Glass - Spectrum Principle

Year of Release: 2010
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4854
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:13:00

Glass' latest release, 2010's Spectrum Principle, is a head-trip, man. It's moody and noodily as all get out. You wonder what the brothers Sherman (Jeff and Greg) and Jerry Cook were smokin' in the studio when they recorded this ... even when they composed this. Not saying that they were smoking anything -- let's not start rumours -- but something was going on in there that had them trippin'.

But, it's not psychedelic. Spectrum Principle is a bit more than aural wallpaper, but it's so very mellow, man, that it's hard not to just, you know, bliss out. It's music to get lost in and let your mind wander where it will on some mental journey -- a journey fraught with odd creatures, bouts of depression, moments of elation and points in between. There are elements here and there that sound cheerful, but it's a tempered cheeriness. Not forced, but certainly not complete. Mostly, this album is dark, lonely, and not at all happy, at that mood is set with the open atmospheric piece, "Prism."

Instrumentally speaking, if you love keyboarded instruments - be they organs, electric pianos, synths, or whatever -- there's that aplenty on this. In fact, the use of Hammond (for example) on the album's first few tracks will have most thinking "ah, it's prog" just because that instrument (and keyboards/synths in general) is so identified with the general thought of what prog is -- yes, I know, it's mere perception; nevertheless, I think it exists. But then think of the classic examples one gives to the general audience - aren't keyboards of some ilk an identifiable element? Emerson, Banks, Wakeman anyone?

The journey Glass take on this release is varied to some degree. Even though 14 tracks are listed, they seem to occur in bunches, where a certain mood or feel is carried through a pair or trio of tracks. Not like they're linked together, as they have distinct starts/stops, but they are linked through mood - and titles. And can be, as stated in Musea's "info sheet": "[l]oosely defined as a concept-album, Spectrum Principle offers a unique view into the worlds of particle physics, quantum theory, human abstract thought and the possibility of alternate universes as seen through the unique perspective of Glass drummer and album producer Jerry Cook."

The journey starts with what might be described as jazzy-space rock; the track "Apathy," a piece that is layered with organs, pianos and Moog, ably added by bass and percussion. It is a track perfect for generating interestingly psychedelic shapes on your computer's music app's "visualization" feature, should you be playing on your computer and not a stereo system, where otherwise you'll have to create them yourself. Which means, yes, the mental images are more abstract than concrete. Its companion in category is "Quest." It's a more vibrant take, putting more emphasis on the jazz part of the space rock balance. It's not as fiery as Niacin, but the prominence of Hammond makes me think of that trio. And when the synths kick in with their ripples of parpiness, one can't help but think of Emerson, even if these here are a tartier, a bit ... shriller, in a way.

Even moodier is "Empathy;" breathy keys provide the canvas over which a sonorous piano takes lead while shimmering percussion gives everything a sparkly atmosphere. This is reflective of Greg Sherman's solo work, at that which I've heard thus far on Zutique, although there it was solo piano, and here there's the addition of the aforementioned percussion and bass. The feeling is of time-lapse filming, as maybe we see the day-cycle of a flower or what happens on a section of the earth in the span of a day. It's soothing and relaxing, and yet not at all truly mellow, as there's much action going one with each piano note, each cymbal crash, each throb of the bass string. A companion piece here is the Rhodes led "Blue Wednesday." This is the most "song like," the sequence of notes following a lyric-like fashion; there's a deliberate-ness to their arrangement -- which is obviously true for any composed music; here it's obvious in terms of making a particular statement, and given their repetition, restatement ... and a hint of familiarity, too. Like it's quoting some classic piece. Again, a jazz feel envelops this track

While drums do come more to the fore on "Quest," versus just the percussion, it is not until the sixth track, "Saturation," where the focus shifts entirely, as another mood - or mode - arrives. Here Cook's drums are the lead instrument. Subtle chirping effects give this an almost "tribal" feel, though verily, I'd venture to say, the rhythmic patterns on display give that impression anyway. It's a bit more "out there" and chaotic than any ritualistic percussion would be, so, you know, it's a good night around the fire with some good weed, man. It breathes, and everyone once in a while, I think this track (around the 5-minute mark) will coalesce into some rendition of "Another Brick In The Wall." Not the first time Pink Floyd comes to mind, and yet my knowledge of Floyd suggests ... well, I don't know. Probably need to pull out Umma Gumma or something before I say that. Actually, do you remember an early Steve Wilson/Porcupine Tree release, Voyage 34? Well, while pitched differently, with the spoken-word sections of a spiritual nature (not religious, but you know, about being one w/the universe, etc.), but the experience here is the same (and that carried through in various parts of the CD).

Another pairing is started with "Emptiness," where bass is the lead instrument; it's is anything but empty as it's filled with various sounds, spoken words... and yet... it's vast, and lonely, and it's a depressing emptiness that is felt. Even the ripping sounds that appear towards the end (and the "blowing winds" effect) sound oh so very grim ... it's a downer dude. Only the more energetic drums, which are like a calm but irregular heartbeat, seem to lift one of the funk (and into "Fulfillment," which sounds very much like Pink Floyd - circa "Wish You Were Here" (the track, not the album). The counterbalance to "Emptiness" is called "Fulfillment" and it is very much an uplifting experience; keyboard washes rise, lift one ever upward. This is repeated in "Hope."

"Awaken," which occurs much later in the album, is one of the few light and bright spots which makes me think of Genesis in way. "Atonement" is quirky, the closest to rock this album comes, if only for the briefest of moments, before something goes horribly wrong, like someone cut the power -- it winds down into an acoustic guitar interlude. Just as abruptly, power returns and we crank it back up... and things just go sideways; it's a 70s horror film as scored by a loopy Emerson... yet I'm not quite sure if it's Hammond or the mellotron...

In all, I'm not really sure what I think of this release. I fluctuate between liking it and finding it, overall, too static, in that various pieces seem to repetitive, getting too stuck in a pattern or phrase. And yet, when looked at from afar ... not seeing the forest for the trees ... it takes on that mental journey aspect, the repeated phrases, moods, tones becoming reassuring.

As of this writing, the trio is working on their next release, yet untitled, with an expected 2012 release date.

Prism (1:25) / Apathy (6:01) / Empathy (4:30) / Quest (5:57) / Blue Wednesday (5:16) / Saturation (5:17) / Emptiness (7:18) / Fulfillment (4:57) / Spectrum In Principle (1:33) / Awaken (1:36) / Atonement (7:38) / Edge (5:50) / Hope (3:46) / Destiny (2:16)

Greg Sherman - Hammond B3 organ, Yamaha grand pianos, Moog minimoog, Wurlitzer 200 electric piano, '70 Fender Rhodes suitcase, mellotron m400, Vox Continental organ v301h, Yamaha yc=45d combo organ, Korg Triton
Jeff Sherman - '74 alembic bass, '58 Fender Precision bass, '68 Martin d-18 guitar, '79 Fender Rhodes suitcase, Korg Karma, Alien Sonifer bent keyboard, sound samples
Jerry Cook - drums, voice, percussion, timpani, earth gong, rainstick, marxophone, balisian, xylophone, Korg Triton, sound samples

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

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 25th 2011
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2482
Language: english


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