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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Stebmo

Stebmo

Review by Gary Hill

Often times there is a fine line between jazz and fusion and progressive rock. This CD seems to sit atop that line a lot of the time. For my money it wanders over into the prog side of the equation long enough to sit in that genre, but I could certainly see someone labeling it as jazz. This is an instrumental disc that should entertain fans of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and those type groups, while also appealing to jazz purists.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Waiting Game
Pretty and rather melancholy keys lead things off. This pattern holds it for a time. Then it drops away. They seem about to launch into some kind of hip hop, but instead we get a weird RIO type jam. When crunch enters this begins to feel a lot like modern King Crimson. This is a dissonant and noisy at times, but it’s also exceptionally strong. It turns a bit towards science fiction soundtrack sounds at times. I like this instrumental (OK, there are some non-lyrical vocals, but they play more like instrumentation) a lot. It even turns towards classical music (ala Birdsongs of the Mesozoic) at times. It’s a great way to start off the CD.
Blind Ross
This leads off with percussion. In stark contrast to the dissonance of the last piece, “Blind Ross” feels more like a playful and bouncy jazz cut. Although there is still a bit of dissonance in here, this almost has a texture like something from Vince Guaraldi.
Rathdrum
In some ways this is a pretty keyboard based ballad. The thing is, theremin-like keyboards and other elements bring a bit of a dark and nearly “scary” texture to the plate. This is one of the shorter pieces on show here and also one of the more cohesive.
Holding Pattern
Here we get sort of a retro jazz groove with some definite rock in the midst, too. This one is a cool musical playground and the group make fine use of the facilities to entertain. They pull this through a number of changes and alterations and it’s one of the more effective – and most purely jazz oriented – journeys on the CD.
Happy Ending
In keeping with the title, this is one of the prettiest and most gentle compositions on show here. While this stays pretty close to jazz, there are bits of space rock in this and even a little bluegrass.
Majika
The early segment of this are spacey and atmospheric. After a time, though, this turns out more towards a jazzy prog ballad approach. There are still weird space elements that peek over the top here and there and it does dissolve into pure space to end, but overall this is a catchy, gentle groove in the later sections.
Dark Circles
Here we get a jazzy prog ballad motif. This one is a pretty one and also quite an intriguing musical landscape. It turns out to a rather strange sounding jazz jam a little was into the cut, but they pull it out from there into a one of the most beautiful passages of the disc. Then it drops way back down to essentially restart the excursion in newly revitalized ways. This gets quite powerful at times and also works out into some freeform jazz at other points. At over seven minutes in length this is the longest cut on show here. It’s also one of the most dynamic.
Work
This is a keyboard solo. In some ways it is rather dark and mysterious. In other ways it’s beautiful. There are moments of dissonance here and moments of lovely melody.
Tough Luck
This doesn’t wander far from the rest of the disc in terms of its overall makeup. Still, this arrangement might be the most lush and beautiful on show here. It’s definitely my favorite track of the CD and that makes it a great choice to close out the festivities. There is some extremely emotional playing on this one. It moves into noisy space to end.
 
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