Random Notes is a cheerful, wildly enjoyable jaunt across a musical spectrum that boasts bold prog flavours within its curious and characterful beat-centred grooves. Can you do the math on that? Waxamilion certainly can.

Release date: December 28, 2023 | Bormsen Records | Facebook | Instagram | Stream/Purchase

Waxamilion is the one-man project of Max Dornauer, an Austrian guitarist affiliated with the awesome Bormsen Records (and its wholesome modus operandi). With a trail of regular releases – all started with 2018’s incensored – Dornauer has built a healthily growing audience thanks to the trademark vibes he so fondly conjures. Random Notes sees the return of his ongoing melting pot: one that comprises the unpredictable vibrancy of prog and math rock with the suave, swaggering, collected demeanour of hip-hop and soulful R’n’B.

If that combination seems a little colourful, one look at the vivid artwork by Dune Haggar echoes the overall timbre of this record. It’s a playful and welcoming sound expressed by those involved. You see, while Waxamilion is helmed by Dornauer – who is accomplished in his own right having previously collaborated with members of Covet, Periphery, The Helix Nebula, and more – his individual display on Random Notes is even further brightened by a few guest appearances, continuing another trademark of this collaboratively minded artist.

Contrary to its moniker and the perceived disarray of sound to a momentary/passing listener, Random Notes contains some phenomenally hooky songwriting. Chirping refrains, motifs, and melodies worm their way into the ear, easing in aboard a vehicle of jazzily ascending and descending progressions, math rock rhythms, and a warm low end that dances alongside the oozing charm of Dornauer’s overarching prog stylings. It may come as no surprise that he’s a jazz-trained guitarist, as his boundless creativity is rarely out of your immediate field of view while he deftly merges lead lines and their underlying chords with fluidity and fervour.

Moreover, in the same way that a candle reshapes and moulds to its surroundings as it burns from beginning to end, so too does the music of Waxamilion. Random Notes is such a versatile album, rife for the keen listener to extrapolate a wealth of musical detail. Little flourishes mingle that snap your attention back, like the tick-tock strokes in “Vanish” or the sudden break to digital dissonance and mellow chords (a pervasive component in the record’s appeal for me) that close out “Unnatural Selection”. They are but two examples of small things that contribute to the bigger picture. That said, in the same breath you can just as easily press play, keep it in the background, and trust that Waxamilion will transport you to endearing and engaging climes like the shores of “Pawn Island”.

The record is mostly clean in sound, shimmering throughout with electrifying sparks peering through thanks, in part, to those featuring friends and some electronic infusions. Take the magically nostalgic title track: it starts as an aural embodiment of videogames from bygone eras – it wouldn’t be out of place in a Sonic level – then transcends as we’re thrilled with a mildly distorted solo from Jack Gardiner to amplify the pulse and invoke that highly relatable Bateman face. It’s a splendid marriage of past, present, and future tones. There’s also the impassioned guest solo of Charlie Robbins on “Feelium” that serves up a more sensual vibe in line with the album’s soulful rhythm elements.

You see, for all the fretboard-based fun, Random Notes is as smooth as it is strong – like a good coffee. The prevalent guitar work is complemented with hip-hop beats that broaden the palate on tracks such as “Noseblunt” and “Steezy”. That’s not all: elsewhere, the lo-fi tranquility of “Freistil”  nestles with the R‘n’B taste of “Vanish” or finale “Knusperity” (complete with closing drum chops courtesy of Nico Vasquez) to defy any misconceptions of this album being hollow guitar noodling. After all, why simply showboat on the strings when your diverse songwriting chops and sense of groove can get in on the action and offer a far more worthwhile listening experience with such charismatic ambiance?

I refuse to lazily resign Waxamilion to simple comparisons with peers (you know the ones), renowned as they are for similarly guitar-percussive tones in their songcraft. The biggest reason for this is that I actually find Waxamilion’s music to be altogether more charming and absolutely capable of standing on its own merit. A secondary reason stems from the joy I take in experiencing such a crisp mix in my earholes. While percussive, rhythmic accentuations from Dornauer’s picking are pronounced in the mix on Random Notes, they’re not jarring like those I’ve experienced elsewhere, whose presence is often distracting. Here, they complement, standing out as a supplement without derailing any sense of melody.

The product of Waxamilion is a sound that manages to be impressive without appearing a showoff. That can be an incredibly fine line to tread nowadays, and yet Dornauer succeeds here with as much ease as his execution of the wondrous flurry of sound populating the interesting and enjoyable music found on Random Notes. Simultaneously stimulating and soothing thanks to the stylistic fusions intertwined across its half hour runtime, I wholly encourage you to relish in this album’s weaving ways and unpredictability – the twists and turns are truly a pleasure to take.

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