The Venus Variations is a solo project by Canadian multi-instrumentalist Art Griffin with help from guitarist Kelly Kereliuk and violinist Victoria Yeh. This is the first solo album from Griffin, apart from how the trio usually records together in their prog-rock instrumental band “Art Griffin's Sound Chaser.” Far from the prog genre, The Venus Variations is a collection of styles that mix in jazz, chill and laid-back grooves. The album was written and recorded in Griffin's Artsounds Studio. Griffin also produced, mixed and mastered the recording using the latest version of Pro Tools. With Griffin on guitar, bass, keys and drum programming, Kereliuk doing the lead guitar work and Yeh on electric violin, Venus, taps into the jazzy/laid back instrumental style of the ’60s with some songs similar to George Benson and Dave Grusin. The tracks vary in style; one more Santana-like, one sounding more techno, but the overall instrumentation provides a commonality which unifies the album. Oh, and if you’re into album cover art, which was done by Mark Beatty and Jennifer Pepper – it’s quite stunning!
The beginning measures of “At Home in the Cosmos” make you believe that you are floating among the stars. It’s magical all around, and the work on electric violin by Yeh is something you don’t hear every day – it’s a pretty unique sound. Kereliuk’s guitar work intricately weaves in and out of Griffin’s drum programming, which keeps the song’s momentum going. “I Remember You from Tomorrow” starts off with a traditional piano sound on keys and more of a classical/jazz style from Kereliuk on guitar. Overall, the tune was more soulful and chill with bits of jazzier breaks in between the main melody. Next up is “Worlds of Wonder” – an ethereal journey with rich, echoing textures and imaginative sounds. About mid-way through there is a subtle key change and some drums drop in. This one definitely has a “laid back” feel to it.
“They Walk Among Us” is by far the longest song on the album and it enfolds with interesting twists and turns as if you’re reading a good story. It starts off with spacious keyboard work, and then a ‘60s/’70s-art-prog jazz style, but as mentioned before, kind of like George Benson, but less smooth and soulful. Overall, it grooves along well with the drum programming and bass lines keeping time. Yeh’s electric violin adds another dimension, almost at times sounding like a synthesizer. Moving along to “Venus Variations No. 1” is a tune that taps into a celestial, soundscape vibe, something like what you might hear on the radio show Hearts of Space. The balance between the percussive work and keys done by Griffin and electronic violin by Yeh is lively and bold, not to mention very science fiction-like. I enjoyed this one a lot.
“Everywhen” gets heavy on the keys, in a ‘70s soul Benson kind of way. Kereliuk’s work on guitar is awesome, as she adds some heavy distortion into the mix. This one had a sultry appeal, but also, the drumming brings a lighter jazz feel with most of the rhythm done on the ride cymbal. Next is “Jovian Raindance” which begins a little like 10CC’s “I’m Not in Love” but when the drums come in, with their very Latin style rhythm, I thought of Santana. Kereliuk’s work on guitar is some of her best on this album. This is a very exciting track, danceable for sure and one I would listen to, that is if you’re into this band’s style of work. The last tune is “Starliner” which has a very unique composition – it almost sounds like the keys, guitar, drums and bass are all playing their own rhythm. Very complex and perhaps the band’s most creative “thinking outside the box” song.
Need something new and interesting to listen to? I’d recommend The Venus Variations by Art Griffin.
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