Exposé Online banner

Exposé Online

Not just outside the box, but denying the existence of boxes.
Covering music from the fringes since 1993.


Herd of Instinct — Incantation
(Firepool Records FR011, 2019, CD)

Herd of Instinct — Unravel
(Firepool Records no#, 2020, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-05-28

Incantation Cover artUnravel Cover art

When, in the course of maintaining a website devoted to covering progressive and experimental music, something noteworthy slips through the cracks, sometimes it is necessary to step into the past and write about the music found there. We’ve been covering Herd of Instinct from the beginning, starting with Herd of Instinct in 2011 and continuing with Conjure (2013), Manifestation (2016), and Drone Priest (2017). What happened then I’m at a loss to explain, but I’m here now to tell you about Incantation (2019) and Unravel (2020). The group’s general idiom involves a King Crimson (or Stick Men) flavor taken in a tasty melodic direction with more keyboard presence. The core of the group is the trio of Mark Cook (Warr guitar and a whole bunch of other instruments), Rick Read (Chapman Stick and keyboards), and Bill Bachman (drums and percussion), and they are joined on Incantation by Gayle Ellett on most tracks playing a variety of instruments; Colin Edwin (bass and electronics), Adam Holzman (keyboards), Craig Shropshire (percussion), Dave Streett (Warr guitar), and Elaine di Falco (vocals) all contribute to various tracks. The music is generally built up from bass grooves combined with really tasty drumming (both human and programmed). Many tracks feature the kind of patterns pioneered by King Crimson in the 80s, here implemented on either tapping instruments or keyboards. Layers of keyboards provide textural depth, and there are melodic lines from either guitar or synths. You’ll occasionally get a heavy section with hints of metal, but never any kind of chugging. “Myth and Ritual” presents a different flavor, being a pseudo-orchestral piece with string, brass, and choir sounds and no percussion — and fortunately it doesn’t go too far down the fake-symphony path, instead using its artificial nature as a core part of the sound. Incantation is another fine entry in the band’s catalog, and should be a sure bet for listeners who like King Crimson or Djam Karet.

Unravel is a collection of previously unreleased recordings dating from 2011 through 2020. These are pieces that didn’t fit on the albums of their times, either stylistically or due to timing considerations. Cook is the only musician to appear on all the tracks, Bachman is only on one track, and Read isn’t present at all. Herd of Instinct’s original drummer Jason Spradlin (also of Liquid Sound Company) handles drums for the majority of the tunes, and Gayle Ellett appears on all but one. “Conjure,” which didn’t appear on the album of the same name, is a solid start, and it certainly wasn’t a lack of quality that kept it off the album. Next we have “Alice Krige Parts 1 and 2,” the full piece that appeared in shorter form on Conjure. It features trumpet (Joel Adair), flute (Bob Fisher), acoustic 12-string guitar (Mike Davison), and lap steel guitar (Joe Blair), but in spite of the expanded lineup, doesn’t sound cluttered or overdone. It has sparse improvisational sections, grooving percussion, and builds to a heavy section with a nifty 7/4 riff backed by drums in 4. “Furnace” is an extended improvisation featuring Markus Reuter that was recorded in 2011 but never used on a previous album. But the real surprise of the set is a version of Radiohead’s “National Anthem,” featuring a bunch of sampled voices including William S. Burroughs. Unravel may be an odds-and-ends collection, but the quality and style are consistent with the band’s primary output, and it’s well worth investigating.

Filed under: New releases, 2019 releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): Elaine Di Falco, Herd of Instinct, Markus Reuter, Gayle Ellett, Colin Edwin, Adam Holzman

More info


What's new

These are the most recent changes made to artists, releases, and articles.