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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Moraine

Metamorphic Rock

Review by Gary Hill

A live album from Moraine, their studio disc was described as heavy chamber music. This disc, though, has more of a King Crimson meets jazz and RIO approach. The only problem is, the ever changing textures of instrumental music have a tendency to become a little mind-numbing in terms of monolithic nature. Still, when it works, it works really well.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Irreducible Complexity

There is a killer pounding progressive rock sound to open this. They build on that by adding some Eastern tones and rather metallic elements. As it continues, it resembles fusion quite a bit. They move it into mellower modes for a time and then bring it back into fusion. Then a noisy drop back seems in line with RIO. It continues to evolve and grow and we get some more killer Eastern tones later. World music comes across here and there.

Manifest Density
While this opens more jazzy, it shifts out towards hard rock as it continues. The motifs are blended well in a driving groove driven number. At times it feels more rock oriented. Then, at other points the jazz seems the defining factor.
Save The Yuppie Breading Grounds
This is like modern King Crimson merged with the “Flight of the Bumblebees.” It’s frantic and heavy and also very progressive. It works out towards fusion that’s built around world music as the pace slows. It gets pretty noisy and crazed at times.
Disillusioned Avatar / Dub Interlude / Ephebus Amoebus
The sounds that start this montage make me think of the jazzier side of early King Crimson. It works towards space rock for a time before shifting to more pure jazz to continue. Later it rises up to something that feels, at times, a bit like something from Hawkwind’s Hall of the Mountain Grill album. From there it shifts to a mellower section that at first feels like something from the Police, mostly because of the bass line. Space rock seems to start to rise up from there. From there the bass takes it back out into King Crimson like territory with some Frank Zappa built into it. They drop it way down to a rubbery, kind of smoky jam from there. They are not done changing and rearranging, though, as they take us out into some serious RIO driven fusion for a time. It turns into a noise fest from there.
Disoriental Suite: a) Bagua b) Kan Hai De Re Zi c) Views From Chicheng Precipice
Percussion starts things off here. As this continues it works through a number of changes with different elements, including jazz and world sounds dominating at different times. There’s a killer retro rock jam later, too. The various styles all keep re-emerging as this works through a number of changes. Then the bass takes over for a while. It grows gradually outward from there. Eventually a cool melodic section that blends space rock and jazz emerges. As it continues to evolve, there’s a dramatic and yet rather mellow melodic jam. Some of the most intriguing musical passages of the whole set are heard as this keeps building and changing, running through territory a bit like fusion merged with classical music near the end.
Kuru
The jam that starts this off really feels a lot like something from King Crimson’s Starless and Bible Black album. They take it out to more purely jazz-oriented territory later. From there it eventually powers out into some serious hard rock. There are bits presented that have hints of Frank Zappa.
The Okanogan Lobe
While there are variations and changes among the world music meets fusion progression of this piece, the instrumentals are all starting to feel the same. Of course, that is until a seriously hard rocking guitar solo takes it into a driving King Crimson-like section. It resolves out to mellower, more melodic sounds from there, though. As it modulates out to the slower section, though, the mind-numbing monolithic nature really weighs heavy. Yes, this music is constantly changing, but that sea of constant change begins to feel redundant and faceless after a while, with more accessible sections seeming to climb up from a wall of seeming whiteness. The guitar solo that rises up later is one of those accessible moments.
Uncle Tang's Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari
A swirling, crazed, frantic jam opens this and represents some real variety. A noise-fest takes it from there. Then they power it out into a driving jazz jam that’s killer. A saxophone solo screams overhead. It evolves out from there before dissolving into noise. A false ending gives way to more frantic fusion. The closing section is pounding and powerful and this is arguably the strongest piece on show.
Blues For A Bruised Planet
Coming in with a slow groove, this is another that has jazz era King Crimson tendencies. Later they take into sort of a classic rock take on “strip tease” music. Then a guitar solo brings in more of that rock element. This is another of the strongest pieces here, as it has more of a unique identity than a lot of the other stuff does.
Waylaid
Starting a lot like jazzy King Crimson, this works out to some space rock variants on that sound as it really screams. While there are some strong sections here, as the band meander through the various styles and progressions it gets a bit monolithic and starts to blend in with everything else too much.
Middlebräu
While in some ways this is more of the same, the rhythm section really shines on this track. First that gloss comes from some killer bass work. Then they drop all the other instruments away for a percussion solo. There’s a more classic rock related segment later, followed by more melodic jazz. Then a killer guitar line leads it in new directions. As they continue that guitar really soars and drives things further. It turns a bit noisy to end.
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