Salted Coffee from composer/guitarist Noel Johnston is implicitly for aficionados of the electric guitar. Each track puts Johnston’s guitar front and center acting as a catalyst for the rhythm section and leading them along adventurous excursions. His guitar sashays and soars, stimulating the episodic jaunts with the strength of pure caffeine. The sonic escapes vary from the robust to the dreamy, from waves of impromptu impulses to melodically scripted loops. It’s music whose source comes from the imagination crafting a version of jazz fusion that blends power rock and smooth jazz.
The brash and bold tones of Johnston’s guitar open the album with the title track creating an almost sinister grumbling that eases into crevasses of buttery flourishes. Back and forth the track moves repeating the thunderous flusters and reverting to the creamy wavelets. In the center is a funk-based broiling adding another texture to the track. The improvised doodles furnished by Johnston’s guitar sprawled along “Inner Urge” singe and shape the melodic cuts as Jeff Plant’s bass perforates the chord patterns and Jason Thomas’s drums splash with an untamed urgency that produces a tumultuous combustion. There is a ruggedness in the guitar’s sound that shouts of possessing a feral nature.
The album rides into the cruising tempo of “Big 8008” bolstering a funky tint in the bass pumps and the squiggling patterns of Shaun Martin’s organ. There’s a Pink Floyd-esque swagger in the guitar groans and fluttering silhouettes alternating between tearing and floating along “Bat Tips” enhanced by a Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page glam rock resonance in the chord fluctuations. Bouncing between a sinister howl and a Latin-imbued smoothness, “Dark Blues” is a multi-faceted number that transitions seamlessly across the chord dynamics.
The pensive phrasing of the guitar moving along “Because” erupts into a booming gust which subsides and paves the way for spiraling chord patterns and the monstrous drones of the organ which propel a cavernous sonorous. The track travels into spontaneous tangents that lobe a free-flowing exploration in the melodic phrases while the schematics of “Poinciana” have recurring motifs that induce an evenness in the melodic formations. The closing number “The Fall” is sonically the mildest track on the album adorned in temperate riffs and a slow trundling rhythm.
Displaying a pinch of glam rock with a dollop of funk-pop and shavings of jazz fusion, Salted Coffee is a veritable mixture of music genres and cultures. Integrating facets from his influences such as Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, and Metallica, Noel Johnston shows that the electric guitar is a malleable tool as he explores terrain which has been previously visited and builds further on its landscapes.
Noel Johnston – guitars, Jason Thomas – drums, Jeff Plant – bass, Shaun Martin – organ/keys, and Grey Beck – percussion
Salted Coffee, Inner Urge, Big 8008, Bat Tips, Dark Blues, Because, Poinciana, The Fall