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(72 min, Veneto West)
TRACK LIST: 1. Gallaballa 2:18 (
Prolusion. VENETO WEST is a new label formed by American producer and engineer Ronan Chris Murphy, famed for his work with King Crimson (several albums), Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple), Terry Bozzio (Zappa, UK, et al.), Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, et al.) and many other legendary and cult personages. "Destroying Silence" is the label's first release and is a compilation featuring 13 works by five outfits. I haven't heard any previously, though the names of some participants, such as Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, Mike Keneally and Ronan himself, are more than merely familiar to me. Ronan has produced and mixed all the tracks present, plus also played on all but the last two. The details are below.
Analysis. The first two tracks present the work of Anthony CURTIS. Anthony plays electric guitar, and his cohort includes Tony Levin on bass, Lewis Pragasam on drums, Jeff Gauthier on violin, Mark Keneally on electric piano and Ronan Chris Murphy on harmonium. Levin's distinctive, immediately recognizable bass lines in conjunction with Curtis's harsh-and-wild guitar solos have determined the overall sound of Gallaballa, which has much in common with that of King Crimson in the '80s. To be more precise, the first thing that came to my mind while I listened to this piece was Neurotica from "Beat". I am not a big lover of using comparisons, but in this particular case the resemblance is striking. To Curtis's credit, he personally rarely applies the technique that Robert Fripp has for the first time developed on his milestone "Exposure" album and which became the trademark of King Crimson's sound since the band's second incarnation. Ruins starts off with an orientally-inflected interplay between bass and guitar, the latter sounding much like a Turkish Saz in places, while all further events are the group's ever-changing, yet always structured (mostly composed, I believe) improvisations centered round a steadily rhythmic groove provided by Lewis Pragasam. The violin adds some Eastern coloration to the music, but overall, this is a typically European kind of Jazz-Fusion, the genre's primary source, American Jazz, being modified nearly beyond recognition. All in all, the track has more a psychedelic than an improvisational feeling. Very convincing. Willie OTERI (guitar) is backed by still the same Tony Levin, Mark Keneally and Ronan Chris Murphy (who also plays the Fender Rhodes piano here), plus Pat Mastelotto (drums, surely:-) and Ephraim Owens (trumpet) who though is featured only on the last of the three tracks Willie has granted to this CD. The 30-second Not Salad can hardly be viewed otherwise than an intro to its follow-up, Sundial, which by the way, is stylistically much in the same vein as the aforementioned Ruins - a sort of complex-yet-hypnotic Jazz-Fusion with a quite harsh sound, due to the specific guitar soloing. On the other hand, Sundial is abundant in tempo, mood and direction changes, and the drums are much more distinct here. In fact, they're always at the foreground of the arrangements, even though most often along with the other instruments. Many would envy Pat Mastelotto's ability to diversify the picture. His soloing is non-stop, the beats endlessly changing their pattern, power and other characteristics. Ephraim Walks In features a lot of impromptus from the eponymous trumpet player. Nevertheless, there also are solos coming in unison or in 5th etc (when the quintet carries out joint syncopated movements), and generally, this piece is quite rich in traditional jazz features. Still, slight traces of the influences of King Crimson and ProjeKct-s can be found on most of the described compositions, as well as on those by Jay TERRIEN, Double Entendre and Judging by the Size of Carnie, which, due to their certain resemblance to the first five tracks, should've been placed on the CD right after those (at least in my view). The trio that have performed these two is comprised of Jay Terrien (bass), Pat Mastelotto (drums; programming) and Ronan Chris Murphy (H3000 Mangling). I have no idea of H3000 Mangling, but what I'm hearing for sure on both Double Entendre and Judging by the Size of Carnie is something sounding not unlike an electric guitar, and it's one of the central moving forces here. Melodically more pronounced than any of their potential brothers in style, these are the works of quasi Jazz-Fusion. By the way, their sonic palette is richer than that we usually expect from a trio. The highlights include Ruins, Sundial and Judging by the Size of Carnie, though overall, all the described pieces are much to my taste. The rest of the material is vastly-to-radically different from these. LIVES OF THE SAINTS is a duo by Ronan Chris Murphy and Bill Forth. While the CD booklet says both use exclusively guitars, it's clear that a sound processor (perhaps some other electronic equipment too) was widely applied too. For instance, the duo's Black Metal Boys doesn't reveal any sounds that would at least distantly resemble guitar, unlike the other three, Beautiful Lie, Latex Sketches and Paralee Sleeps, but it doesn't matter. All the pieces are nothing else but so-called soundscapes. Perhaps there is something meditative or even transcendental, but it's beyond my understanding and, thus, my interest as well. HYPNOISE is an Italian trio of musicians (guitars/vocals/keyboards - bass - drums) using some strange pseudonyms instead of their real names. Their two pieces are the only songs on the CD, both featuring English lyrics. The first, Upon a Golden Hill, is more or less interesting, above all thanks to the presence of an instrumental psychedelic jam in the style of early Pink Floyd, but the other, The Ocean, is vocal-heavy and is definitely overextended, coming with no tempo changes in addition. In the end, this is a slightly complicated Space Rock ballad much in the vein of those short on Pink Floyd's "Atom Heart Mother" or "Meddle".
Conclusion. If the last track weren't included, I would have probably rated this compilation with, well, the highest possible rating I give to such kind of recordings. Overall, "Destroying Silence" is a success and is an excellent introduction to Veneto West Records, which might help those interested in the described styles get a clearer idea of the label's forthcoming repertoire.
VM: July 23, 2006
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