Mestis – Basal Ganglia

01. Te Mato
02. Semilla
03. Olvidala
04. Menta
05. Luz y Cielo

[11/27/12]
[Sumerian Records]

It’s easy to see why solo projects from already prolific musicians like Mestis exist. Guitarist Javier Reyes is already actively involved in projects that receive great fanfare in Animals as Leaders and T.R.A.M., but he has seldom held the spotlight to himself thus far in his career. Reyes is unfortunately an underrated and understated musician who has up until this point stood in the shadow of double-bandmate Tosin Abasi; no matter what output Animals as Leaders makes, many fans will unfairly assume it was because of sole founding member Abasi’s guitar wizardry. It may or may not be the intended case, but Mestis’ debut release Basal Ganglia could be seen as Reyes’ attempt at breaking away from this mentality and showing the world that he is just as creative and talented in his own right.

So with Mestis, we finally discover what Reyes is all about as he makes a name for himself as not just a guitarist, but as a composer. Basal Ganglia does sound a bit like one would expect out of Reyes given his previous body of work, which just goes to show that he has already made a real impact in Animals as Leaders’ musical direction. The high-brain sounds of jazz fusion and progressive rock meet with slight Latin flourishes throughout the EP’s sixteen minute runtime to capture a musical self-portrait of Reyes and his compositional skills. While his claim to fame insofar as prog rock/metal culture is concerned comes from technical guitar prowess, Basal Ganglia focuses more on the big musical picture and does a better job of evoking an emotional and thought-provoking atmosphere than that any of Reyes’ projects thus far.

Of course, Reyes’ guitar work is tastefully virtuosic, it is used more like a sonic texture to move these songs forward as opposed to an outwardly flashy display of showmanship. In fact, more often than not, when Reyes makes the guitar the obvious highlight, it’s done in a more minimalistic atmosphere (such as in the beautiful ‘Olvidala‘ and ‘Luz y Cielo’) and even then, his performance emphasizes harmonic movement above all. Even David Stout’s stellar trombone performance on the more powerful tracks ‘Te Mato’ and ‘Menta‘ takes greater highlight than the underlying guitar. This is what makes Reyes a strong composer; he never sacrifices songwriting for contrived soloing and technicality for the sake of it. This is where many guitar-centric acts — Animals as Leaders included — miss the mark.

Perhaps Reyes is just humble and is reluctant to show-off; perhaps he just gets it. Either way, Basal Ganglia shows more heart and soul than both Animals as Leaders and T.R.A.M. Hopefully this isn’t the last we hear of Mestis, as Reyes shows much promise as a solo artist. This is undoubtedly some of his best work yet, and a sixteen-minute EP just doesn’t seem to cut it, as the music comes and goes much too quickly. A full length Mestis record further expanding on the interplay of guitar and trumpet inside of a Latin jazz influence cannot come fast enough.

Mestis – Basal Ganglia gets…

4/5

– JR