West, Andy - Andy West With Rama 1

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA 9061-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:16:00

The music on Rama 1 might be justifiably described as instrumental progressive fusion metal ? or some combination of those words -- but not of the sort of Planet X. Whereas Planet X put keys prominent in the mix, owing to the presence of Derek Sherinian, here we get a lot of booming, stomping, throbbing dark bass courtesy of project head bassist Andy West (Dixie Dregs). It's not entirely instrumental, as there is one vocal track, "Old Meat Frame," with vocals from Mike Keneally, who also guests on a number of tracks? well, all of them. It's a piece that made me think of the Opeth influenced version of Porcupine Tree on heavy dose of acid. Keneally's voices are heavily treated, given a acid-burned metallic edge. No, no death howls (though he does howl at one point toward the end) or death vocals, but only by a matter of degrees. Joining West and Keneally are guitarist Toshi Iseda, drummers Rod Morgenstein, Jonathan Mover and Mike Portnoy, keyboardists Jens Johansson, T Lavitz, and Kit Watkins.

What results is a dark fusion that grinds and rumbles and rattles your bones like the heaviest of metal. It's music with an attitude that at first comes a cross as a less than cohesive mess, directionless. But give it time?patterns emerge? some patterns emerge, even if briefly. This is mammoth of an animal, thundering despite its bulk across a stark landscape of dark and twisted shapes. It's your nightmares made manifest with only the briefest of respite ? some lighter, jazzy textures in a couple of tracks ("Herd Instinct" and "Memento Mori"). "Qubit" industrial in sound, with clanging percussion that is, ironically, subtle. Here its West's bass that gets the focus in a more lead - and textured - role. Listen carefully, and you can follow his fingers as they walk over the strings, follow (though not necessarily anticipate) his thoughts note from note. Compared to some of the other tracks, it moves along at a leisurely pace, though a certain sense of urgency is still there. Like one in a hurry who is forced to be patient.

If there is a true lull in the energy, it is the meandering "Resonate," which includes percolating accent keyboards and bass, beneath musing lead keys, and a synths that seem to have brought along a host of other uncredited musicians ? a flutist, for one. But no, it's the synths. These "extra" instruments are used judiciously enough that their synthetic origin doesn't stand out starkly. Kit Watkins guests on this particular track, and I'm guessing it his he playing those tinkling piano notes that dance so prettily against this warm track.

"Herd Instinct" sounds as if it begins with a deep, blurting tenor sax, which more'n likely is synth. Over that we get some stealy sounding parpy keyboards. It's the keyboards that change over time, at times even sounding a bit piano-like. It's one of the more focused tracks here; certainly the grooviest. Playful and light, even while its heavy (very heavy, man), it recalls the quirkier of the prog rock bands (French TV, Bubblemath, Krakatoa, and erm, Mike Keneally? who is playing on this track). But they come right back with the acidic "Bloomsday," with screaming slide guitar, and a heavy stomp.

The tracks seem long ? not "is it over yet?" long, but "it must be ten minutes long since there's so much going on" long. And yet, in way, depending on your mood, they also seem long, and that has to do with their not being truly focused. You can't anticipate how or when (or if) a piece is going to end, but there are many stops along each journey ? points, really, as there are no "stops" of any kind until the end (though there are pauses between tracks) ? that provide interest.

The performances and production are impeccable ? and thus I find nothing to peck at in that regard. Although I didn't initially care for the CD all that much, there are many musical moments ("Herd Instinct" being my favourite) that have shifted that initial opinion. Perhaps by design, the most directionalless track (to create a word) is "Mad March," which opens the album, and, thusly, sets off the impression of the whole album. Interesting and worth a listen or a few?

Mad March (4:15) / Meetings (5:55) / Herd Instinct (4:36) / Bloomsday (5:29) / Old Meat Frame (4:50) / Memento Mori (5:05) / Qubit (3:24) / Government (4:08) / Resonate (4:54)

Andy West - bass, keyboards, guitar, synths
Rod Morgenstien - drums
Jonathan Mover - drums
Mike Portnoy - drums
Jens Johansson - keyboards, synths
Mike Keneally - keyboards, synths, guitar
T Lavtiz - keyboards, synths
Kit Watkins - keyboards, synths
Toshi Iseda - guitar

Dixie Dregs - Free Fall (1977)
Dixie Dregs - What If (1978)
Dixie Dregs - Night Of The Living Dregs (1979)
Dixie Dregs - Dregs Of The Earth (1980)
Dixie Dregs - Unsung Heroes (1981)
Dixie Dregs - Industry Standard (1982)
Dixie Dregs - The Best Of The Dregs - Divided We Stand (1989)
Dixie Dregs - King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents... (1997)
Various - The Show That Never Ends - King Biscuit Best Of Progressive Rock (1998)
Various - Alive Down South
Zazen - Mystery School (1992)
Zazen - Enlightenment (1994)
Zazen - Canyons Of Light (1995)
Zazen - Cayman Blue (1997)
Rama 1 (2002)
(plus appearances on others' albums)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: August 8th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.xen.com
Hits: 824
Language: english


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