Joining the ranks of any musical genre is a tough thing to do. Pop, rock, dance, jazz, or country, there are always certain criterion that separate the wheat from the chaff. My point is, even in genres that have cookie cutter rules, achievers must exude something special that sets them apart. When you talk about the genre of instrumental music, the rules and expectations squeeze even tighter, demanding only the best and the most unique of its kind. Local bands such as Chemtrail have successfully fused rock and roll attitude with instrumental knowhow for years, and have become one of the most respected bands around because of their self-sacrifice and dedication to excellence.

That brings me to this next Shoreworld group. Imbala is a progressive instrumental band that hails from Central New Jersey. Consisting of brothers Adam Wirjosemito on keyboards and percussion and Ben Wirjosemito on drums, the foursome also includes guitarist Scott Zanon and bassist Mike Delia. Imbala started in 2005, and they have really worked hard to build their reputation in instrumental mayhem.

This group is making some big strides throughout the Tri-State Area. They have been featured all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania at clubs such as Philadelphia’s Arch Street Trocadero and Doc Watsons Pub, where the band was a featured artist for WMMR’s Local Shots Live. They have also been a featured performer at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park as well as countless band battles such as Comcast On Demand Battle Of The Bands and the Philly Showdown battle. Battles aside, the group has also found time to record some quality CDs such as their 2010 disc, Simplexity.

This particular performance at the Theatre Of Living Arts was a curious one and featured several bands of varying degrees of talent. The room itself is an old school repertory theatre that was infamous for its artsy, grindhouse style films back in its ‘70s heyday. It became a club a couple of decades ago and has been churning out some of the biggest little acts in the world ever since.

This Live Nation property has a dark, massive floor space and includes a balcony (closed to the public on this night) as well as a side bar for 21 and up. The wide-open floor space can fit 1,000 people when needed. The sound is on par with some of New Jersey’s best rooms and the staff was extremely friendly. Even the door personnel and security were likable blokes. Needless to say, I was impressed. Double V Bookings presented the show and Vince Volz was top notch, making sure we had passes and all information pertaining to the show.

Four bands and some quick turnaround times later, Imbala was onstage. The band opened with a scorching (if rather hokey) Alex North Main Title (also Sprach Zarathustra), associated with Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, to roars and whoops from their large fan base. The spaced-out introduction morphed into a 10-minute progressive journey through influential ghosts of bands such as John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra or even Les Claypool’s Manic Bunch.

Some of the songs played off 2010’s Simplexity were the ultra-jagged “Brother Juniper,” a song that displays the super lethal chops of drummer Ben Wirjosemito as well as different individual highlights from the rest of the band. The group showed that when it comes to playing live, they have no problem reproducing anything they have done on disc.

The technical guitar ranting of Scott Zanon weaves intricate patterns in and out of the percussive madness of the Wirjosemito brothers, who in turn blend liquid synthesizer phrasing and frenetic drum patterns underneath the bottom end sensibility of four-string monster Mike Delia. This is instrumental music for the thinking man. There was nothing here if you just come to talk loudly over the music to your girlfriends about the latest sale at Victoria’s Secret.

Another cool notable from Simplexity is the heavy vamp of “Post Game Carnage Report,” a down-tuned monster that growls courtesy of keyboardist Adam. The song breaks out and flows into a combination of percussive mastery and compositional psychedelics before storming the aural gate and knocking down the main theme fortress like a battering ram. Monster guitars bite and slash and Ben explodes in rhythmic cacophony.

“Agent Efraim Zimbalist” is another great off-kilter dervish that half steps down into the magical rabbit hole of delay, synthesizers and stuttered rhythm patterns along the influential lines of Gruvis Malt or Mr. Bungle.

The band took the audience on a ride lasting over an hour through the joyful noise that is Imbala. This is a band that can do something more than just beat you over the head with loud Marshalls for an hour. They keep your attention on their ability to move musically, to leave you wondering what they are going to do next, which is paramount in building fan bases and longevity.

Unfortunately, I cannot really say the same for the rest of the night, as the featured bands seemed unprepared for a show this big. With the exception of newly reunited Enstride, the opening bands seemed to be reaching. A strange mixture of Staind and Creed wannabes, the first couple of acts were downright awful.

Imbala was the exception and well worth my trip into the City Of Brotherly Love. Their power of manipulating music without standard vocals is invaluable and uncanny. Low on pretense, this is a band with serious aspirations and scarily original delivery. Imbala is well on track to putting themselves into a genre that commands respect, as well as being taken as a serious art form, in a world loaded with too many Katy Perry’s and fluffy jam bands. If you are looking for music and performance from a band that will leave you looking for more, check these guys out at a venue near you as soon as possible. For more information on Imbala, head over to reverbnation.com/imbala.

 

Sean Schulle Passes Away

The Jersey Shore music community has lost yet another member. Neptune resident Sean Schulle, formerly of the bands Blotter and Wreck Engine passed away in his sleep on February 19. He was 35 years young. Sean grew up on the Monmouth County music scene, cutting his teeth in various projects and entertaining many throughout the years on the Jersey Shore as well as New York and Philadelphia.

Clubs such as the Saint booked some of his earliest shows. Scott Stamper told me recently that, “Sean was just a really great guy who first walked through the Saint doors when he was a kid. We’ll miss him so much.” Music was in Sean’s blood from day one.

His father, Peter Schulle, was the keyboard player for Cats On A Smooth Surface, a band that rose to regional prominence here on the shore and the world beyond. There was a recent gathering of the community to lend support to his parents, family, girlfriend and friends.

Following the service, musicians from all walks came together at the Spring Lake Manor to pay homage and give support to Sean’s family. With this unfortunate passing, we can all be thankful that the community always rises to any occasion to help their own and even though we face hard times such as the loss of a friend, the music never stops. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 6 Osborn Avenue, Manasquan, NJ 08736.

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