Legend has it that guitarist Leo Abrahams was discovered when Brian Eno walked into a music shop and heard him strumming away in the corner. Abrahams has since worked heavily with Eno, with David Holmes and he can be heard throughout the soundtrack to the otherwise unimpressive Ocean’s Twelve.
Honeytrap is Abrahams’ debut solo album, containing 14 instrumentals with lots of guitars, some funky percussion and the occasional string section. So what’s it like? A record for all music lovers, or guitar geeks only?
Unlike many guitarists’ solo work this isn’t a blatant showing off exercise – there’s no Vai or Satriani moments (or even influences) here, and that’s no bad thing at all. Any ‘wow factor’ for muso types will take a while to kick in and it won’t be the usual “did a normal human being just play that fast?” malarkey. Instead the hit will come from realising that all the synths, the samples and much of the percussion are not synths and samples at all but layer upon layer of magically mangled guitars.
Honeytrap is an exercise in incredible self-restraint and control. It is often beautiful, and rarely (if ever) self-indulgent. The spaces between the notes often have as much impact as the notes themselves, and if this all sounds a bit Brian Eno, it’s not that far off. Both Eno and Holmes have clearly been huge influences on Leo’s music as well as his career, with closing track Seeing Stars in particular evoking the opening movement of Music for Airports.
That said, most of Honeytrap sounds like music for films, albeit maybe films set within airports. Those moments in many American independent movies when estranged people meet or lovers part over a stirring but defiantly non-Bruckheimer soundtrack are scattered throughout the album. Tracks like Playground and Rise are also perfect for having a tearful moment on a deserted beach at sunset, and will definitely help if said beach is not available.
There are some more percussive moments too. Siren comes on with a heavy groove straight out of Massive Attack‘s classic Inertia Creeps before twisting into something evoking a Bollywood version of From Dusk Till Dawn. Slippery Jack has both the guitar and the groove from Tom Waits‘ Jockey Full O’ Bourbon, and drags both into similarly sinister territory.
Without the likes of Waits or Daddy G to distract you the music is left to speak for itself, and it does so with heartfelt honesty and beauty throughout. The only really weak link is opener Kristiansand which seems to lack the emotional depth of what follows it. There’s a time and a place for music like this, of course, but given the right environment it’s both touching and majestic.
If it has a story to tell it’s a quieter and more sentimental tale than that told by David Holmes’ classics (This Film’s Crap…, Let’s Get Killed) but the impact is almost as great – and that’s one hell of a compliment. Recommended.