CD REVIEW: Burkhard Mahler - Fusion White Classics II
By: J.D. Stefan
Burkhard Mahler has been producing and recording his brand of fusion music in Munich, Germany for the past 10 years as an independent artist. Fusion White Classics II is one of many releases from Mahler and it features his distinctive take on blending syncopated drum loops with expansive keyboard textures and a variety of guitar tones. There’s not much in the way of packaging for this CD though and web info on Mahler is scarce with most information found via his MySpace site. That’s unfortunate because this is interesting stuff and I would have liked to see more about this particular CD. The release date for Fusion White Classics II is unknown and not specified anywhere. Although Mahler notes working with a variety of other performers, it would appear that this CD at least is likely all his own work and performances.
The CD kicks off with “The Fusion Machine” which features airy keyboards against a driving programmed drum section. Mahler’s guitar licks remain mostly in the background but occasionally trade off with the intermittent synth fills. There’s a lot going on in this track and it sounds something like Cusco meets Tangerine Dream with a dazed jazz guitarist lost in the middle. The 3rd track “Improvisation for Piano” departs from the intensity of the first 2 songs and is indeed an open piano improvisation with some interesting atmospheric texture to it. “Fusion Rhapsody” is a three part composition that spans three tracks driven by a mix of modern and vintage synth tones and lots of FX. “Guitar Pulsar” is somewhat of a smooth jazz type arrangement that takes off into space. “Space Jam” certainly lives up to its name and the final track “Virtual Guitar Session” is less a guitar track and more of a rhythmic groove overlaid with FX that are both guitar and synth generated.
Mahler’s compositions are indeed a fusion of styles. He blends guitars, synths and rhythms and gives everything a strong dose of atmosphere and space. There is clearly a lot of improvisation in his work on this CD and as a result, many of the tracks have a meandering quality to them which can make for a nice backdrop but lack any standout melodies or hooks. His production is strong and makes a statement. I have no doubt that the end result is exactly what Mahler was aiming for – lots of texture and space. The production is clean but could use a little less sheen and perhaps more low-end interest. With all the textures and FX it’s hard to hear how the instruments were actually recorded but however it was done, it all works together and sounds cohesive. This is an electronic type of style and though Mahler appears to do a lot with the guitar, actual guitar tones are buried within mountains of FX and he does quite a bit with modifying the guitar tones to sound less like a guitar and more synth-like.
Mahler clearly is following his own path and commercial success is probably not a goal. That’s a good thing if true because the average listener will find it difficult to latch on to any particular theme or melody on Fusion White Classics II. As a fan of ambient music I appreciate the open space and textures Mahler has created but the songs meander a bit too much without really making a statement. Even the programmed drum tracks vary against the rhythm tracks in ways that are almost distracting at times. Mahler has created some great sounds and interesting ambiences and the sense of space surrounds every song on this CD. It would have been great to hear some stronger musical themes appear to help ground his style and lean a bit less on the endless improvisation. Fusion White Classics II is a strong effort with some great concepts that meanders a bit too much.
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