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

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Magma - Kronicas – Not to be confused with the Kobaian ensemble led by Christian Vander, of course, this Magma was a symphonic progressive band borne out of the same Argentine music underground that produced MIA and...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues