Modest Midget — Crysis
((Not on label) LZAG007, 2014, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-09-15
This Amsterdam-based band led by Israeli expat Lonny Ziblat has been completely rebuilt following their disintegration after the tour that followed the first album The Great Prophecy of a Small Man in 2010. During the downtime that followed, Ziblat recorded his solo album Songs from the Drawer, which was culled from material he had written that didn’t fit the Modest Midget style, and then got back to the business of putting his band back together, which now includes drummer Willem Smid and bassist Maartin Bakker, and for some of the recordings, keyboardist Tristan Hupe – the only other survivor from the first edition of the band, although Hupe left prior to the recordings being completed. The remaining members completed Crysis as a trio, with other players guesting as needed. Ziblat, for his part wrote all the material, plays acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, and sings all the lead and harmony vocals. There’s a wide array of influences from Ziblat’s diverse musical background that went into these twelve cuts, which combine elements of rock, pop, punk, progressive, folk, and just about everything else imaginable. The opening symphonic keyboard intro “The Grand Gate Opening” sounds like it could be a piece from a classic movie theme, and then segues directly into “A Centurion’s Itchy Belly,” which is a brilliant instrumental piece that combines proggy elements with a catchy foot-stompin’ klezmer-pop tune. Another wacky keyboard-driven instrumental “Flight of the Cockroach” is presented later in the program.
Vocals are introduced on track three, “Rocky Valleys of Dawn,” an indie-rock styled piece with a direct approach not unlike something Nick Lowe might have done back in the day. But on other tracks throughout, a far more sophisticated combination of lead vocals and harmonies are often used, sometimes approaching the Beach Boys or 10cc, exemplified on tracks like “Now That We’re Here” and “Crisis (Awake of the Sheep)”, the latter which incorporates additional saxes, oboe, recorders, and flute to create one of the album’s most powerful arrangements. “Secret Lies” is another catchy vocal tune steeped in early rock and roll traditions, with an unforgettable guitar driven arrangement, superb soloing and great vocal harmonies. Their ska cover version of the late Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” is a fun diversion that pushes all the right buttons, while an electric piano driven jazzy-pop style is employed on “Periscope Down,” co-written with Bakker, resulting in what is probably the disc’s most accessible tune. “Praise the Day” is a simple vocal and acoustic guitar piece with piano accompaniment, with some added strings near the end, almost like something that could have been on one of McCartney’s early solo records. All taken, Crysis is a mighty impressive second outing for Modest Midget.
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
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