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Van Der Graaf Generator - Trisector CD (album) cover

TRISECTOR

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

3.52 | 353 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A review, Trisector, Van Der Graaf Generator

Second Van Der Graaf Generator reunion release, minus one jammed CD, minus David Jaxon, minus abstractly directed anger, minus ferocious grandeur, plus a lot of things. The improvements here are pretty much across the board on the already very strong Present: the lyrics have regained their murkiness and existential bite, organist Hugh Banton's every note is basically a highlight and the album as a whole is both more experimental and balanced than its predecessor. Hammill makes no visible effort to show off yet shines throughout. Guy Evans is, as ever, a rock solid atmospheric drummer with some bursts of particular creativity. Couple of criticisms: a couple of fade endings, particularly on the rock pieces, would seem worth expansion, a couple of the tracks feel a bit out of place for various reasons. Nonetheless, overall a marked success.

The instrumental Hurlyburly is a rather odd choice of opener ? presumably some sort of rather unnecessary demonstration that the band can still cut it instrumentally without Jackson or a magnanimous hint from Hammill to ensure this isn't taken for one of his solo albums (all tracks except one receive a whole group credit). Psychedelic opening running around a basic guitar riff followed by a fairly memorable but rather unnecessary bit of instrumental rock... one gets the sense the fade derives from a lack of direction more than anything else.

Characteristic existential angst in a few of the numbers here: Interference Patterns is a dizzyingly compact progressive philosophy-of-science piece and a modern VDGG classic with a decidedly gripping organ part among a number of superb features. Only In A Whisper has even bleaker basic content and a lot of cymbals (Evans is consummately creative when more or less free of the type-cast of rock drummer). Perhaps a victim of its own success: I can't help feeling the length, lack of overall direction and haunting lyrics are an intentional challenge of the type that probably shouldn't lie between two comparatively undemanding rock songs. More on We Are Not Here below.

A couple of quieter, though not necessarily more relaxed, songs: The Final Reel is deceptively pretty in appearance, with an agonisingly detailed and dark lyric. Banton's flute imitation is as striking as his later melancholic organ, and Hammill's vocals (including a fascinating self-duet) and guitar are superbly applied... the grandeur at the end is used with a decided irony, and the closing feedback appears to be some sort of back-reference to help connect the album together with its opener. Lifetime is the sole composition credited solely to Hammill, and I guess that's visible from the amount of guitar and the prominence of the vocal... Banton's wonderful development of the organ part (including some very nice pedal work) is one highlight, Hammill's lyrics are another. I suppose the transition to guitar solo is a little facile.

Drop Dead has Hammill's tongue so firmly in his cheek that it's basically stuck: I get the fundamental irony so quickly I don't feel the need to hear it out (shame, as the ending, stripped of sarcy wordiness, is the best bit). Particularly when compared to the rather more interesting examples of both irony and rock music in All That Before, it's not a particular asset to the album.

Over The Hill is a second stab at the ideas behind Childlike Faith... the knife goes in almost too easily. Here, even more so than on the rest of the album, Banton re-establishes himself as the most convincing organist in the territory of rock, with a range of gripping organ parts varied effortlessly with intelligent dissonance and a clear relationship with the other instruments. Hammill's vocal melodies are unique and well-considered and his voice holds a bone-chilling power here and his lyrics are typically well-constructed. Evans' fills are great and his drumming is solid, taking over a slow part with a sense of direction. A thoroughly thought-through Van Der Graaf Generator 'epic' with the meaning and emotional grip to empower its already excellent music.

Nomination for We Are Not Here as the sonic expression of destruction. Evans' rattle-snake rolls and Hammill's deliciously crisp low piano notes (accompanied by a bass pedal) merge into Banton's scything organ. Hammill's voice offers some never-before-heard textures for very striking lyrics. An album that deserves to be judged on its own merits: a very high quality, subtle and experimental album by three great musicians, replete with some of the best vocals and lyrics out there. There are a couple of flaws but it's still comfortably the best post-reunion album I've heard by any prog outfit and worthy, perhaps even deserving, of a place in any prog collection.

Favourite Track: Interference Patterns or We Are Not Here Album Rating: 12/15

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |

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