Avant Garden - Maelstrom

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Blackfish Recordings
Catalog Number: BKFS-01
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:21:00

There is no casual entré into the confines of Avant Garden, you are plucked off your feet and deposited in the midst of their Maelstrom right with the first track "Dragon Feed." And only once you are fully ensconced does it throttle back and start to entertain at a more leisurely pace. Make no mistake though, this leisurely pace is still swirling about you with a metal ferocity - and in fact, if Rush were an avant-garde instrumental unit, this is probably what they would sound like. Like a jazzier "XYZ," to be a bit more precise...which was instrumental I know, but was it avant-garde? No. However, at just a little over 10-minutes, the track does seem overlong. There are many points along it's path where you think to yourself, ah it's about to end, and then it picks up again. Not like the false stops, mind you, where you think it is over, or a fade out/fade it, just that the it seems like they come to the end of the statement. Only to start over again... great playing, of course,... and it does eventually shift gears for a short passage, but I would have shortened the trip there by a couple of minutes, because it takes a while to get to a searing guitar solo from Brian Gould. On the way there, though we get to hear some hot horn blowing from saxophonist/flautist Flamp Sorvari, taut and punchy drumming from Jason Kenney, and basswork that is all over the map but grounded from Miles Gilster.

"Archemedes" is at first dark, as with King Crimson, brings in a bit of Jethro Tull with Sorvari's flute colourings, and at times sounds like a fusion version of the Yardbird's "I'm A Man" was used as launching point. Now this is a facinating piece that has much more movement and variation over it's 9-minute plus length, that the minutes go buy unnoticed (and but for the first track, I probably wouldn't even had made mentioned of times). This track plays things very tight, grinding around, harsh and acidic, with an edge the likes of which many a metal band would envy. Throw into this Sorvari's light an airy flute lines, and you have some interesting textures at work.

Respite is garnered from the mellow strains of "Oceania" -- say the word, see the gentle undulating sea, a near cloudless sky as a gentle breeze flaps your hair as you sail. There is an old world feel, a folky, Celtic feel. While the rhythm churns, the overriding sense is from the flute. Acoustic guitars enter at one point, playing against the flute. Here's the interesting thought - I kept thinking of the flute phrase that Anderson played for his guest stint on Honeymoon Suite's "All Along You Knew" (The Big Prize, 1985). Now, I'm not assigning any correlation, other than perhaps Sorvari is an admirer of Anderson and Anderson certainly gives his own flute playing a distinctive quality. Unfortunately, yes, it looks like another flute = Anderson reference, but I wouldn't make if I didn't think it. I say mellow, but these seas do get stormy at about 9 minutes in (this track is 12 minutes, yet doesn't seem that long at all). The storm goes from wicked flurries to something sinisterly calm -- like being in the eye of a hurricane. Steve Roach guests on this track, playing didgeridoo, while it also features 3 guest percussionists, Jesse Winn, Chris Dugan and JD Gardemeyer, the latter of whom, the liner notes, has joined the band as bassist. The album was recorded in 1998 and 1999, but released only in 2001.

"Into The Maelstrom" is aptly titled, as this is where the band really lets their hair down -- well, perhaps no more so than on the title track, but certainly as much so. Each player getting into their own groove that somehows seems to mesh well together and leds them to the same place. A cool point (on of many) comes at the end, when Sorvari and Gould play double lead - sax and guitar. Terrific stuff.

The album concludes with "Path Of The Farwinds." As did "Oceania," this begins in a very mellow, laidback manner. This is the kind of material one finds on a Narada or Miramar release - warm, textured, contemporary instrumental. But again, you know, with an album titled Maelstrom, and band name called Avant Garden, we aren't going to get just easy, gentle pieces. There's a darker undertone to even this piece, not necessarily sinister or anything, as elsewhere, but Gilster's deep, throaty basslines keep everything anchored, along with Kenney's taut and tense drumming, while guitars and sax take to the air. While they trade lead spots, it's not a competition, just each making a statement that compliments the other. By the time the track is almost over you have been fully possessed, dancing about like a deliriously happy whirling dervish, totally forgetting that there is a world outside, there, beyond those trees. You feel heady, drunk on life, drunk on the clear air the maelstrom has brought in by its passing through, sucking up the bad, the negative. You have been brought to an oasis...an avant garden of eden...

I heartily recommend you get caught up in the Maelstrom and find yourself landing in the verdant lawns of the Avant Garden.

Dragon Feed (10:03) / Archemedes Tub (9:14) / Oceania (12:32) / Into The Maelstrom (7:57) / Path Of The Farwind (18:25)

Brian Gould - acoustic and electric guitars, e-bow, glissando
Jason Kenney - drums and percussion
Flamp Sorvari - alto sax and flute
Miles Gilster - bass

Guest artists: Steve Roach - didgeridoo, spirit catcher, loops and percussion (3, 5)
J D Gardemeyer - percussion (3)
Jesse Winn - percussion (3)
Chris Dugan - percussion (3)

Maelstrom (2001)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 25th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: geocities.com/avantgardentheband
Hits: 1486
Language: english


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