A Day At The Indies, Part 1
by David Cisco

In the three years that I've been contributing to Progressiveworld.net, my life has definitely picked up speed. Between the heightened pace of my professional life - instigated by the World Trade Center attacks - and the ever-present PW deadlines (which I always miss), I've come to feel like I'm running a race. What to do when one is breathless and exhausted but needs to catch up? Easy: Take a shortcut! So, instead of spending a day at the proverbial races, hastily writing reviews for every new CD, I'll take the shorter route and talk about some of the music I've received in recent months.

Interestingly, since moving to Iceland, my life as a PW contributor has taken a quantum leap. After Stephanie posted my Icelandic mailing address on PW, I started receiving more CDs than I could count. In fact, I've gotten more CD submissions in the past ten months than in the previous two and one-half years combined! Most of the CDs that land in my mailbox these days are from Europe, the U.K., Canada, and Japan; about half are independent releases and these are equally divided among well-established artists (such as Canada's The SuperGroovy Band, Italy's London Underground, and the U.K.'s Dave Bainbridge) to those who looking to break out of their local markets (Netherlands' NoCode and America's Hourglass and Sweatin' Like Nixon). This week, I want to introduce the American "breakouts," those groups with grass-roots followings and some internet notoriety.

First, I have to bestow a Dubious Distinction Award on America's own Sweatin' Like Nixon, who innocently managed to test military security and very nearly have their CD disposed of as a possible mail bomb, all because they didn't put my name on their package! Very cool, completely unique. As for Tunes For The Young People To Enjoy, it's a likable mix of r'n'b, blues, psychedelia, jazz, hip-hop, and progressive rock. Humor is everywhere; "Hot Pockets" exults the virtues of the freezer-to-the-microwave meal, while "Mature Post" pokes fun at a porn website dedicated to the wiles of 'older women' - not that I would know, of course! "Comfortability," a funky hip-hop workout, is "a shameless attempt at street credibility" that meshes perfectly with Sweatin' Like Nixon's more eclectic cuts. Funky and fun, Tunes For The Young People To Enjoy is designed to appeal to the younger audience, but should work for anyone who likes some grit in their prog. Check out Sweatin' Like Nixon at www.sweatinlikenixon.com.

Utah's Hourglass tread more familiar territory on their second album, Subconscious. The sound is reminiscent of Kevin Moore-era Dream Theater and present-day Enchant, heavy more on melody than metal. The songs are topical and lengthy (only two run under five minutes); "Mists Of Darkness" (I really like that one) and "Exit Wounds" are multi-part suites. Mainstay-guitarist Brick Williams acquits himself admirably by showing off some nice licks and writing all the lyrics on Subconscious. The rest of Hourglass are just as capable, and do a good job of keeping up with Williams. Particularly fetching are the Moore-ish keyboards of Eric Robertson and the "Portnoy Lite" drumming of John Dunston. The one complaint I do have with Subconscious is the production, which is just a bit thin for my taste, but that's just a minor quibble. For those who think that Dream Theater has gone too far down the metal path, then Hourglass and Subconscious should provide some welcome relief. Learn more about Hourglass at www.hourglassband.com.

Turrigenous is both the title and alias for the solo-project debut by Gregory Giordano, hailing from Lynbrook, NY, and previously a member of the band Evolution. In his press kit, Giordano proclaims that "Turrigenous is the resurrection of American progressive metal." Between us, I don't think American prog-metal ever died - Metallica and Dream Theater are still out there busting the boards - but Giordano does a fair job of carrying the mantle. His approach is certainly unique; Giordano handles all guitars, basses, vocals, and drum programming. Now, I despise programming, but Giordano coaxes some acceptable sounds from his computer, good enough in spots to fool the casual listener. The Turrigenous sound is a bit retro, one that would fit comfortably in the late Eighties alongside Dokken, Malmsteen, Iron Maiden and And Justice For All-era Metallica, with a touch of death metal thrown in for good (?) measure. The songs are pretty good, too, but start to sound "samey" about halfway through Turrigenous, with two notable exceptions. "Synthesis" is a quasi-Joe Satriani/Steve Vai style rocker, and "Losing Faith" would've fit nicely on Queensrÿche's Tribe, thanks to the rolling acoustic rhythm. Definitely prog-metal, but mostly metal, Turrigenous is the antithesis of Hourglass - if you like where Dream Theater is headed nowadays, Turrigenous may be for you. Visit Greg Giordano and read up on Turrigenous at www.turrigenous.com.

Even more retro is my last stop for this trip, the Marc Klock Group's Tentacle Dreams. If you enjoy(ed) Seventies fusion a la Jeff Beck, Lenny White, and Mahavishnu, you'll go nuts for Tentacle Dreams; I know I do! Guitarist Marc Klock has pulled together some of fusion's original pioneers, as in Mahavishnu violinist Jerry Goodman and bassist Phil Chen, who laid down the bottom on Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow. The group is rounded out by veterans Jimmy Paxson, Jr. on drums and Ed Roth on keyboards, including the compulsory Rhodes piano. Leader Klock is no slouch, either; tastes of Beck, DiMeola, Vai, and McLaughlin reflect in Klock's blazing rock and tasteful blues riffing. Goodman shows that he's still got it with plenty of solos and some fine duos with Klock. The songs are all over the fusion map, from furious rock ("Kaos") to spacey blues ("Vibe," "On Second Thought") to jazzy funk ("Chromophobe"). Highlights are hard to pick out, probably because of the lofty caliber of Klock's composing and the collective musicianship present, but my favorites are the Indian- flavored "Mummy Dearest," the bluesy groove of "On Second Thought" (featuring some fine horn from guest David Trough and a lovely Rhodes solo from Roth), and the very wild "Back From Mars", recorded in honor of McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Great stuff, every bit, but what really puts Tentacle Dreams over the top is the production. Leader Klock chose to forego modern methods and instead recorded the album on analog equipment to capture a genuine Seventies sound, and his choice was a good one: Tentacle Dreams sounds like a true contemporary of the halcyon greats and exudes a warm, organic ("dated" my ass!) tone not generally found on modern digital productions. Fusion fans, take heart - this is the best you're going to hear this year. Don't waste any more time dreaming about the good ol' days - check out Tentacle Dreams as soon as possible, and visit their website at www.marcklock.com.

With that, we've crossed the finish line for today's race. Next time, we cross the Atlantic and take a few laps around the indie track with some of Europe's up-and-comers. Excuse me while I visit the water stop...

Links: Hourglass, Sweatin' Like Nixon, Dream Theater, Enchant, Metallica, Dokken, Malmsteen, Iron Maiden, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Queensryche, www.turrigenous.com, Jeff Beck, DiMeola, Marc Klock Group

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Published on: 2004-10-03 (4594 reads)

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