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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Morgan Ă…gren, Henry Kaiser & Trey Gunn

Invisible Rays

Review by Gary Hill

Sort of an instrumental prog summit, this set showcases a form of freeform jamming. When it works well, it’s incredibly hypnotic and powerful. And, for the most part it works well. There are a few moments, though, where it gets a little too freeform or starts to sound monolithic. Still, this is an exceptional musical collaboration that will please fans of heavy guitar driven instrumental prog.

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
Invisible Rays

They open the disc with the epic of the set, a 22-plus minute jam that’s incredible. Percussion opens it, and then a really heavy prog jam ensues. They continue building it out from there and drop the speed a bit later. Then it drops down to just rhythm. Then the guitar and bass return with a noisy kind of coolness that’s got some jam band meets Hendrix sort of texture to it. Some awesome crazy sounding soloing is heard later in the number as the bass just keeps driving. It gets pretty crazed and then moves out to more freeform noisy jamming from there. More noisy guitar is heard over the top as the drums wail and the bass holds down a steady motif around the eight-minute mark. Near the ten minute mark it transitions out to a mellower movement. The bass drops away and the guitar weaves atmosphere as the drums just plain pound. The bass eventually starts to rise up a bit as this continues. It almost takes on a space music meets classical texture in some ways, but there’s a real hard rocking noisy sound merged with that. Around the thirteen minute mark the rhythm section takes over as there are just little hints of spacey melody over the top. Then we get flashes of noisy feedback laden guitar coming up and disappearing after a time. The bass starts driving it from there and we get more noisy jamming over the top. Free-form noise takes it as they continue. It starts to rise into a pounding, industrial sound from there. Some serious King Crimson like heaviness takes over later. More echoey noise takes over near the end.

The Magic Ring Of Invisibility
A killer rhythm section groove opens this and the sounds over the top are more melodic than those heard on the opener. Waves of noisier guitar scream across the top later. In some ways the rhythm section really steals the show here.
Where Is Juan?
A killer rubbery rhythmic groove opens this. Melodic music rises up and the guitar even sounds rather bluesy as it builds out. They twist into a rather weird, but quite tasty King Crimson-like jam later, but the freeform jazz elements continue to dominate this beast. Screaming guitar soars overhead further down the line. Then we get a shift to a stripped down but rather crazed arrangement from there. The bass is intense and strange, but all the waves of sound work together to create a noisy sort of chaos. It works out from there in a real freeform jazz approach.
Secret Handshake With Danger
Mellow acoustic motifs start this in sharp contrast to the previous track. As they build we get some more blues. That holds it for the first minute and a half or so. Then it works out to a real noisefest before the drums join in a crazed pattern. From one of the most “normal” bits here, this devolves into some serious chaos. Odd, but cool, layers of sound are heard over the top as it continues. This thing just keeps changing and re-arranging. A mellower, stripped back space approach comes in later to take it out.
Greatest Hits
Weighing in at just over a minute in length, this is super heavy King Crimson-like jamming.
The Last Guru
There’s almost a world music feeling to this at first and the rhythm section pounds and drives this forward from there. Guitar screams overhead. It drops back to mellower weirdness for a time, but then screams back out with a Hendrix meets King Crimson kind of sound. It continues evolving, but maintains that general musical theme until it ends.
Take A Bath With Lenin

Mellower musical motifs start things here, but it fires out into more crazed noisy freeform sounds from there. This is crazed and hard edged, but it’s also all starting to sound a bit too similar by this point.

Ghost Red Wires
We really needed a change at this point, and this number provides it. The percussion drives a lot of the tune, but there are really melodic musical elements woven across. This is the least heavy and distorted thing we’ve heard on the album. It’s a great change of pace and one of the most accessible numbers.
Invisibility Clause
While the pounding heavy rhythm section is closer to the music that makes up the bulk of the album, there are more melodic sounds across the top. Sure, the guitar does get more distorted and crazed at times, but this really seems more like a melodic fusion than the majority of the set does. Again we hear some Hendrix like bits. A lot of it is echoey and feedback laden, but this another of the more melodic pieces. It’s also one of the cooler ones.
Understudy To The Stars
Just seventeen seconds in length, this is basically just noisy weirdness.
An Unusually Nice Hotel
This comes in echoey, but also atmospheric and quite cool. A bass groove joins and then guitar solos across, again calling to mind Hendrix a bit. It builds out gradually from there. The guitar eventually starts wailing over the top. The driving bass line hints at some jazz later as guitar creates clouds of noisy texture. They take things in a more traditional progressive rock direction later and while this is still a little noisy, it doesn’t feel that different from a lot of the other stuff out there in terms of modern prog in the later sections. It’s certainly among the most melodic music on show here. That said, it does get noisier at points after the ten minute mark.
 
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