Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Aquamarines - Off The Radar
artworkOff The Radar is a more of a studio project of Russell Volckmann than a band album. The musicians here are Russell Volckmann - guitar and writer, Rick Escobar (The Woodies) - guitar, Dusty Watson (Slacktone) - drums, and 'Big Wave' Dave Becker (Twang Ten Cowboys) - bass, plus a supporting cast of vocalists, horn players, and keyboards. This is really well recorded and mixed. There are a number of vocals here, of which "Du'baara" is particularly cool!
Picks: Fair Game, Aoino/Midorino, Montunafish, Green Room, Spy Trap, Malibu '62-'67, Inside Neptune, Stormtail, Gemstar, A Surfer's Life, An Ordeal Involving Five Strangers

Track by Track Review

Fair Game dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Swimming whammy chords launch this song, with its unusual melody that sounds like it's born of The Sentinals' "Sunset Beach" sifted through the European tradition. Its circular patterns are compelling and fun.

Aoino/Midorino dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Asian stringed instruments open "Aoino/Midorino," which otherwise has few traditional elements of Asian music, but is rather rock instro dominated. Surf drums and great bass create a rock solid backtrack. Double picked guitar suggests surf, and the organ, while suitably subdued, suggests eleki at times.

Montunafish dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Exotic percussion and grode bass, along with piano and horns create a wash of sound that's warm and inviting. "Montunafish" is more engaging than I expected from its opening verses, though its arrangement reminds me of studio sessions at times. Layered sound and European twang.

Green Room dotdotdot
Lite Rock (Instrumental)

Sidewalk cafe chatter and squeeze box introduce a lovely melody played in round tone. "Green Room" is a bit sad, and would make a fine backdrop to a scene in a film. Pretty and soothing, with occasional delicate double picked guitar. The violin gives it lushness.

Spy Trap dotdotdotdot
Spy Surf (Instrumental)

Part spy, part surf, and pretty darn fun. "Spy Trap" has some very cool guitar moments, and an intense edge. Great drums and bass. The break is a jazzy jam with punch.

Malibu '62-'67 dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is quite an epic track. "Malibu '62-'67" is a long sweeping piece that looks nostalgically back on a lost era through innocent lenses of romanticized memory. many textural elements, from soft guitar, tremolo intensity, strings, psychedelic Hawklords-like voices, and a cinematic feel.

Inside Neptune dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Dueling guitars, countering one another to great effect, with solid drums and bass. Swimming whammy and excellent energy, along with some tasteful glissandos. "Inside Neptune" is a fine track, with lots of fiery guitar work.

Squid Chili dotdotdot
Spy (Instrumental)

Theremin warble and a fun rhythm cycle create spy scenes. A narrated story line separates the front from the back. The organ continues the spy theme.

Stormtail dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Inspired by Los Straitjackets' "Tailspin," this is a strong track with tuff guitar work and a ton of energy. Great double picking and and charm, along with superb playing all around.

Gemstar dotdotdotdot
Near Surf (Instrumental)

Panned echo opens, and a strong beat carries on. The melody flies on a fluid series of well executed notes. Musically strong, with some really nice double picking. "Gemstar" has a sense of adventure.

A Surfer's Life dotdotdotdot
Soft Surf (Instrumental)

"A Surfer's Life" slowly drifts through a gentle melody, with surf in mind. The guitar work is very pretty indeed, liberating lines from "The Endless Summer" to cement the warm air sway of the palms. The arrangement reminds me of Dead Men Don't Surf at times.

An Ordeal Involving Five Strangers dotdotdot
Pop (Instrumental)

This is an easy going track with a fine melody riff and friendly sound. It's a poppy sound, but not at all imitation like that would imply. Quite nice.