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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gargamel

Watch For Umbles

Review by Gary Hill

Formed in the new millennium in Norway, the band's sound would never give you that impression. Their sound would give you the impression that they were creating music in the Europe of the early 1970's. That's because they tie in very closely to the sounds of such bands as King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and the RIO movement. One comlaint is that the vocals are a bit hard to take, seeming to look more towards artistic creation than melodic beauty.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Tics
Keys start this with a bit of a ELP like texture, then the band launch into an oddly timed jam that feels somewhat like ELP meets King Crimson. They wander through several variants on this theme. It turns to a classic rock crunch variation on these themes after a while. Then eventually drops back to near silence. Then a minor scale mellower ballad like texture, feeling a lot like Red era Crimson takes it and begins building slowly. This is both mysterious and dramatic. As this moves towards a harder rocking stance the those Red leanings are even more pronounced. This shifts gears a bit in a new jam based on these themes but with a bit of a fusion texture. Then it moves towards freeform chaos, but never fully winds up there. Instead, the band cut out into another fast paced journey with loads of elements coming and going over the top. A false ending gives way to a short segment of mellow keys, then the band begin the picked section again, but this time it is punctuated by short bursts of prog fury. Eventually, though, they explode out into another more full on progressive rock exploration. At nearly 9 minutes, this instrumental is both dynamic and powerful.
Strayed Again
A burst of guitar starts this, then it drops to cello, and the two alternate. As the cut modulates into its first real theme it is like a prog rock take on early metal plodding with waves of keys that call to mind chorale vocals. Then the actual vocals enter and the cut begins moving over the main theme feeling a lot like a prog rock early Black Sabbath. This one is rather metallic both in terms of the plodding texture and the angry vocals, but it's still progressive rock oriented to the point where no one will ever mistake it for metal. After this segment holds the track for a while, it jumps into a fast paced off kilter jam that is once again Crimson-like, then it drops way back to just classical instrumentation with crazed bass soloing behind it. They build up on this musical theme for a while more instruments joining and the intensity ramping up. This definitely moves well towards free form weirdness in a rather RIO manner. Eventually a short jazz like jam takes it, and then the cut moves into more hard rocking and coherent jamming. This theme doesn't, stay around long, though. Instead they drop it back to ambient free form weirdness to carry it forward. They once again take the opportunity to wander through in meandering RIO fashion. This turns later toward more heavy prog jamming for a time, then shifts back to the more metallic main song structure to carry on. This eventually explodes out into a new pumped up and extremely potent prog rock exploration. This eventually crescendos, then drops back to a classical instrument dominated mellow verse that serves to end the track.
Below the Water
As it the group sensed that we needed a break from the frantic fury of the last cut, this one comes in with a mellower, more stable, but dark progressive rock ballad like landscape that moves and builds very slowly. Eventually a weird sort of staggered segment comes in and is interspersed with lush keyboard dominated bursts. They move through like this for a time, then take it out into a different lush and creative segment. A cool segment later has the guitar weaving lines of sound that are echoed by the voice, and all of this over a cool rhythmic pattern. Then a new slow paced dramatic segment takes it for a time. It eventually shifts back towards the earlier slow moving portion to carry the next vocals. This then moves through the same pattern with the staggered section. They move through a couple more changes before ending the track.
Into the Cold
Pretty keys begin this in an effective way, and then a flute brings in a sound that calls to mind Jethro Tull. The rhythm section enters and the band launch into a fast paced jam. Then it stops for a short time before they return to this excursion with more energy and instrumentation in one of the most effective passages of the disc. I really like this jam. It drops back after a while to sedate classically oriented music. Then keys enter, but the classical instrumentation remains to accompany it and interesting vocal round begins as the cut grows ever so slowly. Then it shifts back up to a reprise of the cool instrumental segment that preceded it. They work through like this for a while, then drop it way back again. Next up a dramatic mellower segment takes it and starts another gradual building process. After a time another very potent jam takes it onward with one of the most soaring prog excursions on show here. As saxophone sounds come over the top later, the Red era KC comparisons are sure to arise again. Then they do a complete 180 and shift it into a new playful fast paced jam that seems to come from nowhere. My main issue with this segment is that the drums are a bit too high in the mix. After this, though, a cool bass driven organ heavy transitionary segment that calls to mind early Uriah Heep is a nice change up. They move it out into earlier modes to carry forward, then drop down to a slower traditional prog rock jam and the flute flitters back across the top. After running through like this for a while a false ending gives way to another fast paced prog jam with solid jazz leanings. That segment eventually ends the piece. This is my favorite cut on the disc.
Agitated Mind
Noisy weirdness starts this, then a balladic like guitar segment, still with elements of noise over the top takes it on what even early on seems to be a dramatic and powerful journey. This builds up into a potent prog ballad with a bit of darkness and the vocals come over the top of this as it carries forward. The Fender Rhodes adds a touch of a Pink Floyd texture. There is a rather annoying staticy flutter on this track, but it seems to keep "sticking" so my guess is that it's an issue with my copy rather than the actual recording. In fact, I can't even play the whole song, but rather can only skip to different points, so suffice it to say that there is a problem with this particular disc. I can tell you that the cut has some stellar sections. It's a shame that it chooses to have issues with this particular track because in many ways, without this problem this is the most powerful cut on the disc. It is certainly the most consistent growing upwards in very organic ways.
 
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