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(40 min, 'N/twirp')
TRACK LIST: 1. Looking for the Right Reflection 3:46 2. Let's Talk About Virtue 5:44 3. Nerve Ending XXIII-1 0:11 4. It Came From Above 7:40 5. Cerebral Love 2:04 6. Nerve Ending XXIII-2 0:25 7. Flames From an Unlikely Source 3:06 8. Vagueness 8:37 9. Animal Magnetism 4:58 10. Ambivalence Saves the Day 3:35 LINEUP: Rich Woodson - guitar Anthony Burr - clarinet Aaron Stewart - saxophone Mat Fieldes - bass John Hollenbeck - drums
Prolusion. The full name of this American band is Rich Woodson's ELLIPSIS (RWE hereafter). I could not place it in the review's heading due to the huge length of the album's title, "The Nail That Stands Up Get Pounded Down". This is their second official release. The group has existed since 1997, and their recording debut, "Control & Resistance", took place on the renowned avant-garde label Cuneiform Records five years ago.
Analysis. Rock-In-Opposition has lost its original leftwing meaning many years ago, but musically, it has kept the qualities, which make it the most leftfield Progressive Rock genre. The years seem to have no power over RIO. Unlike the other primary Prog Rock directions (Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion and Prog-Metal above all), it still appears as a highly flexible genre, whose representatives never get into deadlock conditions. Instead, they routinely offer something new. In the face of RWE, the tried listener will get an ensemble, whose creation steers so far from any beaten musical paths that it is as if they throw down a challenge to anyone, perhaps to those working in the field of RIO above all, regarding their own uniqueness and non-conformism. Besides, this album is not RIO as such, but is a concerto of Neoclassical and Avant-garde Academic music for a chamber Rock ensemble, performed exclusively from scores. The absolute absence of repetitions makes the material much more difficult for comprehension than RIO, though on the other hand, the laws of Academic music, which primordially do not assume any impromptus, will certainly facilitate the patient listener to overcome the way, especially if the names of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Schnitke aren't mere empty words for him. There are no pauses between the first nine of the ten tracks, and generally, the album appears more as one long monolithic work than a multi-sectional suite. I even think that there was no necessity to separate the last track, Ambivalence Saves the Day, from the others via the pause. Although its coda represents a drum solo, most of its contents sort finely with the primary stuff (save the eighth section, to be described in due time). No unison parts or those in 5th etc, no pronounced changes of tempo or theme either; just the endlessly developing interplay between guitar, saxophone, clarinet, bass and drums, each of the solos having its own special way in the formation of an angular, yet, beautiful and cohesive picture with a strong acoustic sense throughout. The composer, Rich Woodson, plays electric guitar, at times switching over from soloing to doing specific riffs, whose growling and, at the same time, muted substance reminds me of a grousing monster finding himself surrounded by the lighter musical entities in a strange, everlastingly changing round dance. In my view, it would be somewhat more appropriate to place the longest track, Vagueness, at the end instead of the mentioned composition, as it's the one whose structures are notable for atypical features. While most of the stuff retains a quasi symphonic sense, due to its nearly chamber sound (as well as a direct cognation with the primary source, Classical Academic music), Vagueness reveals many schizoid elements, particularly in the episodes with ragged arrangements, when the picture loses its multicolored integrity, giving way to the alternation of highly dissonant interplay between drums and guitar, drums and reeds, guitar and bass (whose pizzicatos sound much like those of cello), etc. There is nothing negative in the previous sentence: just a remark of the peculiarities of the track, which I hardly like less than the others. All these strange constructions are like an intricate sci-fi, full of philosophic meditations in addition.
Conclusion. RME performs a true Art, striking for its freshness and depth alike. Too complex and non-commercial even for Cuneiform, this is somewhat an extremely elitist album indeed. In any event, it contains a much cerebral satisfaction and is a feast for my ears. Recommended to those into RIO and beyond. Top-20-2005
VM: December 16, 2005
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