Alain Johannes, who is most commonly known for his work with Natasha Shneider and Jack Irons of the band Eleven, recently released his solo debut, Spark. Johannes is a well-known guitarist and producer in the music industry as he has worked with various prominent groups including, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Mark Lanegan and Chris Cornell. Johannes gives a wonderful and impressive collection of tunes that together are under thirty minutes. He uses a diverse number of instruments including his homemade cigfiddle, a harmonium and a contrabass guitar. Spark is dedicated to Johannes former wife and band mate, Natasha Shneider. Throughout this short album, he explores ways in which to deal with the loss of his partner. It’s a touching reminder that sometimes, we are lost without the ones who are close to us, but find a way to move on with that love.
The album starts off with upbeat and exploding rhythmic riffs which are full of emotion and power, which then fades into ballads. At first, Johannes gives a feeling of desperateness, but then begins to find solutions to his grief and how to manage it. The darkness of the album starts off with “Endless Eyes” with powerful lyrics as he howls “It’s killing me that I must go on living”. Though dark, this song kicks off with upbeat drums and fast paced use of guitars. “Return to You” is another buoyant tune that expressers his lost love, but that he will return to her soon. “Speechless” is a cigfiddle driven ballad with dark humming in the background longing to find his path back to reality. It has mostly an Indian influence. “Make God Jealous” has a middle-eastern influence that sounds vivacious and mystical. In a way, it conveys a sense of hope. “Spider” is similar to “Speechless” that explores the mystical beauty of his love. “The Bleeding Whole”, one of the highlights of the album, is a slow ballad that has an atmospheric sound where Johannes wails over his loss and hopelessness. “Gentle Ghosts” is another upbeat tune with fun sparking guitars. The album closes of with “Unfinished Plan”, an elusive track going back to themes from where he began.
Johannes gives us an intelligent and musically diverse record with superlative lyrics and instrumentation. Spark is a short and sweet album that I would recommend to anyone who is looking for something different. Fans of Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild or Chris Cornell’s Euphoria Morning would enjoy this album. It has everything from bursting guitars to howling and atmospheric ballads.