The first track on Solutions To This Abstract Mind is entitled “Still Not A Rockstar” and my immediate impression was Robert Gordon & Link Wray meet The Alan Parsons Project. Could you think of anything more eclectic than that combination? This is one of the most interesting, atmospheric collections of songs I’ve heard in a very long time.
The more you listen to Ottawa songwriter Jon Roy’s self-produced debut album, the more it grows on you and I found myself falling back into a sonic, progressive rock fugue, the likes of which I haven’t heard since The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd created some of their masterpieces.
Note: If you listen to the tracks on Roy’s website, they don’t sound the same as they do on the CD. The production quality is different.
Roy owns Convoy Productions, a recording studio he developed to produce his own work as well as that of other artists. Details about his production services can be found on its website.
Although he describes this work as a combination of modern acoustic feelings and raw sounds of 90s rock influences, my ears recall – and I’m showing my age here – the 1970s and bands such as The Alan Parsons Project, The Moody Blues, Yes, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer and I suspect this has a lot to do with its production style. The stylistic origins of progressive rock as described on Wikipedia include psychedelic rock, jazz fusion, blues-rock, hard rock, folk rock, world music, electronic art, classical music and free jazz and I believe that most of these origins can be found in the symphonic offerings of Solutions To This Abstract Mind. There is a texture and imagery found here that you don’t hear on current rock radio anymore and I find it incredibly refreshing.
The players on Solutions To This Abstract Mind include lead guitarist Adam Wollinger (Roy’s childhood friend with whom he credits the album’s “ambient and haunting melodies”), bassist and pianist Jeremy Stroud, drummer Mike Smirnov and Jon Roy as lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist.
Jon talks about Solutions:
“I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock, some of my favorites were Led Zeppelin, Supertramp and The Doors. As an early teen, the Seattle and grunge scene started, this is where I started playing guitar, influenced by bands from Nirvana to Alice in Chains, but one of my biggest then and still today was Pearl Jam, especially the ballads, I wanted to be able to write these more eclectic rock songs with powerful vocals and lyrical content like Eddie Vedder. In the last 5 years, a lot of my influences come from some Canadian artists like Dallas Green and Hawksley Workman, as well as bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Muse, and The White Stripes.”
“These songs have been written throughout the last 5 years, mostly as acoustic songs but about a year and half ago I started working with my childhood friend (and lead guitarist on the album) Adam Wollinger to create a sound that would fit better to make a full band album which we recorded and produced at my home, Convoy Productions studios. The album was later mixed by Bryan Ruckstuhl, a local musician and sound engineer who mixes for the indie rock station Live 88.5 in Ottawa.”
“Solutions To This Abstract Mind was conceived from the idea of a solution to getting some order to the musical mess I had in my head I guess. But still today I find myself writing bits and pieces of songs, jumping from one to the other and touching on every style of music that runs through my head. But the main themes of the album were based on personal relationships and my struggles with juggling the 9-5 and trying to break out as a musician in a very conservative government town like Ottawa.”
Step Mother Nature
Cigarettes burn faster now
south seems to be
a better direction
Been here before
can’t remember when
all they’re looking for
is another yes man
And the wind still flows from the north
making it hard to move forth
tips of fingers frozen
the path that i’ve chosen
but still i strive
to rid this constant 9 to 5.
While you can definitely hear the acoustic guitar in ballads like “Dead Man’s Guitar”, “Round The Table”, “Karma” and “Jesus Fish”, they are still very much electrically charged and range from slow to mid-tempo, punctuated by Roy’s evocative vocal performances. The Pearl Jam influence shines through in “Sober” and “Always: My Favourite Word.” It was very hard for me to choose a favourite track on Solutions because I like most of them so much and when you listen to the album in its entirety without focusing on individual songs or analyzing lyrics, it’s an incredibly nostalgic and pleasurable experience. It’s the perfect music for a rainy day or for when you just want to relax on the couch, stare at the ceiling and lose yourself in the music.