Ineffable by BodhiRelease date: August 25, 2017
Bodhi is a Sanskrit word for a Buddhist concept, generally translated as an awakening to the understanding of the true nature of the world — the original “being woke.” It’s an ambitious title for this first solo project of guitarist Justin Seymour. Ineffable is a listenable, likeable EP; bumpy, but promising.
At first, listeners might find Bodhi a sharp departure from Seymour’s previous band, The Room Colored Charlatan. But strip away Charlatan’s metal vocals and insistent drumming, and it’s not such a far stretch from Seymour’s deft guitar work there and his elaborate guitar lacework on Ineffable. For Bodhi, Seymour employs some of the same arcing intervals and repeated motifs as he does for Charlatan. Here, however, they have a chance to shine on their own merits, and it’s a welcome limelight.
But this strength is also one of Ineffable’s shortcomings. Dropping Charlatan’s death-metal vocals and high-octane drumming, the music loses its rich middle textures. Bodhi’s lyrical prog runs can sound thin, lacework stretched nearly to transparency. Instead of creating a textural experience for the listener, the music at times — as in places on the opening track, “Desire” — appears disconnected, the music not pulling together as a composite. This could be alleviated by adding low-to-middle range instrumentation (e.g. the fattening vibe of bass) or perhaps by a different ear than Seymour’s on the mixing/mastering. Richer drums might also help — the album’s snappy rhythms lean too heavily on soft hi-hat and cymballic timbres. When, in “Enamor,” metal textures return to the guitar lead, thickening the sound, it’s a welcome relief. But distortion is not the only way to bolster, and it would be good to hear the more delicate melodies preserved in a better-fused sonic context.
True to melodic prog’s roots, the guitar leads here sweep effortlessly through styles ranging from jazz fusion (“Ineffable”) to metal (“Essence”) to Crimsonesque complexity (“Sensations of Sound”), sometimes within the same track. The sense of having heard this before overwhelms the impact on occasion: when the arpeggiated lead-in to “Enamor” bring back every Trance Party collection you bought in your Ecstasy days, or when you fight the urge to yell “Elephant Talk” in the middle of “The Texture of Motion.” Some of the pieces lack shape — either emotional shape to carry the listener on a journey, or where, at the end of a track, the music simply stops, as if the composer had run out of ideas for a conclusion.
These weaknesses aside, Ineffable is an appealing showcase for Seymour’s acrobatic, lyrical guitar talents. If Bodhi feels more like an appetizer than a main course, it is to be hoped that there is a richer meal to come. Seymour has the chops; we must wait to see if his musical vision is as broad as his skill is deep.
A final note: Ineffable was released with a sweet video for the track “Enamor.” Seymour is a high school Social Studies teacher, and he made the video with the help of the students at Frankfort Senior High School in Frankfort, Indiana (who both created the video and appear in it).