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TRACK LIST: 1. The Basic Mobility of a Small Boy 6:26 2. Logorrhea (in 3 parts) 16:40 3. Banana Tree Roots with Ants 7:26 4. Theme for a Collapsed Blue Civilization 7:10 5. Self-portrait As a Venerable Shrub 8:16 6. Slaves of Time 1:51 7. Wisdom 11:32 8. The Deep Pain of the Dung Beetle 7:10 9. Wisdom Returns 2:41 All tracks: by Six-Fing Thing. LINE-UP: James Cobb - varied saxophones & woodwinds; - keyboards; vocalizes; hand percussion; guitar; - programming, looping, etc James H Sidlo - guitars; cello With: Johnny Rodriguez - keyboards; voices (on 2) Gabe Herrera - drums (on 2) Russel Hoke - banjo; voices (on 7 & 9) Bobdog Catlin - hand percussion; voices (on 3) Forrest Cobb - vocalizes (on 2) Produced by J. Sidlo. Engineered by J. Cobb at "The Six-Fingers Club".
Prolusion. "Self-Portrait As a Venerable Shrub" is the first album by San Antonio's (TX) band Six-Fing Thing led by multi-instrumentalist James Cobb. However, James, as well as his long-time collaborator and namesake >James Sidlo, has a glorious progressive past and many officially released CD, >one of which I reviewed just lately. For more info, check Related Links below.
Synopsis. Overall, "Self-Portrait As a Venerable Shrub" is musically even a more unique album than Pseudo Buddha's "Three Months in Fat City". On the other hand, this album doesn't shine with a complete stylistic coherence, which, though, unlike some other things, can hardly be considered a drawback. But well, I'll better move step by step, starting with the tracks I like a bit less than the others. The album opens with The Basic Mobility of a Small Boy, which is indeed rather a mobile composition. The main events are developing in diverse interplay between the very Mellotron- and strings-like sounding passages of Moog and solos of flute, all of which are clearly symphonic in character, and pronouncedly jazzy solos of a few saxophones and vibraphone (or something like that: marimba, etc). Negative aspects: the absence of tempo changes, the presence of some solos of saxophone and vibraphone done in unison with vocalizes. All the participants but James Sidlo have for some reason 'contributed' their voices and related human noises here and to a couple more tracks. These are mostly 'spontaneous' exclamations, whispers, etc, but always unnecessary, especially those (really idiotic) on the last and one of the best tracks on the album. Such an original and serious music as is presented here and any flat jokes are just incongruous things, IMHO. At least, someone should tutor in >Etron Fou Leloublan before doing this. The 16-minute Logorrhea (2) features three parts, all of which are radically different from each other. The first part represents a unique, dramatic and moderately dark, Symphonic Space Fusion with distinct elements of music of the East and RIO and some of those of electronic music. Overall, this is an amazing masterpiece with fantastically inventive solos of guitar, saxophone, organ, and Moog at the helm of the arrangements. The third one, consisting of very complex interplay between baritone, alto and tenor saxophones, is something average between a classic and jazzy RIO and is also a masterwork, whereas the second part of Logorrhea is just flooded with effects and noises. Thankfully, it is short. Beginning with Banana Tree Roots with Ants (3), which combines Avant-garde, symphonic, jazzy, and 'Latin' textures, the music is getting more and more free of elements of electronic music and effects, and all the further tracks on the album are either almost free of them or free at all. The only regrettable omission concerns the album's title track (5). For what a terribly sounding drum machine was switched on in the middle of this brilliant composition? To accentuate the dramatic and, what's central, very complex RIO-like arrangements? To be precise, this is a blend of both of the Classical and Avant-garde categories of Academic Music (not a dodecaphony, yet). It lies in the basis of all six of the last compositions on the album, and as well as Logorrhea (at least on the whole), all of them are rare gems, regardless of some senseless features available on two of them. Please believe me, any flaws are fading away when music is as brilliant as in this very case. In pure form, the said symbiosis is presented on Slaves of Time and The Deep Pain of the Dung Beetle (6 & 8), while Wisdom and Wisdom Returns (7 & 9) contain also elements of Jazz-Fusion and folk music. Theme for a Collapsed Blue Civilization (4) has been performed with the same instruments as the third part of Logorrhea (see above), but is the darkest and most dramatic composition on the album. This post-modernist requiem performed by dints of Minimalist, Classical and Avant-garde Academic Music and dedicated to some Blue Civilization is a proper music for our humanity as well. Indeed, we lost our way in the wood of only one tree - the tree of knowledge of good and evil - long ago and forever. In any case, the world of music is certainly much better than ours.
Conclusion. Most of the pieces on this remarkable album are too complex to be comprehended even after a few successive listens. Nevertheless, the hypnotism that this music is filled with despite of its intricacy will definitely be of help to those really looking for new forms of progressive music. In other words, welcome to the feast all the academicians and ProgFessors! Don't cast doubt on this recording - overall, this is a mind-blowing masterpiece.
VM: January 20, 2004
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