Bass Player Magazine
Indie City Article
Classical themes, odd time signatures, and fusion-fueled chops fill this well-recorded CD of Rush-style instrumentals.
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Electrum's instrumental album 'Frames Of Mind' is a fantastic 63 min long piece of music
from the very first note right up until the last. It's one of those albums once you have played
it the first time you just have to keep putting it back on. The thing that is hard to believe is
that this BIG sound that is coming from my speakers was made by just 3 guys.
So you must be asking yourselves why is this CD so good, well the answer is two-fold,
Firstly this is an instrumental CD, but without any of the old cliches that used to dog this field
of music, no drum solos, no over elaborate keyboard solos, no overlong guitar parts that
sound as though the guitarist is tuning up. Just very well structured songs that are very well
written and played that makes the listener feel at ease from the very first note.
Secondly the pieces of music on offer are so well constructed with each track flowing
effortlessly from one to another and yet so diverse in places that you find yourself waiting in
anticipation and excitement for the next track. This CD is crying out to be listened to.
The wonderful thing about instrumental music is that it's open to the listener's own
interpretation of events. Let me try to explain. Take the opening track 'Ascension', with it's
wonderful classical keyboards work and it's powerful rhythms, setting the scene for whats to
come, drawing the listeners attention from the first note it kind of grabs you, wanting you to
and believe me you will listen, oblivious to the outside world for just over an hour to the
wonderful songs that make up 'Frames Of Mind'.
'Desolation' reminds me of a funeral, not your standard 10 people round a grave affair, but
a good old Victorian funeral with it's almost endless procession of horse drawn carriages and
both men and women dressed in the finest clothes.
'Voices' well that could mean almost anything, but to me with it's lovely jazz intro, frantic
guitar parts and keyboard works reminds me of a confused state of mind of somebody
always searching for something, but that something is always just out of reach.
The power and passion of 'Disagreement' sums up perfectly two people falling out and
then making up or how about the first part of 'Frames Of Mind'. 'Cognitive Synergy 'with
it's powerful rhythms puts me in mind of my favourite Rush album of long ago 'Moving
My interpretation, yours or anyone else's of 'Frames Of Mind' , may not necessarily be in
some ways the same as Electrum's interpretation, but because of it's style and instant
accessability it allows the listener if you like to create their own 'Frame Of Mind' and if that
is the case Electrum have done there job very well indeed.
If your idea of good music just runs to 3 minute bursts of aggression based around sex, drugs
and rock'n'roll then steer clear, but if like me you fully appreciate quality thought provoking
music played by musicians of outstanding ability then this CD come very highly
One of the quality CD releases of the year so far!!!
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Album of the Month: July 1998
Electrum are a three piece instrumental band from Billerica, Massachusetts. The band
consists of Joe Musmanno on acoustic and electronic percussion, Dave Kulju on guitars
and synths, and Gino Foti on bass guitar and synths. They describe themselves as a
power-trio; getting their influences from Rush amongst a long list given in the press
release. These influences are more to do with the complexity of Rush's sounds that any
immediate musical similarities. Like Rush, they concentrate on arrangements, odd-time
signatures, key and tempo changes and polyrhythms, but in Electrum's hands these are
used to create an eclectic and unorthodox sound.
Frames Of Mind is the band's debut album which they have released on their own label
rather than fish around for a label willing to take their sound as it is. And a very
impressive debut it is too. The album opens with the impressive Ascension. First
impressions are of a very full sound for just three musicians. I guess much of this is due
to the synths, as these manage to fill out the sound which could otherwise be left sparce
with just guitar, bass and drums. Joe's drumming is at the fore, very much as important
to the sound as the guitar and bass. The interplay between guitar and bass are
impressive also, counter-pointing each other in a way I have never heard before.
As the track develops - and at over ten minutes, it is given time to develop - I can see
the Rush influence in the composition, especially in the use of synths. Rush's synths
were always secondary to the straight guitar/bass/drum construction of the songs. At the
same time, simple use of synths enhanced the band's sound. Electrum have managed
to achieve that too, so that the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. Next up is
Reverie. The music continues in the same vein; complex drums and bass are
punctuated with clever guitar riffs and breaks while the subtle use of synths adds a layer
of lush smoothness to the sound.
Measure Of An Unmade Grave is very much a three-piece song. The lead is swapped
from guitar to bass to drums, and back again. All three members of the band are
constantly involved in the music, keeping the tempo running, evolving the themes and
building the composition. Frames Of Mind i: "Cognitive Synergy" is more mellow with
subtle use of guitars marking the ebb and flow of the track. The bass is very
under-mixed, although if you concentrate on what Gino is doing back there, the
complexity isn't lessened. Changes in the ambience of the track are mainly achieved
through the increase and decrease in the intensity of the drumming, with the guitars
following the drums' lead.
Frames Of Mind ii: "Dialectic" has some very Lifeson/Lee-like guitar and bass
interplay; reminds me of sections of the early 1980s Rush albums. In fact was it not for
the drumming style - Joe's drumming has very little in common with Neil Peart's - and
the lack of Geddy's screaming vocals, I would have taken this as some early Rush
outtake I had not heard.
Desolation is the shortest track on the album, weighing in at
just under two minutes; indeed I had to play it several times over just to type this section
of the review. As the title suggests, it is a sad, haunting track with minor synth chording
creating a mist-drenched desolate landscape. Very simple, very melancholy and quite
Voices is, in contrast, the longest track on the album at just over eleven minutes. It
comes in three movements: Conversation, Disagreement and Oratory. This is
probably the most impressive of the tracks. The song develops continually throughout
the eleven minutes, never letting any theme become stale; always moving, always
evolving. Themes re-emerge only to be dragged off into new directions. There are hints
of Rush in the simple melodies, and to a lesser degree in the power riffs that Dave uses.
But this is Electrum, and no one gets more than the slightest chance to throw together a
solo before the song overtakes them and the whole thing moves off in a new direction.
Conversation seems to be led by Gino's bass, while Dave's guitar is more evident in
Disagreement; quite a heated disagreement if the guitars are anything to go by. Oratory
sees Joe at the fore, his drums and percussion speaking out while the Gino and Dave
Inertial Damper Off-Line is another short, sweet composition. At just three minutes it
powers along as if aware of its short life. The instruments all seem desperate to cram
more and more notes into the song before it is too late. Dave has a nice jangly guitar
soloy-thing before the rest of the band realise and swamp it out. Then while no one is
looking, there is a brief synth interlude which is leapt upon and ripped apart by the
guitars and drums. Hell, there's still a minute to go; how do they manage to get so much
going on? There is still time to get back to the main theme before finally crashing to a
halt - phew!
The album finishes with Portal To Arcanum. Majestic synths open the song while
Gino's bass builds up the melody in it's shadows. As the synths build up, Joe's frantic
drumming builds up momentum. But from there things start to really get complicated. I'd
hate to see the sheet music for this. Okay, I would expect notes all over the place like
tadpoles on speed; but let's face it, they'd need to be; the time signatures are all over
the show. Changing tempo is one thing - and we're not talking normal 3/4s and 4/4s
here either - but Portal seems to have synths on one tempo and drums ways off on
something else. Complex? I'd rather learn brain surgery! What a way to end an album...
The band has set out to create a complex collection of compositions that not only
stretched the listeners' minds, but also stretched the boundaries of their own musical
abilities. They do not want to fall into any particular genre, but rather combine the best of
all influences into something exciting and new. By keeping the whole album instrumental
they hoped to lead the listener more to appreciate the composer's interpretations. By
keeping solos concise and minimal, they hoped to avoid any loss of the impact of the
It all sounds a bit much, doesn't it. To be honest, this album did take a while to grow on
me; but I was aware right from the start that this was something that needed that time -
and that would be worth giving the extra effort to. And it has been worth it. Yes indeedy!
What has come out is a collection of ambient and atmospheric tracks that are still
emerging from the shells of their complexity.
I was planning to not go too much into the individual track. This is partially because it is
always difficult to describe in words what is going on musically on the CD. However, it is
also because the last thing I want to do is deconstruct these complex compositions for
the review and thus destroy the listening pleasure I am getting from the album. But as I
started to write, I couldn't help to get drawn into the music, and words flowed from my
fingers in beat to the music (11/4 to begin with before alternating between a 7/8 groove
and a 13/8 section).
I hope I have managed to get over some of the enjoyment I got from listening to Frames
Of Mind. However, I fear that this kind of album though will never get the audience it
deserves. It is too complex for the mainstream casual listener, and is unlikely to attract
the attention of the big record labels. It is a pity because this is a collection of songs
composed with a lot of thought and craftsmanship. I suppose it you want mass-market
appeal, you need to appeal to the lowest common denominator; I guess this is aimed at
the more erudite listener. If you like your music complex and challenging, then this is
right up your street. And if, like me, you are a Rush fan, you will wonder what would have
happened if rush had decided to move into complexity rather than away from it...
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Carlos J. Tavares
Space of the Jester
FRAMES OF MIND is the debut CD from the American instrumental prog-trio Electrum. In this band, Joe Musmanno performs acoustic and electronic drums, Dave Kulju is the guitarist and keyboardist while Gino Foti shares the bass and synthesiser roles. Obviously Rush was the catalyst, which catapulted Electrum into the mainstream of progressive rock.
ASCENSION elevates Electrum to the digital era. It sounds faithfully as Rush circa 1982 with their
SIGNALS album. The lead melody is layered by synths in the beginning, waiting for the band to erupt in a
spectacular way. We're treated to some great bass, guitar and drum playing. These are very talented
musicians whose performance is a synergetic instrumental experience. In REVERIE Electrum reveals
what prog dreams are made of. Their melodical approach is evidenced on the 7-minute epic MEASURE
OF AN UNMADE GRAVE. Its very fresh-sounding and laid-back at times, whilst aggressive at others.
The concept of this album lies within tracks 4 and 5, that are FRAMES OF MIND part I and II. The first
part is labeled as the cognitive synergy, while the second one is the dialectic. All this psychology serves
the icing on the cake for wonderful moments of irreverent prog-rock with some protrusions in
odd-signature territory. In VOICES Joe's polyrhythmic drum patterning inclusions are very reminiscent of
Neil Peart's style. The inebriated INERTIAL DAMPERS OFF-LINE is either eclectic or simply relaxable; opposites attract. The best was saved for last: PORTAL TO ARCANUM along its 10 minutes revisits Kansas' yesterdays and revolves around the instrumental imagery showcased by Electrum.
My concluding remarks: Electrum are an extremely talented outfit that will make themselves aware in the
prog years to come. I strongly recommend it not only to the average Rush fan but also to anyone to
delights themselves with fusion and progressive music.
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Crow-Caw Music Works
Well, I'm very jealous but I have to admit that these guys (Electrum) have a great CD. It's pretty individualistic progressive rock with echoes of Rush, classical, fusion, and whatever else spices up the stew. (Sometimes it even puts me in mind of a Bill Connors CD I have...anyway) Highly recommended and their web site is so elegant and well-done that I hang my head in shame. Best $8 I spent on a CD for a
LONG time! Buy it now! They really deserve a more thoughtful review than this, but I just got the CD yesterday (27 Apr 98).
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Electric Candle Radio Program
WRNR 103.1 FM - Annapolis, Maryland
I just finished listening to the entire CD while replying to a couple of hundred WRNR emails. Actually I just listened to it about three times and I must say this is some of the best since Soft Machine.
I really like the psychedelic references in the structure and I hope you keep them... very well blended into the keyboard structure and the guitar work. I really liked the bass lines in Voices. Also drum work is killer!
I will suggest that if you haven't already, give a listen to Sugarloaf. They have some great musical structures which are akin to yours. Very rich keys and guitars, intertwining into a psych/blues structure with some impressive jazz references and time changes. The bassist is great too. I really draw
several parallels with Sugarloaf. Not in that you sound like them, but in song structure and arrangements.
I will gladly add the CD into the library. Although it won't be in a rotation at the station. The CD is a bit 'heavy' for many of the staff, who are more singer/songwriter blues-rock oriented.
However it has a nice place on the shelf, and a couple of DJ's will definitely be interested... and being a psychedelic junkie I will certainly enjoy playing it.
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"The world's foremost authority on progressive music."
Electrum is Dave Kulju on guitar and synth, Gino Foti on bass and synth, with Joe Musmanno on
percussion. Imagine instrumental Rush-like passages and Crimson riffs at times mixed with, strangely
enough, an ECM jazz feel, forming an interesting new hybrid.
Electrum combines intense instrumental, often odd-metered, workouts offset by melodically languid
but swinging passages. The riff-driven material often begs for another instrument to come in and play
over it. An outside producer could assist here, if only to edit the many good ideas they come up
Nonetheless, Electrum strikes a great balance in making the dynamics shift through various gears,
and the material is happening. The compositions are well-conceived, as they avoid your standard
power trio cliches by injecting tasteful synth excerpts - great tunes for cruising down the highway.
Some high points: "Measure of an Unmade Grave", "Desolation", and "Frames of Mind 1 & 2".
Hopefully, we'll get some more Electrum to power up with in the future (nice artwork as well).
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"Fotogrammi della mente" puo' essere, oltre che la traduzione del titolo
di quest' album, anche una prima descrizione della musica che andrete a
trovarvi. Si tratta di Progressive strumentale sinfonico, giocato su un
susseguirsi di situazioni, riff di chitarra ed atmosfere - fotogrammi -
abbastanza staccati l'uno dall'altro ma che vanno a formare un tuttuno,
se non fisicamente (i 9 brani sono staccati e indipendenti l'uno
dall'altro), dal punto di vista logico e strutturale.
Gli Electrum sono un trio tra cui spiccano i "paisa'" Gino Foti e
Joe Musmanno, completati dal chitarrista Dave Kulju, che e' l'autore della
maggior parte delle musiche... e si sente, essendo la musica del gruppo
basata sul continuo rincorrersi di riff di chitarra... melodici...
acustici... quasi mai sopra le righe. Una certa ripetitivita' e' forse il
difetto principale di un album che comunque risulta abbastanza piacevole.
("Frames of mind" could be, more than simply the translation of
the title of this album, also the main description of the music that you
will find here. It's instrumental symphonic Progressive, played over a
succession of situations, guitar riffs and atmospheres - frames -
fairly disconnected from one another, but proceeding to form only one unit,
maybe not in a physical way (the 9 tracks are disconnected and independent
from one another), but from a logical and structural point of view.
Electrum is a trio among which stand out the "paisanos" Gino Foti and
Joe Musmanno, and completed by guitarist Dave Kulju, who's the author of
most of the music... and you can hear it, being that the band's music is
based on continual guitar riffs chasing each other... melodic...
acoustic.... almost never over the line. Some repetition is maybe the main
defect of an album that however is rather pleasant.)
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Sea of Tranquility Webzine
The debut release from instrumental power trio Electrum is an intriguing and highly melodic piece of
work which is mild on the progressive elements and heavy on the atmosphere.
There will be comparisons to Rush levied against these fellows, and I doubt that they themselves
would dispute the influence: there are passages on Frames of Mind in which guitarist Dave Kulju
sounds as if he is pulling a lick from Lifeson's book. His keyboard tone, too, is firmly rooted in the
But this isn't a complaint, because Electrum manages to take elements of this sound and make it their
own; they have skillfully avoided being derivative, a tricky task in music such as this.
Again, the compositions here aren't terribly complicated - no jarring time changes meant to impress,
no unnecessary showmanship or flash. Just great melodies and confident performances. Frames of
Mind will probably be of significant interest to fans of Hawkwind-style space rock, as well as
progheads in general.
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Stephanie Sollow, Editor
Frames of Mind is Electrum's debut album, released in March of 1998, and it is a very good debut. There are strong elements of 80's Rush throughout, especially in the first few tracks, which isn't surprising as they give the Canadian trio a name check straight off in the liner notes. Of course, even without that, one's immediate expectation of a progressive trio is either they are going to sound like Rush, or ELP. That Electrum use Rush as a starting point isn't bad, especially on a debut. Ten albums down the line, if they are still sounding eminicent of 80's Rush, then there's a problem.
However, having said all that, I find that guitarist Dave Kulju's playing makes me think more of Craig Chaquico than Alex Lifeson. So, Electrum's Rushism are more bass/drum related than anything. But, laying Rush aside, how good (or bad) are Electrum? Fortunately, they're good. They don't rely on the R factor too much. "Voices," the seventh track in, is lyrical, with a guitar/bass interplay about a quarter in that is as effective as it is affecting - one I felt in my gut. Dave Kulju's playing here is delicate and elegant. So, while his playing tone and style is unlike Steve Rothery [Ed. note: him again?], there is the same emotional punch, the same "make each note count" quality.
While at times Frames of Mind gets crowded, with dense bass/drum interplay (Gino Foti and Joe Musmanno, respectively), most of the album allows space for each instrument to explore. This is not the almost frentic where a lot of instrumental prog is going these days (cf Liquid Tension Experiment, also reviewed) nor the quirky like Djam Karet (though, there are moments when Electrum use similiar textures). Okay, track 8, "Inertial Dampers Off-Line" contains an almost frentic interplay - the background music to an epic firefight, but most of Electrum is mid-speed - crusing speed actually.
Overall, I am impressed with this debut and recommend it.
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John W. Patterson
Electrum is Gino Foti on bass guitar and synthesizer, Dave Kulju on guitar and synthesizer with Joe
Musmanno on acoustic and electronic percussion. Well . . . this is one of those CDs that needs to
grow on ya. First listen, decent stuff, but not leaping at ya . . . second listen, hey that was cool there
-- nice touch. By the third or fourth listen Electrum will find that comfortable niche in your prog
psyche or instrumental, chamber rock, if ensemble progressive music just isn't your thing.
This band is barebones in their sound, no flash, rock-steady, with near antiseptic perfect execution
of time signatures. The sound dances around you with very little room to spare, meaning the reverby,
"big production", layering of effects is nonexistent. You are right there, sitting in the studio with them
in a very "live", niteclub, aural ambience without the smoke and clinking bottles. Some people call
this "thin" or "home studio" but to me it lends intimacy.
At times the first track, "Ascension", the keys reminded strongly of Larry Fast's Synergy efforts but
with a Rushish band backing him up. "Reverie" follows with a drifting, daydreamy, sailing away feel
yet with the infusions of incisive progrock changeups here and there but staying "on target". Next in
line, "Measure of an Unmade Grave" shows a strong hint of King Crimson and the heavier feel of
Rush or perhaps Djam Karet. It's a hard call with these guys.
Guitarist Kulju shies away from overdrive and distortion remaining crisply "clean" most of the time so
when he rocks out it leaps at you. Not overpowering but deftly "eel is adventure soundtrack,
interspersed with snippets of guitar in rhythmic tight grooves and/or rolling picking of open chords.
Power chords appear in a Rushly attack with King Crimsonic odd-time plucking and distortion
pushing the string-synth keys aside. Foti and Kulju are in sync much of the time until Kulju solos in
his usual time-constrained agenda.
Electrum is at times like a progrock machine, a pre-programmed, metronomic automaton,
relenteless in its course. Synths return in that very Larry Fast mode. There may be moments of
dissonance or tension but release is always attained just in time by Kulju's tendencies toward
subdued or clean guitar. Foti's basslines are faultless, tight, driving and relentless. Musmanno never
grabs attention but maintains a steady even-handed, capable drumming at all times.
This is tough for me to say but . . . half of the time Electrum has the feel of "easier listening"
progressive rock. Imagine Manheim Steamroller begins emulating Rush and King Crimson whilst
getting into Larry Fast on the side. You'd get a "softer" prog. Electrum offers quality neo- prog with
a careful attention to detail but merely skirting the rock of progrock. Some out there will find
Frames Of Mind just right but to me prog needs more passion, more "soul-fire" and less
crystal-clear precision. -- John W. Patterson
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Cesar Augusto Lanzarini
Rock Progressivo Brasil
Electrum - Frames of Mind - Independente - 1998
Outro disco totalmente instrumental deste trio americano, que no encarte
agradece ao Rush pela inspiração. A sonoridade remete ao disco Signals (1982),
principalmente a primeira faixa Ascension (10:56), inspirada pela notícia de uma
tragédia ocorrida nos Everest, mas não sendo esta referência da música.
"Refere-se à escalar montanhas", diz Gino Foti (baixo e teclados). O objetivo
do disco foi fundir diversas influências e gêneros em composições ecléticas, que
mostrassem a parte subjetiva da realidade de cada músico. Por isso o disco é todo
instrumental; onde os músicos puderam explorar todo o seu potencial. Ao contrário de
outros grupos totalmente instrumentais - onde as bandas normalmente exploram em demasia
solos dos instrumentos - a banda mantém as músicas bastante concisas.
(No English translation available)
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Progressive Rock Artist
Sound & Production
The first thing I noticed about the music was how clean and clear the recording quality was, which is something I always pay close attention to when listening to an "independent" (forgive the term) band's cd. I thought I remembered reading inside the cd insert that this was recorded on an 8-track.
If that's the case, then the sound and production came out great. The drums are crisp and punchy, and cut through the music quite well. The bass is always audible, and has a pretty clean sounding tone. The keyboards were mixed consistently well for the most part, although there are a few spots
where they seem to almost overpower the drums (namely in "Ascension"). The only complaint I have about the production is the guitars. It seems in most cases, there is one mono guitar track going, which makes for kind of a thin guitar sound. Granted, the guitars are predominantly clean throughout the
album, which enables this to work out quite okay. But, even the seldomly used distortion is quite thin and weak sounding, which I feel somewhat inhibits the impact and presence of the music. In some songs, I noticed that the guitar levels actually went down in volume when switching from clean to distortion, which just seemed kind of odd. But on a positive note, the clean guitars are consistently effective and have a warm, rich tone to them. Overall, the production and sound is very convincing on a professional basis,
especially given the circumstances and facilities that were present.
The first time that I heard the album in its entirety, it was a lot for me to take in (that's a pretty jam-packed cd you have!!) It was obvious to me from the start that you are very capable musicians, and that you are all well crafted in your instruments. I liked a lot of the cool melodies and chord changes right away, as many of them were reminiscent of some of my favorite prog bands ("Desolation" reminded me a little of the opening to an old Genesis tune called "Watcher of the Skies" - very cool). It took me quite a few listens to hear and appreciate everything that was going on in the songs. Most of your music is rather mellow and laid-back, and it works out quite well. I'm sure it's easy for a lot of instrumental bands, especially those of the progressive rock genre, to try to fill the void of not having singer by soloing into eternity, and layering this part over that one, and so on (I should know; I'm in one too!!). But I noticed that you guys did what was
best for each song, and I think your use of restraint benefits the music. I really liked the how the keyboards added just the right touch to the songs, and they blended quite nicely. By the way, some of those keyboard sounds were awefully familiar sounding to me when I first heard them. Then when I read inside of the cd inlay card, sure enough, I noticed the mention of an Alesis QS6 - the same board I have! There are some really nice sounds on those boards (and some pretty bad ones too). You used many of the same
sounds I like to use (Analog String, Masseve, 7th Wave, etc.), so that was kind of a neat little surprise. Anyway, there was only thing that really prevented the songs from standing out from each other - the guitars (I'm sorry - I don't mean to always pick on the guitar player!! I'm trying to be as objective as possible...) It just sounds like he uses the clean sound a little too much, as cool as it may be. More distortion, or even acoustic guitar here and there, would have been a nice break from the clean sound, and it would have set the songs apart a little better. But, I realize that maybe that's just part of your style, and I have to get used to that. Aside from that though, you guys really know how to put together a song. Good chops, interesting and catchy chord changes, precise and outlandish rhythms - it's all there!
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These guys score a lot of points with me for things other than their
music. The Hugh Syme-like design of their album sleeve, their admitted
love of Rush (I don't care what anybody says, they will always be one of
my very favourite bands!), and the in-jokes giving away some of their
interests (the song "Inertial Dampers Off-line" is from a Star Trek quote,
and their email address is email@example.com, Tom Servo being one
of the robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000). As nice as all that is,
it can only be considered secondary to the actual music on this album...
and I'm so glad to say it did not disappoint! On the contrary, this was
a very pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting a lot from an instrumental
bass/drum/guitar trio (been there, done that), but the sheer variety,
skill, and emotion contained goes way beyond anything I've heard from
such a group and really stretches the constraints of such a sparse
instrumentation. Ok... they do use some keyboards to spice it up a bit,
and they actually become an important part of the sound in some of these
pieces. Speaking of the pieces, they're among the most interesting I've
heard, and this is helped by bassist Gino Foti's descriptions of them
contained on their web page (check the links on this site). They really
put you in the right frame of mind to listen and imagine...
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Upon my first listen, my impressions are that it is great! It will take several listens for me to expound more because you guys have definately put alot of time into the compositions. It reminds me alot of what I tried to do in my band (but, not as well as you have done) I look forward to hearing more stuff of yours.
You've put together a very professional looking cd - package. Truly a bargain for $8!
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Electrum is an instrumental prog trio with guitar/bass/ drums. Their first self-produced CD "Frames of Mind" is interesting, but the tracks seem to lack a melody line. They sound less like real instrumental pieces, than working versions of songs with the singer on a day-off. Still, there are some nice moments.
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Let me begin by saying that the CD was much better than I'd expected. Being an independent group
has its downside, as you correctly acknowledge in the last paragraph of the form letter you sent
with the CD. Sometimes an independent recording is both sonically and musically deficient,
neither of which is the case regarding Electrum! Congratulations on a fantastic endeavor,
Down to the details. The reference you make to your music being influenced by Rush is very
evident, especially concerning Joe's percussion. I myself formerly laid the backbeat in a cover
band, sometimes Rush tunes. Neil Peart is the MAN! Musmanno is a major league talent, that's from
another drummers perspective. Occasionally I had flashbacks of "La Villa Strangiato" and Xanadu"
while listening to your recording, that's the truth. The difference between your sound and Rush
(beside the absence of lyrics) is an underusage of keyboard supplementation. Your sound would
greatly benefit from an accomplished keyboardist. You both did a commendable job with that,
though. Gino's bass lines would fit very well on the YES "Drama" recording. I love Squire's bass
on that album!
Dave, do more guitar solo's, brother! Your talent is definitely there, so don't be shy. :)
The songs. I venture a guess that the first song "Ascension" was your initial recording as a
collective unit, is this correct? The reason I ask this is due to the sonic and musical
inferiority it seems to possess in relation to the other songs. Maybe it's my imagination. After
a few listens, the song grew on me, however! The "Frames of Mind" sequence is really terrific! I
can certainly understand why you decided to use that as your title track. In my opinion, you
saved the best tune for last, "Portal to Arcanum". Everyone in your group shows their stuff
excellently on it! Together only a year before recording... WOW!
I guess the ultimate compliment I can pay you is to state that when the next Electrum CD is
released, I'll be the first in line! Good work, guys.
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Netherlands Prog News
This fully instrumental album comes from a brand new band called Electrum out of the USA. The
band's members are Gino Foti (bass and synthesizer), Dave Kulju (guitar and synthesizer) and Joe
Musmanno (electronic and acoustic percussion) and all of them has many influences. Their music
sometimes contains some Rush elements, but overall it can be mentioned as a kind of jazz fusion.
Maybe it's because of the not clearly defined style that the album is a bit hard to get through. But
listen to it several times and there are some nice things to enjoy. It must say it again, this is not a
standard prog album.
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Electrum est un trio batterie-guitare-basse (le guitariste et la bassiste nappant la sauce de
nombreuses sequences de synthetiseurs) qui nous propose un premier album de musique
progressive instrumentale assez reussi. La tendance musicale generale est un melange entre Rush
(premiere epoque) et King Crimson. Trois excellents musiciens, qui developpent de multiples themes
complexes au sein de chacun des morceaux, les rythmes de batterie et de basse sont alambiques a
souhait, la guitare est variee pouvant etre rageuse (rarement), atmospherique ou cyclique. La
musique instrumentale est un art difficile: soit on lasse (par repetition) soit on part dans des solo
interminables. Electrum evite avec facilite le piege tendu. Chacune des pieces est construite et
interessante, ne laissant pas de repit et n'engendrant aucune lassitude. Quelques passages lorgnant
vers la fusion, d'autres legerement plus atmospherique, le tout se terminant par un superbe morceau
Portal to Arcanum, superbement arrange, a la rythmique d'un rare complexite et la guitare tendue et
lancinante: chacun des trois instruments est un regal a ecouter. Les amateurs du Roi Cramoisi,
derniere epoque, devraient etre ravis.
(No English translation available)
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Radio Roks - Belarus
Well, I've listened to the Frames Of Mind album many times already &
Frames Of Mind is at our daily playlist already, because I really like
this track a lot. The whole opus is a real masterpiece &, in my
opinion, is much more interesting than the latest Rush discs, as well some
other progressive releases I've heard -- I really like your band &
you've got a real die-hard fan in me in such exotic places for you, as Belarus!!
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Reels of Dreams Unrolled
This unsigned New England band's debut CD, Frames of Mind is a very tasteful endeavor in every way. From the cover art to the music, Electrum present themselves as an intelligent, mature-minded progressive rock band who seek to create and promote their art without too much regard for trends or hype. This is a good thing. Upon reading their website, before hearing the CD, I discovered that Electrum's main influences are Rush & Dream Theater (although they also claim several other more interesting ones). This made me wonder if what I was going to hear was another one of these insipid Magna Carta-label prog-metal bands which seem to be popping up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Fortunately, Electrum bears little resemblance to these prog imposters. Frames of Mind is decidedly void of any metalisms at all, actually. There are no "He-sounds-just-like-Geoff-Tate!" operatic vocals, because Electrum has chosen the instrumental route. Guitar distortion is kept to a minimum, and there is very little soloing anywhere at all. In doing so, Electrum has managed to create the ensemble atmosphere, which all the best progressive bands have done. No one member gets the spotlight for too long while the others just repeat the same four chords for five minutes. They all share the duties equally in playing their compositions.
"Ascension" is a stately 11-minute piece which begins the album. Its beginning features a good dose of a very welcome keyboard chordal backdrop, which becomes sorely missed later on in the album. It then switches to an arpeggio riff, in a very obvious 7/8 which, seems to be Electrum's favorite meter. Unfortunately, this is part Electrum's downfall. Almost every track seems to feature a 7/8 riff and the mellow guitar arpeggios are so ubiquitous that after a while you may start to wish that Dave Kulju would do something -- anything different with his guitar. Play a solo, do some finger tapping, smash it up and burn it! Just do something different! With the exceptions of the more dynamic tracks like "Reverie," and "Inertial
Dampers Off Line" much of this album sounds like Rush playing mellow, Weather Channel-ish jazz fuzak, due to the morass of soporific guitar arpeggios and politeness into which it all eventually slips.
Frames of Mind does feature some good moments, and is quite a professional job considering Electrum's humble beginnings. This is, after all, a debut album by an unsigned progressive rock band, and in that regard it is much better than most. Electrum has potential and they are one or two steps ahead of their competition. If they manage to record another album (and they should), I am convinced it will reflect growth and improvement.
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Every now and then while perusing the prog-rock NGs, you'll see bands
advertising their self-released CDs in the hope of getting people to fork over
a little bit of cash in exchange for the excitement and intrigue of hearing
some new and (hopefully) exciting music. Electrum is one such band; a few
months ago I read a posting from their bass player, the very talented Gino
Foti, which piqued my curiosity and led me to visit their web site. After
reading a few things there, I decided to send in my bucks and check out their
CD. The following is my stream of consciousness reaction to my first listen to
the disc. Your questions, comments, thoughts and opinions on this review are
welcomed and encouraged.
Track One: "Ascension"
I like the marching snare and synthesizer opening, and the way it moves into a
more open, spacious rhythm; it's very majestic, a little like "Jacob's Ladder"
or Genesis' "Watcher of the Skies." I like the guitar/bass line that follows
the opening, the way it moves and shifts from linear motion to circular shapes.
The piece definitely has a dreamlike quality, a sense of floating almost
weightless in time, as though moving back and forth from one part of the dream
to another. The drumming is really marvelous on this track, negotiating the
many tempo changes seemingly without effort, and I like the use of various
cymbals to accent things in different ways. I like the reintroduction of the
opening snare and synthesizer theme at the end of the piece -- it really ties
everything together quite nicely.
Track Two: "Reverie"
I like the Allan Holdsworth-like quasi-jazz guitar tone used at the opening of
the piece, and your melodic bass line; they flow together extremely well over
the well-spaced rhythmic accents. The use of double bass drums adds some punch
to the ethereal tone of the piece. The synthesizer chords are placed very
inventively; they're effective but not jarring. I think a violin would have
sounded beautiful over the melodic guitar and bass lines, lending a sort of
Dregs or Jean-Luc Ponty-ish vibe to the piece. Nice.
Track Three: "Measure of an Unmade Grave"
The very beginning reminds me a little of the quiet, forboding section of
"By-Tor and the Snow Dog" before heading into still another dream-realm, this
one dark and mysterious, as the title suggests. I like the guitar's chordal
accompaniment to the melodic bass line; it's interesting to hear the guitar
taking the support role as the bass steps out into the lead position. I really
like the tempo changes in this piece; in that sense it reminds me a lot of Rush
circa "Hemispheres." The three players sound like a very tight ensemble in
this piece, with an excellent grasp of musical light and shadow, or to use a
more pedestrian term, "dynamics". The whole piece is a little bit like an
exercise in dynamics, moving from one mood to another, but never lingering too
long on any one part. The melodic bass work is, to me, the most outstanding
aspect of this piece, a sublime performance by Mr. Foti.
Track Four: "Frames of Mind Part I: Cognitive Synergy"
This one's a little heavier, reminding me in the beginning of "Witch Hunt."
Mr. Kulju demonstrates a great sense of how to use different guitar tones, a la
Alex Lifeson, to suggest different moods and atmospheres. I like his heavier,
crunchier tone here, and the way it contrasts with the lighter tones he uses
elsewhere in the piece. Mr. Musmanno's percussive work is, as usual, superb.
He makes it all sound so easy.
Track Five: "Frames of Mind Part II: Dialectic"
One word: wistful. That's the feeling I get at the opening of this piece. It
has the sense of memory about it; remembering something unbidden, not
consciously, like a rift opening in the mind to allow something previously
thought of as forgotten to suddenly roam free. The heavier section suggests
flight, joy, happiness, almost dizziness; and then the quieter section that
follows suggests other, perhaps darker memories, or maybe a walk through a
shadowy maze within the mind; searching for something unknown, perhaps
unknowable, yet tantalizing the back of the mind with possibilities. The
faster bass line suggests finding something at the end of the maze, while the
guitar solo suggests exploring that something, trying to open up whatever the
found object is. But before the found object is opened, the maze changes
direction again, and we return to other memories, other thoughts, other dreams,
happier, less disquieting ones. The tempo shift at around the five-minute mark
suggests yet another change in direction, one previously unseen during the mind
journey, one that calls strongly and cannot be denied. Might the long-sought
answer be at hand at last...? The end is intriguingly inconclusive.
Track Six: "Desolation"
An effectively brooding piece, dark and haunting, suggestive of longing and
loss. Sounds like it could have come from a movie, probably done in black and
white, a la Bergman's "The Seventh Seal."
Track Seven: "Voices"
More great melodic bass work is featured during another quiet opening. The
lilting bounce of Part One, "Conversation," effectively gets across the image
of several friends chatting happily, animatedly. When the synthesizer came in,
a line flashed in my head: "And we think it's always going to be this way,
talking with each other through all our days." The synth line is suggestive,
somehow, of rain, or shadow, something hovering above the conversing friends;
the passage of time, the knowledge that although we think it's always going to
be this way, we know deep down that it won't. Part Two, "Disagreement," echoes
the undercurrent of tension that even the best of friends can experience when
having a difference of opinion. The guitar line suggests one viewpoint, the
bass line suggests another, and the drums suggest the friction between the two.
Fittingly, Mr. Kulju's crunchier guitar tone reflects the aggression that
arises during a disagreement, and the tempo changes accurately describe the
shifts in speech and body language at such times. His solo is all too brief,
however, trying to navigate a course between anger and resolution. The third
part, "Oratory," takes the listener to a high mountain top, where a seer
reveals his vision to the few lucky souls who have managed to find him. The
dreamlike quality of this part is anchored firmly to reality in the form of Mr.
Musmanno's neo-Peart drum stylings. This part may actually feature his best
playing on the album so far. The synthesizers are evocative of the feeling of
those gathered souls, moving from rapture to realization to wonderment at the
prophet's words. Minds and hearts are open and changing now, taking new
possibilities into themselves, and the ending is reflective of the new passion
Track Eight: "Inertial Dampers Off-Line"
I love this piece! It's got the wild kinetic energy of a free-falling
spacecraft in the midst of an asteroid storm, or a chase with a gigantic alien
leviathan, the feeling of falling into the unknown, losing control and secretly
enjoying the whole anarchic ride. Lots of fun. The album could have used a bit
more of this sort of energy.
Track Nine: "Portal to Arcanum"
Love the church organ opening. It's majestic and stately, suggestive of
wide-eyed wonder at the opening of a mystical door. The bass playing here is
sublime, meshing beautifully with the flurry of frenetic fills and quick-footed
double bass. Reminds me of ELP, Yes and early Genesis in its emphasis on
keyboard melody, shifting bass lines and dynamic drumming. The change in
direction at around the three-minute mark suggests to me the feeling one might
have at walking through that mystical doorway and suddenly being surrounded by
a world that's completely different from the one you've known before. "Look
around at all you see/Is this the world that was meant to be?/Walk through the
door/And set your senses free to explore/This is not the world you've known
before..." The journeyer and the journey: one changes, one does not, yet both
quickly become parts of each other. New sights of an old, impossibly ancient
world, new feet treading a well-worn path. There is joy and danger in the
quest here, but there is a sense of a strongly growing confidence that the
journey is more than worth taking. I love the atmosphere created by the soft
guitar and melodic bass lines; it's evocative of plants, rain, flying creatures
in the sky above--a whole, rich world to explore and learn about. The
ambiguous ending of the piece intriguingly suggests that the journey never
truly ends, but goes on even after music slips away into silence
Thank you, Mssrs. Kulju, Foti and Musmanno, for creating such vibrant,
evocative and imaginative instrumental progressive rock. I hope this review
will encourage some of you out there who may be reading this to pick up "Frames
of Mind," because it's the 'something different' many prog fans have been
searching for. Two proggy thumbs up!
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Rating: * * * * *
Det här är ett tremanna band som kom till efter en annons som
Electrums gitarrist postade till National Midnight Star - Rush
on-line digest/mailing lista, då han sökte efter andra musiker. Du
kan också höra Rush influenserna i Electrums musik som kan
klassificeras instrumental progressiv rock.
Deras musik är en kombination av en myriad av influenser och
genrer som t.ex. klassisk musik, jazz, progressiv rock,
jazzfusion, prog metal, neo-progressiv musik, pop, folkmusik och
heavy metal. Här finner man komplexa taktändringar och udda
rytmer, ackord och melodier. Musiken är strikt arrangerad och har
en väldigt komponerad känsla, p.g.a. att lead och solo sektionerna
är hållna till ett minimun.
Basisten Gino Foti har spelat bas i 6 år, han är helt självlärd,
men det låter som om han spelat i hela sitt liv. Jag är förstummad
över gruppens musikaliska kunskaper. Varje låt på det här albumet
är helt fantastisk. Mina personliga favoritlåtar är "Reverie" och
"Portal to Arcanum". Den här skivan är ett måste för alla som
gillar verkligt progressiv musik. Tillsammans med Pär Lindh
Projects CD "Mundus Incompertus" den bästa skivan hittills 1998.
CD:n kan köpas direkt via Electrums Website:
http://nh.ultranet.com/~tomservo/ för bara $8 - inkluderat frakt
inom USA. Orderformuläret innehåller även länkar till on-line
distributörer för de som vill betala med kreditkort.
(This is a three-piece band that got together after an ad that Electrum's guitarist posted to the
National Midnight Star - the Rush on-line digest/mailing list, looking for other musicians. You can
hear the Rush influences in Electrum's music that is Instrumental Progressive Rock.
Their music combines a myriad of influences and genres such as Classical Music, Jazz, Progressive Rock,
Jazz-Fusion, Prog Metal, Neo Progressive Music, Pop, Folk and Heavy Metal. Here you can find
complex odd-time signatures and polyrhythms. The music is very strictly arranged and has a very
composed feeling, because the lead and solo sections are kept to a minimum.
The bassist Gino Foti has been playing bass for 6 years, is entirely self taught, but it sounds like he's been playing for all his life. I am astounded by the groups musical skills. Every track on the album is totally
amazing. My personal favourites are "Reverie" and "Portal to Arcanum". This is a must-buy for
everyone who likes really Progressive Music. Beside Par Lindh Projects CD "Mundus
Incompertus" the best album so far in 1998.)
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Progressive Rock Musician
Excellent first effort!! I have a few MINOR gripes, but it's probably the best set I've heard so far this year! You're what I liked most about Rush, without those silly vocals( sorry, Geddy, just kidding). The production quality is superb, nearly flawless, well mastered, even sounds good in
headphones. I'm impressed!
OK, now the bitch list, in no particular order - You can't make out the vocals (damn, I KNEW I was gonna say that; sorry ...). Seriously, some of the time changes are a bit studied, the bass tends to be
mixed down a bit low (great tone, though), some passages sound vaguely like a background searching for a melody and SOME of the synth patches sound very "preset". On the other hand, the drums are Eddie Offord crisp,
the playing is superlative, and the organ sound on the beginning of "Portal..." SMOKES, it's positively Emersonian (damn the cathedrals, full speed ahead!). My favorite track is "Desolation", probably because it's so unexpected.
So, yes, I love it - 7 stars out of 5 - and I'd recommend it to all Top 40 Alternative sufferers. I can't wait to hear the new stuff when it's finished! Oh, the website's great, too. Let me know when the new disc comes
out, and thanks for some great stuff.
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Around the beginning of August, I heard a song off of your album on
WRFL, a college radio station here in Lexington, KY. I can't remember
which song it was, but I was so blown away that I sat in my driveway and
waited till the DJ announced the name of the group.
I looked in the local record stores and couldn't find your album it so I
looked on the internet where I came across your web site. I ordered the
CD from Planet CD off the internet and received it Saturday 8/29 and I've
been listening to it and enjoying it ever since.
I play guitar and keyboards myself and write and record tunes myself as
a hobby, albeit not your level. I played in heavy metal bands in high
school, but knowing I didn't have the skill and determination to make it
in music, I became an engineer but still dabble in music as a hobby.
Anyway, I'm a bit more musically informed than your average bear, so you
might find my comments useful!
Here are some random comments:
- Overall I really enjoy your music. Rush is obviously a big influence
-- I hear a lot of Hemispheres to Signals era elements. I, like most
people, wish that Rush would get back to their old style of their heyday
and do what they do best, extended concept-album-type songs like what
you're doing. Every time a new Rush album comes out, I hope that they'll
get a little of the old spark back. If they came out with an album that
sounds like "Frames of Mind", I would piss myself happy.
- A lot of "prog-rock" is real stiff and academic to me. But I find
your music is really emotional and interesting. Bass drums and guitar
can get kind of bland after a while; especially in instrumental music,
so I like the light and sometimes heavy touch of synth.
- Your album sounds like it was done in a big budget studio somewhere.
The sound quality is outstanding. The playing is tight and well
- My biggest complaint is that there didn't seem to be enough lead
guitar. There were passages that seemed to cry out for leads. It seems
there was more lead bass than lead guitar. I enjoyed the bass leads, but
I would have liked to hear more guitar.
- Your drummer is outstanding. Keep him at all costs!
- I'm amazed that you guys have only been together a year and that you
aren't signed yet!
- The CD packaging is amazing for an independent release.
- Keep churning out the great tunes! I'm a big fan. I can't wait till
the next album. I'll tell all my friends about you guys and I hope to
see you live sometime.
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