Very few modern-day artists, even those who specifically label themselves as avant-garde, tend to push the sonic envelope on what we as human beings can achieve through walking into a studio with a set of equipment and working for hours upon hours a day to really develop their craft. Admittedly aren’t in the early 20th century anymore and it’s getting harder and harder for an artist to do something that genuinely has not ever been done before as far as musical revolutions are concerned, and that is why when someone like Ann Arbor’s Dave Menzo hits the scene, they really bring something special to behold for our modernized, streamlined set of eardrums. As stated on his Kickstarter page , ‘Color Wheel’ is the seventh independent album he is releasing, but probably is also the album that is going to represent many of his potential fanbases’ first dive into his catalog. In accordance to this fact, Menzo broke out his guitar, bass, drums, keys, harp, flute, ukulele, toy piano and more to accentuate his skills as a musician, songwriter and overall artist to the highest degree, and he brought a few friends along the way to really hone-in on bringing his craft to an all-new level, creating a sound not quite like anything you’ve heard before.
‘Color Wheel’, from start to finish, feels like an album meticulously crafted to display the tip-top height of Menzo’s abilities as a musical innovator. It hasn’t been written to be radio-friendly or just right for everyone; it’s been written to display Menzo as a passionate artist and a vanguard of the indie music scene as we know it. It’s 2-and-a-half years of unbridled zeal, and that, in all totality, is an entirely good thing that’s evident right when the album’s opener, “Top of the Mountain”, comes into play. It is a psychedelic, dreamlike experience that verges on freakishly unearthly, but it’s all in the best way possible, pouring a nearly-overwhelming barrage of instrumental genius into literally just the first 10 seconds of the track, and it only expands and becomes more breathtakingly impactful from there. Again, it is not the type of album for everyone, and that fact is let loose from the album’s polarizing start, but an appreciator of fine music- one that can acclimate themselves towards understanding the kind of work that goes into devising a project as effectively incommensurable as ‘Color Wheel’ -will be able to see the genius in Menzo’s craft and truly appreciate the new-found sound which he has so painstakingly developed for the past couple of years.
‘Color Wheel’, while a pioneering album of a specific style and swagger in its own right, does take some influence from a varied grouping of artists and genres throughout the decades to really bring things on home. “Old Soul” takes cues from old-school drum-n-bass electronic production and infuses it with a haunting rock-driven spirit, featuring some killer electric guitar hooks that have nearly gone unrivaled in terms of artists I’ve reviewed outside of the equally as impeccable skills of Abo Vo’s Francis Alexan der. Meanwhile, on “Brightest Smile”, Menzo takes on a Jimmy Buffett/Weezer-esque island stylings mixed with the occasional usage of a particular vocal effect that wouldn’t necessarily seem out of place on an Owl City or blanc. record, then drives the track into its final minute with a surprise twist with the audile introduction of something along the lines of “modern folk/gospel electronica”. “Looking Back to You” is an absolutely beautiful folk-inspired track, and later tracks on the album hearken back to all types of rock, in a way that would not seem out of place on a Beatles, Avett Brothers, and Jimmy Eat World record all at the same time. When all of the influences eminent in Menzo’s latest work come together, they form something unique unlike anything a listener has heard in the past while also showing that Menzo “comes from the musical earth”: he knows his stuff, and he’s incorporating all of it into ‘Color Wheel’ in the most innovative way he can.
‘Color Wheel’ represents a true make-it-or-break-it moment that thankfully came out achieving the former instead of the latter. When an artist pulls from so many different places inside of their musical mind and throughout music history, it could, in theory, only either become a tremendous artistic success and statement or blow up in their face. With the first of those two options being achieve, Dave Menzo has accomplished what he had set out to do in creating just the most ambitious album he ever could do in the moment, creating a record that could very well effectively define just how impeccably crafty an indie artist could get with their work when they really put in the time, effort, and subsequent patience. It most definitely isn’t for everyone, and every track has its own bit of a “curve” depending on each individual listener in terms of deciding whether one loves, hates, or is stagnant about it. There’s beauty in this, though, because ‘Color Wheel’ is true to its name in really presenting a musical spectrum for its audience to behold that absolutely has to be respected no matter what.
There is no denying the master-craft workmanship, love, passion, and dedication that went into developing this project for Menzo and friends, and for that reason, and that reason alone, ‘Color Wheel’ is awarded…
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