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CARTOON

Cartoon

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 1979 was the death knell of the classic progressive rock era, and only a few gems would arrive by 1980 with Drama, Permanent Waves and a smattering of others, but it was all over and everyone sensed it. But in Phoenix, Arizona, things were just getting started and a local group of talented young musicians had something surprising on the menu, especially for an American avant-garde rock band at that time. Keyboardist Scott Brazieal, guitarist Mark Innocenti, and drummer Gary Para wanted to do highly complex rock that was playful at the same time, and their fondness for incidental cartoon music was as strong as the neo-classical foundation provided by Brazieal's keys. The band relocated to San Francisco in 1980 where they were joined by violinist Craig Fry and Herb Diamant on woodwinds, releasing their debut Cartoon in 1981.

Though the music is likened to avant-garders such as Univers Zero and Henry Cow, it is neither as dark as the Zeroes nor as loose as Cow, with a symphonic structure in Scott Brazeal's piano and a heavy rock edge from Innocenti's guitar. Much Zappa-like humor is on hand as well and makes for a well rounded prog rock experience. The chaotic 'Shark' opens the album, a pounder that quickly slips into strangeness before just as quickly becoming light, melodic and linear, with appearances by Ludwig Von's 9th and the fine arrangements and ambition of this outfit who, though perhaps not as tight as their counterparts across the Atlantic, were just as zealous about expanding rock. Brazeal's keyboard takes over for the troubled and angled 'Ptomaine Poisoning', Ravel's influence and some great virtuoso playing shows on 'Anemic Bolero' followed by the crawling anthill 'Flotsam' with its asylum tone and muffled voices, all quite rattling for a group of unknown American rockers in the early 80s. 'Apathy in America' is disjointed and counter-layered with powerful piano, synth, bass and drums, finishing with the descriptive cartoon themes the band liked to highlight and hints of Aaron Copland. 'I Have No Teeth' is a beautiful one-minute synth/guitar tour of linear space and squeaky moments, and the album closes with the eleven-minute opus 'Shredded Wheat'.

A splendid band nearly lost to history, Cartoon reminds us that the United States had some prog treasures to offer at a bleak time in popular music. A real delight.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#120309)
Posted Monday, April 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars CARTOON have been compared to UNIVERS ZERO and HENRY COW for their classical influenced, Avant- gard style of music. What amazes me about their debut is that it is played by a trio (drums, keys and guitar) when the music often seems like it is being played by a 6-8 piece band, as the soundscape is often filled by a collage of intricate sounds.The drums and piano really lead the way most of time.This is so complex, yet so melodic at times.Very impressive.

"Shark" opens with a good beat as piano and guitar take turns taking the lead. Things get a little dissonant before 2 minutes when the melody stops. A new melody takes over and it sounds fantastic. Very melodic and beautiful. A change after 5 minutes as another melody takes over after some cartoonish sounds. Guess what ? This sounds really good as well. That melody stops before 7 minutes as some samples come in.The last section includes some aggressive guitar. Nice. "Ptomaine Poisoning" opens with some random piano sounds. We start to get a piano melody after a minute. Drums come in and then a full sound before 4 minutes. The full sound comes and goes. Great sound 6 minutes in. "Anemic Bolero" features some intricate guitar and beautiful piano melodies as drums keep up the beat throughout. "Flotsam" features what sounds like violin sounds as drums jab away. It gets dissonant a minute in with voices in the background. It all stops as different sounds come and go with no melody, then the previous melody returns with some angular guitar. Nice. The contrast coninues. Great tune. Some cartoon moments as well.

"Apathy In America" features outbursts of drums and piano that come and go. They become more steady until before 2 minutes it changes to a calm as it settles down until 3 minutes. Then back to that soundscape of intricate sounds. "I Have No Teeth" is experimental and turns spacey. "Shredded Wheat" is rather dark and haunting as we all know shredded wheat can be. You'll never hear corn flakes described this way. Anyway I like the dark mood they create here. It kicks into gear 2 minutes in with some ripping guitar. This is intense. Check out the piano. There is yelling in the background after 4 minutes. Vibes 5 1/2 minutes in. It's eerie again after 6 minutes. A new melody 8 minutes in with drums and piano. Angular guitar 9 1/2 minutes in is fantastic followed by a complex array of intricate sounds. The song and album ends with a funny phone call. My favourite tracks are the opening and the closing ones.

This is music for those who like it challenging, well played and humerous. 4.5 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#188271)
Posted Friday, November 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
5 stars Ahhh, the days of the used record store. For a dollar or two you could purchase some unknown gem based only on the look of the album cover, bring it home, and who knows...

This was one of those rare finds. This trio plays music somwhere between Henry Cow and Univers Zero, but definitely occupying their own space. They blend symphonic prog, free improvisation, and jazz stylings into a wonderful work of RIO.

Shark even manages to fit in a bit of Beethoven. Anemic Bolero builds from simple piano noodlings into a spectacular piece. Ptomaine Poisoning reminds me a bit of "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" era Zappa. (I'm pretty sure the titles of the second and third track are swapped on this site, as my LP sleeve confirms).

Flotsam opens the second side of the record with Schoenberg-like orchestration, quickly turning into electronic music madness. Super cool. Apathy In America begins sounding like a Zappa/Mothers piece, but goes well beyond. I Have No Teeth gives a moment of respite before the pure glorious mayhem of Shredded Wheat begins.

I know I've made a lot of comparisons to other artists, but just to give a frame of reference. These guys really do have their own sound.

This is probably the best $1.99 I ever spent.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#297453)
Posted Saturday, September 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Whitout the intent to make play on words, the music of CARTOON seems to me exactly that the name says, a soundtrack to cartoons , in special humor/childish cartoons ( for cinema or tv), howevere, their sound is not a children joke. The themes are rich in instrumental virtousity and full of melodic "landscapes" and in fact make CARTOON's music outstanding !. The track 1 "Shark" and track 5 "Apathy In America " presents some musical passages which clearly reminds the tv series "The Simpsons". The track 4 "Flotsam" is "filled" of percussion inprovisation and a Fripp's style guitar melody ! The track 7 "Shredded Wheat" take the main theme to the classical music, [(Liszt(keyboards) meets Pagannini(guitars=violin) meets Carl Palmer for a jam session)], simply fantastic. The only restriction that I can make is the sequence of different themes in a track, which not always make a logic musical sense. Due to this fact I cannot give the maximun quotation, my rate is 4stars !!!

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Send comments to maryes (BETA) | Report this review (#507765)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2011 | Review Permalink

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