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(60:05; Glass Castle Recordings)
UK composer and musician Malcolm GALLOWAY is probably best known for his role in progressive rock band Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate, but for several years he have also released music as a solo artist, and then inside the realm of minimalist classical music. "Wasp 76b" is the most recent of these ventures, and was released through the label Glass Castle Recordings towards the end of 2020. While this is described as an EP, with the main tracks clocking in at 20 minutes or so, there's a bonus track available with the EP as well, a creation that clocks in at a staggering 40 minutes in length. An album's length worth of music then, even if the core material itself stops at the 20 minute mark. The opening creation 'Chrysalis' features a delicate strings overlay backed by percussion and piano in a subtle atonal manner, with careful but nervous and intense raindrop style guitar details added in, the latter seguing over to a more fixed and firm mode of delivery that adds a nice bit of tension prior to the conclusion. The somewhat longer "Wasp 76b', presumably inspired by the discovery of a planet where one can experience wonders such as rainfalls of molten iron, is probably the composition that will interest progressive rock fans more than the rest. The heart of this song revolves around a jazz-tinged drum foundation, an ongoing bass-line that gave me associations to "Church Of..." era Hawkwind and nervous guitar details of the kind that made me think of Robert Fripp, with percussion, string arrangements and the piano weaving in and out and in between. Quite the hypnotic creation, as well as being both fluid and tension-filled. The bonus track 'The Haber Process' is probably the creation here that will have a more limited appeal. Revolving around percussion, plucked guitar and piano in nervous loose patterns with moments where one instrument solidifies briefly and veers off again, adding a voice effect and orchestral details that will come and go in the first half of the composition, while in the second half a bass is thrown in as well, and the composition gradually solidifying for longer stretches of time as well as instrument details coming and going for more extended periods of time as well, just about completely solidifying into a harmonic whole at the very end. The patterns are hypnotic but repetitive, and despite all the movement from the individual instruments and inside the patterns this is also a one-dimensional beast. Minimalist, subtle and striking: A true gem for the right mind, but also the kind of music that can get on people's nerves in a major way. One might guess that this is the reason for why this is a bonus track on an EP rather than the main track of an album. A certain taste for minimalist music is needed to be able to enjoy this extended length EP, and while I suspect the total audience for a production of this kind will be somewhat limited in scope, those who get the music and are able to immerse themselves in these more expressive yet also relatively minimalist landscapes will find a lot to enjoy here. Progressive rock fans with a taste for expressive, minimalist and avant-garde oriented material is to my mind the most likely key audience for this production, and I'd recommend those who recognize themselves in such a description to have a listen to this one, starting with the title track 'Wasp 76b'.
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