Gumbal’s A For is contemplative. At a little under 12 minutes, it’s also the length of the average John Petrucci guitar solo, if not nearly as fanciful. It’s an earnest effort, with an underlying concept about the story of an outcast. The music, equal parts electronica – all samples and fuzzy, robotic voices – and stripped down, folksy, singer-songwriter fare, remains largely subdued. It settles in inside its own shell throughout, tentatively breathing and tinged with a kind of searching sensibility. Which means the listener has to dig deep to reap the rewards.
Nothing wrong with that – but the problem here, particularly because of the flowing vibe of all six mini-tracks on the record, is that the payoff – after multiple listens – isn’t quite as emphatic as one would normally expect. The subtlety turns out to almost be a mask for the ponderous and meandering affectation of the music. It’s basically too stripped down, too minimal, too deliberative.
It’s not boring though – even if it threatens to be – with the tender production and crafting of A For practically forcing the listener to delve into the meat of the songs, alongside the polished and clever guitar lines that keep appearing from below with these odd hooks about them. And then there are the vocals. You can tell that the singer is bursting with ability and a knack for capturing the soul of the music through his delivery – which he does only sparingly. The flourishes never arrive, the timid length of the songs never allows any big moments on A For to get etched into memory. It never picks up pace, and it never loses steam. It soldiers on.
Gumbal, as an idea, seems interesting, and A For is an album that this reviewer wants to like, theoretically. The invisible shackles around the music don’t quite seem to work for these ears, but there’s obviously a space for that too.
Stream A For by Gumbal below:
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