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Terry Bozzio & Billy Sheehan

Nine Short Films

Review by Gary Hill

Terry Bozzio wrote the lyrics to this and provides all the percussion and keyboard textures. The majority of the guitar sounds on this CD are not truly guitar but keys that sound like guitar provided by Bozzio. For a sense of brevity, they will be referred to in the track by track reviews as guitar, though. This is probably one of the most unique albums you will ever hear. It is a very dark collection and not exactly what I would call an easy listen. The texture is very different than anything you have probably heard before. I have included it in the prog section based on the fact that both Bozzio and partner for the album Billy Sheehan are prog artists, and that this album is hard to classify, but it certainly isn't prog in the classic sense. Comparisons to King Crimson and even Rush or Pink Floyd are present, but truly this is a work all its own. Unfortunately a certain sameness pervades the disc. I can't say I would recommend this to everyone, but truly those with a sense of adventure, and looking for something different might be well advised to check it out.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound..

Track by Track Review
Live By The Gun
This is frantically driven hard edged music with a tone that is quite dramatic. The vocals are almost whispered and a lot to the tone of the piece. A staccato pattern and weird effects take the cut into space late, and then a slower pattern becomes the rule for a time. The frantic mode returns later and wandering guitar over top truly makes it all the better.
Black Wisdom
Dark atmospheric tones start this, then a burst of sound stomps in for a moment. Then more atmosphere returns. The bursts continue to punctuate until full on taking over for the verse. The vocals feel a bit like newer King Crimson, and the music on the chorus is a bit like Rush. This is a dark and unique number. It drops to a bass driven segment with low volume vocals over top. Then a nicely syncopated rhythm patter with noisy melody emerges, taking the composition in new directions. The bass is so incredibly fast at points here and those over-textures remind one of Djam Karet a bit.
Water and Blood
An almost jazz rhythm starts this, and more gritty vocals are the focus of the early segments. Dark and eerie tones seem to merge atmospheric Floydian textures with an ominous Crimsonish sound. It drops to the sedate with spoken words later. The music here is sparse percussion and bass work. Then a very modern King Crimson type jam moves the cut forward. This gets rather cacophonous, but the track eventually returns to earlier modes.
Tornado Alley
A rhythmically driven cut, strange tones swirl around the vocal line. This is dark atmosphere that features a fast paced instrumental break and more Crimsonish sounds. Sheehan showcases more frantic bass work here. A jam late in the piece is especially strong.
Distant Horses
Heavy, deep fast-paced bass starts this and, accompanied by interesting percussion patterns, serves as the basis for this number. This gets rather complex, but very gradually. After a time it drops to textural tones, then a new melody begins to emerge. This segment, although still dark, has some of the lighter textures on the disc. It returns to the earlier modes as the vocals come back in.
One More Winter
This starts dramatic, but in some of the more melodic modes of the album. The vocals certainly bring in the darkness, though. This is another that builds slowly. It doesn't wander far in terms of song structure, but various layers emerge bringing new meaning to the musical themes. This ends in dark atmospheric, ethereal tones.
Edge of A Circle
The dark textures start this, but the cut switches to a fest paced, crunchy progression that is one of the easier portions on the disc on which to latch. This is a strong rocker. A screaming guitar solo, the real deal this time, is provided by Sheehan and Rushish texture emerges mid song.
Finger Painting
The first of two instrumentals on the album, frantic bass and drums intertwine and dance around each other. Then hard edged Crimsonish textures skate on top of this element for a time. Then it drops to just percussion before keys tentatively come in. Eventually this gives way to another fast paced bass line, then the Crimsonish textures return. The musicians build this up in terms of energy and Bozzio really gets the chance to indulge his percussive wanderings. This is intriguing and quite dynamic. It drops to the sedate at times. The bass actually gets rather funky from time to time, too.
The Last Page
Meaty bass lines begin this. As it carries on some of the most traditional prog moments emerge in the instrumental interplay, feeling at times a bit like Bozzio's old band UK. This is less dark than much of the material presented here. The bass work on this one is some of the most musical on the disc, truly taking the lead for a while. It drops to more sparse arrangement at times. It is another that shows leanings toward the sounds of King Crimson. The vocals only show up as spoken words barely heard. The varying musical patterns on this make it the most effective piece on show here.
Sub Continent
The second instrumental and album closer, gentle atmospheric tones make up the intro here, but then the cut wanders into a freeform weirdness. Much of the percussion here feels almost tribal, and the whole presentation has a world music sort of texture. This is an odd composition in the same way that the works of composers like Varese and Cage were odd. It certainly menders.
 
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