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Stick Men

Stick Men + - Midori

Review by Gary Hill

This is a double disc set. I believe that it was also released at one point in time as two single disc sets. Each disc is a different Stick Men set. The band is made up of Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter. The “plus” in the title here is David Cross who performs with them. This is all instrumental (well, there are spoken vocals on one track). It’s great stuff that shares a lot of musical space with King Crimson. Given Levin and Cross, though, that makes sense. They even do a few songs that were originally created by Crimson.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc One

                       
Opening Soundscape - Gaudy

This comes in texturally, working forward in very sedate, atmospheric ways. By around the three minute mark a really ominous sound has taken over. It feels a bit like soundtrack music to some kind of horror movie or thriller. Remaining slow, this gets louder and more insistent. It definitely calls to mind King Crimson quite a bit. That eventually gives way to a return to the more atmospheric sounds, with a real symphonic element at play. It turns more rocking at the end, but still freeform and rather textural. We get the first drumming of the album in this closing section. This segues into the next piece.

Improv - Blacklight
Coming out of the previous one, this quickly takes on a real King Crimson kind of vibe. It’s dramatic and powerful as it works forward. The rhythm section does some pretty great stuff, but everything here is working really well. Around the four minute mark it dissolves into some spacey weirdness. A new rocking thing, suitably odd, comes in from there. Again, King Crimson is a valid reference point. That evolves to more dropped back strangeness as it approaches the ending.
Hide the Trees
I love the rhythm section on this screaming hot rocker. It’s one that’s got a lot of King Crimson built into its DNA. There is some cool jazz meets world music jamming that joins later. There are some changes to different stuff for a while, but it works back out to scorching hot pounding Crimson-like jamming to eventually take the piece to its end.
Improv - Moth
There is a lot of fusion and jazz built into this number. It’s got much of that same textural modern King Crimson element, too. It continues to evolve and eventually builds out into some cool fairly rocking territory. I really love some of the stuff the rhythm section lays down. There is some definite space rock in this, too.
Industry
This is industrial, slow moving and heavy. It’s also dramatic and quite powerful. It has some real screaming rock built into it. Yet, it’s classy Stick Men music at the same time. Of course, this was originally done by King Crimson, so it sounds like that, as well.
Cusp
A great instrumental based on killer stick playing, I like this piece a lot. It’s precisely the kind of thing you expect from this outfit. It’s also very effective. That’s something else you expect from these guys.
Shades of Starless
This literally is mellower number that encompasses bits of the music from the King Crimson song “Starless.” There is enough here that you’ll recognize the melodies, but it’s turned into something more delicate and atmospheric.
The Talking Drum
Another from the King Crimson catalogue, this gets a powerhouse arrangement here. It starts mellow and builds gradually until it reaches out into some screaming hot territory. This is one of my favorites from the set. Given the competition, that says a lot. It segues into the next one.
Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part 2
Another classic bit of King Crimson, they deliver a killer version of the piece here. I love the rubbery groove that it gets.
Disc Two
                    
Opening Soundscape - Cyan

This disc also starts with a very atmospheric piece of music. It builds upward and onward, eventually seguing into the next piece.

Improv - Midori
This jam comes out of the previous one. It continues a building process, eventually getting into some pretty rocking territory. The rhythm section dominates the ending of this.
Breathless
Coming in with a much more rocking mode, this is fiery. It’s very much a King Crimson kind of vibe for sure. It’s rocking like crazy and has some seriously crunchy material. This is really a powerhouse.
Improv - Moon
Mellower sounds open this with a sparse, trippy kind of vibe. It eventually grows out into another King Crimson styled jam. It’s slow moving, but very cool. It has some drop backs and other things, too.
Sartori In Tangier
Textural stuff begins this and holds it until the bass end of the stick brings in the real jamming. This thing builds out from there in fine fashion. It turns a bit mellower and more melodic for a while. Then it really intensifies as it keeps building. This is a great number.
Crack in the Sky
There are spoken vocals on this cut. It’s in some ways more of a mainstream rock tune. That said, it’s still definitely proggy and definitely Stick Men. There is even some fusion built into it.
Shades of Starless
Here we get another version of the piece from the first disc. If anything, I think I like this rendition better.
Firebird Suite
They bring this in heavy, dark and plodding. It’s almost heavy metal in nature. Then it works to faster paced stuff and keeps on moving and changing. This works through some cool stuff. It gets more into traditional prog territory at times. Yet it also screams out in powerhouse Stick Men type sounds. I know this is their version of the classical piece, but I don’t hear a lot of it within this. Then again, I’m only moderately familiar with it. I love the mellower musical exploration around the five and a half minute mark. For some reason that section makes me think of something that might have been in the soundtrack to a James Bond movie. It works forward from there getting to some stranger territory for a while. The section Yes has usually used for their concert opening comes into play around the eight and a half minute mark. This version of it is quite cool.
The Talking Drum
Another repeat from the first show, this is just as effective here. It’s another killer tune on an exceptional double disc set.
Lark's Tongues In Aspic
Here we have another repeat. I think I might like this one better than the first version.
 
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