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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Julie Slick

Terroir

Review by Grant Hill

I’d been waiting to get my hands on a copy of Terroir since Julie Slick announced she was working on it many months ago. Slick is the now accomplished veteran bassist in the Adrian Belew Power Trio. Her first, self-titled CD was a breakthrough in the emerging avant-garde, experimental and free form side of progressive rock music. This second release, Terroir, promised to be more organic, more compositional, and directly involve a wide cast of talented guest musicians adding their skills to Slick’s well conceived direction. Slick is careful to remind us of the culinary implications of the title, which translates to “from the earth.”

And into a tasteful array of soundscapes she takes the listener, track by track. Her sound is distinctive, more oriented to textures and syncopated patterns than chords, and her pick work is either skillfully articulate or fierce. She is a great emergent artist who will start being as noticed for her unique writing as much as her world class playing! The CD features Pat Mastelotto, David Torn, Steve Ball, Claire Wadsworth, Tim Motzer, Eric Slick, Marco Minnemann, Robbie “Seahag” Mangano, John Slywka, Todd Mecaughey, Adrian Belew, Rick Musallam, Dave Dickens, Carl Bahner, Mike Visser, and Noodle Theory. It was mixed by Todd Mecaughey at Cambridge Sound Studios, and mastered by Mark Trewella at Full Circle Mastering. The album design is by Dejha Ti. If you’re serious about serious music, I recommend Terroir as an important addition to your collection!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
6
Dark and experimental, this is a Claypool-esque experience. A repetitive crash symbol, scratching, rhythmic bass chords, spoken word, and finally a driving rock beat underscore experimental rhythms and melodies. The piece evokes mystery, tension and depth, and generates lots of interesting interactions between players. The musicians listen and react well. Multiple spins will continually allow the listener to explore different parts of the musical interplay.
Pi
Tonal guitar and bass along with ethereal vocal chords open the song in common time. The section moves into a wistful guitar and bass interplay, very legato vocal chord patterns over the active eighth note pattern in ¾. Tasteful entrances are felt from guitars and piano. This is beautiful - a very pretty, uplifting song! There is a nice transition two-thirds in, and interest evolves as the piece moves forward. Relentless and excellent, this is gorgeous!
Accidental Incident
Experimental electronic drumming evokes the Billy Cobham fusion era, constantly shifting surreal chords and textures abound, building tension. Good use is made of stereo technology, the left-right pans for various voices are realistic and spacey, a very important component of the song’s structure. Halfway through, a low end Crimson-esque bass line dominates, Belew-esque guitar seering in the background. Slick has a real skill for making each section contain a direction in color and timbre. Any repetition phrases are never static; they rather lend the motion of the next entrance a hand in the song’s evolution.
Kismet
Multi-metered bass opens the song and grooves into a melodic guitar over some tight, skillful set playing underneath. Electronica chords abound. I enjoy the groovy guitar line. In fact, the whole song feels groovy. I like the entire electronica vibe to this one, creative and tasty. This is easy to listen to and fun to explore with repeated exposure. It’s also cool!
Quintal
There is a mysterious dissonance, uniquely modal and powerful at the open. I hear solid contrary motion bass to guitar. This is a unique fusion with world influences throughout. The guitar phrasing is outstanding and so is communication between the players. There is both good tension and relaxation, constantly shifting. This is fascinating!
Gol
Everyday sounds, mainly a child’s voice and running steps, incorporate into Slick’s vant-garde soundscape, gradually shaping to a more song-like structure. Interesting relationships between drums and bass abound. Pleasing vocal chords enter and brighten the soundscape. Halfway through, accented bass chords take over as the dominant voice. I am always struck by Slick’s ability to make the everyday experience into a song. This is refreshingly different. It makes me smile!
Minminzemmi
Repeating guitar riff, drums, and piano chords stage their entrances. The song builds into a pop-like jazz groove. Layers add, dynamics build, and there’s a nice evolution of the song. Very minimalistic piano stands out but connects well to the more active motion of the other players. The synth passage at the end is an interesting summary.
Sirène
This is a cool groove! It moves into a chord pattern which reminds me of mid-seventies Weather Report. In fact, the song sounds like a collision of the same with Primus. Interesting ethereal guitar soloing belies Slick’s roots. I like this piece very much. Three fourths through, the song slows down and becomes more haunting. This features good use of repetition and shaped phrasing.
Skypark
Middle eastern or even Uzbeki style modalities grip one’s attention. Rhythmic kick drum assists development into a fusion groove, with a very attention-grabbing interplay of styles. Percussion becomes tabla-like and the song builds around an underlying drone. There is excellent rhythmic interaction, even folk dancelike. This is one of my favorite tracks on the release, in fact, maybe my favorite overall.
Even the Tide Recedes
Psychedelic and ethereal chords play over a mezzo slow moving bass line. There’s a nice use of bass harmonics about 90 seconds in. This features a solid melodic treatment of bass over a cosmic background. There is a nice shaping of sounds as the piece develops. It also includes good interplay of string effects over the constantly shifting musicality of Slick’s bass work. A wide variety of skill sets are incorporated to make this piece work well. Midway through, I feel like I’m either in deep space or the deep ocean. The song feels both isolating and yet connected. It has a very apt title. Two-thirds through, bass re-enters with a legato solo to the aforementioned ocean-scape. The combination sets well together. The piece features introspective playing by Slick; and great listening abounds. The song represents creative use of space and time. The pattern becomes more pronounced to the end, with active background guitar work meshing well against the background sounds. It has a very sensitive ending that provides great release!
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