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Van Der Graaf Generator - Trisector CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.51 | 450 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Rhyming Without Meter - VDGG's new album is a return to form, but does not quite reach the heights of their 70s masterpieces.

At first glance the cover art reminds one of the pyramid structure of PF's 'Dark Side of the Moon'. The 3 members are shown with laser lights forming the pyramidical icon - the trisector - there are now three; Banton, Evans and and Hammill. The trisector signalling the train VDGG - 3 virtuoso musicians. But does this live up to their classic works Pawn Hearts, Godbluff, Still Life, The Least We can Do and H to He... ??? No, but it is certainly great music, played very differently, in some ways more mainstream but distinctly prog.

'The Hurly Burly' is an instrumental that is pleasant enough though takes a few listens to completely enjoy but it really grows on you. The Shadows style twanging guitar is particularly good. It now rates as one of my favourite prog instrumentals.

'Interference Patterns' has that familiar esoteric existentialist lyric -

All that we see illusory every assumption based on blind faith alone.... On with the motley, bring it home! Everything's formed from particles, all that you see is a construction of waves. Hold onto both thoughts, under general relativity the cradle connected to the grave.

Banton's organ is played with an asymmetrical time signature to Hammill's blank verse in emittable style, a recitative style that is distinctly VDGG. The scientific psycho babble though is overshadowed with the frenetic shifting metricla shapes of music. There are pauses, pulsating rhythms and changes in texture throughout. A great addition to VDGG catalogue.

'The Final Reel' begins with the contemplative piano of Hammill and speaks of Jack and Gillian (a bit kitsch) who are facing their decline into a broken relationship. There are thoughts of suicide as they contemplate taking the final dive. A very downbeat song but beautifully performed.

'Lifetime' begins with the jazz improv style drums of Evans underneath a layer of brooding organ. The lyrics are familiar to the VDGG catalogue.

I could foresee what was to come, I had a sense of what might happen. The river runs and very rapidly becomes a torrent, sweeping us towards our ricochet. It takes a lifetime to unravel all the threads that have tied us in our webs of tourniquet. I stake no claim on memory. I stand on ceremonial quicksand. I look for something with solidity to hold: something lasting, something pristine, with no sense of decay.

Let the current sweep you away, memories are like quicksand, so we must unlearn all that we know in order to return to the things we borrowed for a day - the things that last are all that we hold dear. A sad ballad of remorse and reflection of what could have been, similar to Hammill's solo material.

'Drop Dead' turns up the pace and rocks hard with a driving guitar riff, one of Hammill's best guitar performances. The hammering organ is a delight on this track. It' about how a woman deflates the bloated ego of male testosterone charged masculinity with 2 words - Drop dead! A parody of broken relationships, the star of this track is the hard driving rhythm. There are references to fairy tales within and some of the most endearing lyrics are prevalent:

In a sense some men are always caught in adolescence, trying to crack the mystery girl cocoon. It doesn't take a wicked witch to point out obsolescence is a state they might wake up to pretty soon. Is it any wonder when they hone that perfect put-down to deflate the macho tough guy male buffoon?

A more pensive track follows, 'Only in a Whisper'; the lyrics suggest the cyber society of faceless people who say they are one thing but are really another.

Welcome to the Power of Self-deception, head high in the grip of Holy Deadlock. Don't count on the way your days are numbered, listen to the wind which whips your every word away. Word-drunk, has the Inquisition found you? Weight falls on your shoulders, under pressure. Black dog in the desert heat will hound you - hang on, only Faith is holding us together.

Take it as you will, the lyrics are as in depth as Hammill can get. The track is quiet musically at first and builds up only to be taken down to the minimalism of the opening section.

'All That Before' is an outstanding return to form after some mediocrity in the last couple of tracks. Hammill's vocals create the off kilter rhythm accentuated by sizzling keyboards. I sorely miss the sax at times like this, however the track is filled out my multi-layered organs and fuzzed out guitars. There is an excellent section 3 minutes in with a strange metrical signature that overturns the structure.

The longest track is 'Over The Hill' clocking in at 12:26 and it is one of the best. It begins slowly, patiently with emotive lyrics and soulful organ, cabaret style. The piano chimes in the key motif and sends the song into a new direction with time sigs that are hard to define in their complex arrangement. The organ and piano answer each other and explode in to a new rhythm that bursts out as Hammill declares "If we're living as though Gods at our shoulders, if we're giving of our best, by an effort of will, then we'll be up for the test, we'll never know when we're over the hill." VDGG's members are getting older so this is a type of autobiographical examination of their existence today. Their music is as vibrant as ever in the midst of mainstream mediocrity. The album is a welcome addition to the third wave of prog - there is definitely room for the progenitors of prog to continue with innovation and a daring sense of abandon.

The album ends on a bleak note - 'We Are Not Here'. There is an excellent out of sync rhyming pentameter, a non- syllabic phrasing that works well. Hammill sings "vibration without meter" as if to inform his listeners of the type of music they are hearing.

'Trisector' is a great album, and though not to the standard of their classics, there is still a lot on offer here. Hopefully there are greater things to come from VDGG.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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