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Susan Alcorn Quintet

Pedernal

Review by Gary Hill

Fans of Rock in Opposition will find this to be familiar territory. The music is definitely freeform and strange. I'm not really a fan of this kind of stuff, so I'm not the target audience. This is all instrumental, and I love the fact that it features pedal steel guitar, even if it's not really the type of music I usually listen to.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Pedernal
Mellow pedal steel tones bring this into being with a classical music flavor. Eventually gentle jazzy elements are added to the mix, driving the piece. This gets into some pretty crazed progressions as it continues. There is climbing sort of structure that leans toward freeform and weird. It gets pretty bizarre as it works into spacier and spacier territory. It gets a bit more grounded before it's over.
Circular Ruins
The early modes of this track have a real space meets classical sound to them. This gets louder and even stranger than the opener. It's very much a freeform exploration. It's also extensive. The contrast between more intense and sedate textures is classy.
R.U.R.
As you might imagine we get more freeform oddities here. This one is a bit less intense than the previous one. It also has some rather creepy mellow moments. As it approaches the ending it shifts into a pretty standard jazz jam. It's one of the most mainstream musical passages of the set. It seems almost strange amidst the rest of the music, which is ironic.
Night in Gdansk
The mix of strange freeform sounds, classical music and other oddities remains intact on this number. At over 13-minutes of music, this is the longest piece here. There is quite a bit of dynamic range on the number, and it's a deeply strange and unsettling piece. There is a real sense of darkness to it. There is a frantically fast movement later.
Northeast Rising Sun
There is some stage banter and ineffective count-ins at the beginning of this. Then a real count-in gives way to a jam that's more melodic and fun. As the whole band joins that is reinforced, and this becomes the piece that really resonates with me here. Fans of RIO styled music will find this their least favorite, though. I dig the shifts and turns on the number. There are some definite country music angles amidst the arrangement. This is playful and fun and still gets into some killer jamming and a bit of weirdness at times.
 
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