Exposé Online banner

Stick Men — Absalom
(7d Media 7D1314, 2011, CD)

Stick Men — Soup
(Stick Man Records SMN2309, 2010, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2013-05-15

Absalom Cover artSoup Cover art

It's been a number of years since the Tony Levin Band was active, though of course Mr. Levin himself has been busy, with a couple of solo albums and frequent work as bassist-for-hire. Stick Men is his current going concern, and these two CDs comprise two slightly different configurations. Soup places Levin with fellow King Crimson alum Pat Mastelotto on drums and new guy Michael Bernier as a second Chapman Stick player (hence the name). The music does share some qualities with the 90s incarnation of Crimson, with lots of tricky rhythmic patterns, virtuosic passages casually tossed off, and crunchy dissonance. And Levin's vocal tunes even have a playful quality like some of Adrian Belew's exhibited. Given the limited instrumentation, they manage an incredible variety of tones and colors, from the kind of bright percussive sound the Stick is known for to any number of heavily distorted and modified tones resulting from either effects devices or unconventional techniques like bowing the strings. There's also a wide variety of moods and tempos, keeping proceedings from falling into any ruts. With two guys playing the same instrument, there are times when it's hard to tell who's doing what, though some of the bass lines have that famous Levin sound to them. (I'll avoid possible embarrassment by not calling out any titles.) Every track is a winner, with the three-part "Hands" suite being a favorite. They provide a nod to the history of progressive rock by doing an impressive arrangement of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." The tight coordination is peppered with little moments of chaos to keep things interesting.

Absalom comes a year later, and now Levin and Mastelotto are joined by Markus Reuter, who plays touch guitars of his own design rather than Chapman's Stick. The overal style is quite similar, with much impressive playing that avoids being showoffy. If I think of some of the qualities I enjoy most in music, Stick Men hit (or tap) a lot of them just right: killer riffs — check, complex arrangements — check, catchy melodies — check, odd meters — check, wide variety of tone colors — check, balance of arrangement and improvisation — check. It's like they looked into my head and designed their music to lure me in. I willingly give in, Stick Men. One thing about a lot of complex music is that it doesn't groove — things change so much that the rhythmic momentum doesn't fall into the kind of patterns that are so nice to hear. Stick Men's music may be complex, but it sure as hell grooves.


Filed under: New releases, 2011 releases, 2010 releases

Related artist(s): Tony Levin, Michael Bernier, Pat Mastelotto, Markus Reuter, Stick Men

More info
http://www.papabear.com
http://www.7dmedia.com

Latest news

2018-06-05
Koenjihyakkei Seeks Funding for New Album – It's been quite a few years since the last new studio album by the amazing Koenjihyakkei. Now they are preparing Dhormimviskha for worldwide release, and they're asking fans to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign to help it happen. » Read more

2018-05-14
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more

2018-04-05
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more

2018-04-04
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more

2018-03-01
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Soft Machine Legacy - Live Adventures – With the sad passing of Canterbury icons Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper, the reformulated quartet continues to carry on convincingly in the vein of the great icon of British Jazz. Now led by the voices of...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues