The album Happenstance by Martin Webb landed on my desk, basically as just the disc and an accompanying CD holding the info I desperately needed, for Mr. Webb's music and history was quite unknown to me. So, I found out Martin Webb is a professional multi-instrumentalist who was born in the UK, raised in Canada and currently is living in Texas. With this background you might expect a blend of brit-pop and Texas blues on Happenstance, but luckily Martin found other influences, which helped him to create his own music. Happenstance is Martin Webb's third release and has The Journey (2005) and Anjar (2010) as predecessors.
The Gathering Storm does what the title implicates; a haunting composition, filled with strong guitar riffs, brilliant percussion parts, that form the base of the tune and a roaring bass, that indicates the next thunderclap is not far away. The keyboard/guitars solo part is great, although I am not really fond of the typical keyboard sound. I guess the brilliant bass makes up for this minor complaint. The following Caravan luckily does not refer to the band with the same name. This Caravan takes you to more oriental spheres, with fine melodies and cool stretched notes. Progressive rock, embedded with fusion parts, topped with world elements and nice (programmed) percussion parts. Further up the road to the east we pass a Snake Charmer, here personalised as a smooth song; acoustic guitars and fine bass lines form the base of a song that immediately reflects to the location the song is situated. The guitar melodies and solos have a wonderful flow and sound amazing. The title-tack Happenstance brings you to the music of King Crimson, including the strong bass parts of Tony Levin and the cool rhythms of Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew's soloing, with a more jazz rock guitar added to it, just to create a different touch to the music. The River Of Life brings you into Indian spheres. The basic melody has the well-known sound of a top forty song from a few years ago and creates the perfect atmosphere for the perfect percussive parts. What absolutely stands out is the bass, during this song, nicely placed forward in the mix and perhaps the main instrument of the song. Note that during the whole album the bass guitar has a prominent place in the mix, something that totally works for this album. A nice electric, spacey guitar solo ices this wonderful composition. I guess the song title Lost In Shrangi La, can be referred to as to the fictive city from James Hilton's book as well as to the Chinese district, formerly known as Zhongdian. Either way the song has a strong Chinese sounding base, played on percussion and guitar. Halfway the fusion element takes over, resulting in one of the most beautiful solos of the album. The nicely accompanying bass reminds me of the Norwegian bass player Audun Erlien, who worked with trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer and guitarist Eivind Aarset. The album's finale; Kel Adur is a soundscape style composition, with a bass in the lead. The song takes stretched synthesizer themes to create an ambient atmosphere, that flows in a short guitar solo towards the end. Personally I think this is the least interesting composition of the album.
Happenstance turns out to be a very interesting album; a fine combination of progressive rock in the vein of King Crimson and strong guitar fusion. An instrumental album that absolutely highlights the bass guitar. I am not even bothered by the (I guess) programmed percussion. If so, it's done very well! Happenstance is a stunning journey to the east.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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