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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mary Halvorson's Code Girl

Artlessly Falling

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit that I'm not necessarily the target audience for this release. If you like your music adventurous to the point of things like Rock In Opposition, this is probably aimed at you. That said, there is only one song here that loses me completely. I can definitely appreciate the artistic side of even that one. There is a lot of jazz in the mix here, but overall it's more experimental progressive rock.

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Track by Track Review
Lemon Trees
Psychedelia, Rock in Opposition and jazz seem to merge on this number. It definitely makes me think of early King Crimson in some ways. There are some strange jazz angles built into it, too. This gets into some decidedly weird zones. A real freeform jazz jam takes over later. It includes a drum solo in the midst of it.
Last-Minute Smears
As strange as some of the previous cut was, it did not prepare the listener for the weird freeform opening movement of this. The cut has odd vocalizations over a minimal musical backdrop. Even as it works out from there it is still decidedly strange. There is a real RIO vibe built into it, with traditional jazz as a playground for it. There is some killer jazz jamming later along the road.
Walls and Roses
This comes in with one of the most melodic mellower passages of the set. It works out from there to something akin to a frantic and particularly twisted metallic sound for a time. Then we get more standard (for this album) jazz rock based weirdness. The contrast between the near metal and quite mellow on this number as it continues really makes for something dramatic.
Muzzling Unwashed
Even more twisted and strange, there are hints of both electronic weirdness and world music built into this odd adventure. At close to 11-minutes long, this is the epic of the set. This eventually makes its way to a vocal movement that is energetic and driving. While it's still left-of-center, it's perhaps a bit less weird than the opening movement.
Bigger Flames
In some ways this comes in as more of a mainstream song. It has some odd-pitch bend things and weird tonal relationships between voice and instruments, though. It gets into more pure jazzy zones as it continues. It gets pretty crazed before it's done.
Mexican War Streets (Pittsburgh)
This is another epic piece weighing over 10-and-a-half minutes. It starts with a mellower and more melodic movement. Eventually that gives way to a slowly drifting jazz movement for a short change. That drops away leaving the previous section in place. A slow moving, but almost soaring jazz jam emerges further down the road. This thing eventually works more toward the prog rock angle and gets very crazed and strange in the process.
A Nearing
Strange freeform textures and jazzy elements are merged on this cut. It has a reaching kind of building approach amidst unusual tonal connections. There are some moments that really showcase cool jazz guitar. That section gives way to some killer jazz jamming that is off-kilter but also very cool. It gets into suitably weird rocking zones on the closing movement.
Artlessly Falling

The title track closes the set. The piece begins mellower, and perhaps a bit less strange. Weird pitch twisting later turns it decidedly bizarre. This might well be the weirdest thing here. It's also the hardest for me to get through. While I appreciate it from an artistic perspective, it's unsettling, and not in a good way. I am sure some will feel completely differently about this, though. It does twist more toward the mainstream and soaring end of things before it's over, though.

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