Robert Svilpa is an enigma – iconoclastic in how he tears down boundaries and beliefs held dear in music and just about anything else, mercurial in his approaches to creativity in writing and music. All while honoring influences by pushing against the tried and true – eschewing the easy path to grow in skills and incorporate everything he hears and listens to into his work.
Disciplined in approach but improvisational and instinctive in practice, Rob’s music has evolved from originally being loose-blues-based rock, through a highly regimented classic progressive compositional rock and coming to a place where the blues and progressive rock has incorporated all the improvisational aspects of jazz and fusion into a rock framework. Not living entirely in any one place, there’s a comfort now in allowing himself and his collaborators to let themselves contribute freely, allowing instinct to take over and elevate the music to the next quantum level.
Historically, Robert spent the first half of his life playing cover songs (solo guitar and voice, solo guitar/voice and keyboards, solo guitar/keyboards/voice with fully sequenced backing), doing commercial session work guitar/keyboards around Ontario, Canada, producing independent bands and artists, and producing/contributing to college anthology albums of local talent (CHRW London Underground III, CHRW Jazz & Beyond). But it was in the early 2000’s when the digital revolution happened that had Robert moved to the composer/artist path, being very involved in bringing digital production studios into the modern age with his involvement in elevating the Windows platform to be a platform for music and video production. Rob was very involved with the Microsoft/Steinberg partnership bringing Cubase SX 3.0 release as the paradigm-shifting moment – Rob’s involvement had him working on his second full-length release “The Sound of Thoughts” as part of a validation effort proving the Cubase/Windows platform as being ready for prime time. Microsoft recognized the album internally in 2006 as an important moment in Windows history, celebrating the release and using it in promotional efforts externally as proof positive of Windows arrival in the multimedia productivity area.
The album also received great recognition in the progressive rock forums – comparing it favorably to releases by bands such as Spock’s Beard, IQ, Arena, etc… As a purely independent offering, it sold over 1000 copies with Robert spending significant energy licking stamps and stuffing envelopes, shipping CDs around the world and really discovering his musical value at this time.
The follow-up “A fine line between…” arrived in 2009 – again very well-reviewed but a significantly darker album from a subject matter perspective meant that it wasn’t what most people expected. Robert dove into the subject of mental health and depression, with music that matched. Production was vastly improved with it being the first time Robert worked with collaborators and outside session musicians (his band Paraesthesia were Paul Harrington and Mark Parris, while drummers Nick D’Virgilio, Andy Edwards, and Zsolt Galantai provided their portion of the rhythm section remotely), but being released on the heels of the onset of the Great Recession. Additionally, Robert’s focus was entirely on his family with new arrivals coming just weeks after release, meaning that marketing and production suffered. The album sold very poorly, with people choosing to find it on file-sharing sites instead of chancing to purchase and wait.
2015 arrived, and Rob revisited the two previous albums – remix/remasters for both albums were released in 2016 with an additional limited release of cover tunes called Tributes 1 coming out digitally.
January 2019 and relocation from Seattle to the Silicon Valley – Robert began taking the musical bits and pieces he had been recording the previous three years and started to turn them into real compositions. A 5-minute piece of music that was affectionately called HTFK from 1993 and was a staple of his live solo shows had now captured his attention, with a concerted focus on turning it into a long-form piece of music. Over the next three years, HTFK became Foucault’s Pendulum, going through several iterations and rewrites/revisions before arriving at the point of being a rock symphony in 6 movements. Just as the original 5-minute piece began and ended with the same guitar motif, the expanded piece used the same device. But the ultimate aim was to take the essential pieces from that original work (several keyboard arpeggios, the guitar motifs, dynamics, etc) and build the variations to complete it.
Foucault’s Pendulum was released digitally on January 6th, 2022 – 49 minutes of music split across 6 movements. It marks the next stage in Robert’s work, as he again brought in outside help for the rhythm sections (Todd Sucherman, Marc Miller, Andy Edwards, John Jowitt, Igor Willcox, and Chris Cullman), giving them creative freedom to come up with their own parts in the hope to elevate the whole, and this is exactly what happened. Robert’s own evolution had Robert give himself the latitude to use the compositional music as a frame onto which to hang improvisational performances. Most of Robert’s guitar and keyboard work, therefore, is unedited and left in its original form as tracked – it took a lot of effort and self-discipline to not dive in and make corrections in timing and pitch but the benefit, in the end, is a very energetic and organic album that has a spontaneous, almost dangerously live sound.
The best rock albums from the 60’s through today, and in fact, the best jazz albums over the decades are the ones that captured the performance of a band playing on a tightrope without a net. The danger of players stretching their skills up to that point of almost failure injects an excitement that is impossible to capture in a quantized to the grid, pitch-corrected ProTools environment. While this album was recorded at home during the most constrained of times, having musicians of a high caliber who can run through a few takes and choose the best one (just like The Beatles and just about every other band of days gone by) keeps that energy, excitement, danger in the music – and that translates well on Foucault’s Pendulum. A true hybrid of the modern age with a vintage recording methodology keeping that vitality in the music for the listener to enjoy.
Going forward, Robert has his next album locked and loaded – vocal sessions are being lined up with more outside collaborators to finish it off, and it will be released as a stand-alone but it truly is a companion piece. “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream…” is a collection of songs that were originally intended to be part of a double CD that included Foucault’s Pendulum weaved into its fabric, but both from a focus and practical perspective they were broken into two separate releases. They still have connections to each other, as some musical themes are shared to different effects. The audience who have both projects will hear the connection, but neither album suffers as a stand-alone project. It is just a richer experience for the loyal patron to have both.
Live performances, Robert will be appearing at ROSFest in Sarasota Florida this April 2022 playing in the Minstrel on the Patio program. Additional shows are possible as Robert will be looking to assemble a lineup that can effectively reproduce the material. A further recording is in the plans, with the next album pre-production writing in the embryonic stages, with no release dates projected yet at this time.
Style of Music
Art-rock, progressive rock, prog metal, progressive jazz
Robert Svilpa + special guests
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream – TBA – 2022
Foucault’s Pendulum – Melodic Revolution Records – CD Digital – 2022
HTFK – Fanshawe College MIA Student Compilation – 1996
CHRW-FM Jazz & Beyond (Various Artists) – 1996 MCA Canada (out of print)
CHRW London Underground Three (Various Artists) – 1995 (out of print)
Scratching Post (demo) – 1995
Frankenstein Five (Not on Label) – 1994
Frank Perry (self-released) – 1994
I have this wicked headache… – CHRW-FM Jazz & Beyond (1993)
Licorice Fix (demo) – 1993
Robert Svilpa Online
Booking & Media
Melodic Revolution Records