Higher Octave Music
Longtime British favorites Acoustic Alchemy wrap its core sound of gentle, fleet guitar work in a sometimes muting blanket of synthesizer on its latest release, Aart (Higher Octave 11103; 62:18). The lyrical guitar chops of Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale are still the main attraction, but producer Richard Bull sometimes makes them work for it, by over-glossing tunes like the breezy, wide-open "Senjo Wine." These tendencies make for noticeable contrasts with tight, attention-grabbing tunes like the album's gospel-whipped title track, with its stately guitar strut and piano/organ combo, and "Tuff Puzzle," a slashing pastiche of flamenco-guitar theatrics and squishy funk textures. In some places, the distractions are light if you stick with it long enough, like the cheesy keyboard effects taming the otherwise fiery, fleet Latin "Viva Che" or the souped-up melodrama introducing "The Velvet Swing," which thankfully gives way to quieter guitar eloquence.