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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ozric Tentacles

Waterfall Cities

Review by Steve Alspach

Ozric Tentacles has been at the forefront of the more ambient realm of progressive rock for about fifteen years. Their trademark "pick a key and go for it" style of musicianship allows the listener to use the imagination more than most bands allow. "Waterfall Cities" came out in 1999 and showed the band to still be at the top of their game with tight musicianship and imaginative compositions.

The musicians for this recording are: Ed Wynne, Guitars, Synths, Tendril Manipulations; Seaweed (Christopher Lenox-Smith), Synths, Whoopz, Fizzles; Zia Geelani, Bass and Snappiness; John Egan, Flutes and Twirlings; and Rad (Conrad Prince), Drums.

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

Track by Track Review
Coily
The band kicks off in a fusion mode, marked by a tricky time signature and anchored by the synthesizer. They finally find the 4/4 groove, and the electric guitar takes lead. A short eastern-feeling interlude precedes a keyboard solo while the rhythm section returns to its original pattern. A flute solo comes in, followed by an acoustic guitar solo that sounds like a cross between an acoustic guitar and an oud. The group then tightens up with Ed playing some bending, swooping guitar notes.
Xingu
Ozric gets a bit funky for this number. The keyboards take the lead, quick arpeggios interspersed with more open chording for a truly spacey feel. The band stays in a phrygian mode for most of the song to give it an eastern flavoring.
Waterfall City
This number starts off with what sounds like the start to a CNN newscast with high-paced synthesizer and drums. The group stays in the riff for quite some time, waiting 3:27 to change chord, but they go back to the original key. There is a solo from Ed, then the synthesizer, bass and drums keep to an energetic pace, yet the keyboard's soothing chords allow the band (and the listener) to catch its breath. At 7:34 the song changes mood while staying in the same rhythm and stays for the rest of the song. The music passes through innocuously enough since nobody really takes a lead line or solo.
Ch'ai?
This is a relatively short (three ticks over five minutes) piece that has a distinct oriental feel to it. The keyboards state the main theme, and piece closes the same way. In the middle section, though, there is some room for soloing from Ed Wynne on guitar. The tune is perhaps the most complicated in terms of composition with numerous chord changes.
Spiralmind
This is another piece that could pass as jazz-rock fusion. Keyboards and bass take the lead on the opening to this song while Rad's drums propel the song. The acoustic guitar then takes the lead, matching the bass on the lead line. Another open-air synth section enters in and keeps hold throughout the rest of the song. At 11:40 it's the longest song on the CD, but one that you can really close your eyes and drift away to. 
Sultana Detrii
The band works out a reggae groove, of all things, on this piece. The flute adds an outdoorsy atmosphere. At the 4:32 mark the mood eases up with a combination of bird sounds and R2D2-type synthesizer squonks. The drums then come in, and drive the song, along with a sinewy electric guitar solo before pulling back and settling into a softer groove.
Aura Borealis
All of the songs on this album are upbeat, and this is no exception, but "Aura Borealis" starts off with a very relaxed, drifting feel to it. There is no guitar to this, the keyboard's melody is a sprite arpeggio, and the drumming is very light. If the album is conducive to free mind travel, as the liner notes state (and I'm not arguing that it isn't), then this is the return to the dock.
 
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