Glass - Illuminations

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4594.AR
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:55:00

American band Glass' debut album, No Stranger To The Skies was recorded in the mid-70s and released in 2000. While Glass hadn't broken in 70s -- that is, garnered a national following -- they did gain a measure of recognition in their home region of the Pacific Northwest, playing colleges and coffeehouses, they note on their website, and in England, where they relocated for a time. However, it wasn't until 00s that the band came to wider attention, including playing at ProgWest in 2001, BajaProg and the inaugural Progman Cometh in 2002, and the second edition of ProgMan Cometh in 2003. And the re-release of that first album by Musea Records in 2004 brought the band more attention and a second appearance at BajaProg. Things were happening. Still perhaps not a household name on the order of those whose names echo in the hallowed halls of progressive music, this trio -- brothers Greg and Jeff Sherman and Jerry Cook -- returned to the studio to record an illuminating album of instrumental progressive music called Illuminations.

Although Glass do not really play progressive rock here, their progressive rock roots are not totally abandoned. Some of their initial influences can be heard, but the majority of the music can be described as something more analogous to symphonic, progressive classical electronic music. We get delicate, transparent atmospheres filled with smoky ambience, shifting and distorted images and reflections, glints of light off a smooth surface (glass, of course). That's at least how to describe the first two pieces of the 3 part suite "The Secret Life Of Aqua J. Long" ("Astral Transascension" and "Isle Of Dyslexia," the latter of features guest Hugh Hopper on fuzz bass accompanying only Greg on keyboards and loop samples). The richness and modern arrangements and tonal palettes hint at amalgams of some of those hallowed names -- ELP and Kansas -- but also mix in some warmer, more vibrant Tangerine Dream, and the evolving sonicscapes of Steve Roach -- though I can't say they'd say the latter two were an influence at all. At times the mix approaches the music you hear backing computer animation ... Now, don't think Glass have gone "new-agey" or anything (referring to the worst crimes that genre committed, of course, not to the stuff that got swept in).

This is the rough sketch. You will not hear anything specific to any one artist in any of the pieces, save one. That one is the first moments of the opening track, which recall at first "White Room" then a few bars of "Whiter Shade Of Pale" and then it goes off onto its own. Although, on this piece, as well as the later, 6-part, "Alchemy Of The Word" suite ("Eclipse," "Wanderlust," "Eternity," "Reprise," "Delerium" [which uses voice mail messages between band members and others] and "Falling") there are those strong echoes of Kansas, Glass Hammer and ELP - that mainly in the Hammond organ and Hammond organ-like parts that Greg plays (mostly really Hammond). "Falling," is the oddball, as it returns to grand piano, here accompanied sparse drumming and shimmering percussion... it reminds me a tweensy bit of Alan Parsons Project's "Time."

The third part of "The Secret Life..." is murkier, darker, full of rumbling drums, haunting whisps of figures escaping out into a darkened room. It's all tribal, pulsating, living and breathing percussion called "Medicine Man," all played Cook on drums, percussion, voice (he recites), tympani, and gong. It's otherworldy and innerworldy. Listen with headphones and eyes closed - or at least with the lights off and eyes closed - and be transported to some innerself.

Although "The Hidden Room" is a piece performed by Greg alone on a Korg O1W keyboard and piano strings, you'll swear you hear a harp and shimmery guitar playing as well. This is a peaceful and calming piece, even as the notes themselves run through agitated moments - they are mere ripples in a smooth, glassine lake.

Jeff's solo spotlight comes with "My Tantric Gatito" where he plays alembic bass (and rich and sonorous sound) and includes modified sound samples (some abstract like the sound of winds and indistinct, haunting voices -- these almost derigidoo-like -- others distinct like the percussion of windchimes). It's at once sparse and cavernous.

"Crossing" is a moody jazzy piece that puts a fat and fuzzy bass tone up front, adds to it jazzy grand piano figures, and sparse percussion. About half way through, we get instead some very acidic, cutting tones... and latter sonic effects that leave in their wake a piece that feels more spacey than jazzy, even as the piano keeps the piece grounded to where it started.

In all there are 15 tracks, the middle 12 grouped into three sections; the above mentioned "The Secret Life..." and "Alchemy Of The Word," the third part being "Electronic Synaethesia" comprising "The Hidden Room," "Crossing," and "My Tantric Gatito." The closing two pieces are "Slightly Behind All The Time," which includes Jeff on Rhodes, Jerry on drums, and Greg on the Korg and an Arp Odyssey Synthesizer... a return to their syntho-electric sound ... and "Gaia," a piece that brings in guests Richard Sinclair on voice, Phil Miller on electric guitar, and Paul Black to join Cook on drums (Jeff plays a Roland A-90 and incorporates a fuzz bass sample, Greg creates choirs and bells on his Korg) to create a breathy, atmospheric, part-world, part-classical, part-instrumental rock piece... Miller's string-bending providing that rock element, the Roland the classical and the voice and percussion providing the world element.

What all this results is an album that flows together well - the prog-rock elements a good companion to the more ethereal and esoteric parts. For me, it's not quite a perfect album, because the jury's still out on "Delirum" and whether the voice-messages are a good addition or obscure to much some fine music. But, that is the only scratch on this fine surface. I'd say, pour yourself a Glass, but that just might be a very cheesy ending to a review of a very classy album. Though it's a quarter point off a perfect 5/5, since I'm not using smaller fractions, think of it more as being 4.95/5...

Overture (5:43) / The Secret Life Of Aqua J. Long: Astral Transascension (7:12) - Isle Of Dyslexia (3:14) - Medicine Man (5:30) / Electronic Synaesthasia: The Hidden Room (3:42) - Crossing (5:10) - My Tantric Gatito (3:49) / Alchemy Of The Word: Eclipse (2:46) - Wanderlust (2:38) - Eternity (1:57) - Reprise (1:35) - Delirium (5:00) - Falling (2:23) / Slightly Behind All The Time (5:57) / Gaia (6:10)

Jerry Cook - drums, percussion, gong, bells, tympani, voice, e-drums
Greg Sherman - Hammond organ, mellotron, Korg O1W keyboard, Roland A-90 digital piano, tape loop samples, piano strings, grand piano, Arp Odyssey synthesizer
Jeff Sherman - bass, alembic bass, bass pedals, modified sound samples, voice message samples, Fender-Rhodes piano, Roland A-90 digital piano, Ensoniq Dsk 1 (fuzz bass samples)


Hugh Hopper - fuzz bass (3)
Richard Sinclair - voice (15)
Phil Miller - electric guitar (15)
Paul Black - drums (15)

No Stranger To The Skies (2000)
Illuminations (2005)
Glass Live At The Progman Cometh (2007)
Spectrum Principle (2010)

Genre: Various Genres

Origin US

Added: February 12th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1731
Language: english


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