***and1/2 out of *****
The man the myth the guitar legend Buckethead has been called many things. He is known for his eccentric appearance (KFC Bucket, White Mask etc), his shredding guitar style, his nun-chucks, his elusiveness and bizarre horror movie like website/persona, but rarely has the term emotional been brought up when describing the man and that is the first word that comes to mind when listening to Pikes 13.
The Pikes series is a quick/direct way for Buckethead to release material directly to his devoted fan-base at a low cost. The stream of music may dilute things in the long run, but it allows the artist almost instant access and expression. Overall if this is a good thing can be debated; I wonder what an artist like Frank Zappa would have done with so much freedom?
Zappa is also a decent comparison for the music on Pikes 13, where both Frank and Bucket were known as virtuosos both are also known as oddballs alienating people with their bizarre wanderings at times. What Pikes 13 proves is like some of the best Zappa tracks ("Watermelon In Easter Hay" being one) that emotions are at the core of music and true feeling can shine through without words.
The tracks here are mellow, instrumental and not even titled. Acoustic guitar mixes with electric over sometimes light drums or mellow loops and samples, no trademark shredding or in your face freakouts. There seems to be honesty mixing with grief in these tracks. "Track 2" has weeping notes reminiscent of Funkadelic's excellent "Maggot Brain" which Eddie Hazel burned into ears forever while "Track 3" has a sense of forbading lurking around the edges.
"Track 6" is the disk highlight with a building mix of acoustic electric that is simply gorgeous at the end. The album flows as one piece and a distinct hint at where Buckethead's mind is can be glimpsed at from the album art. The Pike series overall has a comic book feel with simple sketches or odd photos gracing the covers of most of the releases. However, Pikes 13 is the first time Buckethead has released anything with a picture of him on it without his mask. The image on the front shows a young Brian Patrick Carroll in his formative years with what looks like a black bucket on his head an acoustic guitar in his hand while hugging his father.
For this reclusive artist the picture is incredibly telling, in a world where style means so much more then substance, to then have Carroll release this touching collection of tracks and momentarily step from behind his created curtain, it points to this collection music being more personal and hence elevated above the others in this series.
Not much more to add, you can collect the Pike Series here, get lost in Bucketheads world here and peep a sample or two below: