Typically featuring a one-man band, EP (Deluxe Version) by The Tektonics was always destined to rise or fall based on the creative stimulus of Adam De Lucia. As the multi-instrumentalist and cunning programmer adds layer upon layer to this album, it simply soars.
“The Far Groove” sounds like its name, as De Lucia opens the track playing a pair of guitars—one engaged in a skittering, vaguely Eastern improvisation, the other in a grease-popping secondary signature. A poised, unflappable rhythm allows the song to smoothly switch gears, sounding at times like a jittery bebop side, at others like the plain talk of the blues. De Lucia makes every note count, breaking down during the song’s midpoint to indulge in a guttural groove, then taking a sharp left turn into an almost mathematical series of runs on the electric. When the song returns for a final run at its brilliantly enveloping opening statement, De Lucia somehow plays with an even fiercer determination. The song is a stunning personal achievement.
Whereas the opening track on EP (Deluxe Version) featured De Lucia overdubbing or programming all of the parts, even the drums, “Cycle Plus One” finds the guitarist joined by bassist Chris Tarry, with additional samples from Narada Michael Walden. In an odd occurrence, their presence ends up giving the track this odd coldness. De Lucia moves with fluidity and power into the higher end of his range, but the musical setting is dominated by these icy washes of synthesizer. It’s only when De Lucia ramps up into a fusion rock-informed middle eight, even as the bass turns fat and funky, that “Cycle Plus One” gains any traction. They sound, if only for a moment, like one of those thrilling, spaceship-shaking 1970s explorations by Return to Forever. Unfortunately, the tune soon settles back into its initial, strangely distant malaise—something that even Tarry’s sensitive turn on the bass can’t enliven.
“The Dream” returns EP (Deluxe Version) to its original musical configuration, with De Lucia working alone. While the computerized drums prove to be more of a distraction this time, relentlessly smashing when a human participant might have varied the force and timbre, De Lucia is back on his game. His guitar is at first content, even thoughtful, then bursting with emotion. When De Lucia adds an electric piano, he attacks the solo space with an angry, serrated edge, giving “The Dream” a very involving, episodic feel. He cheats a little at the end, simply fading the song out rather than giving it a proper conclusion, but nevertheless ultimately recaptures the frisky abandon of the project’s initial cut.
“96 Heart Beats Per Minute,” this spicy little groove, is approached with a more conventional R&B attitude. Still, what it doesn’t possess in terms of original impetus there, it more than makes up for with De Lucia’s performance on the guitar. He is articulate, but never overthought; emotional, but never showy.
“Caution” returns the album to the freer, prog rock-inspired intricacies of “The Far Groove,” with similarly impressive results. This time, De Lucia is joined by keyboardist Michael Ghegan, who provides a stirring counterpoint. As the guitarist’s sweeps through the song with these almost impossibly ingenious, non-stop scrabbles, Ghegan slides underneath for a series of contemplative, open-ended retorts—giving the track tension and release.
“The Theme,” rather than restating anything about De Lucia’s pyrotechnic abandon on his main instrument, opens with another musical surprise: A winking keyboard figure that would have fit in on any AM radio bubblegum pop song, then an open-ended improvisation—again on the keyboard. It’s not until almost half way through “The Theme” that De Lucia finally adds his guitar to this one-man show—and the song suddenly takes flight. Playing at first with a measured assuredness, De Lucia then unfurls a dizzying splash of backwards looped licks.
EP (Deluxe Version) closes with one final jolt, as De Lucia is joined for the first time by a vocalist on “5 Miles to Empty.” Katy Hylton sings with the inviting warmth of Corrine Bailey Rae, opening the door for new revelations into De Lucia’s playing. Here, he adds rows of notes to their co-written track, each as accurate as they are powerful, supporting Hylton’s sweetly conveyed utterances without ever distracting. De Lucia’s final solo, marked by this rockabilly looseness, only underscores the as-yet-undiscovered depth of his talents.
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)
Review by Nick DeRiso