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(76:04, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Aces High 4:39 2. Charity 5:36 3. Winds of Change 3:50 4. Windward Bound 4:12 5. Portal to Evermore 5:10 6. The Source 5:15 7. Peggy Plant 3:58 8. Doctor Madman 3:50 9. Black Crosses 4:21 10. Got Memories to Meet 2:24 11. Prog Coalition 3:15 12. The Little Voice Inside My Head 3:19 13. We Are the People 5:10 14. Play My Song List Again 5:32 15. Gee Dubya Bush 2:28 16. Cryptograms 13:05 LINEUP: Dan Cowan – all instruments
Prolusion. DYONISOS is a one-man band courtesy of US multi-instrumentalist Dan Cowan, who has released 5 albums under this moniker prior to the most recent production, "Ages High", released in 2008 on the Russian MALS label.
Analysis. When reading up on this US-based project, many references were made to the more mellow compositions of Pink Floyd. There are still quite a few references to the space rock pioneers on this creation, but personally I discerned associations with another artist as well, especially for the tunes in the album’s second half, and that is Frank Zappa. The first 6 tracks on the CD all have a foundation in mainstream music to varying degrees, but with some out of place elements added. The opening track, exploring a hard blues rock-influenced landscape similar to ZZ Top, with insertions of short space-rock tinged segments, really sets the standard for what's to come. Following this one, we are served five tracks with minor eerie moments in songs seemingly more suited to a commercial sales list, but then interesting developments occur. Peggy Plant starts off a series of creations with more experimental elements dominating the compositions, with quirky avant-garde elements and intricate guitar patterns in some, while others appear more normal in a musical sense, but add weird or eerie effects on the vocal side of things, with the schizophrenia song The Little Voice Inside My Head as a prime example of the latter. Gee Dubya Bush is the track with arguably most Zappa elements: a sense of humor in the guise of political criticism, including samples of George W Bush, weird vocals and a quirky theme veering out left and right from a blues rock foundation. The final composition, Cryptograms, is an entity onto itself, 13 minutes of weird, wacky and zany mixes of new age-like segments mixed with experimental rock – from parts containing only talking to loads of more or less brief excursions into the more haunting sides of rock music. As far as instrumentation goes, the guitar is the key instrument on most songs, providing melodic licks, riff patterns and atmospheric as well as more metal-oriented soloing, as with the album overall a multitude of expressions and sounds are explored. The same goes for keyboards, piano and synthesizers, but while the former two have more secondary roles underscoring the main melody line or added in the back of the mix, the latter is utilized to add some spacey sound effects as well. Bass and drums are mostly used for rhythms only, with a few notable exceptions for the bass as it's given the freedom to roam and be mixed up in the mix on a few occasions. This production is less about instruments and how they are used and much more about structures and a gradual development of these from start to finish, with the final track as the grand finale and final evolution. Personally I see this as very much a mixed release overall, with mainstream-oriented and experimental tracks both containing their fair share of hits and misses: at best intriguing, fascinating and even fun, at worst somewhat boring and directionless.
Conclusion. "Ages High" is a production that requires a patient listener with an ear for and a liking of experimental and adventurous music, of the kind that appreciates a full CD that evolves slowly and surely from a starting point until it reaches a set target at the end: a musical journey if you like, or perhaps even a quest. I would guess that followers of Pink Floyd's earlier output and fans of Frank Zappa might be the ones with the greatest chance of enjoying this creation, but I would advise potential buyers to sample many tunes here before deciding. It's a challenging release in many ways, and one it will take time to fully appreciate.
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