“Old School” is the 10th solo album by guitarist, musician, composer, and producer Slang. It contains 11 guitar-driven instrumental songs that find their foundations in Funk, Soul, Rock, and flourishes of Jazz Fusion. Slang handles electric guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, samples, and drum programming. He is also joined by Thai session bassist Jib Kantawong on songs: “Lost and Found” and “Sun Dogs”. Slang wrote all the songs himself, except “Skimming Stones” which was co-written with Helen Chu. If you have some affinity for axe grinders such as Joe Satriani, John 5, Paul Gilbert, Eric Johnson, and Steve Vai etc., you will definitely find Slang’s music most satisfying.
What separates Slang from most of the aforementioned players, is that his music sounds more grounded and accessible. He eschews the excessive showboating and overtly flamboyant playing antics usually associated with instrumental guitar albums. That’s not to say his playing, or the songs, are less adventurous or exiting.
On the contrary, “Old School” is filled with mesmerizing arrangements and explosive guitar work. It just that Slang avoids the eccentricities in his fretwork, and sidesteps totally overwhelming orchestrations. What remains, is a dazzling and immersive listening experience by a phenomenal musician.
Slang transforms this instrumental album into a sublime guitar extravaganza with some judicious shredding, well-constructed solos with copious amounts of layers and effects, broken up by the occasional ballad that can stir the heart while avoiding the obvious clichés.
The album opens with “Dynomite”, and Slang lays his cards on the table straight off the cuff. Start-stop rhythms flourish in-between the fiery soloing and angular riffs. It sounds really fresh, both sound-quality wise and musically; there are all sorts of brilliant, fantastic and creative ideas going on here, in the writing and the guitar playing.
Next up comes the frothy bounce of “Skimming Stones”. Even though Slang intentionally makes these songs more emotional than technical, he cannot avoid the wonderment created by the epic guitar sounds on this track. “Sad Clowns” brings a moment of slower, quieter bliss.
This is a nice melodic song that is really smooth and easy to listen to. Its back to the drawing board on “Spin The Bottle”, as Slang flips the formula back to a driving rhythm and heaving riffing. This is a highly energetic song that really exercises all aspects of Slang’s guitar playing.
While the guitar technique on this album is about as high as it can get, and the harmonic structures are thoroughly pleasing to the ear, the rhythm section is oftentimes just as exiting, and “Sun Dogs” is a perfect example of this. Slang’s guitar ride is mind-blowing as he shifts seamlessly from melodic phrases to menacing outbursts that’ll tear your head off.
“The Librarian” is a cleaner, more fusionist number that’s extremely progressive and punchy before it segues right into “Confusion Corner” an even more complex tune where Slang’s tactful blend of guitar skills create a highly imaginative soundscape. The important thing is that Slang performs with genuine fire and emotion, essential ingredients for eliciting the admiration of the listener.
“Troy” is a short novelty piece of solo guitar that fits in well at this juncture, and is anything but fluff. “Drawing Clouds In The Park” is next and has a steady-paced piano foundation rolling underneath the catchy central guitar melody, which is filled with skyrocketing guitar runs.
Slang close the album down with the thunderous “Good Times”, which is a rousing rocker. Bottom-line: this is an incredibly entertaining and exciting album. Will it razzle-dazzle you? Yes! Will it blow you away? Yes.
Yet at the end of the day, Slang is still playing for the masses here, with most of the songs being easy to consume. Anchored by powerful riffs and appealing guitar lines, “Old School” captures the Slang spirit, in both compositional finesse and style.