Hans Chew – Open Sea
At first sight, the new album from Hans Chew with a track listing of six songs is easily mistaken for an EP. Once you listen, you quickly realise this is no ordinary album.
Hans Chew is an accomplished pianist and guitarist and he puts those skills to good use here on what is his fourth studio album. Of the six tracks on the album, only one comes in under four minutes in length, with the longest over nine minutes. However, that doesn’t mean the listener is in for some kind of self-indulgent musical ego trip. In fact, it’s very much the opposite.
From the folk-influenced acoustic intro to ‘Give Up The Ghost’, it quickly meanders into a brooding, laid-back blues rock affair that has hints of Blind Faith and The Grateful Dead and very much sets up the tone for rest of the album.
‘Cruikshanks’ quickly follows and takes the listener straight into Allman Brothers territory with its bass line and hook closely mimicking their fan-favourite ‘Whipping Post’.
Chew’s voice has a world-weary rasp to it that suits this type of music perfectly. Seemingly at home on the bluesy songs, he softens it down for the melodic boogie-driven ‘Open Sea’. His piano playing on this one really stands out in the mix, especially if you listen to it on headphones for the full stereo effect when he plays a few glissandos. Similarly on the epic ‘Freely’, his piano playing is simply sublime and has hints of Zappa’s ‘Hot Rats’ album in its structure.
‘Who Am I’ sounds a lot like a mash-up between Fleetwood Mac’s ‘World Turning’ and Cream’s ‘Badge’ with its catchy guitar riffs. Coincidentally, it’s also the shortest and most radio-friendly track on the album.
Chew has cleverly taken a lot of influences from 1960 and 70s era bands and blended them into a melting pot of songs that contain clever and catchy riffs that hold the listener’s attention over an extended period of time.
While he’s not going to re-invent the wheel by any means, he has certainly given it dusting down and set it back on track by delivering an odyssey through an exciting and ever-changing vivid aural landscape.