Jasper Rua, an Irish based guitarist/instrumentalist released his debut album ‘Circles’ on 17th September 2014. I suppose by track count, of there being 5 on the album you could call it an E.P. but these pieces average around the 8 minute mark so there’s no lack of running time as albums go. Rua does illuminate the fact that Circles is evolving into a two volume album so it seems part two is currently in the making. Jasper Rua is a mysterious fellow with a website covered mostly in short parables of his experiences with people and music and how he came to playing his instrument. The vibe is more of a journey man with his psychedelically painted guitar thanks to an artist named Martyna. While his website is not a wealth of information on gig dates and biographical setting it serves as a preface to his exploratory approach to music. So let’s begin with the first track ‘Circles’ itself.
I was surprised by Circles as I expected something a little more folk-y but ambient was a more fitting description for a good portion of the album. The track ‘Circles’ is a slow starter but you immediately get the idea once the main theme is established. Rua’s guitar playing is tight and controlled initially but develops into more lavish technique nearing the end of the track. Although one guitar, there is a good deal of rhythmic content to keep up the momentum and it really is an exploration and celebration of a solo instrument standing alone on its own merits. I’m sure this style of playing works as many a great opener for headliner bands. Although different in genre, the Circles piece harks back to some of Joe Satriani’s more mellow instrumentals and of course Eddie Van Halen’s synonymous ‘Eruption.’ The ocean ambience at the end segue ways to ‘Ocean Notion’ – If only mp3 playlist players could transition smoothly from one track to the next like all other former media – The track skip kind of ruins the mood…
Ocean Notion is more ambient and experimental in nature than Circles and there’s a sense the player is getting lost in the piece – in the good way. For me the echo gets a bit much and sounds more and more like an effect for the sake of it after a while. I think it just grew old for me more quickly than it should have and while there was a theme you could latch onto the stop/start nature of the playing made it difficult to stay tuned in. There are plenty of great phrases achieved from Rua’s playing here but just as they feel like they’re about to kick off they just fall back and something new comes in.
As the third track ‘Dot’ comes in, the ambience control is turned up to full and we melt into a deep and vast space exploring what I could only describe as dream music – Vangelis’s Blade Runner soundtrack comes to mind. It’s quite a beautiful piece as it develops and certainly a worthy contender as a soundtrack to Movies/TV.
‘A Song for a Butterfly’ serves as an excellent transition piece bringing us back up from the dream world of ‘Dot’ and the guitar we heard in ‘Circles’ returns with vibrancy. It is a joyful sounding reel and picks up pace throughout. It was just the ticket after the previous tracks and provides an additional colour to the album. We then fade out into a night scene called ‘Night Owl’ and revisit the ambient side of Circle’s musical range but only briefly. The sounds are a bit more industrial in Night Owl and have an appropriately dark tone. The thing I noticed about the album was all of the modes Rua used were usually a mixture of technique, rhythm and effects but there was enough range in his approach to really paint the scenes he was going for without going over the same ground.
For a guitar instrumental album, of which I have bought many, Jasper Rua has produced a worthwhile collection here. He has shown the range of his instrument and technique within an enjoyable and none too shabby 40 minute recording.
If you want to catch him live, check out his Facebook page for updates @ https://www.facebook.com/JasperRuaMusic
Circles Album is available on Bandcamp @ https://jasperrua-shop.bandcamp.com/