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Senmuth - Contextual - 70%

ConorFynes, January 9th, 2011

After one of Senmuth's lowest points with 'Calendar Complex,' I was admittedly not expecting much for that album's heir apparent, titled simply 'Contextual.' With very similar album artwork to tie the two together, I was expecting more of the same rather listless ethnic ambient noise that I found somewhat atmospheric at best, and downright irritating at worst. With 'Contextual' however, it seems that Senmuth's best side has come out once again, making an album that takes his staple sound, but gives the eclectic instrumental music some considerate composition and intelligent songwriting, arguably resulting in one of Senmuth's best releases yet.

This is certainly one of my biggest surprises from Senmuth, but at the same time, it isn't a great deal dissimilar from the work the man behind Senmuth has done in the past. With Eastern ethnic, rock, and electronic sounds all in equal measure, it is a very unique sound, made only familiar by the dozens of albums Senmuth has produced in the vein. This album is thankfully distinguished however, for it's focus on songwriting. Unlike some of the other better Senmuth albums that excel through longer, more complex compositions, 'Contextual' succeeds through shorter songs that are similar to the structures of his earliest metal stuff, except this time through, there are no vocals or excessive heaviness to detract from the instrumental power.

On top of some great melodies presented through the ethnic and electronic instrumentation, 'Contextual' also has the most soulful lead work from Valery Av I have yet heard. Specifically on the sitar-heavy track 'Convergo', Senmuth sounds very similar to Steve Vai, and makes the most of his skill with the guitar through clever use of effects and delay.

If only every Senmuth album was like this, I would not be happier than to listen to each and every Senmuth album many times. However, while 'Contextual' may still not be considered a masterpiece, the talent here has never been so apparent.