Contemporary licks stand alongside Baroque harpsichord runs, and jazzy passages in French/Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan’s latest release Altiplanos
There are some particularly stunning passages of fretwork, in La Dame de Clevedon, for example, and Bensusan displays a truly impressive range and depth in his playing, covering a range of world styles, and dipping gracefully into folk, jazz and heavy rock.
Most of the songs flow with a confident air and at times he comes across like Tim Reynolds (for those not in the know, one of the most sought after American session guitarists, often to been seen playing with the Dave Matthews Band), as in Sur un Fil as well as stylings that bring to mind Bensusan’s friend, and arch geekrock-widdler, Steve Vai.
Most of the album is purely from a solo guitar, but whereas the award winning Intuite was a purely instrumental album, Bensusan decided to include some numbers with vocals on for Altiplanos. I was not overly taken by the vocal tracks, Bensusan’s voice is not as strong as his playing, and the vocal melodies sometimes appeared hackneyed and too plaintiff.
On the whole Altiplanos is just a little too smooth for me, a little too easy on the ear, and blends too far into the background, there is not enough bite in the playing to grab the listener. And bite is what gave him the edge on the previous album Intuite, for which he was awarded the AFIM best acoustic instrumental album. Intuite really shows his flair, with energy that is lacking in comparison in this album, and on which the compositions soar higher.
And finally, you can find notation and tablature for the songs on the album on Bensusan’s website www.pierrebensusan.com