It’s amazing how many prog fans seem to stop looking for new yearly releases around the end of October. I suppose that most of the “important” ones have released by then, but more often that not I’ve found my album of the year in the last month or two of the year. While it won’t be my album of the year, Sithu Aye’s “Homebound” is a strong album that he had the balls to release on the 17th of December.
I first heard of Sithu Aye when he toured North America with Haken in 2017. I was super impressed not only with his music and musicianship, but also with his charisma and energy, even though he’s a rather low key guy. He hails from the UK, and usually has various guest musicians with him on his albums and on the road.
Many people have compared Sithu Aye’s music to that of Plini. Obviously, the similarity is there. Sithu Aye offers purposeful, melodic guitar phrasing that feels joyful, celebratory, and energetic. His music is clearly passionate and positive and even pop-centric at times. Unlike Plini, Sithu Aye injects his music with a hefty dose of prog metal, often pretty technical and maybe even a bit djenty. So, while his songs are extremely melodic and beautiful, they can also be fairly heavy with this signature undulating feeling to the riffs and licks. And, as fresh and pure as the music feels, it also seems methodical and minutely detailed.
“Homebound” is one of those albums that is over before you even realize it. I count that as a good thing. Hanging out around the 45 minute mark, the album flows with grace, ambition, and elation, and it ends very well, but before you may expect it. The album is instrumental, but you can still sense the themes of adventure, conflict, and nostalgia.
Every single track is a pleasure to hear, but there are certain ones that I want to discuss. “Primary Ignition” is a fantastic piece of energy and joy that really jumpstarts this album. “Grand Order” follows, and has a wonderful keyboard chorus, which is a bit surprising. It feels magnificent and full of wonder. “Journey” continues the feelings of adventure: The last half, especially, offers a huge scale of melody and light.
My two favorites occur near the end of the album. “Footsteps” is my favorite. It has the brightest, most direct guitar phrasing on the album, and it’s just one of those songs to sit back and enjoy for the light and peace it brings. I love how intense it gets near the end. The title track is a close second to that, though. The guitar work here is intense with lots of detailed finger work, and the song itself has a rolling ambient build up that leads into an explosive second half.
Sithu Aye continues to impress with not only his guitar work, but his overall sense of melody and even his pop sensibilities. His music is pure enjoyment. If you love Plini or instrumental albums of any type, do yourself a favor and get this album.
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