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Ut Gret - 2014 - "Ancestors' Tale"

(58:25, Altrock Records)


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TRACK LIST:

1.  Ancestors' Tale 5:24
2.  The Departure 0:58
3.  Hopperknockity Tune 4:01
4.  Selves Unmade 5:56
5.  The Raw, the Cooked and the Overeasy 5:27
6.  An Elephant in Berlin 8:29
7.  Dinosaur on the Floor 3:51
8.  The Grotesque Pageantry of Fading Empires 9:17
9.  Zodiac 7:17
10. Walk the Plank 7:37

LINEUP:

Stephen Roberts - piano, organ, Mellotron; mallets
Jackie Royce  bassoon, flute
Steve Good  clarinet 
Gary Pahler  drums, percussion
Joee Conroy  bass, Chapman Stick, guitars; electronics
With{
Gregory Acker  sax, flute; percussion
Cheyenne Mize  voice, violin
Sydney Simpson  bass 

Prolusion. The US band UT GRET has been around in one form or another since the 80's, although their history as a recording unit didn't start until the second half of the 90's. From their base in Lousville, Kentucky, they have created four full-length studio albums so far. The most recent of these is "Ancestors' Tale", which was released through the Italian label Altrock Records in the spring of 2014.

Analysis. When reading up on any artist so far unknown to me, one of the check points I always find interesting to read is the one where influential artists are listed. This list tend to be long, it doesn't always correspond to the music the artist actually makes either, but it makes for interesting reading. Selected highlights from Ut Gret's list are names such as Stravinsky, John Coltrane, Univers Zero and Soft Machine. That a band like Hatfield & The North are mentioned probably also merits a mention. The interesting tidbit in this particular case is that the artists stated all are likely inspirations to the contents of this album, as Ut Gret touches base with all the different styles explored by the listed artists. Considering the fairly vast differences in style we're talking about, that is rather impressive in itself. It is perhaps needless to say at this pint that Ut Gret is one of the bands that most likely merits a classification in the avant-garde part of the progressive rock universe, and the fact that their latest disc was released by Altrock, that specializes in productions of this kind, shouldn't surprise anyone with an interest in music of this kind. Ut Gret's take on this aspect of progressive rock is a fairly accessible one, however. This isn't a band that will challenge you with stark disharmonies or by utilizing odd tonal ranges or other effects of a stark dramatic nature. Instead, they explore a musical landscape that is pretty hard to define in terms of categorization. The liberal use of reeds gives just about all compositions a classical music sheen, but one that touches upon classical music just as much as chamber rock (and, occasionally, chamber music too), and they gleefully incorporate details that invite to associations to folk music when utilizing these instruments as well. Whenever the drummer shifts towards a more jazz-tinged expression one or more of the woodwinds will be likely to take that as a cue, and if there's a piano present at that time chances are that the theme at that given time will have a jazz-tinged piano motif as an ingredient too. That the piano also are used to provide elegant and playful motifs remind ever so slightly of bands like Gentle Giant is another charming little detail in the total context here. Add occasional use of dark, twisted guitar riffs for more of a distinct rock oriented expression at times, that the band does find room for some forceful organ and guitar driven themes and that they aren't strangers to craft mournful Mellotron driven symphonic rock oriented passages either, and I think just about all bases are covered. That the various details described only rarely are explored as standalone features, and that the woodwinds tend to be eve-present features, no matter what style is dominant at any given time, that we're treated to a fair share of energetic saxophone details and soloing too, might or might not indicate the kind of landscapes explored. Personally I found this album to be at its most charming whenever the talents of vocalist Cheyenne Mize were give room though. The instruments tone down to give her voice space, and her subtly sleepy, sensual lead vocals are a truly compelling feature. One that makes me instant associations to female jazz vocalists, albeit her vocal talents and voice fit right in with the rather more adventurous compositions of Ut Gret too. Those who prefer their music of this kind to be instrumental are given their fair share of material to enjoy too though, with a handful of fairly long and what I suspect are at least partially improvised tracks.

Conclusion. Ut Gret's self-description on social network Facebook reads as follows: "Embracing rock, jazz, world music, classical music and the spirit of adventure found in the avant-garde we forge ahead". From my point of view this is an accurate description, and "Ancestors' Tale" comes with a high recommendation to anyone who finds that specific description to be an interesting one.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 16, 2014
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Altrock Records
Ut Gret


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