Nick Johnston - Remarkably Human album review

Able-handed soloist channels heart and mind

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When Gavin Harrison (P-Tree) and Bryan Beller (The Aristocrats) sign on as backing band to an instrumentalist, you already know that musician will be capable of a certain level of six-string gymnastics – soloist Nick Johnston is an Olympic-tier competitor.

Already renowned in the tech-ier quarters of the guitar world, his prog-y fusion-shred boldly skips across genres with steady-handed self-assuredness. The approach falls just on the right side of ‘stunt guitar’, only fully unleashing in the moments that call for it. For instance, Hypergiants’ lassoing second half – all string wrangling crunch, before the soaring refrain slips its clutches. Or, the eight-minute Weakened By Winter, which sees a rotating piano line conjured to a blizzard and pulled every which way by Johnston’s electrical embellishments. Elsewhere, the appropriately-titled Impossible Things morphs tight arpeggios into chilled blues and then grade-A jazz noodling in non-bile-rising fashion. If guitar-led instrumentals make you sick, this will still not be your cup of Calpol and, frankly, there are way too many speedy-handed whizz kids putting out poorly-conceived, laptop shred records at present – but this is not one of them. Remarkably human indeed.