Van der Graaf Generator — Do Not Disturb
(Esoteric Recordings Antenna EANTCD1062, 2016, CD)
by Henry Schneider, 2016-11-25:
Do Not Disturb is the 13th studio album by the legendary Van der Graaf Generator, and the third studio album since they reinvented themselves as a trio ten years ago (Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, and Guy Evans). VdGG was originally formed in 1967 in Manchester by Peter Hammill, and given the ages of the band members, you could reasonably expect a mature and sedate set of music. Nothing could be further from the truth. VdGG continues to push the limits, producing creative and crazy progressive rock music that belies their age. Rather than enter the studio and hit the record button, VdGG meticulously rehearsed each piece to get it right. Some of the passages consist of prepared sonic passages as well as live tracks, with overdubs happening in their individual studios. There is a bluesy / avant jazzy vibe to many of the tracks, with some tracks tending towards minimalism. “Alfa Berlina” is an avant rock masterpiece, with street sounds, reversed music, other odd sounds, odd timing, and vocals with no accompaniment. At times there isn’t even a melody. “Forever Falling” begins with a country rock vibe and melodic vocals that morphs into dissonance with the track unravelling, coming back together, and unravelling again. The only instrumental on the disc is “Shikata Ga Nai,” a dissonant avant jazz piece. “(Oh No I Must Have Said) Yes” has a surprisiing Zappa-esque feel. And the quiet closing track “Go” could possibly be a swan song with its slow, floating chords and the final lyric, “It’s time to let go,” as the music drifts off into silence. Do Not Disturb meets or exceeds their previous releases and is sure to please any VdGG fan.
by Jon Davis, 2016-11-25:
When it comes to the pantheon of progressive rock pioneers, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and Gentle Giant get the lion’s share of attention. And while their influence on future generations of musicians is obvious, we shouldn’t forget that there were many other bands of that generation who were just as innovative, if not as popular. Van der Graaf Generator has always seemed like an outlier among their contemporaries, not fitting into any stylistic boxes, plying their own course with little regard to anything outside the world their music created. Maybe that’s because, more than any of the other bands, Van der Graaf has always been the vehicle for Peter Hammill’s vision (or one of the vehicles, as we can’t discount his prolific solo work). Even more than Robert Fripp’s dominance of King Crimson, Hammill is responsible for the sound of the band he leads — not to discount the contributions of Guy Evans (drums) and Hugh Banton (keyboards), who have been with the band from the first album in 1969. Evans has been on board for the whole journey, and Banton for all but a spell in the late 70s. The band’s defining characteristics have always been Hammill’s intense vocals and gritty lyrics, Evans’ unconventional drumming, non-standard instrumentation (sometimes guitarless, usually including woodwinds, violin, or both), and a way of arranging music that rarely adheres to standards of structure and form, following instead the path of the lyrics. Now, 47 years on from their debut, the core trio has released Do Not Disturb, and the absence of the added instrumentation provides only a minor distraction, since all of the other elements are in place and firing on all cylinders. Playing it safe has never been a Van der Graaf goal, and mellowing with age is not on the agenda. The beginning of “Aloft” lulls the listener into a false sense of comfort, with sparse, clean guitar chords and Hammill’s voice in breathy mode, but the music builds over the course of the first four minutes until a heavy riff comes in to remind us that these guys can still rock, albeit in their own way. Even “Forever Falling,” the most conventional song on the album, diverts from expectations: after two verses and a chorus (keeping in mind that the terms “verse” and “chorus” are used loosely here), it ventures into a middle section in a different tempo, then after returning to the verse riff, throws in a completely new section before restating the verse and chorus to finish off. Throughout the nine tracks, moments of heavy, jagged riffing on guitar and organ are balanced with atmospheric sections featuring field recordings, backwards vocal choirs, accordion, and sound effects. There are maybe more of these sparse sections than on previous VdGG albums, but that doesn’t reflect any real backing away from intensity. Do Not Disturb is full of surprises, providing a welcome example of artists maintaining their creative edge well beyond the lifespan of most groups. It’s also one of the highlights of 2016.
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
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
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
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - Live & Papagayo Club 1972 – Unlike the recently released PFM shows (Impressioni Vent'Anni Dopo and Bobo Club 2000), these two CDs are distinctly different sets, one from very late 1970, the other from 1972. The Mellow CD from... (1995) » Read more