Aristoctrats, The - Duck

Kev Rowland

Given that guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Bryan Beller, and drummer Marco Minnemann came together due to an accidental formation at a NAMM show it is amazing that not only have they stayed together but have released so many albums. I thoroughly enjoyed their 2011 debut, while their 2019 album ‘You Know What?’ is simply wonderful, and now they are back with their sixth studio album, following on from their 2022 foray with Primuz Chamber Orchestra. First and foremost, each player is an incredible musician, and while Guthrie often provides multiple layers of guitars, Bryan and Marco stick to a single track and the three of them then produce some of the most complex, inspired and downright enjoyable instrumental progressive rock music one is ever likely to hear.

Govan is allowed to show off his rock skills, often laying down very heavy material, while Bryan and Marco come to the music from a jazz style, and they meet somewhere in the middle. If that is not enough there is a sense of humour through what they do, and one can just hear the smiles on the faces of all those involved. One might think that when music is as complex as this that it will not be commercial, but it is incredible in the way they combine to produce music which is thoroughly enjoyable the first time it is played. Apparently the concept behind this is about a duck coming to the USA for the first time, and the cover shows a duck looking very much out of water. However, I must confess to thinking that the guys have missed a trick, as one of the greatest cult movies of all time also features a duck ending up in a strange place, and while there is room for “Sittin' with a Duck on a Bay” and “Duck’s End” surely we could have had a spoof on the theme of “Howard The Duck”?

Even with that omission, there is no doubt that here is a stunning album where three guys are having fun together in a manner which is structured yet playful, easy to listen but the absolute devil to play, demonstrating it is perfectly fine to have fun while producing some of the most serious music around. Heavy Prog which contains elements of JRF and Canterbury with Eclectic also getting a look in, this is a standout release from the first note to the very last. ProgArchives currently this at #3 in the best albums of 2024, the #1 instrumental release, and rightly so.  

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