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
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more