Album Review: Kris Schulz – While the City Sleeps

When I was in university, I was pretty uptight about the guitar. I thought that using capos was cheating and that open-tunings were boring – to the point that I wrote a couple of pieces of music in standard that imitated some of the chording and motions often associated with open tunings in order to “prove” that open tunings were lazy.

Today I’m a much better guitarist and I use capos and open tunings most of the time. It’s obvious now that I was naive not to recognize the tonal possibilities that those tools provided, but at the same time I’m glad I developed my skills in standard tuning and the more advanced chording required by not using a capo, so that I could have a solid foundation before I began adding these additional elements into my technique.

A technique that pales compared to Kris Schulz, as showcased on his new solo album While the City Sleeps, self-released this past January and being supported by a tour which began on Wednesday, May 4th in Kris’ home of New Westminster, BC and will be reaching Montreal before the month is over.

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Now in his 40th year, Kris Schulz, a lifetime multi-instrumentalist with a 25-year career in guitar teaching and one of the coolest-sounding jobs in the world (personal guitar instructor at the video game developer Electronic Arts) has made his first solo guitar record in While the City Sleeps. Coming fresh off the heels of placing 4th at the Canadian Fingerstyle Competition, it’s a record that feels overdue.

Despite a genre going by the slightly-misleading name of “percussive fingerstyle”, While the City Sleeps is a very melodic record, with the well-chosen leading track “Through Your Eyes” setting the tone with a pastoral and uplifting vibe. This tune already shows Kris’ well-developed instinct for movement and his ability to tell an emotional story with nothing but a single guitar.

Kris doesn’t stray from the single-guitar formula for any of the 13 mostly-lengthy tracks on this album, and while from a lesser performer this would be tiresome, here it is very welcome. The second track “Sagroovian Juice” begins similarly low-key, with arpeggiated chords only subtly suggesting a tonal shift from the opener, until about 30 seconds in when the tune jumps to a much more aggressively played bluesy groove interspersed with a harmonic-heavy section showcasing Kris’ ability to play lead, rhythm and percussion parts simultaneously.

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Strange as it sounds, since this is a solo guitar record, While the City Sleeps showcases the fact that Kris is a multi-instrumentalist by trade. Though the common association of percussive fingerstyle with metal music is well-earned, and Kris does indeed have a background in metal, the musicality at work here is so effective because it clearly draws from so many genres, techniques and influences.

That being said, the third track “Circadian Rhythms” could be easily called acoustic metal. The melodies, guitarmonies, time signatures, and multi-movement structure all fit what you’d expect from metal, except that it’s played on a single unamplified instrument.

Not one to be easily-defined, though, Kris immediately moves away from that sound with “Dave the Grizzly”, which is the most memorable track for me, perhaps because it’s the one that comes across the most as a “song”, a term I typically avoid using to describe instrumental music. It follows a distinct lead melody and has a defined verse and chorus, and the music is mournful, almost funereal, and quite beautiful.

With other highlights including the title track, the folky “Larch Hill”, and the what-would-Radiohead-do-with-a-single-acoustic-guitar “Gray Never Felt So Good” this is a remarkably consistent record, a little lengthy but with no skippable tracks, beautifully recorded and perfect for any number of moods

As for the performance, you could do no better than to catch Kris at Schulz at one of his upcoming shows across Canada:

  • 05/04 New Westminster BC @ The Heritage Grill
  • 05/05 Chilliwack BC @ Tractorgrease
  • 05/06 Kelowna BC @ Doc Willoughby’s
  • 05/07 Enderby BC @ Lorenzo’s
  • 05/09 Golden BC @ The Golden Taps
  • 05/10 Revelstoke BC @ The Last Drop
  • 05/11 Canmore AB @ TBA
  • 05/12 Lethbridge AB @ Mocha Cabana
  • 05/13 Calgary AB @ Vern’s
  • 05/14 Edmonton AB @ Brittany’s Lounge
  • 05/16 Regina SK @ The Artful Dodger open mic
  • 05/19 Kitchener ON @ The Boathouse w/ Luke Michielsen
  • 05/20 Toronto ON @ The Central Bar w/ Dylan Ryche
  • 05/21 Montreal QC @ TBA
  • 05/25 Kitchener ON @ Bread Heads w/ Luke Michielsen
  • 05/26 Winnipeg MB @ The Ship & Plough

Stream and buy “While the City Sleeps” here!

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  1. Through Your Eyes
  2. Sagroovian Juice
  3. Circadian Rhythms
  4. Dave the Grizzly
  5. Ferus Caballus
  6. A Smile From India
  7. While the City Sleeps
  8. Larch Hill
  9. Dime on D
  10. When Friends Fall
  11. Fingerlicker
  12. Gray Never Felt So Good
  13. Ten More Seconds

 


Kris Schulz plays a Furch/Stonebridge OM31SR-C-DB as his main guitar.  It is a deep body OM with sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood back/sides.

More more photos and demo videos click here: http://www.sgimarketplace.com/?product=stonebridge-om31sr-c-65083

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