With Physics of Light
drummer Martin Maheux illustrates how an otherwise fine album of progressive jazz fusion can be marred by a poor production concept. Recorded with excessive amounts of reverb, and an annoying gate on the drums, it sounds as if the recording was made in a huge cavern and is nearly unlistenable.
And it’s a shame. Maheux is not only a fine drummer, but an interesting composer as well. Had the recording been drier, more natural, this would have been a recording that merited repeat listens. Maheux surrounds himself with a group of solid players, including Jean-Francois Gagnon on trumpet, Rachel Duperreault on violin, Frédéric Alarie on upright bass and, Guy Dubuc on keyboards.
Alarie is especially impressive. His solo on the mournful "Light Waves" is haunting, with a dark and rich tone. Dubuc also shows a light touch and keen improvisational sense; but again the excesses of the production mar the effectiveness of the composition and the playing.
While the EP-length recording (clocking in at a short thirty-four minutes) owes much to progressive rock and jazz fusion, there is a strong jazz sensibility throughout. Take the lightly swinging "Polychromatic"; if all the excessive post-production were removed from this piece it would be a fine example of contemporary jazz. But marred by such a dense and unnatural reverb, it loses all its finesse.
In fact, that’s the problem with the entire recording. The production obscures all the nuances that might be there. The sound is so oppressive that there is little room for dynamics and subtlety. When pieces end, the effects end so abruptly that the result is jarring, disturbing.
Use of studio effects to enhance a recording is all well and good. Use of programming, sampling and other devices is also perfectly acceptable; but the end result must be something that succeeds in creating an ambiance that pulls in the listener. Physics of Light
repels the listener by making everything blend into a kind of mushy sameness.
Maheux says, in the press release, that he wishes to be considered a good composer as well as a good drummer. While both characteristics make it through the muddle of sound that is Physics of Light
, it is unfortunate that it is simply not worth the effort. Hopefully the promise that Maheux shows with Physics of Light
will be more adequately realized with a less obscure production concept; he is clearly talented, but would be better served if he would hand over the production reigns to someone with a more clear perspective.