Gadi Caplan is one of those rare musicians who exists on the fringes and draws form numerous genres to create music which is art rather than commerce. Nominally a progressive musician (in the literal sense of the word), Gadi infuses his music with elements of jazz, psychedelic rock and even free-form drone to create pieces that are stunningly emotive and always inspired. A virtuoso musician, his exquisite guitar playing can be compared to the likes of Joe Satriani and John McLaughlin and it is this remarkable talent that drives Gadi’s remarkable third album, ‘Morning sun’, which was recorded alongside Danny Abowd (The weeping Willards with whom Gadi plays lead guitar) and which is a musical journey to treasure from start to finish.
The album opens with the dreamy instrumental ‘Hemavati’. A jazzy, complex piece of music, it is evocative of wide, open spaces and shimmering heat and it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. The dreamy tone continues on ‘Island’, a sweet pop song that recalls both the Beatles and ‘Obscured by Clouds’-era Pink Floyd. It is a beautiful song with gently double tracked vocals, shimmering acoustic guitar and a melody that weaves its way into your dreams. Not an album to stay still, ‘Good afternoon’ is a bizarre take on jazz-inspired pop music that aims for the stars and, over the course of a mere two minutes, drifts between Radiohead and Jeff Buckley sounding like both and neither at the same time. A longer piece, ‘Vivadi Swara’ sees acoustic guitar and reverb used to potent effect. With subtle lead guitar drifting across the surface of the track, the mind is drawn to David Gilmour’s stunning, semi-acoustic performance at Robert Wyatt’s meltdown and the musicianship is simply exquisite. This is music for the heart and for the soul and as the track clicks into gear with psychedelic vocals and a slowly expanding sonic palette, the world suddenly seems a brighter place. In contrast, the album’s title track delves back to the Beatles and the White album for inspiration, adding flute and a delicate, folky touch to the mix.
With classical guitar work, ‘La Morena’ is a simply beautiful piece of music that soothes the senses whilst the backwards guitar of ‘the other side’ is a near perfect four and a half minutes of progressive pop (for want of a better description) that brings to mind one of Pink Floyd’s most poignantly beautiful songs – ‘what’s, Uh, the deal?’ The final four tracks make up a suite in the form of ‘Lili’s day’ parts 1-4. Part 1 Is a dark, electronic piece that emerges from out of nowhere, wrapping Gadi’s gentle guitar in a stuttering electronic beat that lies somewhere between Aphex Twin and latter-day Ulver. It is this ability to utterly confound the listener’s expectations that made ‘Look back and step forward’ such a wonderful listen, and yet on ‘Morning Sun’, Gadi has taken his song writing to a whole new level, experimenting across a range of genres in a manner that should result in a lack of coherency and yet, such is his skill, that the album never loses focus. Part 2 sees the electronic largely give way to jazz-fusion percussion and throbbing bass. There’s intensity here, and passion, and the only album to come close to this level of inventiveness in recent years is David Bowie’s swan song, ‘black star’. Part three is a short bridge which pits martial drums against a solo that sears and blazes over the surface before part 4 rounds out the suite, and the album, with gentle guitar and a sense of calm. It is a stunning piece of work and it is arguable that if the album comprised this suite alone, it would be a lasting testament to Gadi’s astounding skill.
‘Morning sun’ is a masterpiece. It is not easy listening and it is not mainstream, but then neither was ‘Atom Heart Mother’ at the time of its release, which is, perhaps, the album this work most closely resembles. This is an album which requires work on the part of the listener and it requires, also, numerous listens. And yet, for all that the album is challenging, it is neither deliberately obtuse nor is it without instant charms. Whilst ‘Lili’s day’ is an epic that needs time to unpack, songs like ‘Island’ and ‘La Morena’ are stunning pieces of music that are simply gorgeous pieces of pop music, brilliantly played and standing out like a sweet oasis in the midst of a beautiful, yet dangerous, desert. There is real beauty here and the musicianship is mesmerising throughout. ‘Morning Sun’ may not reach the mass audience it deserves – in these increasingly fragmented times such things seem harder than ever – but for those who do explore its charms, it’ll be an album to which they’ll return for years to come.