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(53:07 / Big Balloon Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Walking Tapestry 6:14 2. Chunky Navy-I 3:48 3. Phivunk 5:14 4. Complex Nothing 4:33 5. Mechanically Separated Chicken 2:58 6. Urban Conversation 6:52 7. Viscous 12:57 8. Chunky Navy-II 3:19 9. The Bitter Cold 7:10 LINEUP: Gwynn Adams - guitars Deirdre Lynds - guitars Van Spragins - bass Matthew Guggemos - drums
Prolusion. Not much to say here either - still due to the scarcity of information in the supporting material. The heroes of this occasion are the American quartet HEADSHEAR and their debut album of the same name.
Analysis. Robert Fripp's stamp is all over this recording, so if I were just about to briefly describe "Headshear" I would do it as follows. This set of nine instrumentals concerns several trunk directions of that genius's work, which include King Crimson's albums "Discipline", "Beat" and "Red", such collaborations between Fripp and David Sylvian as "The First Day" and "Damage", and Robert's solo creation "Soundscapes" (the influences are listed in the line of descent according to their weight in the album). Another reference would be Spanish band Dificil Equilibrio, who certainly were the most accurate imitators of King Crimson during, say, their early age, but later on could have found a more or less balanced sound, not without originality, which in turn is what Headshear demonstrates from the outset. One way or another, most of the guitar patterns on their debut effort are modeled after one of the many techniques invented by Robert Fripp which the maestro for the first time revealed on his milestone solo album "Exposure" and which became one of the primary constituents of King Crimson's trademark sound during the group's second incarnation back in the 80's and beyond. So what the listener gets here most often is a kind of tangled ball comprised of interlaced patterns of two guitars and (always dynamic and inventive) bass, swirling round a wonderfully eccentric rhythmic axis provided by the drums. Here is the decoding of what is just hinted in the previous sentence. To my way of thinking, it is above all bassist Van Spragins and drummer Matthew Guggemos who are the main purveyors of identity here, making this music something much weightier than a tribute, bravely transgressing the bounds of Crimsonic guitar Art-Rock - now by deploying improvisations, now by building funk-like constructions and more. Anyway, Headshear's debt to King Crimson's "Discipline" and "The First Day" by Sylvian & Fripp is more than merely considerable. Five compositions, namely The Walking Tapestry, Phivunk, Urban Conversation, Complex Nothing and The Bitter Cold, all have a certain common ground with both those recordings, their thematic development, which is unhurried rather than fervent overall, making them sound something halfway between Frame By Frame and God's Monkey. Taking the fifth position, Mechanically Separated Chicken, is the first really intense and up-tempo track to be discovered on the disc and reminds me of a highly modified, much heavier, but at the same time pared-down version of Neurotica (from "Beat"), though the absence of solos there is for the most part well compensated for by the diversity of riffs and is not to the detriment to the tune's overall sound. The point is that, while being structurally complex, this piece just breathes with power and hypnotism, like a fire-spitting dragon in a way. Contrary to that track, Chunky Navy-II is the richest in blazing solos, approaching the same Neurotica in eclecticism. Another piece with a pronouncedly heavy sound, Chunky Navy-I, is strongly reminiscent of the title number of "Red" - just somewhat simplified plus delivered in a deferred pace. Finally to Viscous, which is the longest track here, clocking in just under 13 minutes, and at the same time the only one that leaves me relatively cold about, as its first imaginary half seems to be artificially overextended. The interplay between Gwynn Adams and Deirdre Lynds (one of the guitarists only laying down the beat) that the piece begins with lasts for about 4 minutes and is continued with a collage of effects and kind of semi-frozen guitar solos, most of the soundscapes being barely audible. The rest of the piece finds the band still demonstrating they are devoted disciples of "Discipline", but sadly never deviating from the Crimson vibe, this time around.
Conclusion. Let it be said, to Headshear's credit, that the band much more often finds a compromise between their passion for Crimson and their own. Nevertheless some of their arrangements leave the impression of being calculated rather than genuinely inspired. The addition of other influences to their bag, and their merging into a cohesive whole, should definitely be of help in the band's future development. Their eponymous debut effort is a very good recording overall, but it can be highly recommended only to fans of you know whom and those generally well-disposed towards King Crimson-style music.
VM: May 25, 2007
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