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Willie Oteri

Spiral Out

Review by Bruce Stringer

Produced, recorded and mixed by Ronan Chris Murphy, "Spiral Out" is an extension of the improvisational outings that made acts like John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra and Tony Williams Lifetime, King Crimson and even Frank Zappa the uniquely memorable experience that made musical history. Whatever is in Willie Oteri's water, I think it's high time that it was poured into the two dimensional cesspool which is what some of the homogenized and pasteurized modern music industry has become today. Gone are the walls of conformity and the limitations of clichéd musical formats. What this stripped down skeleton of raw musical talent leaves us is pure musical spontaneity. This is pure back brain music with a brilliant cast. Tony Levin crosses the sound waves with skin maestro Pat Mastelotto and keys man Mike Keneally, all the while allowing Willie's guitar madness to take off and to subtly lay a musical platform for the Miles-esque trumpet of Ephraim Owens. Production genius, Murphy, is also released onto the recording with some Rhodes piano playing proving that music can once again allow the 'spirit of adventure' breathe through it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ephraim Walks In
The first thing that hit me when I heard this CD was that it sounded like it was recorded with 2 microphones in a jam room. This might sound like a negative comment, given the stage that we have reached with modern production standards, however regarding this album I am referring to the classic sounding recordings that elevated listeners in the 1950's and 60's. It is the sound. This piece of spontaneous combustion drags you by the ear back to the early 70's.
Dark Matter
Wow, what an weird one. This is a bizarre rock thang with some spacey electric piano playing over some syncopated stop-start drum rhythms (- or is that Frank Zappa's band in the next room?). Sounding like something from a Dirty Harry movie, there's some really fine improvised bits and pieces and some out there sounds.
Sun Dial
This is bizarre and, once again, something that could be in the realm of soundtrack music but most probably not for Titanic! King Crimson moodiness lightly brushes the landscape as these guys tear up the canvas with oddity and calamity. This song sits nicely at the edge of your sanity.
State of Things
Now, State of Things is a Miles meets Crimson that incorporates triplet guitar arpeggios over straight, but funky drums. Tony Levin tastefully sits his playing on the bass drum allowing the looseness of the guitars to be held together. And then it jut fades away…
Lamont
Another funky number with a weird little melody and bizarre 70's guitar sounds. It has nice electric piano work and some catchy themes going on. This has a nice groove and at times is along the lines of some of Alphonse Mouzon work. A John Zorn end completes the weirdness.
Not Salad!!!:
What the…?
First Day First Light
Who says a great song has to clock in at 3:30? With a 23 minute running time, the guys pad out a mood which builds tension and elevates the listener. From tribal drum patterns to Scofield-style guitar phrasing and pitch shifted tones to some really fat bass end courtesy of Mr Levin. It's frenetic, it's Zappa meets Fripp, it's nightmarish yet strangely listenable. Probably not the type of thing you'd throw on your CD player after Britney but good therapy just the same. Just don't add water!
Theme for...
Possibly the most accessible song on the CD, we are treated to some (almost) twangy guitar with just a hint of jazz for the palate - nice and inoffensive. The drums are still open and a little harsh for such a beautiful (- did I say beautiful?) piece, but it still keeps in with the bizarre character of the album.
Mir
It's the end of the album and this time it's back to Tony Levin/ Crimson rhythmic patterns mixed in with a little afro-carribean thematics. Halfway through these guys rip your spine out with some heavy Tommy Bolin era guitar work (anyone remember Energy?) and then bring the cascade down to something a little lighter. This happens in a kind or verse-chorus structure and then ends - yep, just like that!
 
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