Although music, just like any creative force, only maintains its potency by evolving, moving forward and exploring what is over the next hill, metaphorically speaking, there is also a lot to be said for some musical styles having pretty much found their perfect form. Blues and, to some extent, rock, are definitely styles that fall into those categories and Justin Pachen’s Lockdown Vocal Expressions sits comfortably between both these broad and embracing genres.
There are certainly nods to what has gone before, opening salvo Region n Religion feeling something like the sort of song that both Rainbow and Whitesnake explored in those first post-Deep Purple albums, before the spandex, poodle perms and the guitar histrionics took over.
The Place I Dreamt About has a more buoyant, carnival and island vibe woven through it, the breezy brass carrying it off to less rock and roll realms, Journey To Nowhere has a slick, West Coast feel, a lightness of touch dexterously played and almost falling into the Steely Dan’s sonic spectrum and Leave Me Alone is an understated and emotive ballad, showing the full range of Pachen’s skills as a real contrast to the song that opened the album up and Conventus pushes even that more pop vibe into anthemic waters.
You Are The Healer rocks us out of the album as confidently as we came in, driven along by spiralling guitars and pulsing bass lines, engaging vocal passages and infectious grooves and Aaru Nee (Who are You?) is a galloping song built of strident drums and laced with incendiary guitar licks.
Lockdown Vocal Expressions is a celebration of the guitar and, although centred on a fairly rock sound manages to push even those broad boundaries into blues and soul, jazz and even pop vibes, often creating a perfect balance of all of them.
As I said at the start, music has to move forward, and this is certainly no plagiarism or plundering of the past. Rather it takes established forms, sounds and styles and finds new ways of presenting them to today’s listener, more a torchbearer of an album than one playing the nostalgia card. The concepts may be familiar but the format is certainly fresh.