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Posts Tagged ‘Gavin Harrison’

TRACKLISTING:

1. Transformation (2.01)
2. Room Without Shadows (4.49)
3. Road To Asheville (5.40)
4. Hex (4.35)
5. Blood Sky (5.01)
6. Anamnesis (5.50)
7. Vibrissa (4.47)
8. Possession (4.22)
9. S. Karma (4.43)
10. The Face Of Another (4.20)

LINEUP:
Mark Cook – Warr guitar, fretless bass, fretless guitar, ebow, synth, acoustic and nylon string guitars, chunk guitar, programming, synth treatments, loops, keyboards
Mike Davison – guitars, guitar synth, nylon string guitar, sitar
Jason Spradlin – drums, marimba, camel bells, low synth drone

With:
Gayle Ellett – mellotron (5), guitar (5, 6, 7), upright bass, bouzouki (7)
Bob Fisher – flute (3, 9)
Gavin Harrison – drums (7, 8 )
Jerry Marotta – drums, percussion (5)
Pat Mastelotto – drums, electronics, percussion (6)
Martin McCall – percussion (3)
Mike McGary – keyboards, additional synth treatments (7)
Markus Reuter – touch guitar, guitar, loops (6, 8 )
Dave Streett – Warr guitar (3, 5), bass guitar (6, 7, 10)
Kris Swenson – vocals (5), vocal samples (8)

A trio of musicians based in Arlington (Texas), Herd of Instinct are one of the hottest new names on the vast progressive rock scene. The band was formed in 2007 by guitarist Mark Cook and drummer Jason Spradlin after the demise of their previous band, 99 Names of God, and started work on their self-titled debut immediately after the addtion of guitarist Mike Davison. The album, finally released in May 2011 on Djam Karet’s new label, Firepool Record, sees the collaboration of an impressive roster of guest musicians, including Djam Karet’s Gayle Ellett, German guitarist and composer Markus Reuter, and celebrated drummers Gavin Harrison, Jerry Marotta and Pat Mastelotto.

The connection with Djam Karet, one of the few genuine cult bands on the whole progressive rock scene, undoubtedly creates expectations of intricate yet dynamic instrumental music – and this is exactly what Herd of Instinct offer in their debut (in spite of the presence of one track with vocals). Instrumental prog bands are often outstanding, and also tend to branch out far more than bands that prominently feature vocals. In a way, the instrumental dimension, fuelling the eclecticism that is an essential component of truly progressive music, allows musicians to explore avenues that sometimes are limited by the presence of a singer, and experiment with different aspects of sound (including pauses of silence) and the creation of a wide range of moods.

Gloriously omnivorous and unabashedly bold, Herd of Instinct stake their claim on the territory where King Crimson held sway for 35 years. Even if Fripp has made a comeback of sorts in very recent times with the excellent A Scarcity of Miracles, Herd of Instinct’s debut brings back memories of state-of-the-art instrumental masterpieces such as “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic”, “Fracture” or “The Sheltering Sky”-  a towering, multilayered achievement marrying flawless technical skill with a healthy dose of emotion, a feast of haunting soundscapes and jagged rhythms that seems to epitomize the very idea of progressiveness.

Clocking in at about 48 minutes, Herd of Instinct features 10 relatively short tracks that are nevertheless packed with changes in tempo and mood, striking an admirable balance between edginess, melody and atmosphere “Transformation” introduces the album in brooding, highly cinematic fashion, with pounding drums and piano, ominously surging keyboard waves and tinkling bells. With the following track, “Room Without Shadows”, things take a decidedly heavier turn, the spacious orchestral effects already featured in the previous number blending with borderline metal riffing, and a stunning guitar solo that would not be out of place on an album like Starless and Bible Black. The gorgeously muted, Eastern-tinged opening to “Road to Asheville”, with its haunting flute, sitar and ethnic percussion, suddenly shifts into a crushingly heavy, riff-driven passage, ending on a mournful note with slow, acoustic guitar chords: while the aptly-titled “Hex” (the perfect soundtrack for some horror movie) opens with eerie electronic effects and then, slowly but inexorably, gains intensity, with crashing cymbals and spiky riffing opening in a marvellous guitar solo. “Anamnesis” is very much in a similar vein, a veritable feast for guitar lovers fuelled by spectacular drum work (courtesy of King Crimson’s very own Pat Mastelotto), with loops and other electronic effects depicting a richly emotional soundscape.

“Blood Sky”, the only track featuring vocals, is one of the undisputed highlights of the album, a haunting showcase for the husky, understated vocals of former 99 Names of God singer Kris Swenson. Mellotron and marimba add subtle atmospheric layers to the spectacular guitar interplay, fleshed out by stunning percussion patterns.”Vibrissa” and “Possession” pursue a similar route, the former slow and measured, with interlocking guitar lines and soloing alternating between wildness and melody; the latter sparse and percussion-driven, with understated guitar work enhanced by snippets of wailing vocal samples. On “S. Karma”, the echoing, almost liquid sound of Mike Cook’s Warr guitar comes into its own, offset by an uncharacteristically aggressive flute solo that seems to mimic the heavy riffing. Closing track “The Face of Another” presents a basic power trio configuration assisted by electronics that provide a range of interesting effects as a background for Cook’s splendid guitar excursions – like a 21st-century take on King Crimson’s iconic “Discipline”.

Herd of Instinct is one of those rare debut albums that are practically perfect in every respect, and need no suggestions for further improvement. An absolute must for fans of King Crimson, it will delight devotees of complex, hard-edged yet atmospheric prog, and those who are somewhat weary of technically competent bands that are sorely lacking in the originality department. With outstanding (though slightly disturbing) cover artwork and photography,  as well as excellent production by guest bassist/Warr guitarist Dave Streett, Herd of Instinct can be hailed as a serious contender for best release of 2011.

Links:
http://www.wix.com/herdofinstinct/herdofinstinct

http://www.myspace.com/herdofinstinctband

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/HerdofInstinct

http://www.djamkaret.com/disc-fr001.php

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Tracklisting:
CD 1:
1. The Bruised Romantic Glee Club
2. Variations on a Theme by Holst
3. Catley’s Ashes
4. When Peggy Came Home
5. Highgate Hill
6. Forgiving
7. No One Left to Lie To
8. The Things We Throw Away
9. Doxy, Dali and Duchamp
10. Srebrenica
11. When We Go Home

CD 2:
1. As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still (incorporating: That Still and Perfect
Summer – Astral Projection in Pinner)
2. Pictures of an Indian City
3. Nirvana for Mice
4. Islands
5. The Citizen King
6. Soon After

Lineup:
Jakko M. Jakszyk – vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards, mellotron, bass guitar, balalaika, sitar, flute, strings, whistles, sound effects, percussion, programming
Gavin Harrison – drums
Mel Collins – alto and tenor saxes, flute
Dave Stewart – keyboards (CD 1 – 9, CD 2 – 1, 3, 5)
Robert Fripp – soundscapes, electric guitars (CD 1 – 6, 11)
Danny Thompson – double bass (CD 1 – 9, CD 2 – 4)
Mark King – bass guitar (CD 1 -3)
Nathan King – bass guitar (CD 1 – 5)
John Giblin – bass guitar (CD 1 – 6)
Lyndon Connah – piano (CD 1 – 8 )
Ian MacDonald – flute (CD 1 – 2)
Caroline Lavelle – cello (CD 1 – 2)
Helen Kaminga – viola (CD 1 – 2)
Clive Brooks – drums (CD 2 – 1)
Gary Barnacle – alto flute, flute, bass flute and piccolo, tenor and soprano saxes (CD 2 – 1)
Hugh Hopper – bass guitar (CD 1 – 1)
Pandit Dinesh – tabla, vocals (CD 2 – 2)
Ian Wallace – drums (CD 2 – 4)
Suzanne Barbieri – backing vocals (CD 1 – 11)
Django Jakszyk – voice (CD 1 – 11)
Camille Jakszyk – voice (CD 1 – 11)
Chris Baker – Irish priest (CD 1 – 4)

After my review of the groundbreaking yet controversial debut by The Mars Volta, here is another album released during the first decade of the 21st century – though a vastly different one. This is one of the hidden progressive rock gems of recent years, courtesy of a musician who, in spite of his decades-long career and impressive curriculum, is still nowhere close to becoming a household name. In fact, while Jakko M. Jakszyk is in his early fifties, and has shared a stage or a recording studio with many a revered protagonist of the prog scene, most of the bands he has played with over the years are of the positively obscure kind. Before he joined the 21st Schizoid Band in the role that was of Robert Fripp, Jakszyk had been little more than what in my native Italy we would term as an ‘illustrious unknown’, in spite of his short-lived tenure in a relatively high-profile band like Level 42.

Much like its author, “The Bruised Romantic Glee Club” (released in 2006 to a lot of critical acclaim, and become unavailable soon afterwards, due to the record label going under) enjoys cult status among prog fans, though not many people have been able to listen to it. I was lucky to find a copy (at an almost bargain price for a double album) in one of the music stores I used to visit regularly when I lived in Rome. And what a great purchase!  This is an  album that most dedicated prog listeners will appreciate, with all the trademark features of our favourite genre, plus a healthy dose of melody and accessibility. Fans of cover versions will also be absolutely delighted by the contents of CD2 – a splendid collection of classics by the likes of King Crimson, Soft Machine and Henry Cow, performed by some of the stalwarts of the original Canterbury scene.

Right from its cover, a gorgeous, muted snapshot of Jakko walking on Brighton beach at sunset, “The Bruised Romantic Glee Club” is a thoroughly classy package. Everything – the pictures, the detailed liner notes, the graphics, the music – is designed to appeal to listeners of sophisticated tastes, who look upon an album as a complete experience. I would not hesitate to call it a beautiful album in the true sense of the word – not only on account of the very accomplished nature of the music contained within, but also of the stories behind each of the songs.

From even a casual reading of the liner notes, Jakko comes across as a very sensitive, vulnerable human being, consequently bruised by life, but keeping up his optimistic side. Some of the stories attached to individual songs are very moving indeed, especially those related to his family. As many adopted children, he got to meet his real mother much later in life, not long before her untimely death. This part of his life story is the subject of the haunting, Celtic-tinged instrumental “When Peggy Came Home”, dedicated to the burial of his natural mother’s ashes in her birthplace in Ireland; while the following song, “Highgate Hill”, reminisces about Jakko’s own birth in a hospital in the titular area of northern London.

Musically speaking, the first CD features a number of songs and instrumental tracks performed by Jakszyk and a handful of high-profile guest musicians – namely Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison, Mel Collins, former Level 42 bassist Mark King (a well-respected four-stringer), double bass legend Danny Thompson, and even His Majesty Robert Fripp himself. Canterbury keyboard king Dave Stewart also performs on one track (“Doxy, Dali and Duchamp”), as well as on most of CD2. Comparisons to other bands or artists are anything but easy to draw – I have read one review comparing some of the songs on “The Bruised Romantic Glee Club” to David Sylvian’s output, and I find myself in agreement with such a remark. Though Jakko does not have Sylvian’s distinctive, world-weary voice, I find his vocals are the perfect foil for the album’s elegant, somewhat understated musical mood.

On the other hand, there is a distinctly jazzy feel running through the album. The marvellous “Catley’s Ashes”, driven by Mark King’s pneumatic bass, is richly laced with Mel Collins’ masterful saxophone; while the melancholy “The Things We Throw Away” features Jakko’s long-time friend and former bandmate Lydon Connah, and the majestic “Srebrenica” is based on the traditional music of Serbia. Infused with sadness and loss, the atmospheric, rarefied “When We Go Home” (dedicated to the artist’s adoptive mother, Camille) features Fripp on electric guitar, as well as Camille’s own recorded voice.

All the songs are of consistent high quality, with a particular mention for the title-track and the already mentioned “Highgate Hill”. Admittedly, they sometimes border on pop, though in an adult, well-rounded kind of way, and definitely not an overtly easy or commercial one.  Jakszyk also deserves kudos for his skills as a lyricist, something not precisely common in the prog world. While he lays his soul bare, he hardly ever descends into mawkishness, and occasionally injects some humour in the overall wistfulness of his musings.

There is not much that can be said about CD2, if not that it is quite magnificent. The quality of the  ‘raw material’ alone would guarantee excellent results, but what really makes these versions special is the obvious love lavished on them by both Jakko and his distinguished guests. It would be very hard for me to pick out a highlight, though the cover of Henry Cow’s “The Citizen King” is nothing short of stunning, capturing the blend of  wistful beauty and biting irony of the original to perfection. Jakszyk’s Oriental-tinged take on King Crimson’s “Pictures of a City”, featuring Indian percussionist Pandit Dinesh (another former collaborator of the artist), also wins points for inventiveness; while “Islands”, remarkably faithful to the original, fits  perfectly within the album’s stylishly melancholy atmosphere.

As previously pointed out, up  to a couple of years ago or so, “The Bruised Romantic Glee Club” was, to all intents and purposes, impossible to find.  Now it has been reissued, which is great news with anyone whose curiosity will be whetted by this review – as it can be easily counted as one of the best releases of the past decade, a progressive rock album that pays homage to a glorious past, and at the same time feels thoroughly modern. With its intimate, confessional quality, and lush, sophisticated music, it is highly recommended to most prog fans, especially those who appreciate beautiful melodies coupled with flawless instrumental performances.

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