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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

OnOffOn

Bridge to Presage

Review by Gary Hill

This is OnOffOn's third album and these guys never fail to produce a quality musical exploration. This one, as all their discs, combines a strong jazz texture with prog rock leanings for a unique and captivating sonic structure. While not all of this instrumental music can be appreciated on the first listening the disc is certainly worth the time to take it all in properly. This is possibly their strongest and most diverse yet.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ottone Prelude "Remembrance"
This jazz instrumental is a pretty, but rather melancholy piece that does seem appropriate as a prelude. It is a short one running a bit under two minutes. 
Andante
This one starts with a percussive element, but then horns that feel like they are an extension of the previous cut join in. The number takes on a definite jazz vibe here. It moves out from there as the horns fade away to a more progressive rock oriented type of motif. Those horns still show up in this segment as accents, though. This one has a dynamic and very powerful arrangement. The horn solo segment later, with its alternate timing is pretty awesome as is the harder rocking guitar driven variant that follows it. "Andante" is a very strong instrumental number that pulls in sounds from all sorts of genres of music to create a cohesive and powerful piece of music. This certainly does a great job of bridging the gap between jazz and prog rock.
Ostinato
A guitar based texture that feels a bit like The Ventures meets King Crimson begins this. As the cut carries forward it takes on a more free form fusion approach, but those Crimsoid tendencies are still there. This one is dissonant and rather challenging on the listener, but the level of appreciation grows with repeated listenings. Like most complex music it has a bit of a learning curve involved. Still, they manage to throw in some cool jazz grooves to the mix. Some of the instrumental interplay later in the track is simply awe-inspiring. I also like the segment where they drop back to a sedate ballad-like jazz structure later. It gives a nice contrast the harsh cacophonic dissonance of the earlier modes. The cool groove that follows it is also a nice touch. It turns back toward the more raucous to end. This one is dynamic and certainly well worth any time necessary to gain an understanding of it. It is one of the best numbers on show here.
Duetto Voci Eguali
This mellower cut is more along the lines of a prog rock ballad, but the jazz textures still remain. This is a nice respite after the powerhouse that preceded it. That's not to say that it doesn't have its more energized moments, but just that this a more cohesive listening experience. It's also enchanting and quite pretty.
Guilivo (Con Gusto)
This one has a bit more of that dissonance, but it also feels rather playful and in some ways the early modes remind me a bit of the music that Vince Guaraldi used to compose. It turns later to a more full arrangement and that sort of texture goes away. Then it shifts to a different, more fusion-oriented approach as it carries onward. A later section is based in a killer groove. I especially like the piano solo that comes in still later in the track. This one is another that's quite dynamic.
Percossa e Ottone Rapsodia
A tribal percussion begins this. After about thirty seconds, though, it wanders into weird sounds for a while. Then eventually it seems like it's about to burst into a new dramatic melody. At least there is a new musical concept wandering around almost in the background. This starts to gradually gain intensity, but hints of tribal drums and chanting remain. The whole cut does coalesce into a killer new groove. After a while a horn wanders across this in a rather Spanish sounding texture. Although the beginning is a bit odd (and so is the ending where it basically fades to chaos and then rises back out) the mid section, once this really catches on, is incredible.
Perdendosi
This one has sort of a tentative introduction, but quickly turns into another tasty jazz excursion. Almost as quickly, though, it begins to drop into dissonant chaos. This one is weird, but at just over two minutes doesn't stay around long. 
Sonata a Tre
The longest cut on the disc, this one clocks in at a little over eleven minutes. That's even more amazing when you figure that this is an acoustic guitar solo. It starts very gradually with a sedate ballad type mode and begins to grow a bit by working around this texture with an almost Spanish texture. After a minute or so the cut seems to firmly embrace those Spanish elements as the guitar turns decidedly flamenco. A false ending presages more balladic guitar based textures and this is again reworked for a time. The Spanish themes return during this extended acoustic guitar solo segment. Then at about four and a half minutes it seems, once again, to end. However, the guitar bursts back up in its most energized showing thus far in this number. It moves its way through a bouncing jazz groove. Another point where you think it's ending occurs and then the guitar returns with something that seems a bit more prog rock in texture to me, feeling a little like something Steve Hackett might do. Still elements of the previous themes also seem to rear their heads here. It eventually shifts to a more playful folk type approach before eventually returning to these rather progish movements. It then shifts toward the dramatic with a segment that reminds me just a bit of some of the more powerful segments of guitar work on King Crimson's "In The Court of the Crimson King." This doesn't stay around long, though as it works its way back to the Spanish influenced territory. After a time there is another false stop and then it moves back into more progressive rock styled textures with a bit more of that Steve Hackett type sound.
Finale
A cool riff based prog rock jam starts this off at first just on guitar. Eventually the other instruments join to reinforce and power this one out. They begin to turn it more jazzy with the soloing, but this one is the coolest groove of the whole disc. Talk about ending the album on a high note, this one is purely awesome. It might well be the most intriguing piece the band have ever done. It reminds me in a lot of ways of the type of material that made King Crimson's Red album so strong. There are also points where I hear a bit of Dark Side of the Moon era Pink Floyd in the mix. Either way, it just doesn't get a lot better than this. I even hear just a hint of The Doors' "Riders on the Storm" in the outro. I'd say this track by itself would be worth the price of admission here.
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