Steve Lang, or Slang to give him his industry title and decidedly more rock and roll name, is a musician in the truest sense of the word. Whilst many people regard themselves as perhaps a folk guitarist or an indie musician, he can be seen as someone happy to use his multi-instrumental skills to run the full gamut of musical expression. From a rock and roll core, he has pushed outwards into intricate jazz, emotive blues, honest folk and even more rootsy reggae and soul sounds…often within the same album. And with 11 albums to his name you know that there is always something new and unique to be found on each one.
Turbo Soul, as the name suggests, is an album of hard hitters balanced with some more deft and delicate vibes. It ranges from metallic onslaughts and gritty rock grooves to blues and funky treatments and ornate progressive passages, and if you wanted an album that celebrates the guitar and all its potential, then this is for you. And if your idea of rock guitar is one of bravado and bombast, of showboating for the sake of it, of ego over elegance, then think again. If I tell you that references such as Malmsteen, Vai and Metheny echo out from these superb songs, that should tell you all that you need to know.
Kicking off in fine style with the current single, Forged From Metal, we are initially greeted with some fantastic rock and roll urges and grinding riffs, but, as always, these are tempered by clever interludes which create a wonderful balance and dynamic whilst also showcasing the class and composition on display.
Road Rocket is a slinky blues-rock piece, one which meanders and slithers past the listener, often taking some unexpected paths and clever turns. It is worth noting that Slang isn’t alone on this album and here we find his own impressive guitar skills aided and abetted by Kay-Ta Matsuno, a stalwart of the jazz-fusion scene and leader of classical cross-over band Quattrosound.
He gathers even more talented friends around him on Hammerhead Shark, a rock groover tempered with soulful licks and energetic drive. Again featuring Kay-Ta Matsuno and also progressive keyboardist Junya Ota and Kaoru Sakaguchi Paschal, a bassist at home performing any and every style, from salsa to soul to hip-hop and beyond.
And although the album is the usual instrumental odyssey, there are some occasional vocals with Gurislamar vocalist, Misaki, adding some gorgeous and subtle vocals to Trouble Maker and Rock On. More voice as an instrument than any direct communication but adding some amazing textures and tones to the musical proceedings. The album rounds off with the drifting and cinematic Values and Beliefs, a track that rises from more earthy blues sounds into an otherworldly celestial rock anthem.
Slang is a master of his craft, able to take something as tried and tested as guitar-based rock instrumentals and turn the idea into music which is at turns beautiful, inspiring, robust, unexpected, filmic and full of energy and euphoria. No one does this better than Slang.