The album cover for Al Kryszak's "Murmur Rations" album. Credit: Courtesy of Al Kryszak

Moments in life are memories we collect and store away. Eventually they emerge, front and center, looking for some place to land. Music is a collection of moments placed down by an artist whenever the magic happens, even if that happens to be during a pandemic lockdown.

I had the opportunity to listen to “Murmur Rations, the latest release from musician Al Kryszak, who works from his home studio in East Machias. This talented composer, guitarist and visual artist has been immersed in music and composition for more than 35 years. His “moments” are many, and he celebrates their emergence sometimes by creating music. Recent recordings of his include: “Lux Internum” (12 nocturnes for solo piano), “Soft Clowns of the Sea” and “All The Luck” (clarinet and orchestra).

With this new solo album, Kryszak does not shy away from where he stands on all matters regarding life’s perpetual beauty, awkwardness and even the sheer terror that sometimes emanates from today’s political landscape. The 17 tracks display a penchant for straight talk in lyrics supported by an alternative, tonal layered, funk-infused progressive music that evolves in real time.

The track, “2020’s Got A Ring To It” was written by Kryszak on January 6, 2021. The song dives headfirst into the societal embers that stoked the insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol — a moment in our nation’s history we will not soon forget. The music and lyrics hit squarely on where he stands with regards to that moment in time, providing stark images for the listener to contemplate.

“2020’s got a ring to it / Big craters Small haters / And a race for a cure / 2020’s got a ring to it / No shirt no shoes no matter no soul / 2020’s got a ring to it / The words I borrowed & the things you stole.”

In “Letter 133,” Kryszak uses history as a foundation. Inspired by two letters written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, the song reimagines van Gogh’s fate. The baritone electric guitar is prominently featured, as it is on many tracks. But, on this particular track, there is a haunting layer of sound that walks the listener through that cornfield.

“Won’t you take me back / to the land of pictures / Won’t you take me back / when we were friends / I got another story to tell / A color that you just can’t sell.”

Three instrumental pieces — “Murmur Rations I,” “Murmur Rations II” and “Murmur Rations-Coda” — offer a reflective pause. With a subtle mix of both acoustic and electric guitar played with purpose, these pieces are connected via an ethereal presence by way of electronics. Pensive, soothing, they were a “break” I found thoughtful.

This thoughtfulness carries over into “Rested,” written in memory of his friend in music and beyond, Stephen Copel.  A blend of acoustic and electronic keyboard solos married with guitar and buoyed with heartfelt lyrics, it offers an emotive salute to a friend gone much too soon.

An accomplished guitarist, Kryszak plays all of the instruments on this album. That expertise showcases a distinct connection he has with every instrument he plays. For the listener, this intimacy clearly bubbles to the surface after just a few plays. I recommend listening to this album often to hear what I hear.

A major contributor to the album is Kryszak’s long-time drummer, Mike Brydalski who resides in Buffalo, New York. There is a definite symbiotic relationship that exists between the two musicians, one Kryszak freely admits developed over time. “Mike has an uncanny way of knowing where I am going with a piece before I even do, which allows for some unexpected surprises.”

And like that surprise, this album for me is an escape and an arrival — all of which happen at the same time. My taste in music varies like the seasons, even when confronted by climate change amidst a chaotic world that appears to not be slowing down for crazy.

This album is a respite from “crazy.” It offers instead, a journey — a mesmerizing free flight of musical experience — that is meditative in demeanor, tinged with loss, buoyed by gains and dramatic in circumstance. It is a shared moment in time with a gifted artist.

This album and many other recordings by Al Kryszak can be found on iTunes or directly on his website.

“Murmur Rations”

Al Kryszak

Genre: Prog/Alt/Instrumental/Guitar    

Label: The Orchard/Filmtrax, 2021

RJ Heller is a journalist, essayist, photographer, author, an avid reader and an award-winning book critic who enjoys sailing, hiking and many other outdoor pursuits. He lives in Starboard Cove.