Ernesto Schnack is a guitarist currently based in Berlin, Germany, though originally from Panama, whose music is truly remarkable. Admittedly, everyone has heard some type of solo acoustic guitar album before, whether from the unique fingerstyle guitar of Phil Keaggy or any other guitarist who has released such a work. However, Ernesto’s music is something different. He continually blurs the lines between jazz, rock, classical, metal, and such genres to create a truly experimental, yet highly accessible solo guitar album. The album, in question, is called “A Work in Progress”.
The album begins with “Build”, which already seems to blur the lines as previously mentioned. Dynamic and rhythmic grooves, guitar harmonics, the occasionally tap of the body of the guitar, and all the sounds inbetween make up this beautiful composition. Also, I can detect a bit of jazz and metal influence as well. A great opener to this solo acoustic album, but yet still doesn’t even foreshadow what is to come in the coming minutes.
“The Single Purpose Room” starts with a Latin-influenced groove before moving completely into a bittersweet guitar-tapped melody, along with the occasional basslines of the lower-end of the guitar. All of this, meanwhile, seems to be played in a polyrhythmic fashion that is undeniably just as beautiful as “Build”. “Pierrot” starts with a minor melody that sounds closer to the classical spectrum of music, but as it goes on, more and more elements are added that sound closer to jazz and blues than just purely classical music, before erupting into a climax of fingerstyle rhythms that seem to be unclassifiable to any one particular genre.
“Minimize” seems to be the main direction for this song itself, as it is made up of mostly the same kind of arpeggios and licks, with the occasional guitar solos here and there, but yet, it maintains the listener’s interest throughout the track, and consistently, without jarring jumps or the like, blurs the lines between classical, rock, and metal. “The Griot”, on the other hand, is a rather cinematic piece that seems to take influence from Renaissance music, in terms of the very medieval melodies that seem to call upon a time when life was simpler.
“I’m Getting Old” is as close to acoustic rock and metal as you will get on this album. The power chords, the muted strumming, all elements that has made rock and metal what it is is present here. Call it metal and rock for the older generations, as it is easier to listen to these simpler, acoustic melodies than it is perhaps to listen to the electrifying sounds of heavy metal and rock. Overall, the harmonies and arrangement on this song is superb, with a lot of attention to detail and a lot of good things in general. “We’ll Always Have Siberia” is a more jazzier track, whereas it still has many of the arpeggios and style that has already been introduced, the introduction of blue notes or perhaps even a little dissonance is more present here.
“An Eloquent Goodbye” is just that, though there is still one track to go. A bittersweet composition that tries to keep a smile, but yet, through the cracks, the sadness that comes with departure is just as present. A very beautifully composed song. Finally, with “Post-“, this is where things get ultimately experimental. A guitar chord seems to fade in before going straight into a percussive style of playing, where the lines continually blur, leaving only the ghost of their former self until things become more melodic, with more chords, fingerstyle playing, and solos until it erupts into a very beautiful climax that shows just how powerful the guitar, as an instrument, is. Finally, more polyrhythmic figures build on top of each other, where it seems that the song will continue more, until it is suddenly cut short. It is here that the album ends.
Overall, I have not heard that many solo acoustic guitarists in my life. I’ve seen Phil Keaggy live, and have heard on a few occasions through the radio station Echoes acoustic jams that sometimes features solo guitarists. However, I am highly enthusiastic towards Ernesto Schnack’s style of guitar playing, and especially toward this album. “A Work in Progress” is one of the most interesting solo instrumental acoustic guitar albums I have heard in a long while. Whereas many would stick to a particular genre on one album, and maybe experimenting a bit on later albums, Ernesto breaks out of the mold by continually blurring the lines between many genres, all on one album. Surprisingly, regardless of the experimentation, this is a very consistent and accessible album that will definitely please many listeners. Whether you’re into rock, metal, classical, jazz, Latin, or just acoustic music in general, “A Work in Progress” will definitely strike a chord somewhere, as it is all of this genres and more. Highly recommended listening.
Title: A Work in Progress
Artist: Ernesto Schnack
Genre: Acoustic rock/classical
Self-Released in 2011
You can download the album for a pay-what-you-want price here: http://music.ernestoschnack.com/album/a-work-in-progress