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TRACK LIST: 1. Sand Palm IV 1:18 2. Spirit or Matter 4:30 3. Torpedo 5:23 4. Bugbear Blues 3:33 5. Invincible Pole Fighters 3:58 6. Into Another Time 5:41 7. Rise of the Septopi 3:53 8. Gargantua 6:06 9. Sand Palm V 2:47 10. Dear Me 3:50 11. You'd Make a Lot of Money 5:15 12. Death to Disco 6:10 13. Mag-3 3:11 14. The Burrowers Beneath 9:16 15. Fading of My Memories 3:41 16. Sand Palm VI 2:15 LINEUP: Jeff Bridi – vocals; bass; piano; glockenspiel Nick Bohensky – guitars; keyboards; vocals Gene Bohensky – drums; keyboards Dave Wilson – drums; keyboards Mark Nowak – keyboards; vocals Vin Villanueva – guitars
Prolusion. The US outfit THE 16 DEADLY IMPROVS was formed in 1995, and after issuing its initial album the same year this endeavor went into hiatus for a number of practical reasons. Ten years later the practical obstacles were gone and the Improvs got back together. Four full-length efforts have been crafted since then, of which "The Triumph of the 16 Deadly Improvs" is the most recent one.
Analysis. Bands dealing with improvisational material come in a number of guises, many of which are of an experimental nature. The 16 Deadly Improvs cite bands like King Crimson, Gong and Miles Davis to be among ones influencing them, three examples pulled from a list rather more extensive in terms of examples as well as stylistic expressions covered. One of the stated aims of this production apparently has been to craft material of a more accessible nature, and I do believe it's fair to say that they have achieved that even with listeners not familiar with their back catalog. As for genre placement, I'm slightly unsure, but as space rock and psychedelic rock are frequent associations made when exploring their latest production we're in the trippier parts of the art rock realm on this occasion. When that is said, any old and experienced space cadets reading this might want to put any mental or otherwise spacesuits away for a moment. The 16 Deadly Improvs aren't among the category of bands that take their listeners on elongated galactic journeys of epic length. This is a disc made out of selected parts from one jam session, treated with later studio overdubs, but unlike bands like Oresund Space Collective, we're dealing with artists here that confine their cosmic journeys to a much greater extent. The avid and concentrated reader will perhaps find it unnecessary to be told that we're dealing with a band which has a predefined number of tracks they want to include on each album, the band name itself revealing that particular trait quite nicely. The songs, all edited parts of a single jam session, are quite varied. The most frequent and singular trait is using bass guitar and steady drums as something of a foundation. On top of that The Improvs employ a variety of different textures, where drawn-out melodic guitar solos and space-tinged keyboard textures are the ones most frequently appearing. Dampened and often distorted guitar riffs are a common item as well, at times in a manner which will easily invite comparisons with the legacy of Robert Fripp. Droning, tripped-out guitar noises make the odd appearance too, as does a dissonant electronic effect, light psychedelic guitar licks and even a glockenspiel on occasion, if I'm not quite mistaken. The stylistic expressions covered range from the avant-garde, hardcore-tinged Sand Palm pieces that open and end this CD on one hand to the jazz and blues mix of Bugbear Blues on the other, but most commonly these pieces reside within the psychedelic and space rock realm, where the exploits range from harder hitting, energetic features to laidback, lazy and dream-inspired journeys, the latter brilliantly exemplified by Rise of the Septopi. Subtle dissonant effects and the odd disharmonic element are features cleverly utilized throughout to enhance the brief cosmic forays, and close inspection does reveal that in most cases there's much more going on here than you'll be able to pick up on your first few visits to this universe.
Conclusion. If the thought of encountering fairly advanced material of an improvisational nature with a firm basis in the parts of the art rock universe where psychedelic and space rock have their place, "The Triumph of the 16 Deadly Improvs" should be a rewarding experience. A few details shy of perfection for my own musical tastes, but often touching upon the brilliant on their cosmic-laced journeys. Space cadets solely longing for the next elongated epic journey to the nearest black hole might find this material to be too compressed, but other than that this is a fine specimen within this category of progressive rock.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 14, 2011
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