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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Adrian Belew

Side Two

Review by Gary Hill

This CD is the second in a trilogy axe-man extraordinaire Adrian Belew has on tap for release this year. While I find this one to be a very strong release, I don't like it as much as Side One That said, Side 1 is almost certainly one of the three or four best albums of the year - and there have been some very strong albums released this year - so, this is still extremely good. While the last disc (and the next one) was recorded in the form of a power trio, this one is essentially a completely solo production. It also tends to focus on a more experimental, electronic approach. Even the lyrics, a form of haiku, are experimental. The result is a highly listenable and very cool disc. This one should please long time fans and new comers alike.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dead Dog on Asphalt
Ambient tones enter and build bringing beauty and mystery. They climb in intensity, and then Belew lays down waves of his trademark rhythmic guitars. Strange textures come in overtop and this cut moves forward as a dramatic piece of moody odd textures and sounds. Eventually Belew adds a screaming Crimsonish, Eastern Styled guitar soloing overtop. Vocals come in over all of this, almost spoken with just the title for lyrics. The cut then explodes out into a Crimson-like groove that really works well. The vocals return as it drops back to percussion and keys to carry it to the end.
I Wish I Knew
With a more electronic rhythmic approach, this one comes in very weird. Gradually pretty, yet disquieting guitar patterns are added to this mix. The cut begins to grow in strange patterns, becoming a slightly twisted acoustic based cut that has some major King Crimson-like weirdness.
Face to Face
This one has a bouncy Eastern Indian groove with some Beatlesish influence. Still the number is all slightly off kilter Belew odd, yet catchy music. The arrangement here, particularly when the backtracked guitar enters, is especially cool.
Asleep
A rhythmic pattern is accompanied by staticy overtones. Belew starts weaving noisy, but oh so tasty lines overtop of a bass line. The guitar parts drop away, then Belew's spacey vocal comes in over the bass backdrop, accompanied only by some keys. This explodes out into an incredibly powerful Crimson like jam after the verse. "One day you wake up, But you didn't even know you were asleep." The vocals return again and then another instrumental wandering takes it forward. This moves into weird ambient space eventually. Then a new catchy progression takes it in a different direction, still with overtones creating odd textures over the top. This song is one of the highlights of the disc and is pretty awesome.
Sex Nerve
Electronic percussion starts this and eventually weird instrumental patterns come over that to presage the vocals. A gritty, oh so deep, bass line lays down a sparse, but very cool rhythmic line. This cut feels like it's moving through a layer of Jell-O - it's rubbery and oh so deep. This is another killer. It turns into more weird chaos before ending.
Then What
Strange robotic tones begin this, then Belew layers over a heavy very noisy guitar line. This one is very chaotic and strange. It gets quite adventurous. The rhythmic pattern and overlayers both get quite involved. It drops to pure rhythmic strangeness, then total experimental chaos takes it. More backwards tracked sounds emerge over odd electronic noises to carry the piece to its conclusion.
Quicksand
This one is pretty and very rhythmic in texture. There are waves of weird noisy sounds that come over the top, but the cut is still very beautiful and catchy. Belew adds an incredibly cool fast paced guitar riffing over this. This one is another standout piece.
I Know Now
A very noisy, yet very tasty guitar wanders across a great beat and bass pattern, creating a Crimson-like groove that is very strong, but this instrumental doesn't last long.
Happiness
Strange horror film like dissonant patterns of atmosphere weaves the basis to this one. Rhythmic patterns emerge behind this, but the cut feels really unsettling.
Sunlight
Keys and electronic percussion start this, eventually joined by bass in a pretty and very light (especially compared to the last one) excursion. This one moves forward gradually and feels like pop rock goes electronic and just a bit weird. The bass line on this one gets quite cool, as do the keyboard textures during the musical interlude segment. This is another that really showcases Belew's give for turning odd arrangements into something that feels poppy and accessible. It wanders into sheer weirdness right before it ends. After the song a voice ends the CD by repeating "play me again".
 
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