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Just Offshore - Between Crystal Lake And A Tangerine Dream
By Ben Ohmart
(more articles from this author)
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There's a new old kid in town, plugged in from Power Voltage Records, that updates the textbooks in the old school of electronic music. Just Offshore is a good candidate for being the archetype of personality in music. There is nothing original, there is only progression, evolution and personality; as defining as a new voice on a new cartoon character. Just Offshore's element turns new age into electronica, building on the theme of persistence in pleasure. We aren't meant to relax, we aren't meant to think, while listening, we're meant to learn a new language as the waves lap over us, as steady as a timer and poetic as modern art.

The new, self-titled CD from Just Offshore is one that can spin on and on via repeat play without effort. The opening 8 minutes of "Ocean Storm" is like being spray-painted with sky. It's a sonic swirl of music mist that stereoizes the left and right brains like something Tangerine Dream would cook up if they were still cutting edge today and decided that new age does not necessarily equal electronica, no matter how much p- pound is beaten into the mix.

More on Just Offshore
* Genre: Progressive Electronic
* Location: Florida
* Label: Power Voltage Records
* Website
* Buy the Just Offshore CD
* Contact Just Offshore
Take a listen to Just Offshore
Ocean Storm
Galactic Construction
When I listen to the blatantly synthetic nature of "From Here to There" I am constantly reminded of the final cue of the score to the first Friday the 13th movie. Unrelenting, beautiful but too loud in the ears to be gorgeous, and dramatically on edge. All right, no dead boys musically jump out at you on this track, but there's a demanding persistence to it that does not dominate its surrounding brothers.

Just one track over, on the final "24/7", techno comes back like that sound of swirling mist, blipped by audio laser lights tagging your mind in stereo. "Galactic Construction" is a heightened remix of this kind of idea, bubbling like a Frankenstein studio or a MacGuyver episode at a silent movie comedy pace. The surrounding worker ant sounds finally give way to a coffee break of pensive thought, but the movement refuses to go away. Original and biting, without ever giving up the definition of ambient or new age totally. Never confuse "Galactic Construction" or the CD's other offerings with techno, as there is too much thought and planning for anything to ever wholly rely on beat only.

Perhaps the most interesting and arresting sound of the CD is the cover of "House of the Rising Sun", which tinkles into life like some lead-off song on an early Yes album. That's right, instead of acoustic guitar, there is an army of glittering blips that control the rhythm of the chords while a Rick Wakeman-like synth sound (think bamboo flute plugged in) that's still a surprisingly faithful adaptation of this classic thingy. And for those of you who are bent the Disney way, remember that ol' Main Street Electrical Parade? Okay that'll stick in your mind as a forerunner to these 6 minutes.

The gist of previous reviews of Just Offshore is that it takes its style from the '80s, while using production values of 30 years after the fact. The truth is that like a good film, the sound is as 3-D as you get without actually being a part of it or putting your heart against a club speaker.

You can hear some of the tracks already in rotation at Progressive Soundscapes Radio; 88.7 WNHU-FM (University of New Haven, CT), The Show With No Name; The Riverbank; Bruce's '70s Progressive Station, The Smiling Ear; Melodious Synth Radio Aural Innovations Radio; Delicious Agony Progressive Rock Radio; Modern Metro Radio; and others.

The brains behind such progressive electronica is Russ Mate, late of the Bronx punk/metal band known as Cold Sweat, beating their drums for 'em from 1981 to 1990. Then he switched to the New Jersey-based, hard rock band Mutley's Rockit as their keyboard man, performing in and around New York City until 1992. After a few more excursions Mate has found his true calling in the solo writing/performing/arranging of Just Offshore, the name of which he explains as "a metaphor for being situated beyond the mainstream music business, which is a place I've found myself my entire career."

He's got the usual musical heroes for such an ambient journey. "Tangerine Dream, Jarre, Vangelis, and similar electronic artists, since I was mostly influenced by '70s progressive artists and hard rock/heavy metal bands from that same decade. I would also include late mid-late '60s rock as influences also."

You'd think that such compositions, which rely so much on mood and emotions, stem from his attitudes of the moment, but Mate explains, "At one time that may have been true. But as my musical and compositional maturity has increased over time, I've been able to create music in a more purposeful manner. The trick is to balance deliberate technical process with creative spontaneity. I think I achieved that on this album.

"You'll hear some of my heavy rock influences on my next release. As a musician, I can draw on different styles and genres and apply them to my compositions, as I like. Once again, this is another balance between being the musician, and being the artist, and using both of those abilities to create."

He's working on that next album now, for a probably late 2005 or early 2006 release. He sees a definite shift to a more progressive rock style, with a heavier sound. And he's keeping his options open for film work ("a sci-fi movie would be fun to score"), while some of the current tracks are already under license for use in an upcoming documentary film.

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