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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Various Artists

Axe

Review by Gary Hill

The central theme on this set is guitar, but this is no noodling kind of guitar hero sort of compilation. It’s more weird, atmospheric music. As such it lands in the progressive rock zone. It’s probably not the kind of thing to which you’d want to devote some uninterrupted listening time, but it’s cool for backdrop music and intriguing.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Marco Oppedisano - Fractured Sky

While this is suitably atmospheric, it also has a tendency towards the noisy end of the spectrum. It’s cool atmospheric, guitar dominated progressive rock that has hints of Djam Karet and King Crimson.

Mark Hamilton & Bruce Hamilton - fig dog 2

The circling guitar lines on this call to mind Robert Fripp, but this thing has a certain weird, almost dangerous texture to it. There are dissonant moments, but it’s also quite mellow. It’s a weird, but somehow captivating, piece of music.

Jordan Watson - Fungus
Echoey and strange, this definitely feels a lot like space rock in so many ways. This gets very creepy as it builds out feeling almost like some sort of alien landscape from a science fiction or horror film.
Neil Haverstick - Beautiful Springtime

As this opens, the guitar weaves lines of melody. While this is still a bit strange, it comes in as one of the most mainstream pieces here. In a lot of ways, this is quite jazz-like, but a mellow sort of freeform jazz. Later it works to something that feels a bit like Hawaiian music layered over a Crimson-like subtle atmospheric backdrop. This has one of the most sparse arrangements of the set with one guitar really maintaining the majority of the number by itself.

Kavin Allenson - Plastic Nightmare Beetle

This is another that has a pretty sparse arrangement. The one guitar is the main feature here, as well. Some sound effects and weirdness is heard early and this moves gradually out from there. It’s quite strange and freeform in nature.

Tigress and the U-Fraidees - Hard WATER

This comes in noisy and a little disquieting. Distorted guitar (sounding like it might be backwards tracked) wails over the top in extremely slow patterns. There is weird atmosphere creating the backdrop underneath that. The weird effects eventually take the piece out in an unusual way.

Jukka-Pekka Kervinen - flood zone

Weird speeding up and slowing down sounds open this and the thing builds out in some freeform strangeness. This is one of the weirdest things here, but also one of the most compelling.

Roger Sundström - The Sightless Light

Disjointed, free form, sparse and weird, this feels somehow similar to the last number, but the guitar is more recognizable as such here. There are some alien soundscapes as this continues. Eventually it drops to near silence and then more atmospherics come up beyond that.

The Michael Vick Trip - Mileage, Another Wasteland

Atmospheric elements start off here and then noisy bursts of sound come up as this moves forward. As this continues there are some spoken words and then bursts of noodling, echoey, distorted guitar. There is a real, freeform sparse Robert Fripp kind of texture to this in a lot of ways.

Bill Horist - Auscultation Hall

At over eleven and a half minutes in length, this is clearly the most massive piece on show here. It starts off mellow and tentative. Space rises up as this continues and then gets shifted towards more weird effects and textures. As it continues slowly forward there are bits of world music that surface here and there. Strange, echoey, patterns of atmosphere and texture keep this thing evolving in odd, but intriguing ways. This is somehow one of the most effective pieces here.

Chris Vaisvil & Bruce Hamilton - feedfill

Noisy atmosphere serves as the motif here, and this is another fairly effective piece of music. It turns even noisier and rather dissonant later, but then shifts out to something like space music meets Led Zeppelin. 

Steve Moyes - Clutching
Layers of synthetic sound swirl around like some kind of computer dance music. This is weird, but also very tasty. It’s one of my favorite pieces from this album.
James Ross - Quasicrystals
At over nine and a half minutes in length, this is a cut that comes in rather psychedelic. The guitar playing here is more melodic and less atmospheric than that on the majority of this set. Although there are space elements here, this feels more organic. It drops to pure atmosphere before the four minute mark, though and gradually moves forward in that light. It’s not until after the seven minute mark that any really melody comes back into the picture. Even then, it’s subtle at first, but gradually rises up from the clouds of texture that have held the piece for several minutes.
 
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