Exposé Online banner

Van der Graaf Generator — Do Not Disturb
(Esoteric Recordings Antenna EANTCD1062, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, 2016-11-25:

Do Not Disturb Cover art

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.


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.


Filed under: New releases , 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Peter Hammill, Van der Graaf Generator

More info

Latest news

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Drama - Strange Expression – A trio from Erie, Pennsylvania, Drama's music combines three qualities that are seldom found together in the right proportions: hard hitting, high energy progressive rock; an excellent singer; and a...  (1994) » Read more

La Rossa - A Fury of Glass – Yet another obscure symphonic band brought to us by Musea, La Rossa's A Fury of Glass is a welcome reissue for the fan of Yes/ELP influenced rock. Featuring excellent keyboard playing in the...  (1994) » Read more

Rova - Bingo – For 20 years now, California's Rova Sax Quartet has been unrelentingly pursuing the ambitious task of inventing new music from the most traditional instrumental family in jazz history – the...  (1999) » Read more

Le Stelle di Mario Schifano - Dedicato A – Kckck wk zz r ckck! It sounds like the workers at the CD mastering plant took time out to play frisbee with the source LP; you can not only tell this CD was mastered from LP but at times the surface...  (1996) » Read more

Brown vs Brown - Odds and Unevens – Rock vs. jazz; punk vs. art; complex compositions vs. raw improvisation. Brown vs. Brown encompasses all of this and much more, turning in seven long tracks of blistering raw energy for their second...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues