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Van Der Graaf Generator - ALT CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

2.48 | 215 ratings

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3 stars Side-swiped dog

Wow this album is getting trashed just about everywhere you look! Sure, if you're approaching ALT from the viewpoint of a long time fan, who adores everything with a bit of Hammillesque vocal spurts on top of it, then you have already set yourself up to fail from the get-go.

I am a long time fan, but seeing as last years release never really spoke to me - never actually left the ground(pun intended), I had zero expectations for this one, which in all fairness should be the way to approach any new music release. Gone are the theatrical vocals, and what meets you straight off the bat, is an album that sounds ridiculously close to what Floyd did on the studio side of Ummagumma. Now, first of all, I happen to adore Ummagumma and rate it among my favourite Floyd releases ever - especially due to that mad studio side. Secondly - ALT never really gets as bunkers, and while it may sport the occasional freak-out drummer's delight, the vast majority of this album seems held together by an uncanny 'togetherness' unfolding between these musical compadres of old. -A bond that is damn near impossible to replicate, unless you've spend the better half of the last century playing music together.

From the beginning bird chirps and experimental sways of keys - ALT develops fluently and uncompromisingly as you go along its rather bulky surface. Contrary to classic Van Damme Generator, here the emphasis lies in the powerful and highly imaginative drum-work of Guy Evans and the equally challenging organ n keyboard gulps from Monsieur Banton. These guys really get to stretch their legs, and to me personally it feels as if Hammill, while growing in artistic instrumental capability, resides comfortably in the back throughout the course of this album. That is not to say that he doesn't add something to the proceedings, but merely that the captain of this sea vessel has the poise and calm to stay where his work is most appreciated in regards to what the given musical piece wants, searches for and accomplishes. I think that is the mark of a brilliant musician, and even if Banton and Evans do most of the talking, I think it just as important and interesting that Hammill is able to do this. Respect!

How is the music then? I'd say it fumbles around in different areas of rock and jazz rock, but what most of these pieces have in common is that they shape themselves as they go along. You'll hear a starting keyboard section that goes from ambient shimmers to all out teutonic phrasings with bass pedals ablazing and the stillness of the drums slowly evaporating into a shamanistic onslaught of precision and countering brute force. Then you have the slowly droning pieces, such as the closing track, that wander along like a foggy presence in search of something tangible and real. It never gets there, but it still gets quite beautiful and free. Other such intimate docile sonic creatures are made up of thin almost whispering piano and chiming instrumentation that waft and ooze like something straight out of a serene morning movie with dew, awakening drowsy animals and atmosphere up the wazoo. So apart from the, at times, rather bulky and tumultuous tracks on ALT, you also get served with music that is as beautiful as it is smooth and clean.

Outside of this quality, I have had an atrocious experience with ALT playing in my ears. I was on my way home from work - awaiting the bus, and this beat down German sheperd suddenly appears out of the blue. Wandering freely around without a collar - only reacting to what its nose tells it - it rather blindly and clumsily trots out on the road, where a fast paced car side-swipes it with a huge meat thump - sounding like a fist kissing a t-bone steak. The dog whimpers and runs madly in the other direction tale between its hind legs - and yours truly still listening to Colossus with its confusing meters and with arms waving frantically after the car.......... Somehow this image stays with me every time I put this album on - that meandering dog suddenly being hit by a car. Maybe it says something about my wild and incoherent mind, but I'd like to think it speaks about ALT in a way that I could never do. The music is a meeting of the casually meandering and the powerful menacing slabs of life intervening. For me it's all about the dog though.

Please give ALT a chance. Leave your expectations at the door, and an album of quirky charm, nonsensical things and steaming jams will emerge from its dreamy cover art - hopefully transforming your made up mind of how the mighty Van Dammes of the world preferably should sound and feel... 3.5 stars.

Guldbamsen | 3/5 |


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