Z-Axis - Music From Reality Check


Year of Release: 2000
Label: Gnosis Productions
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 70:30:00

Noted on the back sleeve as "Post-Progressive Rock/New Edge Ambience", Music from Reality Check represents the sound component of the Reality Check multi-media production which debuted in Atlanta GA in July 1999. The production combined the talents of composer/multi-media artist Allen Welty-Green, of the Mind's Eye Performance Group, and his band Z-Axis, and performance artist L.E. Udaykee - for this project collectively known as Gnosis.

The all-instrumental music would appeal to many types of progressive music fan - there's a strong prog rock component that made me think of Marillion often, especially the percussion. "Slow Glass" is where I heard this straight from the beginning, and despite synth washes and guitar accents, it is mainly a percussion driven piece. But there are also pieces that made me think of Steve Roach, Tangerine Dream, Djam Karet, and others. Not such that you'd say they were wearing their influences on their sleeve - these bands may not even have been an influence, but you can see how a similar idea and theme has developed. There are also moments where I thought of Mannheim Steamroller.

Occasionally, music designed to accompany visuals - live performance or computer generated - seems empty without those visuals, and even the conjuring of ones own leaves the listener feeling that something's missing. That is not true here; the music is rich and interesting enough that it can stand on its own. In fact, there is so much one could highlight about this album/soundtrack, that it'd end up being a track by track analysis. The bulk of the album is "Entropy & Alchemy," a four movement suite which begins with "Holy Ground," where a flute-like tone takes lead with an Asian feel... I imagined being high in the Himalayas, nothing but sky and mountain all around. The music phrase is repeated with synths in "Sky Song," itself consisting of two parts, "Atmospheres," which comes first, and "Heavy Breathing." Where "Atmospheres" is, as the title suggests, atmospheric, developing slowly yet with a forward momentum, "Heavy Breathing" picks up the pace, adding percussion. Guitar (Mark Baker) emerges for soaring lead breaks, then submerges again, only to reappear razor sharp and acidic. The keys sound contrastingly benign as they echo the guitar phrases - dark and light, light and dark. At keypoints through out this movement, bell-like tones chime. "Silhouettes" is the next movement, which begins with gentle piano (keys), flute-like tones, and wind-chime like percussion. This too is split into two parts, "Complacency Waltz," and "Blast From The Past." Higher pitched bell-tones chime in, and perhaps it's just me, but this particular tone reminds me of the winter holidays...and, obviously I suppose, "Carol Of The Bells," though the arrangement here is nothing like it. Mannheim Steamroller come to mind, but also, perhaps because of the piano sounds, David Lanz. "Blast..." is another driving, percussive rhythm piece with sharp, whip-like keyboard and cymbal accents...all of which seems to go by far too quickly. "Ebb & Flow" closes out the suite...and sounds eerily like something from an Andrew Lloyd Weber classic...Cats comes to mind, and while the phrase is the same as been repeated throughout the suite, only here does it sound like...well, the opening and closing notes of "Memory." Unlike the atmospheres of "Atmospheres" or the drive of "Blast..." this is a mid-tempo, contemporary instrumental piece. Again Lanz and Steamroller come to mind, but because of the full, lush, symphonic keys, think also of Jonn Serrie or Kevin Braheny (of the latter, I thought briefly of his Galaxies album).

You know that now over used visual effect of the frame remaining still while the camera moves around it? I think it was first used in the film The Matrix, but now it can be seen almost everywhere...well, at least in US commercials. Anyway, Steve Roach achieved the same effect with his music (and long before The Matrix) - that juxtaposition of stillness and movement. Z-Axis do the same thing with the aptly named "Suspension." Cymbals crash as keys generate chilly wind like sounds...suspended in ice like a 5000 year corpse (yes, I also read Archeology). The effect I quite like here is how either the percussion or keys twinkle, like bright light glinting of glass-like ice sheets. It's subtle, like your watch alarm, say, and yet so very effective. Soon (about 6 minutes into the 8-plus minute track), heavy, rhythmic drumming takes the lead (a slight warming), accented by percussion that sounds as if it were played on glasses, tapping out a tattoo on the rims. Words like shimmering also come to mind, perhaps the shattering of ice played in so motion, while the drama and anticipation of the moment is reflected in the pounding drums.

So ... there's about half-an-hour of this 70 minute disk. This is a wonderful album of music that draws you in listen after listen. Highly recommended.


Tracklisting:
Name Your Poison (4:44) / Slow Glass (6:23) Smoke & Mirrors??The Light of Other Days / Emperor's Cascade (6:49) / Entropy & Alchemy (Tracks 4-7) Holy Ground (3:46) / Sky Song (6:50) Atmospheres Heavy Breathing / Silhouettes (5:01) Complacency Waltz Blast From The Past / Ebb & Flow (4:48) / Suspension (8:48) / In The Country of the Blind, The One-Eyed Man Is King (10:15) Prelude Night Music In The Loop Busy Day / Homecoming (6:20) / Slat Dance (5:26)

Musicians:
Mark Baker - guitars, e-bow, and devices
Jeff Tyson - bass, percussion & devices
Phillip Hart - acoustic and electronic percussion
Allen Welty-Green - keyboards, programming & percussion

Discography:
  • Music From Reality Check (2000)

    Genre: Progressive Rock

    Origin US

  • Added: November 1st 2000
    Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
    Score:
    Artist website: www.gnosisarts.org/z/
    Hits: 866
    Language: english

      

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