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Stick Men - Prog Noir CD (album) cover


Stick Men


Eclectic Prog

3.72 | 84 ratings

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kev rowland
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Originally formed in 2008 by Tony Levin (Chapman Stick, vocals), Pat Mastelotto (drums) and Michael Bernier (Chapman Stick, vocals) (hence the band name), the line-up changed in 2010 with the departure of Bernier and the addition of Markus Reuter (touch guitars, vocals). This 2016 album was their fifth studio album, and comprises songs that were specially composed for the purpose, as opposed to ones that they had worked through on the road. I must confess that the first time I played this I really wasn't too sure, as although the musicality on display is of course of the very highest order, I felt the songs were contrived and not allowed to expand to their full potential, while the vocals weren't doing anything for me at all.

But, as is often the case with music of worth, the more I played this the more it grew on me, until I found that my views were quite at odds with what I thought initially. I'm not even sure how quite to describe this to someone who hasn't come across them prior to this, as Pat and Tony are often taking the lead, with Markus providing additional tonal elements which often don't even sound as if they are coming from a guitar at all. Pat seems to have been at the top of the drumming game forever, while Tony is recognised as the world expert in the Chapman Stick, and they have been playing together in King Crimson for more than twenty years. This joined experience means that they know exactly what each other is going to do, where they are going to move, so it is no surprise that they fit together seamlessly. Then there is Markus, who adds additional tonal colour to everything that is taking place: I'm not sure how he always finds room among Tony's double-handed 12-string attack, but find room he does, creating a sonic assault that brings everything together.

Instrumentals like 'Schattenhaft' are simply stunning, while 'Plutonium' is a wonderful little song that is bound to bring a smile to any proghead. As I write this Stick Men are touring South America, and I just wish they would make the little trip over to Australia and New Zealand, as I would be great to see them play. There is a song on here called 'Leonardo', and there can't be many bands who dedicate a number to their manager, but richly deserved as Leonardo Pavkovic must be one of the hardest working people in the business and remains one of the nicest. This is an album that demands repeated playing, but more than repays the effort.

kev rowland | 4/5 |


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