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Ut Gret - Recent Fossils CD (album) cover

RECENT FOSSILS

Ut Gret

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.19 | 7 ratings

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Mirakaze
3 stars Don't be fooled by this leviathan of an album: If you go into it knowing exactly what you're in for (as I did on my second listen) you'll probably have a fairly enjoyable three and a half hours of music (!!!) ahead of you, but if you expect a grand, epic, career-defining statement combining all the various strengths of this remarkably multifaceted and innovative avant-prog ensemble (as I, perhaps na´vely, did on my first listen) you will likely be disappointed.

So what should one expect then? Disc 1, composed entirely by Gregory Acker, presents us 18 world music pieces inspired by Indonesian gamelan, with emphasis on pitched percussion, woodwinds and zithers, regularly accompanied by western instruments like saxophone, electric guitar and (near the end) a bass guitar and a drum kit. While it's quite relaxing and pleasant to listen to, it all sort of blends together after a while; the only pieces that truly stand out are "Cirro-Stratus", with its cute Penguin Cafe Orchestra-like melody and cool guitar arpeggios, and "Par Ti", on which all the woodwinds are given the opportunity to jam out in a straight-forward rock manner, adding a brief bit of diversity.

Disc 2 consists solely of group improvisations and offers a much more varied sound than the first disc: not only in terms of instrumentation - ranging from a standard rock lineup to a string quartet to a wind ensemble and combinations of instruments from all of these - but also in terms of mood and set-up. Some, like "Appalachian Fall" and "21st Century String Quartet" are disjointed and unsettling and are the result of completely free improvisation, sometimes bordering on ambient music ("Music To Die By"); elsewhere the group plays more conventional and frenetic jazz-rock jams such as "The Enemy Is Dust" and "Mercury Paw". Not every track on here is a winner, some pieces drag on for a bit too long and none of it is rooted in a truly memorable or profound musical idea (won't blame them for that obviously since it's all improvised) but effort was clearly put in offering a diverse selection of music and structuring it in a cohesive and naturally flowing manner.

Disc 3 is perhaps the most mystifying: all of it is occupied by an hour-long live performance of Terry Riley's famous minimalist composition "In C". The only other recording of this that I am familiar with is the "original" by Riley himself from 1968 which I like quite a lot (I realize that this may sound ironic considering I criticized disc 1 of this album for being too much of the same, but I believe that monotony and repetition need not necessarily be bad traits of a piece of music, in the hands of a masterful composer or producer who can establish a truly captivating hypnotic effect with it). I've noticed that, compared to Riley's recording, Ut Gret put more emphasis on one specific section around the 44 minute mark which leans on the dissonant more so than any other moment in the composition; I never noticed that part before but it sounds very cool and makes me respect the piece even more so kudos to the group for that. On the other hand, the overall sound quality sadly isn't too great, and I don't like how they abruptly stop and start their performance rather than slowly building it up and breaking it down at the beginning and end. To my knowledge, this is the only liberty they take in what otherwise seems to be a very faithful interpretation of the piece, and while I don't protest against its inclusion, it remains an enigma to me why they would include something like this on their own album rather than a Terry Riley-centred compilation.

What's wild is that this is only the second album of a group that to my knowledge wasn't very established beforehand anyway, and right away they went off the deep end, recording a three-disc opus of what was clearly a number of passion projects for various members with no regard for how commercially viable it might be even within their extremely niche market. I really, really wish I could reward that boldness and determination with a higher rating because I really do respect it, but even though I don't regret listening to all 220 minutes of this I would be lying if I described any of it as essential.

Mirakaze | 3/5 |

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