At the beginning of 2022, John Scarlata – aka ScarlataMusic – released his ‘Skatepunk’ EP. By dispensing with all vocals, his work immediately improved, and even though the release’s three tracks were presented with a demo-like quality, his lead guitar work was stellar throughout. In the main, his thrash-based melodies called back to albums like Jason Becker’s ‘Perpetual Burn’ and Marty Friedman’s self-titled disc, creating something very nostalgic.
Yawning Balch – the collaborative project shared between the members of desert rock band Yawning Man and Fu Manchu’s Bob Balch – unleashed a sprawling giant with their debut release. ‘Volume One’ shared three lengthy instrumentals where the musicians absorbed themselves in a stoner friendly, wavering landscape; it’s improvised riffs going deeper into the desert rock world than many had gone in a long time. It was the perfect record for late night listening, and suggested that, if and when a second volume should arrive, Yawning Balch had the potential to be one of the greatest deep psych/stoner bands ever.
On their 2022 release ‘Polar Night’, instrumentalists In The Ponds crammed a variety of musical moods into a very short playing time. Ranging from spooky, almost prog rock inspired echo driven guitar (‘Lonesome George’) to an atmospheric, David Lynch inflected ambience (‘Someone’s Always Watching’), and even supplying a nod to the distorted blues of The Groundhogs (‘Haruki On The Sand’), it was the kind of EP that created a great musical CV.
It’s likely that you’ve never heard of Vincent Carr, but the multi-instrumentalist began releasing very interesting, largely instrumental work under the SUMIC name in 2014. Although easily labelled as “prog” due to its indulgent approach and complexity, the one-man project takes in a broad range of sounds and influences. On the very pastoral “Rekindled” (2016), the musical pieces drew heavily from folk and even hinted at influence from Freddie Phillips. On 2019’s more complex ‘New Paeans’, Carr wasn’t shy in sharing a love for Mike Oldfield, Steve Hillage and Gong, and the more recent ‘Strolling Early Morning’ did a fine job of blending all of those influences on a record that managed to be a little more accessible, yet no more commercial.
John Scarlata began his journey as a guitarist in the 90s as a young man who wanted to “jam along with his favourite metal songs”. His talents grew, and eventually he’d mastered the art of fretboard manipulation, but any musical success was slow in presenting itself. Eventually, he self-released a debut track, ‘Metal-Baby’, via Bandcamp, which showed him to be someone capable of wielding a really big musical tone. The track’s multi-layered guitar sound and influences from old thrash tracks were a classic metal fan’s dream. Unfortunately, Scarlata’s vocal did the recording no favours. At odds with some great riffs and shredding elements, he sounded like a man shouting on a mobile phone’s answering machine.