Oliver Arditi’s Favorite Albums of 2012 (online version here)
Guitar Player Magazine Online (online version here)
Oliver Arditi Album Roundup (online version here)
headphonaught (online version here)
Access All Areas Music (online version here)
Mr. Atavist (online version here)
guitar-muse.com (online version here)
synthtopia (online version here)
moinsounds.com (online version here)
Sea Of Tranquility (online version here)
Oliver Arditi: Favorite Albums of 2012
Do The Math
Restless, unconventional synthesiser manipulations intertwined with enormously juicy guitar playing make for an album that is simultaneously experimental and accessible. A serious piece of art that is infused with humour and play, and a tremendous display of chops in all areas of its production. More obviously concerned with texture and atmosphere than with melody or narrative, most of the tunes groove pretty hard as well. Do The Math is enormously engaging, very intelligent, and an outstanding piece of musicianship.
Guitar Player Magazine Online, December 3, 2012, by Barry Cleveland
The Hard Bargain
Six-string iconoclast LaFosse goes anti-rogue on this comparatively straightforward “power trio” instrumental rock album, though, of course, he can’t entirely screen out all of the quirky chord shifts, squiggly melodies, and surprising timbres that make his uncommon music and playing so intriguing.
Oliver Arditi @ www.oliverarditti.com, September 13, 2012
The Hard Bargain
Groove, texture and melody are Andre LaFosse’s main interests, if this record is anything to go by. His sound is somewhere between hard-rock and fusion, reminiscent in places of Zappa’s instrumental rock, but the product of a different set of faithfully indulged idiosyncrasies. The melodies are delivered by means of a saturated, keening lead guitar sound, that makes you want to know what it has to say, but despite the music’s central focus on melody, and LaFosse’s obviously formidable technical capacities, they avoid intricacy. In fact, for a ‘guitar record’ The Hard Bargain is remarkably short on harder-faster finger-wiggling; instead there is a rigorous focus on phrasing and emotional impact. I wouldn’t say it was ‘ego-free’ music, because it still bestrides its sonic landscape like an Earth-conquering colossus, it is still possessed of a sense of mastery, but that epic character is extremely compelling, achieving some of the characteristic atmosphere of doom metal through a rather more subtle approach to its musical materials. The feeling of the record is not exactly sepulchral, but it’s hardly frivolous either: it evinces an intensity achieved without recourse to the obvious shortcuts of excessive speed, volume or abrasion. There is a tense, teasing refusal of the tonic for extended sections of relatively simple repeated figures, emblematic of the creativity and intelligence behind a superb record that evokes a set of surgically precise emotional specificities.
Do The Math
Groove, texture and melody are Andre LaFosse’s main interests, if this record is anything to go by. It could hardly be more different from The Hard Bargain, however, which presumably is why these are two albums, rather than one long one. On the release reviewed above, LaFosse’s guitar sits mainly in a context of traditional rock orchestration; on this one it doesn’t really sit at all, but moonlights as a contortionist stunt driver. And it does this in the midst of synth based beats and grooves that rarely pay any obvious homage to the established conventions of how to do texture with electronics. It’s as though he was (gasp) making it up! There’s a great diversity of sounds and timbres on Do The Math, in terms of both synthesis and guitar (the latter including some very pleasing acoustic slide). The pieces are not structured according to conventional rules of acoustic rock, engaging in neither improvisational flights of fancy, nor the aping of the redundant strophic patterns of vocal songs; instead LaFosse seems to be driven largely by an imperative to explore textures in an engaging and sequential way, his compositions progressing according to a logic of sonic transformation. This is a more overtly avant-garde record than The Hard Bargain, but it’s not really any less accessible; it certainly has more obvious humour about it, but it is no less serious, no less creative, and no less superb.
headphonaught, August 2012, by Thomas Mathie
I recently featured a musician on here who I have really taken to in the last couple of weeks after our initial email exchange … this musician is Andre LaFosse and his form of guitar-orientated super-bluesy deep-down swampy hyper-boogie is currently my ’go to’ music for when I need respite from all the ambient music I consume… his music is the ginger that goes with my sushi rolls… it cleanses my palate, changes my focus, and reawakens my senses… allowing me to approach my most favoured musical “rolls” with a fresh perspective.
The music on “the hard bargain” and “do the math”, whilst different, comes to me like a breath of fresh air… and reminds me of how much I love a well executed bluesy guitar riff. It scratches the itch I have for this kind of expression very, very well.
My initial thought was to compare LaFosse to the mighty Tommy Guerrero… their approach being similar whilst their execution being different. Their approach being to lay down some seriously awesome guitar lines over some a percussive but not overly intrusive rhythm section. Even though LaFosse is like an ADHD Guerrero after his fifth double espresso… their approach is similar. That said… I think this is more valid for “the hard bargain” which is LaFosse’s straight-up “melt your face off” guitar-orientated release… a release that sounds great on headphones because the hands are left free to play along with your favourite air guitar. It also sounds amazing on the hi-fi and also in the car… if ever an album deserved to be on vinyl it would be this one.
The instrumental tracks presented of “the hard bargain” are just wonderful. The sounds aren’t necessarily new… Joe Satriani has made a career out of them when he isn’t suing Coldplay… but the way LaFosse plays is… with a sensuousness… a lover’s caress… that brings life and excitement back to the fore. This is music to get lost in… music to help you forget your troubles… music that is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. I can’t recommend it highly enough… and wouldn’t be surprised if his songs appeared as incidental music on Top Gear.
Similarly with the more progressively experimental future-blues that LaFosse presents in “do the math”. Yes… the swampy hyper-boogie is there… but so are some wonderfully electric sounds that back the guitar and provide an interesting juxtaposition that warrants my description of future-blues. This is something new for me and I love it.
The beeps and gurgles really add something extra special to the guitar riffs… such as in “hard sci-fi” which stands out in this regard.
Other tracks place the electronics in a comparable footing… reminding me of the awesome Tomoyasu Hotei who’s album “electric samurai” features the track “battle without honor or humanity”… a track very familiar with “kill bill” fans. Some of the music on LaFosse’s album reminds me of tracks on “electric samurai”.
Put it this way… if LaFosse submitted this album to my netlabel I would rush it out. This music needs to be heard and I am proud to do my bit to promote it.
I have embedded players for both albums and would highly recommend you pick them up… they are currently free downloads and well worth the time taken to download them.
Access All Areas Music, July 2012, by Matthew Fellows.
The Hard Bargain
In the wake of the perennial burgeoning (though unfairly overlooked) wave of ever-widening mitotic sub-divisions in the indie rock genre vying for validation, it seems all too easy for artists to wear their self-supposed sanctimoniousness as a badge of honour. Not Andre LaFosse, it seems. His collection of ‘mid-life crisis rock’ in The Hard Bargain are, for an entirely instrumental album, refreshingly accessible. From the outset, LaFosse eschews the esoteric pomp of his avant-garde roots, with the punchy, pounding riff of Subway Psychology rolling right on in and unashamedly claiming your attention, daring you not to nod your head or tap your feet. Dragged through the crushingly apocalyptic grunge of Twelve Sided Dice into the ethereal mist of the titular track, the listener is often coaxed into zoning out in the crossfire, but resistance will bear rich rewards in subtle sprawling wave layers and viciously evolving form, serving as a championing indictment to the album’s extended track lengths. Shades of the avant-garde are to be found in the haunting dejection of Zen Gun, rising from beautifully smooth melody lines to overwhelming, head-crushing static dissonance. The melodic quiver of Remediation carries you through to the closing swan-song quagmire of Balancing Act, which, while impressive and beautifully crafted expansive pieces, do leave you wondering quite where the punch of the album has gone off to.
Though it never quite recaptures the energetic burst of the first track, the album serves as LaFosse’s exploration of the limitless breadth of his guitar’s buzzy growl and heavenly evocative choral wail. Not a full-circle affair, the album traverses vast music ground with the simple guitar-bass-drums format, leaving you in a very different state to that which it found you in, for better or worse.
(★★★ out of 5)
Do The Math
If The Hard Bargain is that quirky uncle whose maladroitness only serves to endear you to his oozing vintage cool, then Do The Math is the full-blown lunatic, annexed and extradited from your family gatherings. A work bursting at the seams with oftentimes terrifying dynamism, the album is quite the far cry from LaFosse’s other 2012 offering (Though if you’re looking for more of his sickly-sweet guitar lines, those are still to be found pervading the ultramodern synthesizer maelstroms).
The album opens in stellar fashion; the first track Retcon pulsing slowly into life with beautifully rudimentary hum, blended with taut yet moving guitar-fire leitmotifs. LaFosse’s skill and musicality are showcased here wonderfully; his physical and theoretical control of melody throughout the track as it escalates to increasing levels of synthetic angelic buzz set the underlying tone of the album well. Semblance of Terra Firma is henceforth annihilated however, with the heralding of Hard Sci Fi; the subtle and restrained control of the previous track is obliterated in a distorted sonic onslaught, as fuzzed out guitars trade blows with a chorus of wayward 56k modems. The concurrent tracks follow suit, crafting sonic ravines of wonderfully chaotic synth with LaFosse’s signature guitar lines, before affording you a return to a less frantic, albeit increasingly overwhelming, experiment in subtlety in The Process of Elimination. The extraterrestrial space war of Slow Motion Saturation follows, leading the way into some of the most dissonant and experimental work in Strange Games. The closing tracks of the album present brilliantly fuzzed out, digitized guitar alongside discordant industrial rhythms in Basilisk, before the epic curtain fall of the ever-mutating formal masterclass medley in Siren Song/Yawning Abyss/The Turing Test, bringing the album to a fantastic all-encompassing conclusion in a final mitigating blowout, determined to knock loose any residual scepticism from lingering non-believers.
While from time to time the album does get carried away, it is always volatile with buzzing energy, never becoming inertial even in its calmer moments. It is difficult to ignore the fact that the sheer synthetic bedlam of the work can oftentimes become overwhelming, as the fusion of melody and electronic pulse is compromised in favour of experimentation. Yet, across the 10 tracks, there is enough of a firm grounding with LaFosse sticking to his guns; the best moments of the album reveal themselves in the seamless synergy of the artificial and the organic. LaFosse’s masterful use of guitar in various distorted and unmolested guises throughout the work, in tandem with, rather than in conflict with, pounding robotic fury form a thoroughly enjoyable, solid offering with more than enough room for the odd alienating experimental detour for flavour.
(★★★★ out of 5)
Mr. Atavist music blog, July 2012
‘Chronic deconstructionist tortured (solo) artist’ Andre LaFosse offers up two new releases that are both so dynamically different and executed that they can’t be deconstructed by anyone but LaFosse. Saying that they are merely two sides to the same coin would do a disservice to both, as well as to LaFosse’s ‘turntablist guitar’ and its apparent limitless amount of sides. Taken together, Do The Math and The Hard Bargain are a formidable pair, linked and threaded together by LaFosse’s incredible playing, assembly and the ever intangible thought process. Separately, they both have a character and mission as distinct and unique as their creator’s fingers.
The ‘mid-life crisis rock album’
The Hard Bargain, in a multi-sided nutshell, is an instrumental guitar rock album. And one hell of one. One that should appeal to guitar loving dorks who can’t play themselves, but know what floats their boat, to self-professed eggheads who know their way around the neck better than they do the outside world. The legs it stands on may be straight-ahead rock, but the head is unquestionably in more than one place. At the same time. It’s got crunch, riffs, swagger and it flat-out rocks, but LaFosse takes some of the inherent limitations and turns them on their ears, and ours. The Hard Bargain, for all its modern eclecticism and production, recalls a heyday of ‘guitar heroes’ who pushed that format to their own edges without sounding like a stale call to arms to glorify the past. LaFosse himself has said that The Hard Bargain is “the single most unfashionable music I’ve ever released.” Well, hats off to the ugly ones then because this is so unfashionable it’s beautiful. There’s plenty of incredible one-wo/man army outfits and artifacts out there that stand as great pieces of work, monuments to an artist doing the best they can with the resources they have. That’s true here to a point, but the real crux here is a craftsman who understands and commands his resources impeccably, then limits the language they’re used to speaking in. By doing so, LaFosse has given a new tongue to his dreaded instrumental guitar rock album without once talking down to it, or the end-user. And it has plenty to say, from the spitting and spastic opener Subway Psychology through the hot gravel of Twelve Sided Dice…Zen Guns sounds both painful and pensive in its coiling and uncoiling, while Remediation has an almost faint whiff of desert rock smoke that slow-burns into an escalating dispersal…. The exact way you want to take the title is as open to interpretation as the music inside, but there’s nothing cheap or one-sided about it. Neither is the agreement, bargain if you will, LaFosse has admittedly made with himself, and the listener.
Restless and ratcheting, Do The Math uses its sonic squall to offer up the apparent cutting-edge already in decay…or meltdown. A genre-hopping and bending exercise, Do The Math takes all the input, and doesn’t just reprocess, it rethinks. Sounding both compressed and squeezed to the breaking point in some places, the potent release LaFosse wrings out of his lab equipment is equal parts relief and revenge. LaFosse pushes the rigor and precision of technology from one end to the other giving Do The Math a far more untethered and wobbly free-ranging insistence than you might expect; the pulse becomes impulsive. The meltdown and decay have morphed into birth pangs. In many ways, the hard bargain made on Do The Math comes across as far more painful, but just as enriching. It presents a ‘technology’ full of innovation, though free of the burden of being the newest, the fastest; that’s not the point. The point seems to be analogous to one (of many) being made on The Hard Bargain: taking the limits, crippling to slight, and making a statement that doesn’t rest in one time or place even though it’s inclusiveness and scope virtually takes them all in. Unsurprisingly, Do The Math digests aspects of The Hard Bargain just as The Hard Bargain takes its own simple math and reverse engineers a complex and enthralling equation. Regardless of which came first, the math or the bargain, both present a stunning sum agreeable to all sides.
guitar-muse.com, June 2012, by Scott Collins.
I remember listening to a work of Wagner’s in college and being really torn because while the composition was undeniably great, Wagner was such a repellant person in every respect that I had ambivalent feelings about listening to his music. When expressing this struggle in a music history class, the teacher told me, “Sometimes you should listen to the message and not the messenger.”
This advice came into play recently as I was listening to the two new releases by Andre LaFosse. On Andre’s web page (altruistmusic.com) – he describes the records as the following,
“The Hard Bargain – the mid-life crisis rock album….This is me finally giving myself permission to make an instrumental rock guitar album, after spending most of the last 15 years doing everything in my power to avoid it.”
“Do The Math – the mad scientist modular synth krautrock hauntology album.”
If I’m to trust the message, in my opinion The Hard Bargain is his imaginary soundtrack release and Do The Math is the instrumental rock guitar album. Regardless of what you call them, both are records you shown own.
Andre has said that he’s released the two records because his interests took him in those directions, but I see a continuity of approach between the releases that in one respect, encourages treating the two works as a whole.
In addition to how an audience interacts with it, every record is a documentary in the sense that it is an experience frozen in time that demonstrates the emotional and artistic geography someone was at when they created the work.
Previously, Andre had made a series of recordings based around his Gibson/Oberheim Echoplex that took an evolutionary journey from ambient textures, to turntable guitar to glitch guitar. The records were revolutionary in the sense of the guitar seen as an analog controller, as a machine utilized as a means of expression, and looping turned on its head from an ambient sound-scape to a rhythmic and sonic tool of transformation.
It’s been a while since Andre’s Normalized CD, and these releases mark a turn away from reliance on a hardware dependent release and, in a non-intuitive way, a return to his roots.
I think it’s important to set the tone for listener expectation. While calling The Hard Bargain an “Instrumental rock-guitar record” is completely accurate from a guitar-bass-drums arrangement standpoint, it sells the record short.
This is not an “instrumental rock guitar” release of song sketches as vehicles for lengthy guitar-solos. This record ignores traditional guitar solos and focuses instead on a relentless pursuit and re-contextualization of melody (for an example of the effectiveness of this, consider John Murphy’s In a heartbeat from 28 Days Later).
On previous releases, Andre got a lot of attention for the loops he created and manipulated, but his Jeff Beck by way of Bengali phrasing has always been dynamite and on these releases it’s front and center and it hits you square in the face on Subway Psychology (the first track of The Hard Bargain). When I heard the opening riff of this track, the first thing I imagined was watching a cool re-launch of a 1960’s BBC spy show with this track is the opening theme. Listening to the rest of the tracks in a similar way, it’s easy to hear the continuity of theme between the pieces, even as the sonic landscape morphs and imagine this as a soundtrack release.
Compositionally, the tracks are all developed in very interesting (and even subversive) ways. The thought and detail that Andre’s put into each track (and each tone – this record is an encyclopedia of 21st century guitar tones) is stunning and catching things like his subtle use of odd time signatures and interesting tonal devices demand concentration from the listener. This doesn’t work as background music the way that, say Joe Satriani’s Summer Song can, and in that light, the record might make the most listening sense as a series of singles that can be savored.
Moby made a fortune licensing every track off of Play and Andre could definitely do that with The Hard Bargain if he chose to do so, as it’s a much better release. There isn’t a bad track on the release, but standout tracks for me are Subway Psychology, the hard rock/country twang mash-up of 12-sided dice, Zen Gun (with it’s landscape compositional approach) and the meditative harp-guitar meets Silvertone Balancing Act.
It’s interesting to me that Andre thinks of this as an electronic release, because in many ways, this is the most straightforward guitar recording he’s released. While the record is certainly anchored by the various synthesized textures and rhythms, the guitar is still the star of this show. Andre’s guitar tones push the envelope even further than The Hard Bargain, and some of them are barely identifiable as guitar.
While Andre didn’t list industrial music as a specific influence – I see it all over this record in terms of approach and aesthetic. There’s an undeniable gleeful mad scientist vibe through out the entire recording and that giddiness rubs off on the listener. Even though there’s nothing hard rock in the arrangements on Do The Math, you will most likely find yourself turning up the volume and banging your head along with the music here.
All the tracks sound great but Slow Motion Saturation is a particular standout with it’s 21st century Hindustani heart worn its sleeve. The traditional tambura and tabla have been replaced with a percolating synthesized figure and the Indian influence hinted at in so much of Andre’s phrasing is displayed in a gorgeous melody that I could easily imagine on an Anoushka Shankar track. Andre has taken a traditional approach, turned it on its head to make it his own and ultimately honored those traditions by taking them somewhere new.
In terms of releases, Do The Math is the more instantly accessible of the two releases, and The Hard Bargain is more of the slow burner that will reward you with repeated exposure. It’s fortuitous that he’s released them at the same time, because they’re both recordings you should own.
synthtopia, Augist 2012
Can Krautrock come from Iowa?
Iowa native Andre LaFosse has a new album, Do The Math, that he describes as “the mad scientist modular synthesizer hauntology krautrock album.”
LaFosse says that Do The Math explores the possibilities of ‘unstable and archaic musical machinery’:
At a time when synthesizers and electric guitars are the most common instruments to be found in popular music, “Do The Math” is filled with unpredictable sounds that shudder and shriek, pumping out streams of noises like patterns of corrupted data.
The album’s reference points bounce between psychedelia, hip-hop, mid-20th Century classical and audio workshop experimentation, industrial, and krautrock, without ever resting comfortably in any particular stylistic slot.
The psychedelic synth + guitar electronic jam band vibe that LaFosse mines works for us.
Give the opener, Retcon, an epic mix of glitch synths, distorted guitars and Zeppelin drums a listen and let us know if it works for you, too.
moinsounds, July 2012, by Rainer Straschill
I first became aware of guitarist Andre LaFosse via the newsgroup Looper’s Delight (of which Andre, as I understand it, was a member once). In these circles, Andre was seen as an “elder statesman” for an approach of using (realtime) loops which differs a lot from what most people think of when the hear about loops: using his guitar, guitar amplifier and the Echoplex Digital Pro looper, Andre would really go u to the limits of this very powerful box – and sometimes beyond; he’s mentioned for exploiting a bug later turned into a feature in the manual!
His magnum opus in that realm was his album “Normalized” (2003). Since then, there has been a free official bootleg of his performance at The Monkey, New York (which, in comparison to “Normalized”, still uses the same “turntable guitar” approach, but more intersped with catchy melodies), and since then…nothing.
Now this has changed! Recently, Andre announced via his twitter profile not one, but two new albums.
Both of these albums are available on bandcamp as “pay-what-you-want-including-free”; I’ll review both of them in one go.
Both of them have in common LaFosse as the only musician and the guitar as the center of attention. Apart from, that, there’s not that much similarity at first sight: while “Hard Bargain” is described as an instrumental rock trio album, “Do the Math” uses (modular, and also normal) synthesizers alongside with the guitar.
What I like…
Now rock trio and modular synths are two very different contexts – yet, if you listen to both albums side-by-side, it becomes immediately clear that it’s by the same musician, and if you’re familiar especially with The Monkey bootleg, also that this musician is LaFosse. Although LaFosse is most famous for things which most people would consider rather odd, he has an uncanny talent for really catchy melodies. Presented together with his very recognizable guitar style, this is immediate recognition value. And those melodies are not only Lafosse-esque, they also work well, and that in any context.
Now LaFosse’s guitar playing has never been an issue of critizism, but still I’d like to mention it again: he has a very nice (and signature) way of sounding on the guitar. Using the guitar/amp combo as something which is more than the sum of its parts, this is an important ingredient on any album which has guitar, but especially so for an instrumental rock album.
Now great guitar playing and catchy melodies do not an album make (much less two of them), but LaFosse also has the talent to craft both of these ingredients into songs. It seems he has made sure that the title tracks are also the best tracks (because, at least for me, those are the highlights of each album). This is especially impressive as “Hard Bargain” is a track which clocks in at a mighty eleven minutes, yet neither achieves this playing time by endless improvised solos (LaFosse is eager to point out that this albums contains no guitar solo in the traditional sense) nor by faking one long track by making it up of several independent sections: Hard Bargain (the track) is a hard-rocking track which just runs a little longer, but doesn’t feel too long for any of its seconds.
As tracks go, my personal number twos on each album are the slow tracks: The Process of Elimination and Balancing Act (the latter described by LaFosse as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done”). We so often find that hard-rocking bands really fail on the slow tracks, which end up being really cheesy soft pop songs with distortion – not so here.
What I don’t like…
Recognition value comes with doing things which are similar – and to my ears, some things appear to be too similar, especially on “Do the Math”: the number of tracks which use some kind of sample-and-hold filter sound is just too big. Furthermore, the “synth” album isn’t that different to the “rock trio” one – some tunes could easily go onto the other album if you replaced a synth with a second guitar.
Now both albums are LaFosse-only (or so it seems looking at the credits). And that means that the parts which are not guitar are not LaFosse at his strongest, nor are the recordings that of a band playing. This especially surfaces on “Hard Bargain” (the album) – now this would really have benefited from an actual trio of “Lafosse plus” letting it fly. While for “Do the Math” it’s acceptable that everything ‘cept the guitar is programmed (it’s synths, after all), the choices in drum sounds do not fit to my ears: essentially, it’s the same drum sound as on the other album.
Finally, it’s audio engineering I’ll go on about: ever since his first “Disruption Theory” album, LaFosse has slowly been rising on the loudness-war-threaded RMS scale: while his first album was still in a very nice “below-K-14″ realm, the level has been set higher from release to release, now reaching a most ugly -7dB during some parts of these new albums. There is really no excuse for this. Turn the damn compressor and limiter down!
As you can see, I’m a little torn here: on one side, we have great melodies, clever compositions, outstanding guitar playing and top-level slow songs. On the other hand, it’s a little repetitive, “Hard Bargain” sounds too “canned” for a proper rock album, and it’s damn too fucking loud!
Fortunately, with that bandcamp offer, there’s not a big decision for you to make, and if there is one, I’ll make it for you:
Head over there and check out both albums! If you’re in a hurry, listen to both albums’ title tracks and the slow tunes (The Process of Elimination, Balancing Act) first.
Sea Of Tranquility, October 2012 2012, by Brice Ezell
The last track on The Hard Bargain, one of two LPs released by Andre LaFosse this year, is called “Balancing Act.” This is important to point out because it’s the most apt description of his two-album project, the Satriani-heavy guitar jam The Hard Bargain and the electronics-heavy Do the Math. The former he calls his “mid-life crisis rock album,” the latter, in true prog fashion, his “mad scientist modular synth hauntology krautrock album.” In releasing both records on the same day, LaFosse gives listeners what seems to be quite a challenge in juggling two sets of songs that come from different angles.
In the end, however, both end up focusing on the guitar, albeit in different ways. The Hard Bargain draws from instrumental guitar maestros like Joe Satriani or even Steve Vai at his most accessible, with a heavy blues inflection throughout (see opener “Subway Psychology”). Even the prominent electronic washes of Do the Math don’t escape the Satriani vibe; it plays out like a less techno version of Satch’s Engines of Creation LP. LaFosse’s guitar playing is quite good; without ever going into overly flashy soloing he manages to craft songs that emphasize virtuosity that doesn’t have to come at the expense of melody.
Unfortunately, one significant problem plagues both of these records, and it’s the same thing that’s made Satriani’s late-career work so banal: something I like to call The Backing Track Syndrome. As good as LaFosse’s playing is here, the other instruments backing his guitar are often one-dimensionally played and produced, giving the feeling of a guy jamming to pre-recorded music rather than someone writing unique songs with quality all-around instrumentation. This means a lot of the otherwise cool electronic textures on Do the Math, especially on the eleven-minute closer “Siren Song/Yawning Abyss/The Turing Test,” end up going to waste.
For aspiring guitar virtuosos looking for someone to emulate, Andre LaFosse is a good choice, and there’s plenty of material on both these records to find inspiration in. But as standalone albums, they lack the punch necessary to make really great guitar rock.