At The Dream’s Edge
12 April 2010
by Andy Parker
Chimp Spanner isn’t a band – it’s a single man, very much in the Nine Inch Nails = Trent Reznor kind of way. The man in question is one Paul Antonio Ortiz: playing every part on the album, recording every note, applying the polish and recently forming a live band (featuring members of Fellsilent) to tour the record, Chimp Spanner is very much a one-stop shop when it comes to technical virtuoso instrumentalism.
Before continuing, I feel it is only fair to mention something in order to save some of you a little bit of time so you can go back to licking yoghurt pot lids, and reading what pornstar is doing who on twitter, or do whatever it is you like to do to when procrastinating on the internet. If you are not into the concept of the modern rock opera, guitar “virtuousos” such as Joe Satriani, or bands that sound like Teto and Dream Play, then you aren’t going to find anything here that is going to wow you. Go watch the video interview with Steel Panther’s axeman Satchel instead. Go laugh at the blow up dolls.
For all those remaining, let me take you to the bridge!
Starting with a moody orchestral ensemble, lifting strings roll into the abstract opening of ‘Supererogation’. Instantly the drop tuned chug of the open riff rattles you out of your slumber giving the initial impression that this is some kind of monster of the likes you haven’t seen before. ‘Far From Home’ has a good rampant middle section, plenty of pedal beats and loopy riffs, and stands out as one of the highlights of the record. ‘The Terminus’ trilogy is curious. I can’t really say for certain if there is anything that genuinely links these three tracks together, but by the time you have reached ‘Pt III’, you have experienced all there is to hear.
The main problem with this unquestionably impressive record is that I can’t help but feel like it is a demo. It’s not because it is instrumental, nor is it in reference to the engineering quality of the record; It is a gripe I have with all artists within this genre. Unlike instrumental bands such as Pelican, Capricorns, or And So I Watched You From Afar, Chimp Spanner is clearly a guitarist’s platform to display technical proficiency. In this respect it gets full marks, but it’s also where, for me, it lets itself down a touch. Although there are other elements within the arrangements, it’s evident throughout that Ortiz’s fast fret-fingers are what is on display and despite some incredible drum patterns everything else sits under the guitar like a backing track.
Watch the video to ‘Under One Sky’ by Chimp Spanner
It’s why I wrote off Steve Vai 20 years ago, and why I still can’t get into Paul Gilbert and his triple plectrum power drill activities yet I loved The G3 Concerts. Perhaps it is the collaborative elements that individuals can bring to the mix that makes all those other artists stand out to me. It could be that the experience of working with a live band setup will stir something in Ortiz, and future releases from him will evolve into something more rounded.
I am sure there are thousands of people who would disagree with me – and quite rightly so – because what has been achieved on this record by this cheeky monkey is nothing short of astounding.
Sounds Like: Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Dream Theater
Top Tracks: Far From Home, Terminus Pt II, Harvey Wallbanger
Chimp Spanner – At The Dream’s Edge tracklisting
At The Dream’s Edge
Harvey Wall Banger
Ghosts of the Golden City
Far From Home
Terminus Pt I
Terminus Pt II
Terminus Pt III
Under One Sky
All Good Things