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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Pontus H.W. Gunve

Live in New York EP

Review by Jason Hillenburg

Pontus H.W. Gunve's new live EP challenges, invigorates, and inspires. The fusion of classical and rock influences merges into a dynamic sonic powerhouse. When placed in a live setting, these qualities become even more apparent and, frankly, outstrip their studio counterparts. There is passion in the playing that leaves any accusations of inaccessibility in the dust - this is not mathematical, bloodless, and intellectual music. This release puts Gunve’s considerable talents in a completely new light and reveals more depth than previously suspected.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Felix

This recalls King Crimson's work from the mid 1990's with its dissonant repetition, relentless attack, and mastery of dynamics. The guitar playing is particularly brilliant as it sounds practically hysterical, threatening to veer into white noise at any moment, but ultimately harnessing the edgy mood to superb artistic effect. The dramatic, tight drumming ratchets up the intensity further. While this is instrumental music, the composition conveys its mood with such power and clarity that the listener cannot help responding to the music.

Kraken and Cavalry of Camels
This two-piece package certainly contains a surplus of blistering guitar, but these tracks have a slightly progressive tinge that "Felix" lacks. Gunve largely abandons rock music here in favor of a stricter symphonic approach allowing room for exploration. The music breathes more and the versatile use of space in the quieter sections is another example of the wide range of dynamics at Gunve's disposal. The piece ends with a hard-hitting drum solo worth the price of admission alone.
El Poncho's Last Journey

"El Poncho's Last Journey" opens in chaos and mourning. The white noise of its initial moments coalesces into a quasi-dirge. When the drums come in, however, the song rises to another level. The guitar playing leads the way with one fiery run after another and the repetition, far from boring the listener, is riveting. As always, the classical elements in the song stand out, but Gunve’s presentation is practically theatrical in its immediacy and deeply informed by rock.

Movement 2
The final cut begins with lyrical guitar playing that is very different from the seething intensity of the earlier songs. When the piece shifts gears into a slow shuffle, it retains a strong ethereal quality. This doesn't rage with the same white-knuckled passion found on earlier songs, but Gunve’s intelligence fills every bar.
 
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