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Mike Black


Review by Gary Hill

Mike Black is a true solo artist. He produces every sound on this disc. It is instrumental, keyboard-dominated progressive rock. I would have to say, though, that the emphasis is on the "progressive" rather than the "rock" part of that statement. This one, though, is an entertaining collection of fairly mellow music that seldom drags or feels redundant. Considering the musical style that is really an accomplishment. You might hear elements of Kraftwerk, Hawkind, Pink Floyd and others on this disc, but overall it is a fairly unique sound. While I wouldn't say that for me this will be a frequent listen, I can say that this won't be the last time I pop it in. You have to understand, too, that I tend to be someone who is a hard sell on strictly instrumental albums. I usually feel that they need some vocals to break up the monotony. So, this one isn't exactly my forte to begin with. That said, it still managed to capture and hold my attention. For more information, check out Mike on myspace. You can also order the CD and listen to some of the music at CDBaby.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Atmospheric keys begin this and carry through for a while. After a time, though it turns the corner to something akin to a more progressive rock oriented Kraftwerk. I also hear hints of The Alan Parsons Project and even Pink Floyd on this one. It also wanders off into spacey weirdness as it carries onward. I think the title comes from a little keyboard bit later that really sounds like a voice saying "Go/No Go."
Ribbon Zipper
This one almost has a "Flight of the Bumblebees" sort of swirling texture in the background. It's a much more dramatic and powerful piece than the one that preceded it. The keyboard soloing over the top runs slow patterns of notes, but with a very Wakeman or perhaps Emerson like sound to them. In fact, that soloing by itself is just about worth the price of admission on this one. That said, I'm a sucker for Rick Wakeman type keys.
Trans One
A short, more atmospheric piece, this one has layers of keyboard sounds making up the core of it. Some percussion winds up coming into the background later, but over all this one is basically just textural. Still, it has some cool moments.
Marching Orders
Now this one comes in with a quick paced keyboard pattern and as the percussion enters the cut begins to build on this backdrop. This one has some intriguing sounds interspersed and I particular like the bending on the keyboard type textures.
Trans Two
Coming in dramatic and a bit creepy, this one is even shorter than the first "Trans" cut. It again is quite textural, but also a bit more potent than that one with a fairly major focus on a percussive sort of pounding sound.
Down Very Fast
This is a complete change of pace. This fast paced number is funky as heck and oh so tasty. It's my favorite piece on the album. The bass sound here is very dramatic. This reminds me a bit of Niacin, but there are a lot of other sounds in there, too.
The Drive To Atlanta
More waves of synth start this, but then it kicks out into a techno/industrial sort of fast paced grind. While not extremely dynamic, it's another strong one.
Trans Three
We wander back into atmospheric territory with this one. It's a pretty if not extremely energized cut. It has some of the most enchanting keyboard sounds of the disc.
The First Second
Starting with keys that remind me of Hawkwind's Levitation era, this one turns into a very powerful and lush sort of work that has a lot of inherent beauty. It is another that doesn't really shift around much, but it has some of the most effective keyboard melodies.
The Ebb of Night
An Asian texture is on the opening segment that feels like tuned percussion. This grows ever so slowly and a voice box provides some Kraftwerk like elements. The overall motif, though, is still very sedate, with a backdrop holding it down while slowly moving waves of keyboards weave over the top in slowly fluctuating patterns, much like clouds passing in the sky. I guess my only complaint here is that for the length of this track (almost seven and a half minutes) there isn't enough variety to keep it interesting. So, it tends to drag a bit late in the piece. It does drop back to the opening modes to eventually end.
Trans Four
The final of these pieces, this one starts with sedate keyboard textures like the rest, but an extremely dramatic piano line takes it to new heights rather early. This element makes this one the best of the four. It is powerful and beautiful. The piano eventually takes it unaccompanied to finally end the composition.
Running Time
Weird sound effects start this one and hold it for a time. Eventually, though, a more driving rhythmic structure takes this in one of the more rock based ventures. It still manages to maintain its sense of the eccentric, though through its over layers.
Dark Rainy Roads
Appropriately rain starts this one. Eventually keys that have a wavy sort of sound to them come in to take it in new directions. These play through in several variants over the course of the next few minutes, the rain eventually dropping away. Hawkwind seems to appear in this mix, too. It turns drastically toward weirdness later. While I'd say that this track is good, it definitely could use a little more variety and spice, and I probably wouldn't have chosen it to close the disc.
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