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Motor Totemist Guild - City of Mirrors CD (album) cover

CITY OF MIRRORS

Motor Totemist Guild

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.33 | 11 ratings

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ShW1
5 stars This creation by James Grigsby is a very distinct one, even in RIO terms. It's written for a large ensemble that features a lot of wind instruments among other things. The first and prominent thing that come up to the ears right from the start, is the alternation between serious, 20th modern classical music sections, and combo-jazz sections, inspired (mainly) from big-bands, around the 20 - 30's era, as a tribute to Stan Kenton, a unique musician from that times. For those who are interested up to now, please read more details in the excellent bio here.

Most of the alternations are very smooth and made very wisely and carefully by Grigsby. Even the more shape alternations sound natural, so the experience from the listener point of view is not being 'throwing' into many directions without meaning or just arbitrariness, on the contrary. Once you are listening to serious avant music, performed very skillfully by the ensemble, and all of a sudden your leg starts to move to the bit of an excellent jazz combo with great solos, done by the same ensemble. All this create a very distinct listening treat.

Albeit the very high complexity here, one could easily get into the atmosphere of this record, right from the first listening. Tracks 2 to 5 offer an adventurous journey from (relatively) light, to much more dark and brooding atmosphere, as the music evolves. While each track could be listened to as a stand alone one, nevertheless the whole tracks together creates a true and unique album treat.

Track 2, 'Scarfnet', start as an avant guard song, sung by vocalist and flutist Emily Hay, and continue with a complicate instrumental development. Some of the jazzy sections lean towards Afro Cuban music, with calypso rhythm, bongos here and there and some other percussion as well. Great solos from Jerry wheeler on trombone, Jeff Kaiser on trumpet, and Vinny Golia on bass clarinet.

Track 3, 'Narcotic lollipop', is based on one motive and all sorts of blasting and trumpet calls. The theme goes from instrument to instrument, played in a different tempos and phases. The development is dense, even more complicate and unusual than before, lean heavily toward classical contemporary music. The breaks to jazz and vice versa still go on, with fantastic trombone solo from George McMullen, and 'crazy' saxophone solo from Lynn Johnston.

Track 4, 'Prudes Vs Libertines' is a kind of break from the previous two: a short and beautiful electronic piece. Tones and sounds here and there, intriguing chords, and many glisses characterize this track. The atmosphere is dark and haunting.

Track 5, 'Bixby Slough - interpretations by all players', is performed live. This track is a free group improvisation done by all, simultaneously. The players are moving from section to section altogether, correlate to each other, probably conducted by James Grigsby. Some of the previous motifs from tracks 2 and 3 are being used, include the jazzy ones. This part of the track will not come to an end before 20 minutes, leaving enough room for everyone to express. The top of all this occurrence are the last seven minutes of the track (not included in the time mentioned above): pure traditional jazz while Grigsby presents every band member and each member provide his/her own solo, on a very simple bass riff (helped by drums, guitar and piano). Even the sound and the micing are done here in the vein of a vintage 30's sound. The result is fantastic.

The 1'st and last track are apparently unconcerned: a relatively simple and melodic song, ('Tower of London' / 'Blood in the Tower'), performed first by vocalist Curt Wilson, and second as a karaoke mix. The satisfied listener could join humming, or follow the rich arrangement of this song.

This album is essential for those who are looking for a high-quality composed RIO, in a similar vein of John Zorn, Fred Frith and alike. (And even this description is an understatement). Unfortunately, the CD is OOP for a while (OOPS...). Personally I don't get how such a high quality effort could be out of print. (This record is the only MTG record that printed under Cuneiform records and not by Rotary Totem Records). It wasn't too hard to find a copy over the internet. It was a little bit more expensive, but it's worth every cent. I hope that this CD will be printed again in the nearest future (maybe under Rotary Totem), and obliged to buy an "authorities" copy of this great work, as soon as it comes available.

ShW1 | 5/5 |

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