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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

No-Man

Wild Opera

Review by Gary Hill

No-Man are re-releasing their Wild Opera album. It’s available now is a double disc set. Disc one is the original album, while disc two features an expanded version of the Dry Cleaning Ray EP. The music here is typical No-Man in that it wanders between progressive rock and electronica/techno. Steve Wilson from Porcupine Tree is another pure progressive rock connection to this music, which is touted as “post-progressive.” This is an excellent disc and has a lot of great music on show.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Radiant City

There’s a weird little blues jam to open this, feeling like it’s played on a tape player with a stretched, messed up cassette. This takes on a techno-jam approach. As other instruments are added it begins to resemble King Crimson in some ways. They drop it way down from there to ambient motifs.

Pretty Genius
This has a more stripped down approach. I love the emotional yet somewhat cold, vocal performance. This is a moody balladic piece that’s got an R & B meets electronica feeling to it. The powered up instrumental section, though, brings in progressive rock and Traffic.
Infant Phenomenon
Percussion and a rubbery sort of musical element (in the backdrop) make up the background for the first vocals. This moves slowly from there. This gets pretty hard edged, but I don’t think I’d call it progressive rock. It’s more techno. 
Sinister Jazz
I think this is cool. It has a jazz feeling to it, in a lot of ways. But it’s like jazz in an echoey, twisted nightmare zone. That’s in keeping with the title. A good alternate title would be “Jazz Club in Hell.”
Housewives Hooked on Heroin
A depressed and depressing piece of music, this feels like minimalist modern progressive rock. It’s quite slow moving and also quite powerful. This is actually one of my favorites on the set.
Libertine Libretto
Sort of like RIO meets techno, this is a noisy and weird piece of music. There are hints of King Crimson at times. 
Taste My Dream
Piano starts this off, bringing a real jazz-like texture to the table. As the rhythm and vocals enter it’s closer to ‘80’s electronic pop. There’s a soulful air to this. It gets more proggy later and becomes quite emotionally powerful. 
Dry Cleaning Ray
Bouncy retro keys add an intriguing flavor to this piece. The track has an electronica meets modern progressive rock texture later. There’s a killer noisy guitar section at the end that has some psychedelia woven into it. 
Sheeploop
Imagine combining a stripped down techno music with jazz and space rock. You are definitely on the road to understanding this cool cut. 
My Rival Trevor
The overall motif hasn’t been changed a lot for this moody track. However, there’s a cool noisy guitar solo section. 
Time Travel in Texas
Here we get a stripped down and rather noisy song. It’s not the most proggy thing on show, but it’s cool. The chorus is oddly catchy. There’s a weird ambient section later in the piece. 
My Revenge on Seattle
This balladic piece isn’t far removed from the rest of the disc. That said, it’s quite a powerful and beautiful piece of music. I like it a lot. The powered up section later reminds me a lot of Genesis.
Uncredited Track
After two minutes of silence we get this hidden piece. It’s a stripped down cut that’s got a lot of the same elements as the rest of the disc showcased.  It gets quite powerful. 
Disc 2
Dry Cleanin' Ray (Remix Edit)
Here’s an alternate version of the track from the first disc.
Sweetside Silver Night
There’s a killer rock and roll groove to this. Overlayers, though, lend a more pure progressive rock texture to the cut as it continues. It alternates between these two motifs. There’s an especially tasty melodic guitar solo on this track and they take it out into a great mellow, but soaring, jam for a short time. 
Jack the Sax
Based on an acoustic guitar motif, this is a powerful progressive rock piece. It’s emotional and rather soaring. Somehow it reminds me quite a bit of early David Bowie. There’s a false ending then a wailing saxophone appears in the background, bringing a jazz club feel to the table. As it continues, spacey weirdness comes up in the foreground. This motif takes us out. 
Diet Mothers
Backwards tracking leads to a mellow movement that’s pretty typical for this outfit.
Urban Disco
Percussion with some space rock elements over the top serve as the backdrop as an almost spoken vocal drives this train. There are bits of other music that come in here and there until it explodes out into a techno meets prog approach. They drop it way down after the chorus, though and continue by basically alternating these two basic motifs.
Punished for Being Born
This instrumental is weird. It has a noisy sound, but feels like a machine going through the same series of motions over and over again. 
Kightlinger
Another instrumental, this is more mellow proggy music. 
Evelyn (The Song of Slurs)
A bit weird, this is more like the rest of the output of the group. Still, the arrangement is lush and powerful and I like this piece a lot. There’s some twisted carnival music later in this one. A noise section ends the track. 
Sicknote
Starting with an explosion in the background, vibes enter bringing a jazz sort of sound to the table. It builds gradually until a dark balladic sound rises upwards. As the track grows these two disparate entities are merged. A nine and a half minute number, they take us out into some serious space later. 
Hit the Ceiling
This is weird, but cool. A rubbery rhythm section, an insistent guitar riff, operatic female vocals in the air and the sounds we’re familiar with from these guys are all merged together into an odd, but tasty, jam. 
Where I'm Calling From
This mellow track builds gradually, but there’s a cool space jazz jam later. 
Housewives Hooked on Heroin (Alternate Version)
Here, as the title suggests, is an alternate take on the earlier piece. It feels more stripped down to me, but it’s no less effective. 
My Rival Trevor (Alternate Version)
This cut is another bit of truth in advertising. This feels more purely progressive rock to me than the original with a more lush arrangement. I think I like this version better.  
Time Travel in Texas (Radio Session)
Here we get another alternate take. This is quite stripped down and yet very tasty. 
Pretty Genius (Radio Session)
The final cut is another alternate version of an earlier track.
Hit the Ceiling
This is weird, but cool. A rubbery rhythm section, an insistent guitar riff, operatic female vocals in the air and the sounds we’re familiar with from these guys are all merged together into an odd, but tasty, jam. 
Where I'm Calling From
This mellow track builds gradually, but there’s a cool space jazz jam later. 
Housewives Hooked on Heroin (Alternate Version)
Here, as the title suggests, is an alternate take on the earlier piece. It feels more stripped down to me, but it’s no less effective. 
My Rival Trevor (Alternate Version)
This cut is another bit of truth in advertising. This feels more purely progressive rock to me than the original with a more lush arrangement. I think I like this version better.  
Time Travel in Texas (Radio Session)
Here we get another alternate take. This is quite stripped down and yet very tasty.
Pretty Genius (Radio Session)
The final cut is another alternate version of an earlier track.
 
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