Tauranga has a number of cottage industries. One of them is guitarist Sean Bodley.
I'm not sure if “cottage industry” is exactly the right term but there are a handful of musical producers in the Bay who have, individually and collectively, created quite a back-catalogue this millennium.
The two obvious, long-running bands that come to mind are Brilleaux and Kokomo (no offense intended to Bay Dixie, who I would love to see in a recording studio while they are still young and vital).
Brilleaux celebrated their twentieth anniversary with an Easter gig at the new Hop House on Wharf Street. It was a blast.
Veering off topic, if you haven't been to the CBD recently, be aware that Wharf Street has become Tauranga's home of craft beer, what with The Barrel Room and now The Hop House, two fine craft beer purveyors, just a few doors apart.
Meanwhile Kokomo - 28 years old this year - have a new video and single on-line and will be releasing their thirteenth album, Sunset Claws, in June.
Then there's Sean Bodley. I remember Sean receiving the Best Guitarist Award at the Bay Music Awards. I'd guess it was around 1994. He was still a teenager and even then was blowing everyone away with his remarkable guitar chops.
Sean released his first album in 1999, simply called Sean Bodley. At the time The NZ Herald offered this opinion: “The sometimes ear-blistering instrumentals are also (mercifully) melodically strong and diverse. And he plays most instruments himself. Satriani, Steve Vai et al should feel threatened and local rock radio could certainly find something among these dozen tracks ...”
There was a big gap after that, but since 2014 Sean has been on an incredible creative streak, releasing two albums that year alone. His latest offering, I Am Human, is his third since then and represents something of a departure.
After the 2017 album Genesis, which saw Sean joined by a drummer, bass player and others, he decided to go in a different direction, playing and programming everything himself here: drum loops, bass, many keyboard synths, and of course acoustic and electric guitars.
He says: “The concept is basically that the album is all electronic and digital, except for me. I guess it’s saying, this album is 99 per cent digital technology, but then I am the guitar, and, I Am Human.”
Once again Sean dedicates it to his inspirations, guitarists Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and John Petrucci and once again it is a dazzling showcase of cutting edge guitar sounds, virtuoso playing and Sean's every-increasing skills as a composer and arranger.
A 75-minute instrumental album is no easy thing, for the creator or listener. Sean keeps it varied and interesting. There are certainly moments of pure exhilarating guitar shredding but that would quickly pall if it were not for arrangements that make things interesting. He also keeps the tunes manageable; most of the 13 tracks are radio-friendly single length.
It's difficult to describe because there's just so much to digest. As an example, Act of Violence opens with choral sounds and a lithe, high guitar line, which soon gives way to a solid drum pattern and battery of harmony guitars, chunky rhythms and many leads – there must be a dozen of them intertwining - then it picks up tempo using a sound heard a few times on I Am Human, a sort of “heavy radio static rhythm part”; then it moves into fast arpeggiated synth lines before returning to the heavy beat and more impossible-to-play harmony guitars...
With so much music and such variety it's hard to know what to highlight. Perhaps you're best just to check it out yourself, which I'd highly recommend if you have any interest in guitar-craft. The three singles are now available on YouTube – Brace For Impact, More Than a Memory and Cuberfunk. Look 'em up!
The album is on all digital platforms from June 10 but there are limited CD copies available from Sean's Facebook page. Oh yes, and the CD cover is great too. Damn fine work...