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Volaré — The Uncertainty Principle
(Laser's Edge LE 1028, 1997, CD)

The Uncertainty Principle Cover art

One could dismiss my enthusiasm for this disc as either a biased plug for a hometown Athens, GA band, or the inevitable consequence of my having reviewed so many amorphous, obtuse, experimental releases throughout the remainder of this issue. But that would be ignoring the considerable merits of one of the best releases of the year and one of the best debuts in an even longer time. Volaré dishes out some truly tasty Canterbury-tinged complex instrumental prog. A quartet of guitar, keyboards, bass / sax, and drums with an abundance of original and captivating musical ideas, this band at times evokes with haunting authenticity the best of Hatfield and the North, early Muffins, and National Health. The Uncertainty Principle is an album full of invigoratingly imaginative themes inflected with well developed subtlety and nuance. A full arsenal of classic analog keyboards along with carefully chosen guitar tones imparts a "lost classic" quality to the sound. This, combined with the harmonically sophisticated writing and occasional jazzy tendencies, might suggest a previously unreleased 70s Canterbury gem. But a distinct freshness in the top-notch performances and a discerning stylistic open-mindedness clearly point to the youth of this work. Each of the ten pieces here segues organically through a healthy assortment of complementary musical ideas with confidence and finesse. The sometimes quirky, always intelligent and intricate compositions are laced with original chord progressions, boldly varied textures, and dramatic dynamics. There is so much here to like, it takes several listens just to begin to absorb all the fine detail. Much as Änglagård did a few years back, Volaré has created something magnificent which, through impressive musical maturity and considerable stylistic awareness, is able not only to move forward but also to delve back into prog history without seeming the least bit stale. This is the type of release that reaffirms the potential of progressive rock, and one most any prog fan should thoroughly enjoy.

by Rob Walker, Published 1998-02-01

Progressive, anyone? This is the real thing. Last year's five-song demo tape certainly offered a lot of promise, but who would've thought that in less than a year the band could have come up with something this strong? It's all here: power, melody, finesse, emotion, spirit. And did I mention chops? 100% instrumental, the band is a four-piece now: drums, bass and sax, guitar, and keys — apparently the cellist who was with them on the demo has split, but the band seems to be even tighter in the smaller configuration, with each member offering equal amounts of fire, coloration and rhythm to the overall effort. A strong jazz and Canterbury ethic is at work throughout, and if one had to compare Volaré to anyone, National Health, Kenso, and Happy the Man would all be at the top of the list, perhaps some ECM artists too; yet Volaré has their own voice, rooted in the strength and complexity of their compositions and fortified by their sheer playing skill. Each piece develops along its own path, constantly growing and changing, finding new patterns and themes to develop and carry forward. One can hear the emotional content and technical precision playing off one another as pieces grow and unfold. Occasionally a piece will wander off course into self-indulgent territory, but not for long. Frankly, it's hard to imagine anyone not liking this. I'm sure this one will be in the top-ten lists of about ten Exposé writers next spring.

by Peter Thelen, Published 1998-02-01

Here is a young American quartet that seems to have imbibed enough Guinness Extra Stout to go up against any British Canterbury contender I can call to mind. Who in hell cares if they're from Georgia? Hey, if Dave Stewart would rather play pop then why can't we Americans fill in the missing pieces of the pie? A worthwhile endeavor no matter how you look at it. Particularly what sets Volaré apart from other fusion combos, and what impresses me right from the moment the laser hits the plastic, is the care and concern they take in lightening the mood. All those tantalizing delicacies of tone quality and precise dynamic balances that Boud Deun avoided are here in abundance. Patrick Strawser's nimble keyboarding is really the axis on which the whole Volaré pendulum swings, as he meticulously places the right flourishes in all the right places. However unlike some of their rivals (Kenso for example), Volaré don't try to razzle-dazzle you with kitchen-sink theory histrionics and all such technical filigree. Rather their instrumental ambitions are restrained to a basic Fender Rhodes / bass / drums / guitar setting, ornamented when appropriate by synthesizer and organ; throw in an acoustic guitar every now and again to keep it fresh. The results are as matured and gracefully aged as they are youthful. Here is proof that good music is always good music, transcending the passage of trends, necessitating neither advocacy of new ideas nor groundbreaking innovation. Try as I may I can simply find nothing wrong with this band — not only the best Canterbury outfit going but the best American progressive I've heard since the mid-80s.

by Mike Ezzo, Published 1998-02-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 14, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Volaré, Pat Strawser

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