Barry Cleveland has always been a musician's musician, and his Hologramatron reaches new heights in that vein. This album is a heady blend of alternative rock, psychedelia-tinged experimental ambient, and creative jazz-rock. The album is, for the most part, a song cycle on lies, deceit, corruption, and the powers that be. For this journey, the creative guitarist has enlisted a star-studded cast. The core of the band consists of pedal steel guitarist Robert Powell, Michael Manring on bass, Celso Alberti on drums, and Amy X Neuburg on vocals. Neuburg is a great fit on songs like "Lake of Fire" and "Money Speaks" -- and this is a rare opportunity to hear her voice without electronic treatments. The guest list includes Harry Manx and Deborah Holland duetting on "Stars of Sayulita," Artist General (aka Michael Masley, once in improv quintet Cloud Chamber alongside Cleveland and Manring) slamming in "Warning," and ambient guitarist Erdem Helvacioglu weaving his soundscapes in the instrumental track "You'll Just Have to See It to Believe." All are excellent choices and fit their assigned tracks perfectly. This kind of producer's ear makes it even more difficult to understand why Cleveland opted to include two covers: Malvina Reynolds' "What Have They Done to the Rain" and Joe Meek's "Telstar" -- they don't integrate well with the theme and flow of the album. And considering the strength of Cleveland's self-penned material, they were unnecessary. More interesting are the three bonus remixes included, especially Forrest Fang's delicate ambient take on the instrumental track "Abandoned Mines." The word "ambient" appears a couple of times in this review, but this is not a trippy, introspective album. Songs like "Lake of Fire," "Warning," and "Suicide Train," even the Helvacioglu-backed "You'll Just Have to See It to Believe," have bite and fire. Hologramatron is a strong album despite the two covers, and it should raise Barry Cleveland's profile, rightfully so.
AllMusic Review by François Couture