FM — Black Noise
(Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2376, 1978/2013, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-08-01
The reissue of the second album by this excellent Canadian trio has been long awaited by many. A rather nonstandard three-piece, their most unique feature was the substitution of mandolin/violin for parts that would normally be handled by guitars, on this album played by Nash the Slash (don't worry, this is nothing like the techno-thrash solo material he is better known for...). De-facto bandleader Cameron Hawkins plays either synthesizer and bass pedals, or bass guitar and synth-pedals, and is the group's lead vocalist. Martin Deller ties it all together with the drums, keeping the mix busy and energized. The band covers a lot of bases here, from fusion to an accessible rock sound to a very heavy bombastic prog, either as instrumental workouts, or served up with sci-fi lyrics (which would become their trademark). The mandolin is played with all the standard guitar treatments (fuzz, feedback, delays, etc.) and performs precisely the same duty as a guitar would in any other band, but the solos give it away: high-pitched screamers that yield to nothing. "Phasors on Stun" and "Aldeberan" are the most accesible tunes here, yet they fare well within the band's instrumental vision. With "One O'Clock Tomorrow" they adopt an almost Yes-like feel, further accentuated by the parallel lyrics, vocal harmonies, and the Chris Squire trademark Rickenbacker bass sound. "Journey" is an almost-straight-ahead rocker — it's here that Nash's solid-body mandolin rocks its hardest. "Black Noise" is a heavy and dark — and typically progressive rock opus of the ten-minute type, and while very intense, it also shows some of the band's weaker tendencies: a bit too much repetition and a knack for meandering. Probably the album's finest tracks are two instrumentals that are more in the violin-fusion mode: "Slaughter in Robot Village" and "Hours," both of which point to the sound on the band's 1977 album Headroom, yet here that loose-and-free sound is given a more cohesive sense of purpose via stronger material. This was a good album in '78 and it's still a good album today; it covers a lot of ground musically and offers something for everyone. Recommended.
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more