Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
ARJUN is a three piece instrumental band that hails from New York, specializing in an eclectic mixture of rock and roll and jazz improvisation. ‘CORE’ is their new record, the second in a self described trilogy of ‘sonic dreamscapes,’ the first album having been ‘SPACE,’ which was released last year.
Once you tune into ‘CORE,’ it becomes immediately apparent why ARJUN critics have drawn comparisons to acts like Snarky Puppy. In today’s musical scene, launching an instrumental fusion band is quite a statement, and the crowd is a niche, to say the least. However, bands who effectively harness the power of a strong instrumental sound, like Snarky Puppy, are intriguing, because they can’t rely on a vocalist or defining front man; it’s all out on the table and everything is left to interpretation. Without lyrics, your musicianship has to be top notch, since the tone of your song depends entirely on the emotion you can pull out of your instrument - an intimidating endeavor for any musician.
‘CORE’ draws you in from the first note of ‘Rocks,’ the opening song in the seven track record. It cascades through rock influence and into a jazzy, modern bass line. Throughout the whole record, the trio is at excellent harmony, with each instrument providing a meaningful service to the sonic experience, remaining modest and courteous to the rest of the band. A guitar lick doesn’t go left without a solid, ever-pressing bass line, and the drums waterfall through the cacophony with extreme precision.
Eddie Arjun Peters, the namesake and guitarist of the group, hops through dozens of apparent influences. Everyone is there; you hear Stevie Ray on ‘Core’ and you hear Clapton on ‘Deep Impact.’ His style defines organized chaos: it’s precise like a knife cutting the air, smooth like a B.B. King solo, and as chaotic as David Gilmour on a day where he feels particularly experimental.
The whole album feels like a seven song long parade through musical history, flirting with Ray Manzarek electric organ vibes on ‘Core’ and guitar shredding that is as elegant as ‘Slowhand’ and as rough as ‘Texas Flood.’ The bass is sharp too, with a heavy jazz influence that sounds like Flea got stuck in a New Orleans bar.
Most instrumental groups and records run the constant risk of boring their audience to tears with songs that blend together in one monotonous blur of jamming. Let’s face it - even a good band can become incredibly boring if they insist on jamming a two minute solo into an hour. (I’m looking at you, Phish.) So, it’s difficult to find stable and consistently interesting ground when you are a band like ARJUN. Here’s the thing, though: they do it.
‘CORE’ is fresh from beginning to end. It doesn’t date itself through repetitive instrument wanking. Every piece of the sound is articulate, but exciting. That’s a rarity. So many bands who delve into the instrumental realm just come out looking self absorbed, with the lead guitarist shredding his way from beginning to end without any concern for the intensity of the full band. Each piece of the soundscape feels distinct and purposeful.
Normally, I tell my readers to check out a band based on their genre preferences, but not with this one. Check out ‘CORE’ if you like music. Yes, that’s how broad I’m going to be, because whatever kind of music you like, it’s rooted into ARJUN’s sound in one way or another.
Here’s ARJUN’s info: