must emphasize on the brilliant and beautiful lyrics that Tom has written down for these songs. Were the lyrics made for the music or was the music made for the lyrics? The music and the lyrics complement each other wonderfully. It merely isn’t just about the singing but what we have here is poetry. The singing and lyrics gave me many more reasons to love “A Perfect Union” even more. Good lord, Tom! What did you do over here? These lyrics are full of soul and light! The words are straight from the heart and the music straight from the soul. If music was meant to capture life, “A Perfect Union” is a perfect example of that. As a listener, just maybe for a few of you the guitars aren’t the only to weep. Finally to end the track is a rather odd and complex song “Model Man”. If you haven’t guessed by now, it’s a King Crimson cover. The song starts off with vocal melodies before the tone gets serious with rest of the instruments kick in. This song is the zenith of aggression in the record. Despite the aggression in this song, the music doesn’t end up being muddy. Good lyrics, good instrumentation and arrangements make this song a treat for the quintessential prog snob. Yup, this is fine example of a Fountainhead rendition!
Fretless Guitars? Yes. Jazz stuff? Yes. Great drums and bass? Yes. Piano and keys? Yes. Violin and strings? Yes. A crazy line up? Yes. Oriental and Indian arrangements? Yes. Prog? YES! ‘Reverse Engineering’ is a winning formula, folks! Everything about this album is gold. Fountainhead has created a masterpiece with this record. Honestly, there isn’t much or anything to miss on this record. ‘Reverse Engineering’ is an amazing experience. There are tight and gripping moments as well as warm and intimate moments across this fantastic record. The record is a great idea and high levels of production have done great justice to this record. 2016 has been a great year so far musically and this album makes this year so much more exciting! The music has been visualized to wonderfully and the layers within the music attest to this fact. Perhaps the saddest thing about the album is that it ends soon. Maybe the best things in life don’t last that long.
‘Reverse Engineering’ was written, produced and mixed by Fountainhead and co-produced by his great friend and great musician Matthias Preisinger (violin, viola, harp and keys on the record). The album was mastered by Jens Guttens. The album features an amazing line-up that comprises of Yatziv Caspi (drums and percussion), Ray Riendeau (bass), Jacob Schmitd (bass), Linus Klausenitzer (bass), Doug Gorkoff (cello), Gabriel Ricco (vocals), Daniel Sander (vocals), Lotte Schuppler (vocals) and Michel Kroll (vocals)and the song. “Model Man” was written by Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford and is arranged by Fountainhead.
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