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Posts Tagged ‘ProgDay 2011’

TRACK LIST:

1. We Are in the Time of Evil Clocks  (6:30)
2. Klak  (5:31)
3. Wordplay  (8:21)
4. Scales of the Ebony Fish  (5:33)
5. Settling of Bones  (4:52)
6. The Discovery of Witchcraft  (30:26):
Pt.1 Convent
Pt. 2 Hags 1
Pt. 3 MadNight

Pt. 4 Hags 2
Pt. 5 Invitation to the Dance
Pt. 6 Hags 3
Pt. 7 Cavort
7. Evil Clocks 2   (2:47)

LINEUP:
David Campbell – guitars, keyboards, vocals; bass (3, 5)
Angie MacIvor – sax, vocals, keyboards
Aaron Clark – drums, percussion
Claude Prince – bass

With:
Guy Dagenais  – bass (1)
Guy LeBlanc – synths (4)
Rick Barkhouse – piano (6)

Based in Ottawa, Canada, The Rebel Wheel first started in the early Nineties as a midi-based studio project by guitarist David Campbell. After going through numerous incarnations over the years, the band released their first, self-titled official CD in 2003, followed by Diagramma in 2008.  Their third album, We Are in the Time of Evil Clocks, was released in the late spring of 2010 on 10T Records, like the band’s previous effort. At the time of writing, vocalist/keyboardist/saxophonist Angie MacIvor is on leave following the birth of her first child, but is planning to rejoin the band in 2012, while bassist Claude Prince has been replaced by Andrew Burns.  In early September The Rebel Wheel will be performing at the 2011 edition of ProgDay, with former Camel and Nathan Mahl keyboardist Guy LeBlanc (who also appears on one track of this album) as a special guest.

As even a cursory listen to We Are in the Time of Evil Clocks will reveal, The Rebel Wheel delve deep into the legacy of controlled chaos and mesmerizing, romantic gloom bestowed to the prog world by the likes of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. The album is certainly dark-hued, as its title and stylishly macabre artwork suggest, with most of the songs bearing esoteric titles, and a 30-minute, seven-part epic dedicated to witchcraft. However, unlike in the case of some “retro” outfits clearly inspired by Coven or Black Widow, there is no occult subtext whatsoever to be found on the album, which instead revolves around a gloomily dystopian view of the future, reminiscent in some ways of Sinfield-era King Crimson.

Guitarist/keyboardist David Campbell and keyboardist/saxophonist Angie McIvor share vocal duties, assisted by a strong rhythm section – Claude Prince’s extremely impressive bass work being, in my view, the cornerstone of the album. They also manage to shift almost effortlessly between aggressive passages and more subdued ones, with dissonant patterns occasionally lurking in the sax and guitar lines, creating a sense of driving intensity. Even though King Crimson are undoubtedly the main term of comparison, the band succeed in presenting their own individual twist on some of the most influential, cutting-edge music produced in the Seventies without sounding as overtly derivative as other celebrated outfits.

In keeping with its title, We Are in the Time of Evil Clocks is bookended by the eerie, ominous sound of ticking clocks and assorted machinery. Its structure distinctly resembles Shadow Circus’ Whispers and Screams, released in the second half of 2009, which also features a 30-minute suite followed by separate songs. In this case, however, the epic is located in the second half of the disc rather than the first, which comprises five songs, most of them in a similar vein to the epic. The only exception is the folksy, low-key Settling of Bones, where Angie McIvor’s distinctive voice – warm and melodic, yet with a slightly plaintive quality – is enhanced by gently plucked guitar and bass strings. The title-track, on the other hand, opens the proceedings with a forceful, King Crimson-meets-VDGG punch that mellows out in the song’s second half. Soothing and menacing in turns, Klak sports a huge bass sound and choppy rhythm in the best tradition of Fripp’s crew; while Wordplay shifts from a gentle, acoustic mood to a tense, bristling pace redolent of Red-era King Crimson.

Like Shadow Circus’ Project Blue, The Discovery of Witchcraft is split into seven sections that work equally well as stand-alone tracks and as parts of a whole. The three short songs titled Hags (mostly interpreted by McIvor, and sharing a recurring theme) connect the four main episodes of the suite, their mellow yet subtly haunting mood reminiscent of early King Crimson, or even The Mars Volta’s slower numbers such as The Widow. The remaining four parts, however, evoke the titular witchcraft quite effectively. Convent is a stunning, bass-led piece with suitably sinister Hammond organ and eerie whispered vocals that may bring to mind a cello-less Anekdoten, and the strident, dissonant MadNight is very much in the mould of King Crimson circa “Starless and Bible Black”; while the swingy piano and sax in Invitation to the Dance remind the listener of the band’s jazz-rock roots, and Cavort blends spacey electronics with deep, powerful bass lines in an intense, yet disciplined build-up.

We Are in the Time of Evil Clocks  is a striking effort, though, in my view, its impact would have been even stronger if it had been trimmed down a bit. Lovers of the angular, eclectic sound of King Crimson, VDGG or Anekdoten will definitely find the album a very rewarding listen, especially on account of the admirable balance between melody and intensity. It also seems that the band has finally reached a measure of stability, and the overall feel of maturity projected by the album certainly bodes well for The Rebel Wheel’s future. I will be definitely be looking forward to their ProgDay performance next month.

Links:
http://www.therebelwheel.com/

http://www.progday.net/Bands-TheRebelWheel.html

http://www.10trecords.com

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TRACKLISTING:
1.  Commencement (2:47)
2.  Neap Tide (9:20)
3.  Primrose Path  (6:38)
4.  Dawn  (2:56)
5.  Catlord  (8:54)
6.  Illuminati  (0:42)
7.  Work In Progress  (6:54)
8.  Missing Time (8:49)
9.  Faunus  (11:17)
10. Io  (9:13)

LINEUP:
Michael J. Butzen – electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin
Jeffrey Schuelke – keyboards, piano
Thomas Ford – drums, electronic percussion

With:
Chris Kringel – fretless bass  (1-7, 9-10)
Elizabeth Grimm – violin (8, 9, 10)
Chad Burkholz – bass (8)

The name ‘Fibonacci sequence’ refers to a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the previous two. Named after medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci, who introduced it to Western Europe, it is featured in literature, cinema, the visual arts and music: for instance, the lyrics to the title-track of Tool’s celebrated Lateralus album are arranged on the basis of the Fibonacci sequence.

On the other hand, even if Fibonacci Sequence would be a perfect name for a math-rock band, the Milwaukee-based trio bearing this name are quite a different beast. Those who delight in sticking labels on everything and everyone will certainly have their work cut out for them with a band like Fibonacci Sequence, as their unabashed eclecticism makes classification all but impossible. While one moment they may conjure shades of progressive metal, the next passage will take the listener into almost symphonic territory, with clear, melodic sounds and lush layers of keyboards – not to mention the tantalizing Latin and Middle Eastern references and the sprinkling of jazzy touches. Their omnivorous approach is further borne out by the influences mentioned by the band – a list ranging from Yes, Rush and Dream Theater to The Police, Sting and Mahavishnu Orchestra.

For those who thrive on making comparisons with more established acts, I would mention equally eclectic instrumental outfits like From.uz or Djam Karet, as well as more metal-oriented ones like Canvas Solaris or Relocator – as well as the obligatory Liquid Tension Experiment or Planet X. Unlike the latter bands, though, Fibonacci Sequence’s sound is more distinctly guitar-based, with keyboards used as an accent rather than dominating their whole music. Faced with such almost effortless proficiency, which nevertheless does not come across as cold and detached, the listener would be forgiven for thinking that the band are one of the many projects that (often due to practical issues) have no life outside the walls of a recording studio. The band, however, are quite active on the live front in their home town of Milwaukee, and the announcement of their participation to the 2011 edition of ProgDay has whetted the appetite of the  numerous fans of instrumental progressive rock.

The aptly-titled Numerology, Fibonacci Sequence’s debut full-lenght album, was released about a year after the 2-track EP We Three Kings, which featured a very interesting arrangement of the popular 19th century Christmas carol. On this album, the three core musicians avail themselves of the valuable contribution of fretless bassist Chris Kringel (formerly with Cynic and their offshoot Portal) on all but one of the tracks, as well as bassist Chad Burkholz on “Missing Time”, and violinist Elizabeth Grimm on the last three numbers. Most of the tracks on Numerology run between 6 and 11 minutes, long enough to allow the band members to branch out and create intricate musical weaves; the album as a whole clocks in at a quite manageable 65 minutes. The band manage to produce an impressive volume of sound of exceptional clarity, every instrument given a strikingly dimensional feel in the mix. As in the best productions, in spite of the complexity of the compositions, the music flows smoothly and naturally, without giving the impression of being too complicated for its own good.

Right from the opening strains of the short but punchy “Commencement” – a lush, melodic guitar number powered by an impressive drum sound – the sheer quality of the recording comes across in no uncertain terms. While Michael J. Butzen’s guitars take the leading role, the engine propelling Fibonacci Sequence’s music along is Thomas Ford’s powerful yet restrained drumming, a full-bodied sound that manages not to overwhelm the other instruments. Fibonacci Sequence’s trademark blend of melody, heaviness and sleek instrumental expertise emerges in “Neap Tide” (also featured on the EP), a heady, multilayered mix of sharp riffing, acoustic, pastoral beauty and jazzy licks whose dense sonic texture manages not to feel stifling or contrived. On the other hand, “Primrose Path” comes across as a contemporary-sounding version of vintage Santana, down to the jazzy, Latin-tinged guitar work. Perfectly descriptive of its title, “Dawn” is a slow, meditative acoustic guitar piece introduced by atmospheric keyboards and birdsong, which introduces the thunderously drum-driven “Catlord”, its heaviness spiced by Eastern touches in the clean, mesmerizing guitar lines.

After the very short ambient piece “Illuminati”, Fibonacci Sequence display more of their exciting compositional skills in the album’s final four tracks, starting with the splendid bass showcase that is “Work in Progress”, peppered by frequent pauses that, instead of disrupting the flow of the music, seem to stimulate the listener’s attention. With “Missing Time” we enter Liquid Tension Experiment/Planet X territory, Jeffrey Schuelke’s keyboards taking more of a lead role and Butzen’s guitar injecting a touch of fiery, yet shred-free edginess, and the violin adding a symphonic note to the second half of the track. The 11-minute “Faunus” (the longest track on the album) is deceptively more linear in structure, with a tense, riff-laden first half and a slow, almost melancholy ending punctuated by lovely guitar and violin; while closing track “Io” picks up from where the previous number left off, with a moody beginning and a mainly keyboard-driven middle section, culminating with an extended guitar solo of outstanding quality. Interestingly, the album begins and ends with the crackling of an old vinyl record – a sound dear to many old-school prog fans.

Besides the obvious quality of their  music, both in terms of composition and execution, Fibonacci Sequence’s nature of real live outfit makes them an even more intriguing proposition. The simple fact that they are not easy to pigeonhole should be seen as a positive sign, especially in these times when increasingly outrageous labels are created with alarming regularity. In any case, Numerology is one of the finest instrumental prog albums released in the past couple of years or so, and their ProgDay appearance will hopefully contribute to putting Fibonacci Sequence on the map for those progressive rock fans who are still unaware of them. Highly recommended.

Links:
http://fib-seq.blogspot.com/

http://www.myspace.com/fibonaccisequenceband

 

 

 

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