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Reviewer: Michael Popke
Review Date:
July 2006

Taking influences from guitarist Allan Holdsworth and bassist Jack Bruce — not to mention artists as disparate as Charlie Parker and Yes — California-based multi-instrumentalist Al Garcia has recorded a second album of progressive, jazz and space rock sprinkled with bursts of electronic, Latin and cinematic music. It’s really almost too much to digest, but Garcia brilliantly paces the (almost) all-instrumental Alternate Realities — allowing the music to become more animated and adventurous as the disc’s 57 minutes unwind. The opening title track portrays a peaceful sonic landscape that seems to indicate that Alternate Realities will be a charming if unchallenging listen. But by the third track, “The Red Queen’s Race,” Garcia picks up the pace and lets fly some fancy arpeggios while firmly finding his bottom-end footing. He continues to do so on “Secret Correspondences” (a laid-back piano-based tune that nevertheless gains intensity) and the acoustic “Materia Prima” (which tastes like Santana). By the time later tracks like “The Pleasures of Progress” and “Calculated Risk” come around, Garcia’s musical might hits its peak, with distorted spoken-word passages, alternately jagged and soaring synths, and epic arrangements with complex time signatures. Throughout, Garcia’s wondrous sense of melody remains intact, and although he receives a little help on drums and piano, Alternate Realities essentially is a one-man project by one dexterous man who appears to be equally skilled on any instrument he touches.