Stick Men — Prog Noir
(Unsung SMN1611, 2016, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2016-10-02
From their beginning, Stick Men have included occasional vocal tracks in their repertoire, though they have always been fewer in number than the purely instrumental pieces, and completely absent on several albums. With Prog Noir, Stick Men highlight the vocal side more than ever before, with nearly half of the tracks including vocals, either spoken or sung, with or without lyrics, and both Tony Levin and Markus Reuter chipping in. Another quality of the band that is maybe overlooked is their sense of humor. It’s always been there — think back to “Soup” — but with all of the eerie soundscapes and jagged rhythms they churn out, the humor can be missed. It’s represented here in a number of ways. “Plutonium” is the most obvious example, with its observations about the plight of Pluto and numerous musical quotations. The basic music style continues the band’s trend, with Levn’s inimitable bass lines, Reuter’s expansive washes of tones, and Mastelotto’s hybrid acoustic / electronic percussion. There are odd meters and dissonances, but they’re not fetishized, merely a part of the mix. With both Levin and Reuter playing touched-string instruments, the who-played-what of it is often unclear, and certainly it often sounds like a much larger band than just a trio. But part of the appeal of this band is the collective integration, the way they work together to produce the music, whether it’s the sensitive (but somewhat unusual) backing to the beautiful melodies of “A Rose in the Desert / Requiem” or the organically shifting rhythms of “Leonardo.” The main takeaway is that while Prog Noir is still rooted in some of the innovations of King Crimson, Stick Men have added plenty of their own elements to the music, and the result is one of the year’s highlights.
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