(2021 - Discus Music - UK)
Packed full of split second twists and spiral, a massive amount of musical colors, with large leaps of genre bending, complex composing, all in one gallant display of instrumental Zappa/X Legged Sally/chamber rock RIO, exotic tunes of fanfare. Although the music begins frantic, it does delve into more calm waters, searching like the shark for prey, and then pushing more boundaries to give the listener yet another thrill.
As so many works during the pandemic of Covid-19 (2020 and beyond) actually gave artists more time to gather steam, reset, and in many cases compose their most incredible releases - this 2021 Discus Music gem titled 'Gated' by Alex Ward is easily one of those. In an eight month period, Ward worked alone, composing, performing, programming, producing, recording, mixing and mastering his no-holds- barred, free range, and absolutely anything is possible project. In ten pieces, aside from the sometimes brutal speed metal tidbits, paired with scatter shot Fred Frith/Nick Didkovsky/David Torn (among many other possible comparisons) guitar pyrotechnics and chainsaw massacres, avant-garde free form, and partly settling chamber, there is sharp contrast Stravinsky-styled percussive framework as well as clarinet escapism, even semi post rock, yet there is perfect cohesion throughout. Alex states some of this is programmed, some is improvised, but one will have a hard time knowing what is what, and the act of just listening (without any knowledge of how it was done) will render you speechless.
An extremely gifted musical artist, Alex excels in winds, reeds, guitars, keyboards, and has three decades of experience as session player, composer and bandleader. Very comfortable with free jazz and structured, he easily uses programming to extend any instruments or ideas here to create the moment by moment atmosphere, feel, and result. In the end, the album has a large scale nearly big band sound, or at least in scope, it certainly captures the same magnitude as one. 'Gated' has so many ideas mixed together, not crammed, but tightly constructed, chain linked across an expanse rarely ever witnessed. If you want adventure, a great active and stimulating listening experience, this is for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 1 - 12 - 2022