Maxsel – Trip To The Lost World – Album Review
More than happy to green-light this with an enthusiastic YES – because MAN can this guy play!
Maxsel is an incredible talent just waiting to be discovered. From what I’m reading, hearing, and researching, I’m finding out that he’s basically a one-man army of musical-awesomeness. At his home-based studio in Oslo, Norway, he’s safely inside his bunker…doing EVERYTHING. From the instrumentation to the mix, the writing to the production – even the artwork and his music videos – it’s ALL Maxsel! He considers himself a “DIY enthusiast” – but this obviously goes far beyond that; Maxsel is fantastically dedicated to the art and focused on all-aspects involving his music and career – he’s leading the way for the DIY crowd by example. Trip To The Lost World is a serious achievement for a debut.
THIS is how you make a first impression. On his title-track, Maxsel shows an absolutely breathtaking amount of heart, passion, character, and ability in the charismatic hooks and bright sound in the vibes of his guitar. “Trip To The Lost World” has multiple levels to be enjoyed and reveals that not only does this virtuoso have serious chops & skills, but he’s also working with innovative, progressive tendencies and the courage to go after his moment on this debut record. You won’t find him shying away from any idea he starts up on this album and he sets that standard quickly with the quirky movement through “Trip To The Lost World,” which will having him roaming throughout a widespread range of sound & style right at the very beginning of this album. Those guitar tones though, am I right? Just freakin’ amazing…as vibrant as the brightest of colors and played with such exceptional passion, personality, & technique on display. Hooks-wise, the opening of “Trip To The Lost World” has massively enticing sounds on display – even those people out there that feel like they always need words to guide them along will find more than enough here to keep their attention locked onto the shiny rhythm & groove of this first uplifting jam on Maxsel’s record. He’ll make a significant shift around the 2:20 mark and continue to put a genuinely innovative spin on a Blues-like sound, playing around with the tempo and instantly impressing our ears with the solo that follows. In many ways, Maxsel’s essentially got about three songs working together as one here…the transition between styles/sounds occurs flawlessly – but as to whether or not people will end up favoring one part over the other, it’s harder to say; they might because each part of this song is boldly defined in its own atmosphere. Really brilliant comeback from that first main switch into the a whole new sound once again just prior to five-minutes in, which progresses brilliantly and develops that idea by expanding it, evolving it, growing it, and going after it right til the final seconds.
Breaking one of the few longstanding self-imposed rules that I’ve got…I think I finally like a song that has both the words ‘funky’ and ‘monkey’ in it for the first time in my life – and believe me when I say, there have been…what seems like hundreds of opportunities that have passed by for this moment to finally occur. Maxsel’s got the advantage here, because he’s instrumental…I don’t have to worry about some rough-ass chorus rhyming ‘funky’ and ‘monkey’ every second line…and I’m thankful for that. I can forgive a title…that’s no problem at all when you hear the musicianship that you get on a track like “Funky Monkey” from Maxsel…brilliant playing from the man in charge once again and killer ideas in the clever production of this track that takes full advantage of the lefts & rights of your speakers for added dynamics that shift the sound around. Solid backing track created to play with that holds the rhythm & groove in place while Maxsel goes on a solo expedition through the jungle that is his fret-board, lighting-up this tune with supercharged personality & charisma pouring out through the guitar. Listen to moments like around the two-minute mark, where Maxsel surges into a deadly breakdown before really working that rhythm & groove of “Funky Monkey” to its maximum potential through the solo work to follow. Putting his ability to create genuine hooks in his music that people can completely latch onto on display once again at the beginning of his record, “Funky Monkey” has a ton of accessible rhythm that’ll get bodies shakin’ all over dance-floor just as much as it’ll make the real musician’s-musicians smile for the skill, technique, and feel for the guitar that it would take to pull off such a tight & vibrant groove. Plus, I mean, he’s got authentic monkey sounds in the mix here at the beginning & end as well…so if you’re looking for an extra layer of tie-ins between the theme & the sound, he’ll cover that for ya too.
But if you REALLY want a cut that OOZES cool from its every pore…I think you gotta hand the award to “Shy Landscapes” – I think this is a seriously badass cut with a really thick sound & surrounding atmosphere. Another fine example of Maxsel’s ability to take you places in your mind when you listen to his music, “Shy Landscapes” is a journey & supreme audio-experience all-around from beginning to end. I think it’s one of those real transformative, alive, and interpretive vibes that people out there will hear in all kinds of different ways…some will find it haunting, some will find it melodic, some will find it straight-up badass like I do…we’ll all hear this one with different ears and likely all get something unique about it from the experience that we’ll think we get to keep to ourselves. But other people are gonna hear what this guy is up to – I have no doubt about it…what Maxsel’s got started here on Trip To The Lost World is freakin’ magnificent…and to know that this is just his debut and that he’ll continue to evolve, grow, and likely still produce even better material later on in the future is actually kind of staggering to think about. What more could you want than what we’ve already gotten from this guy? “Shy Landscapes” moves with such a smart pace, allowing these searing & soaring tones to ring out into the air and that bass to really make the impact it deserves to make. Don’t even get me started on how awesome the snare sound is in the steady beat of this tune or we’ll be here all week reading about it – I’ll sum it up quickly for you and say that the distance that particular sound adds to the concept, ideas, and execution of this tune are basically the most perfect choice & fit you’ll hear all year long. And LISTEN to it…like for real – LISTEN to what’s happening and how simplified that specific part is; Maxsel proves that you don’t need to be hitting a million things on the drums to make a massive impact…and overall, I think it’s a complete indication of the smart choices he makes in knowing exactly what a specific vibe calls for. Every time that breakdown around the 3:20 mark occurs, I get straight-up CHILLS…there’s no doubt that “Shy Landscapes” is one of the more killer cuts on this record – there’s so much to love about this tune from the bold bass-lines it has, to the endlessly imaginative ways that Maxsel uses every inch of his guitar from scratching strings to amazing tones soaring through the air – this track has it ALL and MORE.
“A Small Door Leading Somewhere” is the shortest track on the record at just over two & a half-minutes long – but what an exquisite and enchanting switch in sound Maxsel makes here! The curious & mysterious way this is played is brilliant, just as beautiful to listen to as it is intricate, and it’s got the most remarkably captivating atmosphere that’ll keep your ears locked onto this for the full duration. Mesmerizing & brilliantly played as anything else you’ll find on this record is, Maxsel takes the beauty up a notch or two and approaches this particular cut with a more delicate & tender approach that pays off. “A Small Door Leading Somewhere” shows a different side of him than you’ll discover on any of the tunes surrounding this tune on the record, highlighting that he can go in a soft & gentle direction just as confidently & capably as he can go charging into giant solos & epic ideas. It might be the tiniest tune on Trip To The Lost World – but it’s completely compelling, captivating, and charming to listen to; after being as impressed as I was with “Shy Landscapes,” I thought for sure this would be the toughest spot on the album to fill…Maxsel rose to the challenge by dialing back the energy and creating a totally different vibe on “A Small Door Leading Somewhere” that you simply can’t take your ears off of.
I’ll say this… Being my first time with Maxsel’s music and all…I don’t really know how long has been spent in the creation of Trip To The Lost World…but what I can tell is, is that for a debut record, most veterans out there in the scene right now would be more than happy to put out a record this good in the middle of their career somewhere…if they were LUCKY. Maxsel’s skill-level, dedication, commitment, and focus have already put him right at the top of the class when it comes to the guitar-world and instrumental-based tunes – I’d seriously listen to this guy all day. Listening to the smart way the atmosphere & groove moves on a cut like “Radical Dashes” – I mean…C’MON people – there’s absolutely zero doubt about whether or not Maxsel knows what he’s doing; he’s in full-control of every single moment and he’s brought the maximum potential out of each & every one of these songs. Again, really strap on those headphones or do what you gotta do to listen to this guy’s gifted methods of recording his guitar and understanding what makes music move just as much through production – his instincts, his natural skills, and his incredible ear for sound are leading him to victory after victory on this album of his. “Radical Dashes” has really unique texture to the atmosphere…as subtle as it is, you can hear how much it’s shifting in behind him, how alive that sound is, and how it fills in perfectly around the guitars as the music continues to evolve and envelop us. Seriously impressive full rainbow’s worth of colorful sounds on “Radical Dashes” – and I think a lot of people out there will seriously appreciate just how smooth he could play a tune like this, but how often Maxsel will choose to add another spectacular idea onto the next and continually branch out a song like this with all the uniqueness it has to offer by really getting into the moment & fully exploring the potential of the sound in every direction.
He’s even got a solid bass-solo happening on “Going Up!” I tell ya, there are just not enough of those in the world and I can always go for a moment or two with a great solo from the low-end department like you’ll find on this tune. As a composer, as a player, as an innovator, and perhaps most importantly of all – as a player with the COURAGE it takes to go after his wildest ideas – you really just can’t beat the combination of skill and abilities that Maxsel is working with. You’ll likely find that “Going Up” is one of the most creative cuts on Trip To The Lost World – there’s about ten songs-worth of ideas in this one tune and he’s done an outstanding job of transitioning the entire sound from one extreme to the other by the end. If you’ve grown up with your guitar gods like Satriani or Vai or the rest of that crowd from Malmsteen to Johnson, you know & expect that the sheer ability & talent players like these can lead to impressive moments that truly couldn’t be discovered by anyone else. Whether Maxsel considers himself to already be on a level with those guys or not is almost beside the point – if he keeps making music at the caliber he’s making it at now, he’ll be on par with the greatest of the greats at the very least, if not teaching them a thing or two himself after a while on the scene. Dude puts incredible passion into his solos and instrumentation…and I like that on a song like “Going Up,” which starts out more in a typical fashion, sound, & style for what you’re somewhat used to in the instrumental-guitar world, that it becomes something altogether different than you’d likely expect at all times as it evolves. Especially that final switch around the 4:30 mark – no one out there is gonna see that coming! Maxsel will steer this entire ship in the opposite direction from where you think you’ll be going and creates another memorable highlight on his debut record by taking a hard turn right instead of the left you think is coming at ya. Dude is a master of self-expression through his guitar playing…you can absolutely hear just how much Maxsel is into a cut like “Going Up” through the inspired performance he puts in and the sheer amount of creativity he’s pouring into each moment we hear…exceptional, all-around, every time.
Digging back into a new-age approach to the Blues on “A Quiet Chaos,” the gentle sway of how this song starts is immediately inviting and interesting to hear…like a mystery you can feel unfolding while you listen & experience this tune. As he gets close to the 2:30 mark, Maxsel breaks out of the trance-like state of the beginning of “A Quiet Chaos” and proceeds to light-up the fret-board with scorching HOT tones & notes flying out from every corner of your speakers. Only forty-seconds or so later, he’s got piano in to assist him on one of the most endearing & sincere moments you’ll find on any of these tunes for a quick melodic breakdown before he heads back into the soaring lead-tones to take us towards that Blues vibe once again. When we talk about music that takes you on a true journey in your mind as you listen to it – this is a perfect example of what that really means. “A Quiet Chaos” is a stunning tune with jaw-dropping technique and execution that can’t be beat…you get equal doses of melody & skill and I think that’s one of the most wonderful aspects of Maxsel’s music. Don’t get me wrong – you more than likely couldn’t just pick up your guitar and jam along with this guy, because he is THAT good – but in terms of how we’d receive it as listeners, he’s flashy yes – but he never goes too far beyond what I think the average listener out there could handle, which is a mistake almost every virtuoso makes at some point along the way. “A Quiet Chaos” is a killer example of his versatility – but also his accessibility; Maxsel’s written tunes that are strong enough to pull in people that don’t even think they’d like instrumental music – that’s how amazing this guy really is. Love the title of this tune; as I’ve often said, as far as instrumental stuff goes, it’s often one of the few insights we can get into what a song might be about, or another tool that allows each of us to interpret that meaning differently based on how we hear it. “A Quiet Chaos” to me, is almost like that sound you hear in your mind when emotions are raging back & forth and you’re trying to sort things out as best you can inside your head; almost like an internalized chaos that takes place in your own thoughts as you sift through your memories and experiences. And while my own theory is probably still miles off from what actually inspired Maxsel on “A Quiet Chaos,” for what it’s worth, it really feels like you go through a whole flow of powerful emotions in the music of this tune that have a serious range of moods, attitudes, and sounds – just like life does, just like our thoughts & feelings do. So maybe…maybe, I’m not as far off as I think I might be – that could be very well what he’s expressing through the amazing tones being played on “A Quiet Chaos” – he’s letting us in on the battle within him and venting those emotions out through every note.
But JUST in case you somehow needed one final dose of melody to prove just how awesome this man really is, the drifting tones of “Consequentialism” will haunt you beautifully as Maxsel brings this experience to the end on an immaculately strong & subtle highlight. He is such a gifted musician that it has truly blown my mind throughout listening to Trip To The Lost World – but make no mistake, he’s equally powerful as a producer, making just as many great choices behind the studio boards…recordings like “Consequentialism” completely prove that. It’s likely just as delicate in nature as a track like “A Small Door Leading Somewhere” at the end of the day – but the approach here is entirely different to the mood & vibe of this last tune…it really is just as gorgeous as it is mystifying & even slightly eerie at times. The way his guitar notes ring out and drift straight into the mist of the song is absolutely magnificent. Maxsel’s given you plenty of big moments along the way throughout his debut record that pull you in quickly through quickly moving mechanics and up-tempo grooves – but here at the end, he takes all that extra stuff away and completely captivates you with his efforts on guitar alone, isolated & intimate like never before…up close, revealing, vulnerable, and personal on a level like we haven’t experienced yet on the record, ending Trip To The Lost World with one of the most memorably subtle moments you’ll find this year and stunning sound attached to every single second’s worth of “Consequentialism.” And yes, of course I love the bizarreness to the final moments of this last tune!
Trip To The Lost World is an incredible debut record…one that Maxsel should be seriously proud of. Not only is it sure to put him on the map with his fellow peers out there in guitar-land and on the radar of fans of instrumental tunes – but he really deserves credit for creating songs so captivating and with the potential to reach such a large amount of the people out there through the accessible sounds he’s got within the wildness of his skills soaring throughout each cut. He’s made every moment of this record happen on his own – and the talent he’s put forth both in front of & behind the studio boards verifiably prove that Maxsel is a sonic force to be reckoned with and has all the right tools to succeed.
Find out more about Maxsel through the official pages below!
Official Website: https://www.maxsel.co
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