Plectrum Spectrum - what a great title for an EP, wouldn't you agree? This of course being the title of the second instrumental release from Roo - a music project brought to life by guitarist Roo Chapus. While Roo's first EP release, Guitar Without A Cause, was mostly done solo by guitarist Roo himself, its follow-up Plectrum Spectrum sees the man working together with a band. Before writing this review I had no prior knowledge of Roo or his musical outings and I don't think yours truly is even the target audience or demographic towards whom this type of material is usually geared. Regardless, as of writing this review I have given both of Roo's releases their fair share of listens and I would say that while fairly evenly matched, Guitar Without A Cause and Plectrum Spectrum are both releases that come with their own strengths and weaknesses. With this in mind, while as a whole I would argue that Guitar Without A Cause is a more consistent and overall superior effort to Plectrum Spectrum, I would also argue that Plectrum Spectrum does in fact in many aspects actually improve on its predecessor. Allow me to elaborate.
Right from its opening song The Mystery Machine which follows the intro Into The Factory, you can already recognize at least one aspect where Plectrum Spectrum is a step forward and an improvement over its predecessor - its sound. The production on Plectrum Spectrum I feel is superior to that of the first EP. That's not to say Guitar Without A Cause was badly produced by any means, as it was produced pretty much perfectly given the kind of hard-rocking guitar tracks that were on it. But while I have no complaints about the production of the first EP, Plectrum Spectrum is overall a more pleasant experience sonically. Whereas Guitar Without A Cause was soundwise mostly dominated by loud guitars (and believe me, as a rocker and metalhead I'm a big fan of loud guitars), Plectrum Spectrum gives the music and the instruments more room to breathe as opposed to layering all the instruments into one wall of sound coming at the listener's ears at full blast. The guitar sound and tone on the EP somewhat reminds me of that of John Petrucci's - the guitarist for progressive metal giants Dream Theater - and especially the drum sound of the EP is something that I've grown quite fond of.
The second and no doubt the most important area of improvement on Plectrum Spectrum in comparison to its predecessor though is the song writing. While Guitar Without A Cause is a perfectly pleasurable listen, most of the songs don't really get stuck in your head or make an impact outside of the listener being impressed by the musical talent present. In that sense the EP comes off more as something for fans of intricate guitar work to appreciate the musicianship of as opposed to something catchy for casual listeners to enjoy. Plectrum Spectrum seems to take initiative in trying to solve this problem because the songs this time around are much more instantly enjoyable. Nowhere is this more present than on the track Plectropolis, which in my humble opinion is the best track on the EP and better than anything found on the first EP. The song is built around a fairly simple guitar melody that the song then plays with and is thus much easier to get into than many of the tracks on Guitar Without A Cause where the melodies weren't quite as catchy due to the intricacy of the guitar work seemingly taking more importance in the compositions. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that though, but regardless it's an observation I couldn't help making.
The final aspect in which Plectrum Spectrum improves upon the first EP, is by having more variety in its material. While Guitar Without A Cause was fairly consistent in the kind of guitar-driven instrumental rock it was doing - meaning that all the tracks pretty much followed the same direction and vibe - Plectrum Spectrum sees Roo spread his wings a little by trying different moods and styles that vary from track to track. In fact while most of the tracks on Guitar Without A Cause followed more or less the same formula, on Plectrum Spectrum I'd argue not one song sounds the same as another, each contributing something unique to the whole of the EP. While The Mystery Machine and Plectropolis do what I guess could be described as a more refined and melodic take on the hard rock of the first EP, Velvet Sapphire which features Mr. Fastfinger sees Roo doing a more mellow track that sort of reminds me of smooth jazz groups such as Fourplay that my dad listens to and that were therefor the soundtrack of my childhood.
And finally we have the closing title track of the EP which much like Inner Strength - the closing track of the first EP that brought to my mind Metallica - is the metal-influenced track on the EP, and one of the more enjoyable tracks for yours truly seeing as how I'm a metalhead. The title track Plectrum Spectrum is split into two separate tracks on the EP, the point of which though I honestly don't see. Part 1 is nothing but the 49-second intro to the song and it works as just that - not as an independent piece that requires or deserves its own separate track on the EP. The way I see it the title track should've just been one track as opposed to it being split into two separate tracks for seemingly no reason.
Overall Plectrum Spectrum much like Guitar Without A Cause is a perfectly alright and passable release that never really excels but never really fails either, standing out when compared to its predecessor mostly not in terms of superior material but in terms of superior style in terms of melody and variety. But while the variety of material is no doubt a sign of growth, there is no doubt that Guitar Without A Cause is the more consistent effort of the two. An EP, much like an album I believe, should work as a whole as opposed to it just being a collection of random songs, and while Plectrum Spectrum is no doubt more interesting to listen to than its predecessor due to there being more variety, it's also not nearly as consistent as a whole and does in fact come off more as just a random collection of songs as opposed to a thought out whole. So while Plectrum Spectrum in many ways improves on the first EP, it's still not the release from Roo that would absolutely blow me away. However, if on the next effort Roo could somehow manage to successfully combine the consistency of the hard rock of Guitar Without A Cause with the melody and variety of Plectrum Spectrum, I think him and his band could be on to something special.
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Interview done by Isa : http://www.guitar9.com/interview183.html
(Review done by Markus)