Review: Miki Campins “Les Mans Plenes D’Arena”

Miki Campins “Les Mans Plenes D’Arena”

02 Dec, 2011 Matt Warnock

Originally trained in classical guitar, Spanish-born percussionist and composer Miki Campins (Miquel Àngel Campins Camacho), who currently lives and teaches in Norway, has brought together an eclectic set of influences for his recording project aptly titled Les Mans Plenes D’Arena (The Hands are Full of Sand). Bringing to mind long days on the beach, ocean breezes and even tropical storms, the album paints the landscape that Campins grew up watching day in and day out, and one that he still holds strong ties to in his adult years. Featuring well-written tunes, strong musicians and creative arrangements, the album is a musical journey through the mind and creative thoughts of this very talented performer and writer.

After the short intro piece “Overdrive,” the album kicks off with the Spanish/Latin influenced “Ab-Muhr.” Featuring a clave-groove in the bass, bringing to mind Cuban and Puerto Rican Salsa music, the song also features Spanish flavored harmonies and melody lines, drawing together two Spanish cultures from across the Atlantic in one musical output. The marimba solo, which is performed by the compose Campins, adds to the melodic material with a nice build up to the distorted, fusion-influenced guitar solo that takes the listener into the next section, which features percussion trading with the rest of the band. Not only is this song a strong outing for the improvisers, the arrangement is also full of detail, growing from one section to the next in a clear and precise manner, drawing the listener along the storyline in a way that is both engaging and creative in nature. This kind of forward thinking with the arrangements is one of the elements that helps to lift this album to the highest level of musicianship and creative self-expression.

Besides the softer, more moody pieces on the record, there are also harder, more rock-inspired tracks such as “Den Farlige Reven.” Here, the melody is played on the marimbas, surrounded by multiple layers of distorted electric guitar. The mixture of acoustic and electric, processed instruments really helps to bring the melody to the forefront, shining a light on the main phrases of the piece while allowing the guitars to build textures in the background. As is the case in other tracks, after the percussion plays the melody, the electric guitar takes center stage during the solo section with a strong, melodically based solo, complete with whammy-bar work and screaming bends when needed. Though there is a fair amount of effects and processing going on with the guitars on this track, as well as others on the record, it never gets to be too much. Instead, it only adds an extra layer of interest and tonal variation to the song, rather than sound over worked as some songs can when the engineers get too over the top with the effects. Campins uses just the right amount of processing to add to the mood of the pieces without taking away from the over musicality of the recording.

Overall, Les Mans Plenes D’Arena is a strong release for Campins. His talented group of musicians comes together to interpret his compositions with the utmost respect for the writer’s intent, as well as the highest level of musicianship. Instrumental albums can sometimes become monotonous or predictable by the second or third track, but that is not the case with this record. From start to finish the songs are well-written, lead well from one to the next while keeping things fresh and interesting, and the improvised solos are first rate. A world-class performance all around.

Review by Matthew Warnock
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)