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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Glass

Illuminations

Review by Gary Hill

Glass was a progressive rock band from the 1970's that many never heard about. For those who did, though, there was a wealth of talent to be had. Cut to 2004 when the band's music was issued on the Musea label. Now they have their first new music in the form of Illuminations. Fans of instrumental prog/fusion should really appreciate this disc. While it's not completely vocal free, it is still essentially instrumental in nature. It is also highly dominated by keyboards. It feels through much of the disc a lot like Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream and others of that style. Still there are shadows of more recent prog bands like Djam Karet. Even the sounds of Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd get a bit of a ride here. The result is an album that is easy to listen to first time out. It also manages to gain more and more appreciation with repeated listenings - isn't that true of the best prog?

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Overture
A dramatic keyboard dominated intro that feels a bit Yesish gives way to a cool number that weaves interesting lines of melody in a mostly static backdrop. They do include enough changes ups and odd timings to please even the most hard to impress prog fan. This is a nice fusion prog instrumental, and a good opener.
The Secret Life Of Aqua J. Long
I. Astral Transascension
A pretty and intricate keyboard pattern begins this and the group gradually build on this feeling quite a bit like Mike Oldfield. Eventually a bass line moves the cut into a new dramatic excursion. They work through this feeling somewhat like a cross between Oldfield and Pink Floyd (Meddle era). This dissolves into weirdness to end/carry it to the next movement.
II. Isle Of Dyslexia
Rising out of the atmospheric texture oddities, backwards tracked sound (get it - "dyslexia?") create an odd backdrop for this unusual yet entertaining piece. This one is also Oldfield like with a little Tangerine Dream thrown in for good measure. This leads straight into the closing segment of this epic.
III. Medicine Man
A reverse crescendo brings this one in and percussion, some backwards, becomes the order of the day here. At times, this feels like one part John Bonham and one part old jazz, but it works into what is a total beat poem - lust like they did in the '50's. Where is Dobie Gillis when you need him? It turns to bombastic, psychotic strangeness, then drops to a more sparse arrangement. It's still every bit as odd, just less layers of sound and volume.
Electronic Synaesthasia
I. The Hidden Room
A total contrast to the last suite, waves of keys give way to a slowly growing, measured and intricate melody line with a slight Asian bent, still carried on the keys. As other layers come across this again shares aural territory with Oldfield and Tangerine Dream. A driving keyboard line takes over in the final moments carries it directly into the next number.
II. Crossing
Based on the keys from the previous cut, this one is much more dramatic and powerful and has a definite jazz texture. It builds slowly out in some and is one of the more potent excursions on the CD. It moves later towards weirdness, the elements of melody becoming overwhelmed by more bombastic and chaotic elements including layers of backwards guitar. While the original elements remain, they seem to be in a constant battle for survival with the new arrivals. Eventually, though, they work to regain control and eventually wind it down to end.
III. My Tantric Gatito
A hum begins this, then bass guitar enters to rise up in an interesting solo of both notes and harmonics. Eventually, though, sounds barely recognizable as processed vocals rise to accompany them, feeling very dark and evil. This is another weird one, but oh so cool. Eventually the voce and weird whirrs the like take it alone for a time before the bass returns. A final harmonic ends it.
Alchemy Of The World
I. Eclipse
The most traditional progressive rock thus far, feeling rather like old ELP, begins this one. It also has a touch of old psychedelic music ala Vanilla Fudge.
II. Wanderlust
Coming straight out of the first movement, this carries similar musical themes in a dramatic and potent (and also very pretty) progression that is another highlight of the disc.
III. Eternity
Keys with a very classical approach build this from out of the previous theme. This is dramatic and very pleasant. More layers are added overtop to increase the power of the piece. It has a definite old Yes/Genesis texture to it, but is nearly all keys.
IV. Reprise:
As one might guess, this track is a reaffirmation of the themes from the "Wanderlust" movement of the piece. It gets just a bit Deep Purpleish before ending.
V. Delirium
With a voice mail menu lady, this comes in with ELP-like keyboard jamming. Then a man's voice leaves a message about a manic episode as the band jam on this. It has a groove that's a lot like Niacin. Later in the cut a hodge-podge of voice mails fight with the music until the menu voice says "end of message."
VI. Falling
Pretty dramatic keys begin this and build in a very intriguing manner. This is an exceptionally effective composition.
Slightly Behind All The Time
Another that has a jazzy groove rather in the vein of Niacin, the searing over layers though are a definite departure from this tone and make this one of the stronger cuts on the disc. This really rocks out in great keyboard dominated stylings.
Gaia
This is a very odd one where non-lyrical vocals compete with lines of instrumental music for control. It's rather cacophonous and dissonant - even noisy at times. The thing is there is enough melody here to captivate. As the second segment, with its spoken vocals and waves of potent choral sounds take it, it's extremely powerful, but the barely controlled chaos returns afterwards with the vocals even wandering off key. This is one you just have to hear as it's a challenging piece of music that moves right along the line between working and missing. It never really falls over to the "not working" side, though. As strange as it is, that's hard to believe.
 
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