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Joel Hoekstra




What a surprise listening to UNDEFINED. The Chicago based guitarist; Joel Hoekstra has put together a dark adventure of mysterious guitar textures featuring an amazing rhythm section.

Hoekstra combined the talents of bassist Ric Fierabracci, who was previously a member of Yanni's band, and drummer Virgil Donati, whose worked with Tribal Tech, Planet X, and Brett Garsed and T.J. Helmerich. Donati is also the current drummer on tour with Steve Vai as part of G3. Taking things one step further, Helmerich is one of the premier recording engineers for progressive instrumental music. His credits include engineering Tribal Tech, Frank Gambale, and Steve Smith. Yes, Helmerich also engineered UNDEFINED.

The disc opens with "Electric Fields," a composition that could cover as the theme music for a crime drama. The tune slides left of center with the keyboards added by Chris Grove. "Urban Experiments" continues with Jay Cappo adding keyboards to the mix. The rhythm guitar portion of the song soars with a whah petal that adds mystery to the sound.

Adding Steve Graeber on alto sax on "Mad Bar" once again transforms a well-written composition into a dark, moody statement. During drum fills by Virgil Donati, the rhythm becomes extremely complicated and impossible for the novice listener to count out. "Homework" adds a funk bass guitar along with more keyboard effects on this bizarre tune.

"Corny" is a throwback to the late seventies instrumental funk. Almost disco without the driving dance beat. There is also a well thought out bass solo. This one is less dark, but not out of place with the theme of the disc. "Gorilla Man 2000" packs a punch of guitar and keyboards, and the intensity runs rampant from beginning to end. Again, Donati's drum fills explain why he is one on the most in demand drummers in the world.

Donati is a native Australian now residing in Los Angeles. He also spends unrealistic amounts of time practicing. This could be the reason why he is taking the states by storm.

About the only thing that can be said about "Kill Swing" is out there. "Space Cowboy" is the first of two vocal tracks. As with the rest of the disc, even this one is a little out there. All right, a lot out there. With the scratch like an old record, the Howdy Doody-ish voice is all Hoekstra. Mix in a banjo and a cackling chicken and you're almost there. The final element is blinding guitar licks.

"Reflection" is perhaps the most groove oriented composition on the disc. A catchy melody. The last song, "Spank Me," features a vocalist named Cathy Richardson. Hoekstra is the guitarist in Richardson's band. Currently, both are working in New York on the production LOVE, JANIS.

Overall, UNDEFINED is a well-written and well-performed disc. There are no weak songs. Although this is a guitar record, there are other elements, which keep the disc fresh. The consistently dark theme becomes more interesting throughout the length of the disc. The only problem with this disc is that a follow-up will be hard to top.

BOTTOM LINE: An extremely entertaining disc with dark melodies and monster musicians that combine on this powerhouse effort.
--Randy Allar, Music's Bottom Line

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