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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mr. Averell

Gridlock

Review by Gary Hill

The main man behind this project is René van Commenée. He’s joined, though by people like Mike Garson (Smashing Pumpkins), Lene Lovich, David Jackson (Van Der Graaf Generator), John Ellis (The Vibrators), Judge Smith (VDGG), Hugh Banton (VDGG) and Stuart Gordon (Massive Attack). The resulting album is both cool and quite strange. It’s probably closer to performance art or musical theater than it is to real rock music. It’s clearly not for everyone, but it has its merits, that’s for sure. There are also some people who will probably fall in love with this.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lock

This is a short bit of atmospheric instrumental progressive rock.

Break the Mirror
Piano serves as the backdrop as a strange old-fashioned vocal line talks about the scene. When it gets to the chorus some organ is added to the mix. Other instruments are added later, but overall this feels kind of like a drunken old time tune.
Kiss the Girl!
A rather electronic vibe opens this. It feels like some kind of club music. Then we get a more filled out arrangement for a time, more proggy. It drops to just percussion and vocals and then the bass joins. After that builds out for a time, it drops to just drums and then the male voice comes over the top. It grows out to some killer jazz meets space rock from there. It alternates between these various sounds and is part performance art, part theater and part progressive rock.
Deliberately
Mellow, but dramatic prog, this is definitely theatrical. It reminds me a lot of some of the Italian progressive rock. This turns to a piano based movement further down the road.
Boxes
As this opens, it feels like a cross between church music and musical theater. It grows, but remains mostly rooted in those sounds for the first three and a half or so minutes. Then it gets a dramatic reworking. It gets louder and more rock oriented, but still is mostly theatrical in nature. It’s just that the keyboard sounds are more bombastic. One could also say that it’s more classical in many ways. It does wander towards noisier sounds beyond that. Those are definitely in line with Rock in Opposition. After a noisy crescendo, it works back out to the opening section around the six and a half minute mark.
The Fear of Dreaming (For Marijke) (a Weakness, b The Fear Of Dreaming)
Layers of female vocals create the dreamy introduction here. After the one minute mark waves of rock atmosphere rise up and the male vocals enter after a time. This is atmospheric for sure, but it’s also among the most “rock” oriented sections here. Eventually an even more rocking (but still fairly trippy and mellow) movement emerges. Before the four and a half minute mark some full fledged hard rocking music enters. That takes us into some pounding territory with space rock elements. There are also some classical and more mainstream prog sounds that emerge at times. Moments even call to mind Pink Floyd a bit. It does drop back down to the earlier, more stripped back territory later, though.
100 Presents
This is a less than one minute long section of keyboard and vocal weirdness.
Babel
A literal pounding sound starts this. It holds it feeling like one part industrial equipment and one part drum set. Some spoken vocals (more like soundbites) and what sounds like yard equipment join later. Then there are some spacey sort of sound effects added. This piece is quite weird and less than three minutes in length. More strangeness ensues before it ends.
Gridlock
Joint male and female vocals open the title track in theatrical fashion. The cut continues to evolve in psychedelic fashion before it drops into a killer soulful groove. Choral vocals take a section, but then it powers out into a killer fusion meets prog jam that really swings. This is definitely one of the most accessible tunes on the whole disc, but it’s still strange.
Sightseeings
Piano and vocals open this and build in another section that’s more mainstream. In some ways, I’m reminded of Pink Floyd quite a bit. It grows gradually with atmospheric, rather than bombastic melodies and sounds emerging. This is still theatrical, though. A wailing saxophone is heard in an instrumental movement later and carries on as the vocals return.
Unlock
This is a strange electronic atmosphere meets musical theater bit. It’s fairly short.
Rideehoo!!
In another example of musical theater of the absurd, this is like a sea shanty set to cheesy keyboard music. It gets more energized and playful (but no less odd) as it continues.
 
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