Reviews in this issue:
- The Australian Pink Floyd Show - Live at Liverpool Kings Dock
~ Waterfront Arena 2004 [DVD]
- Ricocher - Chains
- Carlos Soto - Tribal Behaviour
- Time And Tide - The Water's Edge
- Nautilus - What Colours The Sky In Your World? (Duo Review)
- Far Corner - Far Corner
- Electric Tiger - Tanzmusik
The Australian Pink Floyd Show - Live at
Liverpool Kings Dock Waterfront Arena 2004
Tracklist Disc 1 [158.43]: Speak To Me (2.28), Breathe (2.46), On The Run (3.32), Time (6.57), The Great Gig In The Sky (4.30), Money (6.35), Us And Them (7.43), Any Colour You Like (3.24), Brain Damage (3.50), Eclipse (2.19), Shine On You Crazy Diamond (14.17), Welcome To The Machine (7.09), High Hopes (8.33), Sorrow (11.07), The Fletcher Memorial Home (4.22), Careful With That Axe, Eugene (9.29), Keep Talking (7.20), One Of These Days (6.30), The Happiest Days Of Our Lives (2.16), Another Brick In The Wall part 2 (6.38), Run Like Hell (8.27), Wish You Were Here (6.56), Comfortably Numb (9.44), Skippy The Bush Kangaroo (1.23)
Bonus Material: 2003 promo (4.37), 2004 promo (3.38)
Tracklist Disc 2 [143.27]: Documentary (32.03), Artwork gallery (0.44), Animations [Speak To Me (2.20), On The Run 3.25), Time (2.04), Shine On You Crazy Diamond (9.04), Welcome To The Machine (6.49), The Happiest Days Of Our Lives (1.44), Another Brick In The Wall (3.50)], Photo Galleries [Live Summer Pops (3.13), North America (0.40), European Tour (2.16)], The Archive [Young Lust, Kenny Live Show, Ireland 1996 (4.55), Another Brick In The Wall, featuring Children from the Vera Legge School Of Performing Arts (4.00), One Of These Days, US Spring Tour 2004 (3.11), A Film By Smac (7.59), Dogs - audio (17.12), Mother - audio (5.59)], Easter Eggs [Echoes - audio (21.09), Learning To Fly - audio (5.03), Comfortably Numb, US Spring Tour 2004 (5.14), Damian's been mad for years intro (0.11), Steve Mac's life slogan (0.03), BK1 info]
The Australian Pink Floyd show does not need introduction for most people. This originally Australian, but UK-based band has grown out to become the ultimate Pink Floyd tribute band in the world. The fact that David Gilmour turns up at their shows regularly, and invited them to play at the Division Bell end-of-tour party as well as his fiftieth birthday goes to show that they are doing something right.
As the band themselves state, they strive to recreate the Pink Floyd live experience, rather than walking around wearing wigs and trying to impersonate the different band members.
Through the years Australians Colin Wilson, Steve Mac and Jason Sawford, together with Englishmen Damian Darlington and Paul Bonney have grown out to be the biggest Floyd tribute that exists, spending most of the year touring all over the world, playing to audiences of thousands, with a lightshow that is basically a (slightly) scaled down version of the Delicate Sound Of Thunder tour. And now, by popular demand, the band has released a DVD of one of their concerts.
A tribute band releasing a CD or DVD of their performance always evokes mixed emotions with me. After all, going to see a tribute band perform is one thing, yet buying a CD or DVD of said band to hear/see them perform other people's songs at home is something completely different. Why would you buy a copy if the original is also available?
If, say, The Musical Box would release a DVD with a registration of their Selling England or Lamb Lies Down shows, you could say it is worth purchasing, because no professional footage of these shows is known to exist. In the case of Pink Floyd there has been plenty footage released already through the years, right? Well, technically, no. With the P.U.L.S.E. DVD being perpetually delayed there isn't really a Pink Floyd show of this magnitude available on DVD, so for the time being, the Australian version is a good alternative.
And the band has made sure this DVD is all about the Australian Pink Floyd show, not Pink Floyd. Sure, they make a living playing Floyd's music, but all the documentaries and featurettes on the DVD are about the Australians, not the real Pink Floyd. Basically this is the ultimate souvenir for people who just can't get enough of their shows.
One thing that makes this DVD worth purchasing is the fact that some rare songs are also played. The Fletcher Memorial Home has never been performed live by the real Floyd, and the Australians prove that this song works extremely well live (not to mention the fact that bass-player Colin Wilson's voice sounds eerily close to the real Roger Waters). They also occasionally give their own spin on songs. Careful With That Axe, Eugene is played differently from the original Floyd version, and it sounds a lot less dated and not at all out of place in between the songs from The Division Bell in the set.
What makes the DVD also worth watching is the way the Australian Pink Floyd gives their own spin on recreating the Floyd live show. Like the real Floyd they use a lot of video-footage during their songs, however instead of copying the ones used by the real Floyd, they give them an Australian spin by including their mascot, a pink kangaroo, in most of these movies. Furthermore during One Of These Days the Floyd's inflatable pig is swapped for a giant pink kangaroo (to much joy of the audience).
This isn't to make clowns of themselves, or to poke fun at the original Floyd, it is just a way of adding a dose of humour to the (rather static) performance. The show is impressive enough, and as I said earlier, it doesn't really feel like watching 'just a cover band' with the sheer amount of lights on the stage, lasers and stage props like the inflatable kangaroo or the huge mirror ball they use during Comfortably Numb.
The only negative comment I have to make about the footage, is that there is quite a bit of color-bleeding during sections where a lot of light is used. The DV cameras used to capture the show have a hard time registering all fast-moving, flashing light on and around the stage. Fortunately a lot is compensated by the way the concert is filmed and edited, which is both done very professionally.
The performance of the band is top-notch. They strive for note-perfect recreations of the songs, though every now and then they add some personal touches like the aforementioned Careful With That Axe Eugene, or the extended bridge of One Of These Days (needed to inflate the kangaroo), as well as some of the extended guitar-solos like a second solo in Another Brick In The Wall pt 2. Vocally they are very strong with Colin Wilson as a very worthy Roger Waters, and Damian Darlington and Steve Mac taking care of the vocals of the younger and older Dave Gilmour respectively.
As for the music, they are all very adept players. Especially Paul Bonney is a real asset to the band, as though he lacks the infamous laziness of Nick Mason, his enthusiastic playing does add a lot of extra schwing to many of the songs (especially at the end of Comfortably Numb he is giving is all he's got). The guitar play of Mac and Darlington is excellent, though it has to be said that with songs like Another Brick In The Wall and Comfortably Numb you can actually hear that they have been playing these songs on an almost daily basis for the past 14 years. Time for a new set-list, methinks.
The bonus DVD is filled with every possible thing you could wish for. Apart from a documentary about the history and origins of the band, you also have the option to see the custom made video footage which is used during their concerts. There are several photo galleries and the band included any recordings they already had, like their TV appearance on the Kenny Live Show in Ireland, or amateur footage from memorable gig moments in the past. If that isn't enough there are several audio-only tracks, of songs often performed by the band, but not played during the Liverpool concert. Finally there are some Easter eggs (at least six) to be found, these range from more audio tracks (a great version of Echoes!) to more video footage and some fun stuff from the band - happy hunting!
In conclusion: a great release. Obviously mainly for people who have seen this band, but if you are Floyd fan and would like something different for your Floyd fix, then this would be an excellent alternative!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Ricocher - Chains
Tracklist: Virtual Images: i) Empty Chambers, ii) Beyond Terms Of Humanity, iii) Out Of Control, Bitter Tears, Sand In Your Eyes: i) Perception, ii) Reflected, iii) Silhouette Of You, Whispering Voices, Locked Inside: i) Misguided Lights, ii) Question Within The Answer, Point Of No Return, Breaking The Chain
It must be four years now, since I first caught this Dutch band, quite by chance when I travelled up to Rotherham for a gig organised by the UK's Classic Rock Society. I'd made the 420-mile round trip, mainly for the mouth-watering double bill of Threshold and Pallas, but I was immediately won over by both support acts - Germany's Sylvan and a slightly green, but very promising neo-prog outfit called Ricocher. Indeed, I wasn't alone, as the gig went on to win the band the accolade of 'Best Newcomer' in the Society's annual poll.
Their debut mini-album Quest For The Heartland won warm critical acclaim in the underground press as well as gigs with Saga and Arena to increase their experience. The Dutchmen's second effort Cathedral Of Emotions saw the light of day in 2002 and was a fine slice of hook-laden prog, very much in the vein of IQ, Pendragon and Arena. Now Ricocher come up with their third release Chains - an album that has seen them win a deal with the growing ProgRock Records - home of Atm0sfear, Cryptic Vision and Frameshift. The deal should win them a wider distribution and will undoubtedly cement their reputation as a reliable purveyor of the genre.
Indeed a more typical neo-prog album you 'd be hard to find. This certainly isn't a band from the 'let's see how many time changes we can cram into a song' or 'how long we can stretch out the solos' School of Prog. Similarities with early Marillion and Arena are abundant and there's certainly nothing ground-breaking on offer here.
The combination of Bart van Helmond's guitar and John van Heugten's keyboards was the sound that first attracted me to the band and is the characteristic that still really appeals. It is a very easy album to listen to, although the melodies aren't as immediate as their last album and the songs seem to be at a more relaxed pace. Also Erwin Boerenkamps' vocals seem even more accent-laden than before. I don't know if this is intentional (you'd expect it to be the other way around) and I rather like the effect - but I know some who find it off-putting.
The album itself is one continuing story in seven songs. The opening track, Virtual Images, is one of three that is then split into several parts. The story is about being chained: being misunderstood by friends and relatives and about searching for the best way to act.
Bitter Tears is a fairly simple, three-minute balladic interlude opening with piano and slightly pained voice. There is a typical flowing solo from Bart van Helmond before piano and voice refrain the chorus. Sand In Your Eyes is another three-parter. The first section is a little too obvious in its early Marillion styling. However the second section really mellows, with some beautiful input from guest sax player Mario van Ooy. However it's in the third section that the band finds its own feet. Van Helmond opens with some chunking riffs before a controlled mixture of wandering keys, delicate vocal melodies and acoustic guitar, creates an ever-changing texture of sound.
Whispering Voices opens with driving keys, before voice and acoustic guitar offers a sharp contrast. The rest is fairly standard neo-prog - palatable, if a little safe. The least interesting track is the two-part Locked Inside, that comes across as just too safe and predictable. Thankfully, in sharp contrast, is the drum sound and atmospherics that open up Point of No Return. It goes on at one pace for a little too long, but is saved by a change of gear to a driving guitar solo from Van Helmond at the end.
Coming from the Everon backbone of Oliver Phillips and Christian Moos and their respected Spacelab Studios, the sound of Chains is excellent, as is the cover presentation and the booklet, designed by the renowned Mattias Noren.
If you take Chains and Cathedral.. together, then you could say that Ricocher have found a sound, style and delivery that they feel at home with. It's very well done, very well executed and, yes, for anyone with a taste for neo-prog (especially early Marillion) it is a very pleasant listen. Details such as the saxophone on Reflected are great but should really be used more often and I really think Ricocher come across far better when they up the tempo, as on parts of the closing track.
Altogether, this is a good solid continuation that will appeal to any fans of neo-prog, although I do feel the band's next album will need to push the boundaries a little further if they want to avoid the risk of becoming a little predictable.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Carlos Soto - Tribal Behaviour
Tracklist: Devour (5:26), Tribal Behaviour (6:12), Mechanimal (6:46), Lord Of 1,000 Volts (6:25), Act Of Suspense (2:13), Critical But Stable (6:17), Robotic (7:26), Resurrection (4:41), Shred Alert (5:38), Excess Force (5:47), Maximum Risk (6:55), Latin Rican Night (5:02)
You might believe that reviews of albums that you like would be much easier to write than those that do not appeal, however, this is not always the case (certainly not for me) and Carlos Soto's Tribal Behaviour is just another example. The first spin in the CD player captured the imagination whilst subsequent listenings sustained that original kudos, although I have to admit to a couple of growing reservations creeping in on each subsequent run through. Therefore the words for this review have taken several months to come to fruition.
Firstly a little background on Carlos, and I apologise in advance for the scant info, as the CD arrived without any biography and the web didn't reveal too much more. I have refrained from linking to the website listed on his CD, as there is no info on Carlos to be found there. Of the man's music prior to Tribal Behaviour, I have tracked down several previous releases, Religiously Dangerous (1999), Mega Shred (2001), Manual Aerobatics (2002) and Too Late ... The Damage is Done (2002). There may be more. Carlos himself hails from Los Angeles where he also forms part of Tribus along with Alex Llorens (guitar) and Voyce McGinley (drums). I hope that Carlos will eventually cast aside some of the ANONIMITY which surrounds him, if for no other reason than to make this CD easier to purchase!
Cut to the chase and what is the music like? Well firstly all the tracks are instrumentals and as the album cover warns - undertaken without the involvement of keyboards or guitars - emmm early misgivings! However you may well doubt this claim when you listen to the music, as from the very onset of track one there are a multitude of guitar and synthesizer sounding harmony lead lines. Surprisingly these are all produced from his bass guitars, aided no doubt by multi-effects processing and his bass (triggered) synth. On a slightly "techy" note Carlos' principal instrument for this appears to be his Carvin double neck bass guitar which incorpoates a fretted 4 string top neck (with trem arm) and lower 4 string fretless.
Carlos Soto is a talented bass player and displays his undoubtable skills throughout, although never to the detriment of the material which is almost entirely upbeat - relying greatly on a powerful rhythmic backbone. Now as no drummer is credited, it has been assumed that the tracks are programmed. If so, not only has this been undertaken well, but surely by a drummer or by someone with a keen ear on how a drummer works. To this Carlos adds various bass styles - percussive, driving and melodic (quite often all together) along with those bass parts which form solo sections, which in turn incorporate hammering techniques and chordal structures. The top parts to this driving rhythm section are the extremely infectious harmony lead lines which mix smooth distortion and synth textures.
It would be nigh on impossible to select any particular piece for greater note as each and all the tracks are fairly consistent in their instrumentation. The albums musical strength is derived from the thunderous and intricate double bass drum patterns, which are offset against some excellent bass work and finally topped off with the extremely catchy lead lines. The title track captures it all. I would though like to mention Latin Rican Night which concludes the album - the gentle Latin percussion is complimented by intricate layered, picked chords, violining effects and some effortless fretless bass.
I mentioned above about some reservations, but on a more critical note I would comment that the twelve tracks that make up Tribal Behaviour although of uniform quality that at well over an hour long, the repetition of ideas is inevitable. However if we then take into consideration that all the tracks are instrumentals and performed by one guy I believe that Carlos has come up with a fairly unique album. Again I did feel the album was a little over long at 70 minutes, although I do feel a little churlish saying this. I mean, isn't this just value for money ? Yes, its just that as much as I enjoyed the album I found my attention waning towards the end, which is a shame as the final track is indeed my favourite piece. This in turn leads to another reservation regarding the intensity of the tracks and so consequently the album as a whole, which was that it is pretty much "at one level" for the main part. The exception being the wonderful Latin Rican Night.
Top and bottom of all this is that Carlos Soto has produced an interesting and listenable album and it would be all too easy to say that this would only be of any interest to "instrumental loving bass playing proggies". However, the music on Tribal Behaviour is certainly worth exploring further, if for no other reason than Carlos Soto has offered a different slant on the bass guitar. So if what I have written has sparked your interest, but perhaps you are still not quite convinced, then my next suggestion would be a trip to Guitar 9's website for a listen to some sound samples - click on the Samples link above.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Time And Tide - The Water's Edge
Tracklist: Wasteland (13:04), Time Away (3:55), All (5:53), Media (6:31), Gemini (4:53), Fortress (4:56), Pilot [31:18] [i] Dream Of The Pilot (8:33), [ii] Siren Song (3:28), [iii] Guidance (3:04), [iv] No Stars To Guide (3:57), [v] Wind And Current (6:26), [vi] Legends Of The Sea (1:27), [vii] I Am The Pilot (4:23)
Hailing from Boston in the USA, Time And Tide evolved from Season’s End who, over a period of ten years, released a series of cassette EP’s. Having lost Christopher Maggio on guitar, the slimmed-down line-up now features Scott Beddard (guitar, vocals), Sean Blair (bass, backing vocals), Stephen Glowacki (drums, backing vocals) and Steve O’Donnell (keyboards).
With impressively tight and thrusting rhythmic underpinning (Blair and Glowacki are quite a team) the main musical focus is on the sweeping and swelling keyboards of O’Donnell. He displays ample chops and is capable of subtlety, but occasionally the bright digital sounds can become a bit too harsh for my ears, tuned as they are to the warmer tones of the analogue instruments of the 70’s. Scott Beddard completes the picture with some tasty guitar licks, riffs and solos, but his main contribution is the powerful, perhaps a little over the top, vocals which, unusually for this type of music (melodic progressive in the vein of Pallas or perhaps British obscurities Mentaur – with an admittedly hard edge, but definitely more prog than Prog-Metal) are delivered for the most part in a histrionic style more usually associated with hard rock bands like Uriah Heep or Judas Priest.
It is the vocal style that gives them much of their unique character, but it’s all down to personal taste, and whist some may love it, it may turn off as many people as it attracts, particularly from a prog perspective. Personally, though the vocals grated on me once or twice, I enjoyed much of this CD, with the two epics (opener Wasteland and the 31 minute suite Pilot) being particularly well constructed and inventive slabs of power-prog. On the strength of Pilot alone, a nautical allegory whose impressive lyrics (awash (ouch!) with watery images) are convincingly married with a richly varied and dynamic musical backdrop (including some nice acoustic/classical guitar passages), I’d say this disc is worth checking out. I did find the production a bit unforgiving and lacking in depth though. If, on their next effort, this can be improved (perhaps by an outside producer) and the vocals are perhaps reined in just a little, Time And Tide could really be a band to watch, They certainly have some interesting ideas and are not short of instrumental prowess.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Nautilus - What Colours The Sky In Your World?
Tracklist: Doors To The Dark Room [Part 1: Reception, Part 2: Waiting Room, Part 3: The Dark Room] (7:10), Precious Things (2:21), Cabin Fever [Part 1: Solitary Confinement, Part 2: Undergrowth, Part 3: Out Of The Woods] (6:36), Ghosts In The Wind (3:59), Bastogne [Part 1: Hold The Line, Part 2: Foxhole] (2:44), Halloween Factory [Part 1: Production Line, Part 2: After Dark] (0:21), Release (5:34)
Nautilus are a quartet of musicians from the Kent area of the UK. Formed in early 2002 by keyboard player Paul Blewitt and guitarist Andy Challinor, the line up was not completed until drummer Darryl Finch (who had been in an earlier incarnation of the group) and bassist Rob Tyson decided to become permanent members after an initial recording session in January 2004. Paul's original goal of forming a band that mixed Scary Monsters-era Bowie with the left-field pop of XTC clashed with Andy's desire for a more laid-back acoustic affair was cast aside after initial sessions when the type of music they came up with was rather more fractured and dissonant.
Deciding to explore their collective muse further, the band returned to the studios in the Spring of 2004 and recorded sufficient material for an album and single. Entirely instrumental, the music explores a variety of textures underpinned on the three longer compositions by the angular guitar of Challinor. Comparisons can be drawn with Robert Fripp and King Crimson, particularly on Doors To The Dark Room which builds a dark and somewhat foreboding atmosphere. Cabin Fever features more keyboards and interestingly varies the tempo and timbre in a manner that stimulates the interest of the listener. Halloween Factory displays the depth of menace that the quartet can achieve; atmospheric and haunting, if the band doesn't work out a future in writing horror soundtracks could be in the offering!
The shorter pieces offset the longer compositions with Bastogne being a more straight forward rock number that is relatively simple and consequently fails to grab the attention. Precious Things on the other hand packs a lot more than would be expected into less than 140 seconds. Ghosts In The Wind and Release are more reflective, even mournful in tone, the latter being a very good close to the album with Challinor and Blewitt giving their all.
On the whole the album is a very fine debut that doesn't pale on repeated listening. As is the case with a lot of good instrumental music, it is easy to hear different aspects of the compositions each time the album is played which makes it both interesting and enjoyable. I shall definitely keep this CD near to my stereo over the coming months!
Nautilus is a British instrumental quartet making rather mysterious, dark and atmospheric like progressive music, which you really have to get used to. So before saying anything positive or negative about this album, you should really listen to it for a couple of times very carefully. The album lasts only thirty seven minutes, but for some listeners that may already be too long as the music is rather dark and not very accessible or ear friendly.
The music of Nautilus has musical reference points like King Crimson, Pink Floyd (early and mid period), Anathema and Porcupine Tree. Most of the songs are dominated by the weaving lead guitar passages of Andy Chalinor and the subtle keyboard carpets created by Paul Blewitt. This is probably also due to the fact that these two composed all the tracks on this debut album. Doors To The Dark Room starts with a quiet intro followed by a Starship Trooper-like guitar melody and later on this song evolves into a spacey progressive song filled with keys and soundscapes. The second part of the song is heavier and the last two minutes are rather “poppy”, before it ends with a melodic guitar solo.
Precious Things reminds me of Anathema and Porcupine Tree, lots of keys, a great guitar solo and at least four rhythm changes in the last two minutes! Cabin Fever is again a very complex track with inventive bass and drum work, some Jordan Rudess-like keyboard melodies, a crazy guitar solo and a very psychedelic tranquil second part of the song. Ghosts In The Wind features a Floyd-like slide guitar solo as this song starts like a bluesy track, however the last two minutes are again heavier and more up tempo.
What Colours The Sky In Your World? is truly is an album I would recommend to listeners who are into atmospheric instrumental progressive music with just a hint of a darker edge. Try something different for a change, listen to Nautilus and be amazed, or not…… I like this album as it is something rather different than the music I normally listen to.
Nautilus signed with UK Label GFT-Cyclops during 2006 and the was album re-released. Although no new material was included on the CD we added a second review to mark the re-issue.
Far Corner - Far Corner
Track List: Silly Whim (4:54), Going Somewhere? (5:01), Something Out There (17:17) [I (6:48), II (7:02), III (3:27)], With One Swipe of Its Mighty Paw (7:40), Outside (5:25), Tracking (6:33), The Turning (7:39), Fiction (16:24)
Far Corner’s self-titled 2004 release isn’t bona fide rock music, not by a country mile. I know because I spent some time with Blue Öyster Cult prior to this review: the Secret Treaties album from 1974, no less, a blitzkrieg strafing of evil tastiness that never loses its sense of fun rock-and-roll boogie. But, it is true “classical rock,” that is, music with dual dependence upon rock idioms and the conventions of the European classical music tradition, Far Corner is somewhat successful, reservations notwithstanding.
The band was formed in the Spring of 2003 and is comprised of Angela Schmidt, playing acoustic and electric cellos; Craig Walkner on various and sundry percussion; Dan Maske, the principal composer of the eight tracks, handling the grand piano, Hammond organ, synthesizers, and some additional percussion; and William Kopecky manning the bottom end on electric bass (both “fretless and fretful” as some wit writes on the CD’s rear insert). Maske, Schmidt, and Walkner are accomplished, classically-trained musicians with degrees from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Kopecky “is one of Wisconsin’s most sought after rock musicians and a progressive rock musician of international renown” having played with, e.g., The Par Lindh Project and Tempest.
The band categorizes itself, via the CD’s accompanying Cuneiform press release, as an American chamber rock quartet from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, showcasing “carefully honed compositions, crafted in a contemporary classical style that maintains the energy level and power of rock…combining…Stravinsky and Bartok with…ELP, Universe Zero, King Crimson and more.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and this once the plug is dead-on. This is a band melding structured classical composition with sometimes elegant, sometimes bombastic rock improvisation. And while I’ll defend the music as generally adept, precise, and complex, it is also often boring, repetitive, and perhaps passé.
The initial offering on the disk, Silly Whim, is a case in point. The opening is (obligatorily?) reminiscent of Present and Univers Zero: it’s sinister and lurks with musical malice. And yet, it’s hardly street-corner news, rather, it’s imitative to the nth degree. The fretless bass simply doesn’t work here (and elsewhere), as it’s too soft and rubbery to furnish the necessary atmospheric angst these compositions demand. The drumming is largely uninventive, the keyboards don’t consistently complement the ensemble playing, the repeating motif is dull, and the playing is stiff, never seeming to cohere. Sadly, not only have you heard this music before but also you’ve heard much sharper, more forceful renditions.
Many of the remaining tracks (for example, Outside, Tracking, and With One Swipe of Its Mighty Paw) suffer similarly. It’s seldom possible to hear any novel, distinguishing sections in the compositions, and when a section does stand out, it isn’t particular strong, just vaguely different. Throughout these tracks, Kopecky’s work on the fretless bass does exhibit a very decent versatility and note selection but it’s often annoying. On Tracking, the music is indeed well-conceived and well-performed, but it’s sterile (although I did admire the piano?percussion segment from 4:00 on: it’s a vicious little jaunt). I kept wondering if I would need to hear Far Corner in a live setting to really ‘get’ the import of these offerings. With One Swipe of Its Mighty Paw begins with a promising and raw cello riff but slides into more of the same ol’, same ol’. At this juncture, the band is only monotonous, even if the occasional machine-gun cello blasts are demonically good. I like the keyboard palette from which Maske paints, especially the Hammond organ accents, but somehow even that variety doesn’t add enough freshness into the mix.
Unfortunately, on the greater majority of the tracks, it all feels flat and uninspired, like there’s no camaraderie between the players. Too, this band suffers from the absence of compelling melodies. It’s mostly trickery and showmanship. However, on Something Out There? (Parts I, II, and III), we receive an appreciable dose of Far Corner’s potential. I’ve said it consistently in the Dutch Progressive Rock Page: I’m a slut for melody. Far Corner (or perhaps it is only Maske) doesn’t really excel at compelling melodic composition, but still (and this maybe is high praise) I heartily enjoyed the improv: it’s pretty crazy and tends to catch the ear.
Part I is reminiscent of both The Dream and The Illusion, which follow Moonchild on King Crimson’s seminal In the Court of the Crimson King, but it’s far from being as evocative or emotive. It’s creepy, though (especially Schmidt’s contribution), with a hint of madness: I liked that aspect. The tympani at 3:40 or so is a fitting choice. The track is tight, rigid and tense, like paranoid vigilance. It doesn’t do very much, however, and it’s not overly inviting in its non-action. Part II is a welcome relief: a frenzied jungle gallop it’s a powerful transition. The fretless fits here, at long last, fat and snaky like some prowling python; the improvisation around 4:00 is especially noteworthy. Honestly, this is the music to accompany the heroine’s running escape from the movie serial killer, just revealed. Part III is a return to sparseness and slow contemplation. It has a slight nursery rhyme insanity to it. Far Corner is truly, on Something Out There? not far at all from soundtrack perfection. This is the CD’s excellent moment.
The Turning is another highpoint. Maske unpacks his chops in the introduction, stretching out on a blue, plaintive piece. I generally dislike solo piano but this is refreshing after so much ensemble blasting (although the refreshment is short-lived). This is the jazziest piece on the CD: it’s loose and warm and I very much wanted to hear more in this style. The crash cymbal is grating but the cello melody at 5:30 is bliss. On Fiction we are treated to a flute snippet (by Heather Schmidt) and FINALLY there is an unexpected twist: these are regrettably rare on this CD. But it’s too little, too late, and by the end of this track, you’ve heard too much similarity to be significantly won over with a pleasing puff of ear candy.
The CD sleeve suggests that this music should appeal to “fans of Alamaailman Vasarat, early ELP, King Crimson, Present, Sotos, and Univers Zero”. OK (and I hear the similarities) but don’t be surprised at your lack of surprise: you’ve heard this before, and probably heard it done with greater intensity, tenacity, and fury. I keep comparing this (unfavorably) to Anglagaard’s Hybris: it’s well recorded, performed cleanly, and nothing in it is abominable but it’s missing something vital. My fondness for certain sections increased with multiple listens but too often my interest waned and in the end I heard myself exclaim “This is just tedious”.
Maske is talented on the keyboards but I can’t recommend the majority of his compositions on this project. Walkner is a serviceable drummer, nothing more in this context. Schmidt plays with hellfire at times, certainly: she’s the balls of the ensemble, if I can be permitted a perverse, gendered compliment. Kopecky is proficient but maybe too much of a Loki trickster on the bass. All-in-all, the band contains fine players who maybe haven’t hit their collective stride in this combination.
The CD clocks in at 71 minutes, which is simply too damn long: the excessive length bites into the impact of the tunes. In many places, the allure of the motifs expires when they are drawn out to such measure. As I comment regarding other modern prog bands (even those leaning far more toward chamber music than good-time rock ‘n’ roll), I wish the composer would remember that the absolute saving grace of early prog was its adaptation of Beatle-esque song into long form, into which then were incorporated jazz, classical music, and world music ornamentation. It really is all about the song if the composer intends to linger within a rock ‘n’ roll genre. But as I said at the top, this is really amped-up classical music, so maybe Dan Maske isn’t concerned with pop accessibility or songcraft. Regardless, I’d thrill to hear what Far Corner might do with pure songs and I’d especially like to hear the band juxtapose tight, compelling melodies with wild, free-for-all improv. I might even prefer some lyrics if I had my druthers. I’ll look ahead to the band’s next release, without question. The debut doesn’t awe me, but neither does it ultimately disappoint me, and it gives me cause to suspect that there’s something excellent yet to come from Far Corner.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Electric Tiger - Tanzmusik
Tracklist: Zirkeltanz (17:09), Diskotanz (16:23), Untanz (16:46), Nerventanz (16:22)
If you want to get an idea of this disc’s sound without buying it (and I’m afraid I’m not going to recommend that you do buy it), here’s what you need: two CD players, a copy of Pink Floyd’s 1969 double album Ummagumma, and a copy of Pat Metheny’s bizarre, atonal (and atypical) 1994 solo guitar album Zero Tolerance for Silence. Put any track from Metheny’s album on one CD player and Roger Waters’s Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict – you know, it’s the weird non-song that actually sounds like what the title describes – on the other one. Play them simultaneously. Listen until you feel like getting a baseball bat and smashing both CD players. You now have a pretty fair idea of what Electric Tiger’s four-track, hour-long Tanzmusik sounds like – the whole thing. If that appeals to you, go get it.
Electric Tiger – a trio consisting of people who call themselves Woden Thoth, Red-Eyed Coyote, and Yahyah – have actually invented a term to describe the kind of music they play: slambient. And their press kit claims that the music is “interstellar space brought to the canvas of audible sound with an edge.” That claim is meaningless nonsense, of course, but as meaningless nonsense it pretty well complements the alleged music on the disc. Although I don’t think a new word was needed to describe the sound – “annoying, grating noise” would probably do the trick – it’s true that “ambient” doesn’t quite do the band justice. “Ambient” means “surrounding,” and this music doesn’t so much surround as attack. I suppose that’s what the band means to imply by adding “slam” to the word – that their music is an assault on one’s hearing, and taste, and intelligence.
If you have the impression that I really hate this disc, you’re correct, and it’s hard for me to say so: there are few bands and albums that I can’t find something good in. (Fortunately, I’ve never had to review a Celine Dion or Bryan Adams album.) But I’ve listened to Tanzmusik way beyond the point at which I wanted to smash my CD player, and, although I’ve noticed a few elements that I can point out, I’ve found nothing in particular to praise save for the band’s audacity. I mean, there are artists and bands that don’t care if they get an audience so long as their own artistic vision is fulfilled, but Electric Tiger is taking the individual-integrity thing a bit far. Still – and here comes the only praise this album will get from me – in a popular-music world dominated by the Dions and Adamses and even worse purveyors of schlock and by people (and record companies) that just want to make a quick few million bucks and damn what the “product” sounds like, I guess it’s kind of refreshing to hear an album by a band that must, simply must, know that they won’t sell any copies to anyone but their parents and very close friends. I guess.
The instrumentation is that of a typical rock trio – guitar, bass, and drums – save that the drums and percussion are all electronic; and bassist Woden Thoth (I really hate writing that “name”) also plays analogue synth, electric mandolin, and “Obsolete Drum Machine.” But there isn’t a trace of a song on this album. All four sixteen-minute-plus tracks sound the same to me; all are similarly bereft of melody and bereft as well of all but local rhythms. The most prominent instruments are the electric guitars and percussion, but I don’t want you to think that there’s anything like chords or solos or a beat anywhere here. The group studiously avoids anything like a tune or regular rhythm, eschewing the typical (and pleasing) for the atypical (and irritating). The guitar squawks or screeches, the bass looms, the percussion clicks away like an out-of-synch wind-up toy, the synthesizer weaves, if that’s the word, those “interstellar space” sounds, but to no purpose that I can divine. I can’t talk about standout tracks or even standout moments in any of the tracks, because the album might as well, at least to my ears, be all one piece.
It might sound as though I’ve tried my damnedest to find things to hate about this album, but I assure you it’s the opposite. On first encountering an album I dislike or don’t understand, I always assume that the fault is mine, that with enough listenings and careful attention I will, if not like, at least appreciate what the artist is doing. But in this case, repeated listenings have only annoyed me further and made me pretty sure that this is not an “obscure” album, not a “challenging” album – it’s just a bad album. And I say so wishing I could say otherwise. My rating gives the band credit for uncommercial, indeed anti-commercial, audacity, but none for the quality of their music.
Conclusion: 3 out of 10