A SKY FOR ALL – IRENE KETIKIDI (REVIEW)
A SKY FOR ALL – IRENE KETIKIDI
Drums: Michael Kapilidis
Bass: Kostis Vihos
Keys: Makis Tsamkosoglou
Slide guitar on track 5: Babis Tyropoulos
Engineered and mixed by MD Recording Studios (Athens, Greece)
Mastered at Metropolis Studios (London, UK)
1. A Church For All – 05:59
2. Brilliance – 04:36
3. Hide & Shake – 05:44
4. Stardust – 06:08
5. She-e Choose Dye – 02:39
6. Snake Eyes – 07:14
7. The Pill – 03:51
It’s been a while since I listened to an instrumental guitar album from start to finish. It’s not a lie that most of these albums are ‘falling’ into an ‘only for musicians’ category so not all music listeners are willing to give them a try… Yes, they can be technically impressive, with ‘big’ production values and very interesting compositions but the absence of vocals makes them kind of ‘hard’ or outdated to listen to… Wait… Is electric guitar outdated? That’s a discussion for a different article! The thing is that ‘A Sky For All’ managed to put me into the mood of listening to a guitar album again from start to finish! Like the good old Flying In A Blue Dream – Satriani days!
Irene is a skilled guitarist born in Greece. She graduated from London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance and she has worked as a session guitarist with several artists around the UK. Her first solo album “Martial Arts & Magic Tricks” (released 2013) has received very positive reviews all over the world and has been complimented by the likes of Guthrie Govan, Greg Howe, Nita Strauss, Alex Skolnick and David Kilminster. After 5 years of hard work, her second self-released solo album ‘A Sky For All’ is ready and we had the chance to listen to it carefully.
First of all, Irene is a hell of a guitar player. This is obvious with the first listening session of the album. Is her technique as ‘perfect’ as the one of the top players out there? Probably no, but who gives a f***! She still got plenty to express herself in a very creative way. Irene seems to have the whole package: groove, ‘feel’, ‘warmth’, taste, dynamics and absolutely no need to show off her technique. This combination is kind of rare for most of modern guitarists. Irene’s phrasing is ‘spot on’ and sharp, her rhythm playing is excellent, and the guitar tone sounds good and ‘well thought’ even if it feels like it lacks variety sometimes. It’s easy to tell that Satriani played a big part in Irene’s sound but that’s definitely not a bad thing.
‘A Sky For All’ sounds ‘mature’. Honestly, I was quite surprised that I did enjoyed all 4 listening sessions in a row without skipping a single track. The album doesn’t sound like a bunch of guitar exercises played one next to the other. It sounds ‘complete’ and it’s easy to listen to. Most of the songs are on the ‘slow-mid tempo’ side and there are plenty of melodic hooks in there and enough solos to keep you happy. There are some pretty interesting and simple ideas throughout that have evolved into complete songs that are very pleasant to listen to. The album is full of classic instrumental rock influences. You’ll ‘catch’ some Satriani, Vai, Govan and Kotzen ‘vibes’ but they are all very well filtered by Irene’s musical vision. Of course, you have to notice the tight rhythm section that helps Irene to express herself better and its ‘progressive and playful mood’ at times, gives an extra ‘depth’ to the songs. I would dare to say that those ‘progressive’ moments reminds me of Porcupine Tree and that is definitely a good thing!
The overall sound of the album is quite good for what it is. Guitar sound is obviously under the spotlight and the bass and drums are as loud as they should. Although I would love a ‘stronger’ presence on the drums as I feel that they sound ‘thin’ at times. To sum up, sound production has pretty high standards for a self-released album. There are very little to complain about. I have to admit, Irene’s second release sounds so ‘smooth’ that could easily be the soundtrack of your everyday life. You can focus and listen to it carefully at home (and keep discovering small details and licks, or rhythm changes that you missed before), put it on while driving or have it playing in the background. It fits everywhere and that’s quite an achievement for a rock instrumental album!
Of course, ‘A Sky For All’ has it’s own small flaws. For example, there are some tiny ‘rough edges’ on a couple guitar solos (e.g. ‘Brilliance’) and a couple of ‘rough cuts’ during editing. Also after a few listening sessions, a variety of ‘sound elements’ is left to be desired. Maybe some acoustic guitars, keys, more guitar effects or even vocals as background layers would ‘tone up’ the experimenting vibe of the album. For example, I would like the bluesy parts more ‘blues’ the emotional parts more ‘dramatic’ and the experimental parts more ‘deep’.
‘A Sky For All’ is simply one of the best instrumental rock albums of the year. It’s not breath taking or 100% original, but it does most things right. It has an exciting vibe and gives a ‘push’ to this genre towards casual listeners. Irene is towards a refreshing new path of exploring rather than revisiting and this should be applauded and embraced. This album is a big step forward in every aspect and if Irene manages to find those 2-3 ‘magic pieces’ of the puzzle, I have the feeling that her third album can be an inspiration for every guitarist out there. Maybe Irene will manage to give to the ‘instrumental song writing’ a mainstream freshness of ‘simplicity’ that it so desperately needs.
Buy the album: https://ketikidistore.bigcartel.com/
Listen on Spotify:
Irene is towards a refreshing new path of exploring rather than revisiting and this should be applauded and embraced. This album is a big step forward in every aspect and if Irene manages to find those 2-3 ‘magic pieces’ of the puzzle, I have the feeling that her third album can be an inspiration for every guitarist out there.