Art Rock Circus — Variations on a Dream
(Tributary no#, 2013, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-01-28The ever-shifting and meandering constructs that alternate between keyboards and guitars, incorporating flute and mallet percussion patches, supported by a solid rhythm section on the first two cuts “Planet X” and “Variation 7” surely represent a new page for this California based outfit. One after another, the ten instrumental cuts here will hold the listener’s attention for the duration, informed by much of the best classic progressive rock, but without ever sounding the least bit derivative. While previous Art Rock Circus efforts like Heaven’s Café and Tell a Vision seemed to be more ambitious theatrical projects of guitarist and leader Bill Miner, with other musicians helping out as needed, Variations on a Dream comes off as more of a band effort with Miner, keyboardist Milo Keysington, and drummer Nolan Stolz all contributing to the compositions and arrangements in a major way, along with the support of bassists Ken Jacquess and Kelton Manning. Unlike those earlier releases, Variations... is entirely instrumental, and powerful enough on its own as an instrumental work that the vocals and grand concepts of previous releases are not missed. In fact the compositional complexity here never lets up, keeping this challenging from beginning to end; after probably twenty or more listens this writer is still discovering new surprises on each repeat play, with familiarity remaining just out of reach. The only minus here is the overall production, which seems kind of flat, uneven and demo-ish at times. Great music that deserved much better post-production work, but the astute listener should have no problems discovering its brilliance.
Related artist(s): Art Rock Circus
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more
Joel Vandroogenbroeck RIP – Word has reached us of the death of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, best known as one of the founders of Brainticket, He also recorded electronic music under a variety of names. He was born August 25th, 1938 in Brussels, Belgium and died December 23, 2019 in Arlesheim, Switzerland, aged 81. » Read more