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Stick Men

Prog Noir

Review by Gary Hill
This band is really coming into its own. They've always been exceptional, but they seemed to have the flavor one expects from a Tony Levin project - quite King Crimson-like. With this album they seem to be stretching from that and becoming their own, unique group. Roughly half the songs here have vocals. Roughly all the songs here are exceptional. In addition to Levin, this album features Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Prog Noir

Merge 90s King Crimson with some Hawkwind, Americana and more. You'll find yourself somewhere in the territory surrounding this piece. It's dramatic. It's powerful. It's also unusual, but very cool.

Mantra
I love the cool timing on this piece. This is noisy, creative and incredibly cool stuff. It's definitely modern prog rock. There are distinctive King Crimson like elements, but by this point Stick Men seem to have found a more unique musical voice. As I use that term, I should make it clear that this is, in fact, an instrumental.
Plutonium
With mostly spoken vocals, this is another killer cut. It's one of my favorites here for sure. This is trademark King Crimson-like sound. There are a couple short excursions into classical music in the mix of this, via auditory name-checks.
The Tempest
There are both spoken and sung vocals here. I love the funky edge on this piece. It's very much the standard kind of hard rocking modern prog that one expects. There are some classy melodies here. The instrumental movement on this is very much in keeping with 90s King Crimson. It's also particularly strong.
Schattenhaft
The bass sounds that drive this are awesome. This is a powerhouse instrumental that's very fast paced and energized. It's definitely a King Crimson kind of thing. They take it around a corner later, and we find ourselves in more of a mainstream hard rock jam that's still drenched in Crimson-like sounds.
Rose in the Sand / Requiem
The opening movement here is mellower and quite melodic. It has a great bass type part driving around under the rather soaring melodies. That first movement makes up about half of the piece. The bass sort of drops away as some almost classical turned trippy world music sounds move things forward. This is another effective instrumental.
Leonardo

There is a lot of world music built into this instrumental. Still, it's driving and quite rocking, it just has very Ethnic flavored progressions at its heart. Comparisons to Crimson are again appropriate, particularly in some of the later shifts and changes.

Trey's Continuum

Starting with more melodic jamming, the shift later to a killer bass driven movement is great. That section is rather King Crimson like and among the best music of the whole disc. It's part psychedelia and part hard edged prog. The mellower drop back is classy stuff, too. This is another instrumental, and another strong piece.

Embracing the Sun
I absolutely love this instrumental. It weaves some exceptional tapestries of sound. Both the melodic and rhythmic elements work particularly well. They also play well with one another. This is definitely a candidate for my favorite piece of the album.
Never the Same
The closer is more of a "song," having vocals. There is a real soaring kind of prog vibe to it in a lot of ways. It's another that seems to have a sound that's independent from the Crimson-like stuff one often expects from this band. It's also another highlight. It's a powerful tune with a number of intriguing shifts and changes.
 
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