The fine folks at 20to20SoundDesign have released REFLEX 2001, the third collection of projects that spent time percolating in the circuits of the studio. Originally meant as a promotional item for the studio this anthology also serves to showcase the broad array of talent and heterogeneous styles in the area.
Moody and raw with whispered vocals and exploding power chords, "Living in Oblivion" by Matt Gates Band opens the CD and builds in intensity in an unpredictable fashion, incorporating thought-haunting melodies and a spooky, chanting chorus in a modern alterna-rock style. A full two minute keyboard intro opens the ethereal "La Luna" by Vulnavia. Cloudy and lush, this atmospheric song boasts some nice two-part harmony in the verses. Technical guru Gary Brenner presents "Brotherhood", a cyclical instrumental piece incorporating layers of keyboards, guitars and percussion, all bedded in some very interesting chord progressions. "Savor" is an early demo track by Solus and features floating vocals over an aggressive fury of distorted guitars… a definite must-have for fans of this impressive local band. The West Central Quartet steps in with a melodic, easy listening instrumental track featuring bass, drums, guitar, keys, and sax (isn't that a quintet?). This track, "Meters Jam", was recorded live May 2001. Beginning with a catchy melody, some dazzling sax and guitar solos bring fusion elements to the mix as the rhythm section increases the intensity dramatically. 2001 Northside graduate and award-winning drummer Micquail Kizer contributes "Rhythm Control" which begins with steel drum soloing over a minimalist keyboard chord progression that is invaded by a robotic keyboard solo and then a spastic saxophone solo… plus a rain stick! In a more traditional rock/pop vein is "All Around" by Mobe Freeman who incidentally sounds a bit like Davy Jones. Nearly nine minutes in length, "Fortunes Told" by Brouhaha is a bluesy, melancholy song with simple acoustic guitar, bass and unorthodox but endearing vocals. A further switch in genre is "Soli" by Three Rivers Jenbe Ensemble. This group is associated with the Fort Wayne Dance Collective and if you've caught any of their works on Public Access, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this six minutes of complex, slowly evolving rhythms. An album highlight is "The Other House" by pianist Jim Steele, a jazzy, spooky all keyboard (and jazz drum kit) adventure with a subversive walking bass line and shimmering bells. This is instrumental music at it's best and even at over five minutes long, Steele knows how to arrange such that your attention will never falter. And of course no 20to20SoundDesign compilation would be complete without a track from the "house band", Usquebaugh. In this case the track is the instrumental "Get Thee To A Nunnery" featuring some inventive viola work from Felix Moxter amid the Celtic melodies. Studio owner Bob Phillips also weighs in with "A Dream of Flying", a solo piece sporting clean production and a hypnotic pop melody that draws from 80s Pink Floyd.
This endearing bricolage is a nice crosscut of Fort Wayne's musical landscape, displaying the talents of individuals who will probably for never make a full album and yet have many musical gifts. For more information on this release, contact the studio at
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2002.