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Tracklist: 1. Prelude 2:32 2. Mumien 7:10 3. Prozession 5:21 4. Bose Heiden 4:13 5. A Crack In the Universe 5:07 6. Sille Tanzt 6:03 7. Zwolf Uhr Funf 1:26 8. Folksong-1 5:05 9. Totes Mehr 7:47 10. Vier Stufen 1:55 All compositions written, arranged, performed, recorded, mixed, & produced by Stephan Kohr. Line-up: Stephan Kohr - bassoon & contrabassoon, wind synthesizer, keyboard, samples, drum-programming Sibylle Szymanski-Kohr - violin (on tracks 2, 4, & 5) Thomas Forstner - trumpet (5)
Prologue. According to the booklet of this CD, since the mid-seventies Stephan Kohr has been playing woodwinds and keyboards in German Jazz-Fusion and Avant-garde bands. In 1985, he was appointed as a bassoon and contrabassoon player in Germany's opera and symphonic orchestras. His romance with wind-controlled live electronics started in 1979, when he played a pitch-following analog guitar synth module through a contact microphone on the bassoon reed. "Eskalation" is the debut album by Stephan Kohr.
The Album. "The Different Music For Bassoon, Wind Synthesizer, & Sampled Percussion" is more than different, to say the least. This is a unique blend of a wide variety of different musical genres, sub-genres, and styles. The elements of RIO, Classic Symphonic Art-Rock, European Classic and Avant-garde (12-tone) Academic Music, Progressive Jazz-Fusion, and even (let's call it) Industrial Urbanism are presented on this album in all their beauty. I can be mistaken, but it seems to me that, in addition to all of the said genres, schools, etc, it was a 5-tone method of composition, typical for Eastern (Chinese, et al.) Academic Music, however, was used on Bose Heiden (track 4). However, this extremely complex yet very beautiful and outstandingly intriguing music is rich not only in musical diversity. While listening even to those compositions that were performed only by Stephan himself, I have the impression that I am listening to the quartet. Stephan is an absolutely masterful bassoon player, but, apart from this, he, like a magician, is capable of eliciting truly marvelous sounds from his wind synthesizer. During the same theme, led by the bassoon or contrabassoon, the symphonic passage of keyboard can be suddenly mutated into an electric guitar solo. Meanwhile the vibraphone-like solo, which was also involved in interplay between the bassoon and keyboard, has already transformed into the piano passages or the solos of an exotic Eastern string instrument (like on the said Bose Heiden), etc. The frequent changes of tempo and mood, complex time signatures, atonalities, contrasts, quirky and eclectic "stop-to-play" arrangements: certainly, all of these progressive maneuvers are also typical for "Different Music". The dark and tense RIO-like episodes, apart from the others, are heard on a few tracks, including two of the three compositions, which features excellent violin solos by Sibylle Kohr: Mumien and A Crack In the Universe (tracks 2 & 5). By the way, on that festive of Eastern colours (Bose Heiden), her violin plays one of the most significant roles. There is another guest musician on A Crack In the Universe. What is interesting is that Thomas Forstner's real trumpet sounds there along with 'synthetic' brass, which Stephan masterly elicits from the wind synthesizer. All of the tracks on the album, without exception, i.e. including a couple of short pieces as well, are true masterworks. In that way, the collection of Progressive's youngest, yet, most adventurous Fifth Element genre is replenished with another masterpiece album.
Summary. I wonder why the majority of the writers, - researchers and analysts of the Progressive Rock phenomena, - contend that this movement, being just a 'child' of Cultural Revolution of hippies, has died in the middle of the 1970s. While all of the further manifestations of Prog, including the current Prog movement, they call the insipid imitation of the glorious past. Knowing that their horizon was and still is limited mainly within the framework of the prevalent 'glorious' genres, namely Symphonic Rock and Jazz-Fusion, I have to admit that they're in many ways correct on this very matter, but that's all. However, progressive music is not limited to preconceived frameworks. It just cannot be limited by anything else, because this is... progressive music. Unfortunately, the Prog analysts had lost sight of the development (of the continuous development, to be precise) of such a flexible genre as RIO and the appearance of the new genre Fifth Element as well. But, here it is. The unique music of Eskalation is another wonderful example of the endlessness of development of Progressive Music in general and Progressive Rock in particular.
VM. March 12, 2002
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