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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jack O’ the Clock

Night Loops

Review by Gary Hill

This is a pretty amazing and unusual disc. It’s a safe bet you’ve never heard anyone quite like this. I mean, overall, a lot of it lands in similar territory to Rock in Opposition, but there is a lot more here, too. The funny thing is, for the most part, although everything is generally pretty strange, it’s also somehow compelling and accessible. That says a lot really.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ten Fingers

The first couple minutes of this are mostly percussive with sound effects and other elements over the top. Although vocals appear earlier, after that two minute mark they continue and most musical things emerge sporadically. This remains rather strange and sparse in a lot of ways, though. It resembles some kind of synthesis between Rock in Opposition, electronic music and more modern progressive rock. As strange as it is, it’s also compelling.

Bethlehem Watcher
Although in some ways this mellow cut is more traditional progressive rock, it has a distant kind of feeling to it that makes it a little odd. Then after the minute and a half mark a cool bass groove rises up and we get a jam that has some hints of metal in terms of the vocals, but also a lot of Frank Zappa. This is classy stuff with some jazz and more in the mix.
Tiny Sonographic Heart
With what sounds almost like a fly flitting about, this is pretty sparse. It’s also short and a very RIO-like instrumental.
Come Back Tomorrow
Some acoustic guitar based sounds are the main focus early on here. It’s prog for sure, but it also makes me think of some of Led Zeppelin’s acoustic based stuff. It should be mentioned that this number earns a parental advisory for the lyrics. There is a chamber music styled section mid-track. This is very unusual and also very special. This just keeps evolving. It lands into rather funky jazzy territory for a while later.
How the Light Is Approached
In a lot of ways the multilayered jazzy vocal arrangement is the real key to this. That said, RIO is represented in the music in a number off ways. A wailing saxophone is heard at times. At other points a sparse, percussion dominated arrangement is the key. This is rather odd, but also very cool.
Familiar 1: Night Heron over Harrison Square
This a short jazzy bit. I think it’s mostly clarinet, but other instruments are also heard in an arrangement that’s very much chamber music like in terms of instruments used.  RIO is a valid label here, too.
Fixture
Although sparse RIO is the main idea here, there is an almost space rock element at play, too. Parts of this seem like soundtrack music, too. It’s weird, but fascinating. There are bits of world music here and there and just about everything at some time or another.
Furnace
This is a short piece with whispered voices and effects.
Salt Moon
One of the most effective pieces here, that RIO element combines with jazz, classical and an almost King Crimson-like vibe. This is just plain cool.
Down Below
This more of a straight ahead rocker. Still, it has plenty of real prog in the mix. The slide guitar is classy. The whole thing is catchy, too. This is one of my favorite tracks here. I love the violin that comes across the top. The non-lyrical vocals later are great, too. I’d say this song is probably a great first listen from this set.
As Long as the Earth Lasts
Although this starts off predominately percussive, it grows into quite a powerful jam with jazz and symphonic elements dancing all over it. It has a real world music vibe to it in a lot of ways. It’s another highlight.
Familiar 2: Barred Owl
Jazzy weirdness with the sounds of an owl over the top is the idea here. This is a cool piece.
Rehearsing the Long Walk Home
Some real rock meets country guitar is accompanied by RIO-like strangeness. The vocals come over the top of this great backdrop. The combination of sounds here is quite effective and there is some great guitar soloing over the top of this at times.
 
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