Joan of Arc alum releases boffo solo work!

Victor Villarreal
Invisible Cinema
Joyful Noise Records, 2011
Review by Kent Manthie

This, the new solo CD from Victor Villarreal, guitarist extraordinaire, Invisible Cinema, is a real departure from his appearance on the latest Joan of Arc CD, Life Like, on which he appears as one of the twin lead guitarists (Tim Kinsella also plays guitar). Life Like is a real tour de force for Joan of Arc, one of my favorite JOA CDs. But compared to that CD, Invisible Cinema is a mellower, acoustic-based chill-out CD. Even though he isn’t assailing the electric guitar like on Life Like, which is just a whiplash ride from start to finish, Victor shines on this seven-song solo CD.

The reason I mention his role in the most recent Joan of Arc CD is that, besides having reviewed Life Like when it first came out, I also had the privilege of seeing JOA live, when they came out here to San Diego to play a show at the Casbah, a small-ish club that is a mile or two north of the downtown area. The show was a blisteringly loud and virtuosic set. Besides being a piercingly great guitarist during the show, trading off with front man Tim Kinsella, the drummer, Theo Katsaouris, just beat the hell out of his kit, which really punctuated the songs with an indelible beat that was unforgettable. But it was as a whole that the band shone. What was great was that this Chicago-based band finally made it out here to the West Coast and came to San Diego, where I happen to be stuck at the time. Anyway, I was happy to be able to review both the album and the show, not just because it deserved the publicity and the praise but also because I wanted to get the word out to as many San Diegans as possible, since Reviewer, for which I reviewed them, is a San Diego-based magazine and their corresponding website, is available worldwide on the internet for anyone to check out. The same thing applies to this Victor Villarreal’s new solo album: I want to let everyone I can, in San Diego (as well as everywhere else that this can be accessed) to know how great of an album Invisible Cinema is.

One other small difference is that Invisible Cinema is on Joyful Noise Records, not Polyvinyl Records like JOA’s current label. But that doesn’t change the quality of the music on it. Each of Victor’s songs on the new CD have the feel of nakedness and an introspective touch to them.

The opening track, “Enters”, sounds not unlike a track from an older Joan of Arc album, back from the 1998-99 era. But it is not derivative or anything, it is uniquely Victor Villarreal on here. But one can see how he fits so well with the aforementioned Joan of Arc.

Other examples of greatness on Invisible Cinema include the tracks “Darts in the Dark” and the more upbeat “The Guess” and “Sway” which all show how versatile Villarreal can be. Song number six, “Out of My Hands” is a soft, acoustic tune, but has an eclectic side to it, which really works great and fits in here between the other tracks perfectly. I hate to do it, but sometimes it’s hard not to draw comparisons with Joan of Arc in certain ways and if I must, I would say that “Out of My Hands” reminds me a little of something that could’ve shown up on Joan of Arc’s fabulous album, Live in Chicago: 1999 or The Intelligent Design of Joan of Arc. I say that I don’t want to get into comparing Victor’s solo stuff with Joan of Arc, which, for some reason, seems to be 1) too easy and 2) not very fair, since this is Victor’s own, personal solo album and not a Joan of Arc album. Nonetheless, I just can’t help but notice the similarities in certain spots.

Just like asking a parent which one of his children is his favorite, it’s very difficult to decide what the best tune on this CD is – the whole disc is one great listen. Playing it from beginning to end is the best way to enjoy it, since there is no bad songs on here, nothing that one would want to skip over. So, even though I mentioned those three songs as examples, the CD as a whole is terrific.

One thing about Invisible Cinema is that it’s not a particularly long CD, clocking in at only about a half hour, so I’m not sure whether it’s an EP or a shorter full-length CD. Even though it may not be super long, the seven songs on here do make the album seem complete in its own way, and the continuity is fluid and seamless, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything missing or that there should be more.

The final cut on the CD, “Leaves” is a great closer – an acoustic, instrumental jam that leaves one with a sense of contentment and completion.

The basic idea I want to leave you with is that this is a great album and deserves to be heard by those who are into indie music in general and the whole Joan of Arc/Owen/Cap’n Jazz/Owls, etc axis in particular. Check out Invisible Cinema and you will be pleased with how unique and crystal it is. Check out Victor on Facebook or Joyful Noise’s website, for more information about the artist and the label too.



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