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Track List: 1. Books of Bokonon 7:27 2. Stew 3:04 3. Electric Bread 4:35 4. In the Domain of the Dread Dormammu 7:20 5. The Transmigration of Mr. Natural 3:01 6. Malphus Inaugurated 4:03 7. The Performing Bestiary 2:22 8. Enter the Grand Vizier 3:11 9. Socks & Clocks 4:42 10. The Dark Cone of Orodruin 13:56 11. Orion - New Genesis 7:33 All tracks: by Naked Elf. Line-up: Rob MacGrogan - guitars Kelly Shane - drums Andy Tegethoff - bass; keyboards Produced by: Naked Elf. Engineered by: Jason Newsmith. Artwork by: Kay Stanton.
Preamble. According to the CD press kit, "Titled "Yi", which means "One" in Chinese, this album stake's the band's stylistic claim. All the songs were improvised with no prior knowledge whatsoever of the style or shape of piece, without pre-written parts. The music relies completely on the interplay and sensitivity of the players to each other and the music as a whole, along with a bit of judicious editing after the fact." It seems these guys are well familiar with Bokonon's books and teachings, as well as those of Vonnegut. Well, well, well: To all appearances, they should be good musicians.
The Album. Now, I see that I was incorrect assuming that the members of Naked Elf are good musicians. They're great musicians and also the most inventive and talented among those 'spontaneous' composers and arrangers that I've ever heard. So that's how things are! Well, well, well: Seven out of the eleven compositions that are presented on this improvisational all-instrumental album consist of definitely stable structures, even though everything here is in the state of a constant development. However, there aren't any Jazz-like improvisations on "Yi". Furthermore, these seven pieces: Books of Bokonon, Electric Bread, In the Domain of the Dread Dormammu, Malphus Inaugurated, Socks & Clocks, The Dark Cone of Orodruin, and Orion - New Genesis (1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10 & 11), sound mostly like being thoroughly composed. (Indeed, they are composed by a highly innovative method, which is prompt, yet, very effective.) The first five of them are about a novel fusion of guitar-based Art-Rock and Space Rock with elements of Symphonic Progressive and Prog-Metal. (I am just forced to use familiar terms to describe this music, which, in fact, is quite indescribable.) All of this, being raised to the power of a continuous development, which is a central hallmark of this album, is certainly nothing else but another manifestation of Fifth Element, which, in its turn, is new endlessly. Not random or amorphous, but concrete and very diverse interplay between solos of electric and bass guitar and those of synthesizers done with the use of all the possible essential progressive features and moving exclusively forward to the accompaniment of the continuously changeable parts of drums. That's what the music that is present on each of the said five pieces is about. At least in some ways, this music reminds me of a good-looking starship (the machine of a dream) that features perpetuum mobile instead of any other engine and flies through distant universes that are both mysterious and wonderful. The last track on "Yi", Orion - New Genesis (which is probably the destination of this 'expedition'), is also about Fifth Element and, overall, is closer to the aforementioned five compositions than any others. There are only a few of the elements of Space Rock on Orion, while for the most part, it consists of beautiful, (just magical!) symphonic arrangements of an amazingly touching character. New Genesis, after all, so that's how things are! The longest among the long tracks on the album (those that I've told about already), Dark Cone of Orodruin (10), is the only among them where there are more of the spacey landscapes than those that are notable for the symphonic and other Art-Rock related shades. While The Performing Bestiary (7), woven from symphonic and folksy (!) textures, sounds merrily and, sometimes, even jokingly. Only all three of the 3-minute tracks on "Yi": Stew, The Transmigration of Mr. Nature, and Enter the Grand Vizier (tracks 2, 5, & 8), are about somewhat of a complex spacey music. But although these are unstructured rather than structured compositions (unlike all the other pieces on the album), all of them are interesting in their own way.
Summary. Well, well, well: Everything (at least almost everything) on this album is filled with uniqueness, mystery, and magic. Any true Prog-lover should quickly understand that "Yi" is not only the great album, but also one of those 'eternal' albums that remain listenable (to say the least) for years to come, if not forever. I only hope that in the future, Naked Elf, as well as the other contemporary bands and performers, whose music is both highly innovative and truly inspired, will be as active as thousands of those whose tenacious efforts are still directed to dig up some treasure from the other's lots. So that's how things are!
VM: December 2, 2002
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