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Gordian Knot - Gordian Knot CD (album) cover


Gordian Knot


Experimental/Post Metal

3.92 | 151 ratings

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4 stars Updated on Oct 4, 2008

A Review by Rizal B Prasetijo (my best friend in prog)

Gordian Knot is the self debut title album of Gordian Knot, a mixture of fusion jazz and progressive rock/metal band, in my opinion. The band is led by an extremely talented musician, both in theory and practice, named Sean Malone. In addition to be a successful guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, and Chapman Stick player, Mr. Malone is currently teaching music theory at the University of Central Missouri and has authored three books "Music Theory for Bassists" (was widely praised by a number of world leading rock/metal bassists, including Dream Theater's John Myung), "Dictionary Of Bass Grooves", and "A Portrait of Jaco: The Solos Collection". I am particularly impressed with Sean Malone's musical ability as he is the first bassist whom I know attempting to expand Jaco Pastorius' dissonance fusion jazz notes into the metal space. That said, before I am putting forward my opinion on the album, I would like to show my special gratitudes to Didit Suryadi (who first told me about this amazing band) as well as to Gatot Widayanto (who bought me the album). Jazakumullaah khairan katsira (May Allaah reward all your good deeds).

Gordian Knot is opened by spacey atmospheric keyboard liners, titled Galois (2:05). Here, Sean Malone's distorted electronic keyboards, with humming low frequency notes at the back, roar and attempt to mimic the complicated mind of Évariste Galois (the exceptional French mathematician, who was at his teens discovered the Galois theory, see for further details).

The next track, Code/Anticode (6:44), is a beautiful polyrhythm and polytempo composition written based on jazz chords, but using dissonant intervals to create tension and form the basis for a mixture of fusion jazz and progressive rock/metal. The guitar interplay between Ron Jarzombek (a crossover between Steve Vai's and shred guitar techniques) and King Crimson's Trey Gunn (generating King Crimson's famous Robert Fripp's guitar soundscape or Fripponic sound) is an interesting one. Sean Malone's semiquaver bass notes at the last 20 seconds of the composition are also ear dropping.

Reflections (6:49) is another polyrhythm and polytempo composition painted using a dark fusion jazz color. The song is begun by Sean Malone's crotchet and quaver bass metal liners, followed by Glenn Snelwar's rock guitar riffs. The composition turned into a mellow jazzy note at 0:58 and keeps alternating between dark fusion jazz/light metal ambiance and mellow jazzy note for the rest of the composition. Interesting interludes can be found when Mr. Snelwar puts his legato classic guitar notes (4:02-4:35) and when he and Sean Malone (using Chapman Stick) play combo guitar liners for almost one minute at the end of the song.

The next track, Megrez (4:00), is an experimental composition based on Trey Gunn's touch guitar and Sean Malone's bass, describing how dim Megrez (a star in the constellation Ursa Major) is. Indeed, Megrez is located 81 light years away from the earth.

Singularity (4:43), the fifth track, is one of the two best songs in the Gordian Knot's debut album in my view. Opened up by Sean Malone's harsh staccato semiquaver metal bass notes for 25 seconds, the composition is gradually dominated by a solo jazz rock guitar (performed by Ron Jarzombek), while Sean Malone's bass liners transforms into fusion jazz. Here, Mr. Malone put his musical intelligence and challenges his peers "Who said that metal can't be intermingled with fusion jazz and create a marvel sonata?" The dissonant, but smooth intervals between metal and jazz rock (solo guitars performed alternately by Trey Gunn and Sean Malone) continue for the remaining of the song. You shouldn't also miss Sean Reinert's amazing syncopated drumming between the 3:54"-4:43" interval. What a great composition!

The next track, Redemption's Way (6:58), is written based on jazz chords, but using dissonant interludes to establish a mixture of jazz rock and jazz. A computer generated Indian percussion (in the absence of information in the album sleeve, I speculate the instrument is either tabla or thavil), which is tangibly displayed at all time and adds unique ambiance for the composition, together with solo fusion jazz guitar liners performed by Sean Malone mark the beginning of the song. Then, Mr. Malone keeps changing the ambiance by using the combination of fusion jazz rock and jazzy chords/liners for the remaining of the composition. Perhaps because the strong color of the percussion, I can't clearly hear John Myung's Chapman Stick play in this track.

Komm süsser Tod, komm sel'ge (2:24) is Sean Malone's Chapman Stick interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's werke verzeichnis numbers 478 (Komm, suesser Tod, komm, sel'ge Ruh!). In addition to a distinct classical color generated by several independent diatonic melody lines from the Chapman Stick, the composition also has spacey atmospheric ambiance generated by the same instrument.

The eight track, Rivers Dancing (7:35), is one of the two most excellent songs in the album, in my opinion. Opened up by Ron Jarzombek's heavy glissando semiquaver guitar notes and Sean Malone's powerful metal semiquaver bass liners, the composition immediately creates a sense on how wild the water torrent in big rivers is. At 1:37", the tempo slows and an interlude between metal and jazzy tunes takes place. At 3:16", Messrs. Malone, Snelwar, and Reinar insert a somewhat Middle Eastern ambiance into the composition for almost 30 seconds, which is overtaken by Glenn Snelwar's metal demisemiquaver guitar notes. Back into jazzy liners (Trey Gunn's touch guitar is dominant in this interval), the composition was ended by Ron Jarzombek's roaring glissando quaver and semiquaver guitar notes. There is no doubt that the polytempo and polyrhythm sonata is a perfect personification of the river's zigzagging water stream in my ear drum.

Srikara Tal (9:16) is the worst composition in the entire album in my view. Dominated by computer generated tribal drum rhythm, the magical atmospheric sounds produced by Sean Malone's Chapman Stick as well as keyboards, John Myung's Chapman Stick, and Trey Gunn's touch guitar loose its content.

The album is closed by a soothing and relaxing composition, titled Grace (7:34). Started by nice multi-intricate guitar liners, the track has somewhat baroque Bach-like flavor. A delicate ballad played on the Chapman Stick that gradually dissolves into Fripponic soundscape, take the song to where it began.

Lastly, before I completed my review, it is very interesting to note a quote by Glenn Herbert Gould (a Canadian pianist, noted especially for his recordings of the music of J.S. Bach, his remarkable technical proficiency, unorthodox musical philosophy, and was one of eccentric as well as most celebrated pianists of the twentieth century) in the album inner sleeve: "The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity. Through the ministrations of radio and the phonograph, we are rapidly and quite properly learning to appreciate the elements of aesthetic narcissism - and I use that word in its best sense - and are awakening to the challenge that each man contemplatively create his own divinity". Indeed, to understand this complicated, but beautiful album you will need to hear it couple of time. You will not get the essence of the album and appreciate how genius Sean Malone is by just hearing on the first run.

I'm looking forward to review Gordian Knot's second album - Emergent - in the near future. Meanwhile, happy listening to Gordian Knot's self debut titled album.

Best regards, Rizal B. Prasetijo

Notes: We have conducted a series of regular ProgRing (Progressive Gathering) down here in Jakarta to discuss about recent issues in progressive music. Rizal has been very vocal in promoting how great Sean Malone's Gordian Knot is in the recent progring to the audience. In fact, we just met last night and he was still enthusiastic talking about Gordian Knot. Keep on proggin' .., Rizal!

A Review by Gatot

Having been satisfied with "Emergent" I chased back the debut album and finally I got it. I heard the Gordian Knot name quite long time ago from metal heads in my country and I though the band was a pure metal band until last progressive gathering (ProgRing) on end of May 08. Yeah, we have committed to have a regular prog gathering among those prog heads in Jakarta at least once in a month. One of the attendees mentioned Gordian Knot as a terrific prog band led by a bass player Sean Malone. When I finally got "Emergent" I was blown away by the album and I then wrote a review about it at this site. This debut album released in 1999 also impressed me at first spin. The music is a blend of jazz-rock, metal and King Crimson during Belew era (starting from Discipline album). Having completed enjoying two albums of Gordian Knot I reconfirm the fact that Sean Malone is a great composer.

With big names like Trey Gunn (King Crimson) and John Myung (Dream Theater), this album has secured its position even before I listened to the album yet. There was a risk, actually, by being overwhelmed by big names because if the music is just mediocre it would sound worst due to high expectation. Fortunately, it does not apply here with this album. In fact, what happened to me was: "No wonder the music is excellent because it's played by talented and brilliant musicians."

The album opener "Galois" (2:05) is named after a mathematician and it initially did no impress me due it's just an exploration of keyboards by Sean Malone. But at many spins I can grab the nuance of this opener to set the overall tone of the album. It reminds me to the nuance of King Crimson "Three of A Perfect Pair", ambient-wise. What follows is really an excellent composition "Code / Anticode" (6:44) with guitar-driven melody. Oh no .. it's not actually not something typical guitar solo instrumental as I can get the overall subtleties of this jazz-rock fusion type of music. On this track, Malone plays stick and keys, Reinert on drums, Gunn on touch guitar, and Jarzombek on guitar. I can hear clearly the interlocking guitar solos between Gunn and Jarzobek which makes this track truly wonderful. On bass guitar side, Malone plays the basslines tightly and dynamically. Drumming is also really cool.

"Reflections" (6:49) tones down the tempo and this time is the trio Malone, Reinert and Jarzombek, with Jarzombek is given a task on guitar solo. The guitar acoustic part is good. "Megrez" (4:00) is a slow track with great and tight bass lines in repetitive chords with ambient nuance accompanying guitar work. "Singularity" (4:43) is definitely my favorite as this has a progressive metal elements in jazz-rock mode. The music flows beautifully and energetically featuring great guitar solo and dynamic basslines. The music offers break which reminds me to King Crimson style.

"Redemption's Way" (6:58) is a unique track using tabla as main rhythm section through out the song. Enjoying the tabla combined with powerful basslines is already great. But not only that, as this track provides stunning guitar solo and wonderful textures and soundscapes. There are segments that remind me to King Crimson's "Discipline" album especially on the way guitar is played. "Kom Süsser Tod, Kom Sel'ge" (2:24) is another ambient bridge that, again, reminds me to King Crimson "Three of A Perfect Pair".

"River's Dancing" (7:35) is DEFINITELY A WOW!!! track with powerful and dynamic composition using gamelan Bali pentatonic notes as rhythm section which brings the music in fast tempo. Oh my God ..!!! I cannot believe with how brilliant Sean Malone is in composing this great track. It has all the dynamics as well as uniquness in terms of sounds. The guitar solo as well as the acoustic guitar are all great. The bass guitar work is also powerful. "Sri kare Tal" (9:18) is another ambient track with repetitive rhythm section in ethnical notes layered wonderfully by Myung's stick and howling guitar work. I like this track especially with the subtleties of bass guitar work. The song becomes more attractive when drums finally enter into the music as well. "Grace" (7:34) is nice guitar outfit that concludes the album.

Overall, this debut album of Sean Malone's project is definitely an excellent album with 4.5 stars. The key attraction is not just the composition, but the soundscapes and nuance of the music is excellent as well. Highly recommended.Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

Gatot | 4/5 |


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