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(56:47, AltrOck Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Horror Vacui 8:02 2. Prussian Blue Persuasion 10:15 3. Tooth & Flea Korowod 8:16 4. Die Neue Moritat 1:41 5. La Jalousie 7:56 6. Hadassah Esther Cruciform 8:23 7. Bande Magnetique at the Ossuary 12:10 SOLO PILOT: M. Judge – all instruments and vocals
Prolusion. “Architects of Flesh-Density” is the first release by the American one-man band THE NERVE INSTITUTE, albeit I was told its creator, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter M. Judge (not sure this is his real name, though), has a few more albums to his credit, all of which were issued under different monikers.
Analysis. M. Judge plays electric, acoustic and bass guitars, drums, fortepiano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, Mellotron, organ, synthesizers, mandolin, banjo and (occasionally) tenor saxophone on the album, appearing as a highly versatile and, what’s particularly important, truly masterful multi-instrumentalist. His composition and arrangement skills are also outstanding, so all in all, I came to a conclusion that this Nerve Institute is the best one-man band I’ve heard to date. By saying so, I suppose that at least some of the other outings of this solo pilot (to Prog Paradise?) are also brilliant. Okay, there are seven tracks on this album; six of them range from 8 to 12 minutes in length, while the remaining one, Die Neue Moritat, indicates 1:41 as its playing time. The sole purely instrumental piece here, it uses drum solos along with electronic effects as its intro and outro alike, but reveals a full-fledged sympho-prog movement at its core part. Otherwise M. Judge sings from time to time. That’s not to say that his vocal possibilities are great, but they are good enough (akin to those of Steve Hillage in delivery) to be part of the music, which is in turn almost totally beyond comparison – yet another virtue of the man’s work. Anyhow, the other tracks only contain from one to three vocal sections, so, by and large, the rest of the material comes across as being largely instrumental. Bringing together sympho-prog, jazz-fusion and prog-metal-evoking arrangements, Horror Vacui and Tooth & Flea Korowod might at first seem to be moderately complex creations, with harder and softer, vintage-like, musical landscapes merely alternating with each other. Further listenings, however, will reveal plenty of highly advanced musical structures; at times there is even all-out jamming, most often on the borderline between Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion (which is in turn the album’s primary style): think layer upon layers of organ, piano, both electric and acoustic guitars and more. The music, however, does never appear as being made of overdubs, always sounding organically, like that performed by a sextet or a septet. All of what has been said, meaning while describing the last two of the above tracks (except for heavy metal features, which are only available on them), is typical of the rest of the material as well. Besides sympho-prog and jazz-fusion arrangements, Prussian Blue Persuasion and La Jalousie both deploy Balkan traditional musings (using a mandolin as the main provider of those), but while on the former piece those come as one of its central storylines, on the latter they are delivered in a more subtle way. Horror Vacui and Prussian Blue Persuasion both have a few themes as leitmotivs to venture from and come back to, which is a clever device, useful for neophytes, bearing in mind that these are the first two tracks here and that the disc’s further contents are more intricate. The remaining pieces, Hadassah Esther Cruciform and Bande Magnetique at the Ossuary, are the longest and arguably most complex ones (no matter that neither of them exceeds the limits of the album’s primary style – save, maybe, the finale of the latter where at last appears a saxophone, providing some distinctly jazzy solos at the background of electronic effects), which also seems to be logical, as both of them conclude the disc. The end result is a rich, almost ever-changing complex tapestry of melodic color, with six of the seven tracks presented being brilliant multi-sectional musical fantasies of a highest order.
Conclusion. While M. Judge is the only musician here, the album sounds like a true ensemble effort. Furthermore, his talents as a player are equal to his compositional skills, which draw influences from several musical aesthetics, with a sort of impressionistic approach to built sonic architectures – ones that are somewhat akin to Roger Dean’s fantastic paintings or maybe even Salvador Dali’s surrealistic ones. “Architects of Flesh-Density” is certainly a blameless candidate for one of the best albums of the year, and I mean not only on my personal chart.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: October 16, 2011
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