(Sci-Fidelity Records, CD)
There's a common term for the milquetoast noodling that California-based guitarist Steve Kimock traffics in, and it's called elevator music. An altogether uninspired outing, Kimock's latest release, Eudemonic, is filled with bland jazz-lite that attempts to pass itself off as respectable fusion.
Kimock, who is something of a god amongst neo-jam and groove fans, is the latest in a long line of six-string blowhards who have little to say on their instruments but take plenty of time to do so. Backed by a jam-by-numbers band, the guitarist substitutes technique for soul on one cut after another for an album's worth of aural Velveeta.
Eudemonic's self-titled opener is so patently sterile that it could set guitar-based music back by at least a decade. Like the soundtrack to a Soloflex commercial or telephone hold music, the tune pounds its faux-funk bass line into your skull with mind-numbing repetition. Nearly as dull, the subsequent track "Ice Cream" is redeemed only by a tight snare shuffle and polyrhythmic cymbal work. "Bouncer" is Kimock's attempt to hitch his wagon to a modern dance groove. Unfortunately, the tune's central motif has less bite than a geriatric without dentures. I'm not sure which is worse: Kimock's meaningless, single-note doodles or his ham-fisted stabs at riffery.
And what cornball instrumental album would be complete without a sappy ballad? Kimock's flaccid centerpiece "In Reply" is his. With its overarching sentimentality and twee melodies, it sounds like Lawrence Welk gone Windham Hill.
"Elmer's Revenge" boasts a shifting time signature that provides the album's most compelling moments. Fleshed out by a minor-key guitar figure, the tune's serpentine groove is fairly engrossing. However, I soon forgot this highlight upon hearing the excruciatingly dull "Moon People." A grievous attempt at progressive rock, the track proves that sound effects and stero panning are a poor substitute for inspiration.
It unsettles me that musicians such as Steve Kimock are receiving so much attention in the jazz-jam sceen. A pinnacle of banality, Eudemonic could be used as weapon in the War on Terror -- play this baby 'round the clock at GitMo and detainees are bound to start talking.
There is a good reason to attend Kimock's show at the Higher Ground Ballroom on Oct. 28, however: A food drive hosted by the philanthropic organization Conscious alliance with benefit Chittenden County emergency food shelves. Now that sounds worthwhile.