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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gordon Grdina Septet

Resist

Review by Gary Hill

This new set is quite intriguing. I previously reviewed a set from Gordon Grdina (with his Nomad Trio - in our last issue). I said that one had a lot of Rock in Opposition type concepts built into it. Well, those elements are definitely at play here, too. The central difference here is that this has a lot of symphonic instrumentation and classical elements added to the mix. Beyond that, this has plenty of exploration that shares a musical ideology with the other set. This is classy stuff, but just like the other one, it's not for everyone.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Resist
The set opens with an epic piece that runs almost 23-and-a-half minutes. It comes in gradual with symphonic strings creating a mood and tone. Other symphonic elements join as the piece gradually begins to build upward. It is still very classical and sedate. I'm reminded of some of the classically based stuff from 1970s King Crimson. That keeps shifting and evolving, but doesn't really grow upward, for the first six-minutes or so. Then this explodes out into a powerhouse jazzy jam that again makes me think of King Crimson. That holds it for a while, but after working through that movement it drops back to more mellower and rather classical zones. A percussion section takes control after the 12-minute mark. Trippy weirdness rises up as the number continues. After that works through in an almost chaotic way, things drop way down to classical strings in an arrangement that feels like it might fit as part of the soundtrack to a thriller movie. This rises up into more freeform jazz weirdness. It definitely leans toward Rock in Opposition.
Seeds 11

Another that makes me think of King Crimson in some ways, this is a short piece. It's a dramatic acoustic guitar solo with jazzy strangeness at its core.

Varscona
More traditional and melodic jazz opens this. The cut works out to a pounding kind of chaotic texture that's again close to Rock in Opposition. After moving along in one direction for a time, around the halfway mark it shifts to a full freeform classical instrument based excursion that is suitably bizarre and entertaining. That movement works through various sections before eventually ending the piece.
Resist the Middle

While this is somewhat stripped back and mellow, the classical elements at play are anything but restive. There is an uncomfortable energy and vibe to it. It's got stabbing little lines of sound that drive it. It gets louder and more dramatic at times, but then drops back again afterward. It doesn't lose any of the weirdness, though.

Ever Onward
This definitely is built on weirdness. It has a lot of crazed soundtrack stuff sound in the mix. There is a good balance between mellower and more powered up. Classical elements and RIO are at the core of much of this.
 
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