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Rascal Reporters (USA) - 2001 - "The Four-Tempered Clavier"
(62 min, "Pleasant Green")


*****+

Tracklist:

The White Bloodsheets 2:15 (Kretzmer, Newhouse)

Seven Is a Long Time 2:22 (Gore)

Shoe Salad 3:10 (Kretzmer)

Efrem Cymbalist Jr. 4:36 (Gore)

RDS (Raw Drum Solo) 2:32 (=)

Steve Kretzmer 5:43 (=)

Kretzmer's Ragu 2:23 (Kretzmer, Newhouse)

Son of Steve Kretzner 5:12 (Gore)

The Cymbalist 9:40 (=)

Sarahbella 5:47 (Gore, Newhouse)

Prisms 2:25 (Kretzmer)

Tomorrow 4:00 (Gore)

Bonus tracks:

My Name 0:55 (Gore, Kretzmer: 1978)

Ricky And His Dad 1:40 (Gore, Kretzmer: 1978)

Fresh Leather And Poultry Mix 5:30 (Kretzmer: 1977)

Over Triangle 3:23 (Kretzmer: 1977)



Line-up: 

Steve Gore - keyboards & mellotron; electric,

             acoustic & bass guitars;

             drums & percussion; clarinet;* 

Steve Kretzmer - all the same instruments; voices* 



With:

Dave Newhouse (of The Muffins) - saxophones, flutes,

                                 bass clarinet 



All arrangements by Gore & Kretzmer,

except - all wind instruments arrangements by Newhouse.

Produced by Rascal Reporters.

Recorded by Rascal Reporters 1995 to 1999,

except tracks 1,7&10 - by RR & Newhouse.

Engineered at "Bass Mint" and "Alonesoul" studios (MI)

by S. Gore and Bill Andrews.

Rascal Reporters online: http://www.rascalreporters.com/
Pleasant Green Records online: http://www.pleasantgreenrecords.com/

Prologue. From real and virtual friends of mine, those who love complex, adventurous music (like myself), I've heard a lot of positive opinions on this band yet never listened to it until now. The good people at the US' "Pleasant Green Records" made a great surprise to me with the latest Rascal Reporters' CD, as I've never heard from them (up to now, though I've sent them a message, confirming that I got the CD, right after it arrived here). I appreciate all unexpected surprises, but especially those with albums of really complex and intricate music as in this case.

The Album. It became obvious to me these Rascal Reporters have nothing to do with any rags and even with ragtime or reggae already after the first listen to "The Four-tempered Clavier" album. On the contrary, their musical tales remind me of incredibly profound, full of unusual philosophic computations born somewhere in non-Euclidean spheres of mind, fiction that I have never read (heard!) before. I don't know how to define the music of Rascal Reporters, except that this is very progressive music. Unlike other reviewers, I wouldn't place it under both the banners of RIO and Canterbury or one of them. I can't name "The Four-tempered Clavier" a work of Jazz-Fusion (in the progressive meaning of the latter word, as always), as I hear just a few real improvisations here (performed by Dave Newhouse on sax), while structurally most of the themes, arrangements and solos on the album are based on the laws of European Classical Music. Some of lots of the wonderful solos, all of those change one another kaleidoscopically throughout the album, just remind improvisations, though actually, these solos were thoroughly composed. On the other hand, despite the fact that basically this album was created in a symphonic key, on the whole it sounds like a unique, extremely complex Classic Progressive Rock that is not only very well intermixed with unusual Avant-garde forms, but mixed with them so extensively that it makes impossible to find really a proper definition of this music. The first two tracks, The White Bloodsheets and especially Seven Is a Long Time, being more accessible than all the following compositions of the original "The Four-tempered Clavier" album, sound like a kind of introduction to the real content of it or, maybe, like a test for the listener. If the latter overcomes these first two steps, and additionally, finds it interesting to move upstairs, then, most likely, such a listener is already a little familiar with the musical forms that remind rather of the geometry of Lobatchevsky than even your typical RIO (Present, U Totem, 5UU's, etc), let alone the Canterbury sub-genre. Just a few episodes on the album sound either like pure symphonic contemporary Classical Music or have more or less obvious jazzy feel, and RDS is the only track here that represents (just) a set of outstanding drum solos, performed by Steve Gore alone. (So, it is the fifth track, Raw Drum Solo (whose place is, in my view, only on live albums), that has eaten a half of a rating star.) All other compositions, beginning with Shoe Salad and up to (and including) Prism, are filled with a seemingly endless changes of themes, arrangements, solos, sudden raises and falls of tempos, forming of extremely unexpected structures and the immediate crushes of them, unbelievable complex time signatures, tonal and atonal interplays between various soloing instruments, etc, again and again, over and over, without any repeats or returns to (even) the moments that have sounded before. At the first sight (listen!), it seems everything is too amorphous and unstable here, like the neutrino systems. Any experienced ears, however, find all these things very interesting already in the process of the first listening to "The Four-tempered Clavier", so after a few listens to it they'll (logically!) discover that all structures of the album consist by no means of mosaics and fragments. Actually, they're more than stable - they're strong, as they're based on the laws of composition, which, at the same time, is based on the laws of Classical Harmony, but not on improvisations that are always performed with using just those notes that are in harmony with input keys and the changes of theirs as it is in real Jazz and in the free forms of avant-garde. The last track Tomorrow is the only song on the album (lyrics by Gore, most likely), but vocals parts are done probably the most diverse way that is possible here: that's what makes this track a wonderful ending of more than a wonderful album. As for the four bonus tracks, while the inclusion of the first two of them on the album looks as if unnecessary, the presence of the two last ones looks like a confirmation that the duo's very own, original and innovative approach to making progressive music was the same even twenty-five years ago - in the very beginning of their creation. That's what brings to me an essential feel that Rascal Reporters' creation was and still is of a united stylistic conception. This factor - the main character of the real Titans - is above most of the performers of the current wave of Progressive Rock movement.

Summary. Recently I've come to consider RIO the fourth chief genre of Progressive (but not as one of its sub-genres) - in addition to the first three 'whales' that it stands on: Art (Symphonic) Rock, Prog Metal, and Jazz Fusion (in the true meaning of the latter - a Confluence; in our view, this is the Confluence of any Jazz-related music and Progressive). But just lately, I've found that the creations of a few contemporary progressive bands, being greatly innovative and original, don't fit into the conditions of any of the four Progressive genres. At the same time, the music each of these bands play, differs one from another quite radically. So I didn't see any other way other than unite these bands (for the time being) in, conditionally, another one chief genre of Progressive whose term would sound as abstract as creative writings of these bands are indescribable. This way, a Fifth Element is discovered - at least within Progressive Rock. And Rascal Reporters fall in that category, too.

VM. August 22, 2001


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