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Zimparty We Are Not Amused KVB liar (*) The Execution of Veit (*) The Voyage of St. Brendan - Abbot of Clonfert Sile Addition By Subtraction Vicodin Shuffle (*) Euzkadi Conflict Resolution Purging Mendel's Beasts (*) In-a-Gadda DaVinci Four Fields (*) Post Hocto-Proct (*) All compositions written by S. McGill 2001 (c) 'Hand Farm Music' (BMI) except (*): by McGill / Manring / Stevens. Engineered, mixed & produced by Neil Kernon. Recorded at "Giant Steps" recording studios (Absecon, New Jersey) October 2000. Mixed at "Village Productions" (Tornillo, Texas) December 2000. Mastered in HDCD by J. Gastwirt & R. Breton at "Ocean View Digital Mastering" (LA, California). Line-up: Scott McGill - electric & acoustic guitars Michael Manring - bass and e-bow Vic Stevens - drums & percussion With: Jordan Rudess - keyboards Neil Kernon - loops
Prologue. Yet another one Prog-source, apart from ProgressoR, the US Prog-label "The Laser's Edge" with this release just asserted that Progressive actually consists of three 'chief' genres - Art (Symphonic) Rock, Prog-Metal, and Jazz-Fusion (in the true sense of the word "Fusion", i.e. a confluence of anything different, - in 'our' case this is a confluence of Jazz and any Jazz-related music with one-to-few of the other progressive music genres). While we know that Prog-Metal bands are based on the first label division "Sensory" and the Label itself works with Art (Symphonic) Rock units, with creating the second division "Free Electric Sound" and releasing its first ProGduction as an album of true Fusion "The Laser Edge" has become the very first Prog-label working precisely in the three principal directions of Progressive Rock. (And ProgressoR is the very first and still the only Prog-site on which all the three 'chief' Progressive genres, so different among themselves, live in Harmony to this day.) All the three 'staff' members of McGill / Manring / Stevens ProGject, as well as their producer Kernon (though, especially Scott McGill himself and the fourth, guest participant Jordan Rudess) are persons famous enough to present each of them personally. The fact that another all-star-super-group (or super-project) is born becomes clear already at the first sight of the review heading (or at the cover of the CD itself). I had to listen to the album to know if it's super, too, or not too super. Now I know, so let's start.
The Album. This is music of solid quality, as well as the musicianship of each member and participant of the ProGject involved is top-notch. That became obvious already after the first listen to this all instrumental album. There's a need, however, for at least a few listens to "Addition By Subtraction" to comprehend it wholly, up to inaudible at the first sight (hear? listen!) details. Although this music is nothing but real Fusion - the blend of improvisational Jazz-alike structures with those referred to Progressive Metal, each of all the fourteen compositions here has its own specific nuances. In this respect, it is especially interesting that the album as a whole has the united, even monolithic stylistics. To describe "Addition By Subtraction", I've decided to divide the compositions featured on the album into several parts in order for each of them to contain at least more or less similar among themselves pieces. The first 'category' is the largest one on the album. Despite the fact that arrangements and improvisational parts of these pieces are very different among themselves (of course!) all of them have practically the same structural "scheme". Being played either by the three 'staff' members or together with Jordan Rudess on keyboards, these compositions represent Fusion in its true progressive sense. Thus, we have a real confluence of jazzy structures with that what we call Prog-Metal on the following compositions: Zimparty, We Are Not Amused, the title-track Addition, Conflict Resolution, and In-a-Gadda DaVinci (which reminds me of the Iron Butterfly album title). These tracks (1st, 2nd, 7th, 10th, 12th) are, in my view, the most diverse, strong and tight compositions on the album. They contain everything essential to be named the most progressive units on the album. Apart from frequent changes of tempos and moods, complex scores, time signatures, all these pieces are filled with diverse arrangements and improvisations. McGill electric guitar's variegated (just riff-alike) moves change with his long, fantastically virtuosic thoughtful solos and improvisations as well. Meanwhile the two bosses of the rhythm-section support Scott's guitar acrobatics always yet, most often, with solos of their own. And while Stevens does his work just excellent, Manring, playing a bass guitar, apparently wants to reach at least the same level of McGill's intricacy, if not virtuosity. Though, all the three tracks with participation of Jordan Rudess are the most wonderful in this collection, as his speedy yet always tasteful synthesizer solos on We Are Not Amused (this one contains Jordan's piano passages, additionally), Conflict Resolution, and In-a-Gadda DaVinci (tracks 2, 10 & 12 respectively) bring with themselves just the essential, in my view, very colourful additions to the music of trio. The second 'category' of more or less structurally similar pieces consists of The Voyage of St. Brendan - Abbot of Clonfert (track 5), Sile (6), Vicodin Shuffle (8), and Purging Mendel's Beasts (11). These compositions represent Fusion much closer to its traditional sense, though, thanks to quite frequent changes of themes and arrangements (let alone improvisations), the term like Prog-Fusion sounds more properly in their respect. First of all, none of these four pieces has a heavy guitar sound, except, maybe, Vicodin Shuffle in which some unusual yet short guitar 'roar' can be heard a few times. Practically each of these tracks demonstrates a wide-variety of improvisations or improvisational- alike solos from the direction of each of the three 'staff' members. McGill's acoustic guitar solo and rhythm acrobatics are especially wonderful and diverse, though there are a lot of his electric and semi- acoustic guitar improvisations, and Manring's bass solos are as if in constant chase of Scott's ones. Of course, there is much more place for drummer's shows in such instrumentals and Stevens does it all alone twice, and especially memorably - on Vicodin Shuffle. In the third 'category' I'd place KVB Liar (track 3) and Four Fields (13). Both of them are slow in tempo, unlike the most other tracks. They're also full of strange, unusual sounds to the "accompaniment" of which pulsating solos of bass and particularly a special monotonous roulade by the semi-acoustic guitar have a real hypnotic feel. There still remain three more tracks on the album, but again, they're so different that it's impossible to squeeze them all into one category. Euzkadi (track 9) is the album's only purely acoustic composition, and all the guitar acrobatics there are performed by Scott himself, certainly. Finally, there are two very short (too short, I'd say) pieces on "Addition By Subtraction", but when the first of them The Execution of Veit (track 4) is just a kind of prelude to the next piece, Post Hocto-Proct (the last track) sounds like an eruption of incredible joint playing the finale.
Summary. Thanks to the album's producer Neil Kernon "Addition By Subtraction" has a deep sound of high quality. Also, all these "so different" instrumentals that I just talked about were placed on the album very appropriately. They were very precisely intermixed for the album to be as wonderfully diverse compositionally as it really is. Although I've heard some guitar sounds similar to those that Allan Holdsworth firmly elicits from his guitar. I don't consider as a drawback just a few episodes of some resemblance between two major musicianship. Also such things as inspiration and (even) influence have nothing to do with stealing. So, hail to the first (and excellent) album of the true Jazz-Fusion genre on "The Laser's Edge". The addition of the third Progressive 'Whale' (as we know, precisely three 'Whales' support Progressive Rock) to the both other 'Whales' that already support the label looks really essential.
VM. June 30, 2000
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