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Hamster Theatre - The Public Execution Of Mr. Personality / Quasi Day Room CD (album) cover

THE PUBLIC EXECUTION OF MR. PERSONALITY / QUASI DAY ROOM

Hamster Theatre

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.37 | 22 ratings

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ShW1
4 stars the Public execution

If I would've been asked to describe HT music with a culinarian example, as we reviewers used to do just few years ago, I would say that the most suitable food for that would be an Israeli salad (or Arabian/middle east one, choose your preferred option). I don't mean a European salad, cut to some big pieces with a pale sauce (apologize for that). I mean to a basic component of tomatoes and cucumbers, added by onion, some other arbitrary vegetables, spiced generously with salt and pepper, and spritzed by lemon juice and olive oil. A crunchy one, which fill your mouth with abundance of tastes and textures. Such is Hamster Theatre music, juicy and mixed out from a lot of elements. Sometimes it's puzzling, sometimes not clear, but always interesting and unexpected. And even amusing, in a way.

In this album, we can find various compositions, most of them written by Dave Willey, (accordion and many other instruments), few by Jon Stubbs (trombone, keyboards and more) and one by Mike Johnson (guitars, mandolin, banjo). Some of the materials were written by Willey for a dance and multimedia show, so there is a mixed bag here. There are short pieces that clock in at even less than 2 minutes, but loaded with content and beautifully crafted and harmonized. Some are longer, with strange passages, and various moods and orchestrations. The two last pieces are quieter and simpler than most of the materials, and set the listener down to a calmer and peaceful mood.

Two or three tracks are catchier, clearly followed and easily recognized by 'what's going on' terms. 'Reddy 4 luv' (by Willey) sound relatively simplified at first, until you got the rhythmical tricks there, and the ever-changing simple notes, toward the unexpected end. 'Oye Comatose' (by Johnson) is carried on a twisted Latin rhythm and a two-note melody, a pastoral middle part that cut cruelly and humorous, and a pleasant guitar improvisation toward the end.

A very important characteristic of this band is the long list of instruments including some exotic ones such as harmonium, guitarron, prepared piano, and various percussion. All is ruled by Dave Willey's Accordion. What I like the most, are the woodwinds played by Mark Harris, who shines here with his clarinet, saxophones and flute.

In all, a very nice album, but I would like that for the next time, (if ever occurs, it's been 8 years already!) things will be a bit more organized, and dare I say, even 'conceptual'. However, I'm aware that this might stand in contradiction to the Hamsterian mood, which recalls for a deliberate blurriness, and built-in disorder. And after all, this is part of the magic in this music.

For beginners I would recommend to start with 'Carnival detournement' and then make their way up to this latter album. 'Carnival' seems to be a bit more focused. But don't count too much on that.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4, due to my sentiments.

the Quasi day room

That CD comes along with 'the Public execution' CD, and hold a live show in a place that actually called 'the Quasi day room'. Well it's a beast of a show. IMO Hamster Theatre is a band that, like a good Jazz effort, must be heard live, in addition to studio albums. There are many nuances that reveals better than the studio version, in a live form. The compositions leave enough room for improvisations, but not in a jazz manner, with its long solos and back to the standard. It's done here in those little variations on the tunes, where each player takes on their instruments. The musicianship, the interplays, the 'togetherness', are all outstanding. No doubt, there's a lot to dive into, not abandoning a great joy.

About a half of the show is dedicated to the 'Carnival detournement' album. It is unexpected to realize, how those 'weird' compositions, turned, as time passed, to a sort of classics, at least for me. Indeed, about 8 years have been passed since the first time I've heard HT, as 'the Dave Willey's band, that guy from Thinking Plague', as introduced to me at the local record store. I've listened a bit and thought to myself 'What the hell is going on here? Oh, I'll have to take it home and check it out'. Needless to say, the record store does not exist anymore, unfortunately, and it's a sign of the time, I guess.

The rest of the show is dedicated to earlier materials, which sound less complicated, more improvised, and a bit amateur, but I'm not counting that as a disadvantage, on the contrary. One piece worth mentioning is 'the Hamster dance', which also could be heard in the Thinking Plague's live album 'Upon both your houses', which sound quite different (another things where done there). Here it sound more natural, catchier, and with the strength of a full band.

So, since I've been a bit unfocused, I'll make a long story short: It's a one helluva show, that, if you are not convinced yet to go for this bargain, here you have a very good reason for doing so. (For now this 2CD set can be found at a reasonable price, at the Wayside store). The whole package is very worthy.

ShW1 | 4/5 |

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