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Cartoon - Music From Left Field CD (album) cover




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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A slight departure from their first release and a determined progression forward, American avant- garders Cartoon slam their fist onto the prog table with 'Music From Left Field', their aptly-titled second album from 1983. Craig Fry (violin), Herb Diamant (woodwinds), the tin foil drums of Gary Parra, Mark Innocenti's dirty guitar and Scott Brazieal's unhinged piano devour the 15-minute opener 'Quotes', setting this album's frantic tone. A piece that on its own could satisfy any prog gourmet, full of continual variance, gutted melodies, decompositions, clattering street noise, orchestral tunings, Scott Joplin ragtime, John Lennon, Bartok, the Twilight Zone, children's lullabys and creepy cartoon themes. As if that weren't enough to satisfy, 'Bedlam' follows and calms things a bit to let us digest before it goes down a troubled path of dissonance and manic fever. Cartoon's music is both indefinable and deeply disturbed, splitting apart at any opportunity like a crazed man running off half-naked into the street, chased by the screaming harpies in his head. 'Light in August' keeps up the urgency and demented pace, and 'Scherzo' is a tortured soul wanting out of a madhouse that may or may not exist in a world of carousels that go too fast and clowns that smell bad... this is a place for neither children nor adults but no matter how hard you try, you can't find your way out. There are animals too, moustached vendors, dwarfs, geeks, slow children at play, small men in hats and fat women in wigs, all attending this freakshow of an album. Fever-pitched, not for the faint hearted, smashing good stuff.

Report this review (#125879)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars For CARTOON's second and final release they have added a violinist and woodwind player. In my opinion this one is not quite as good as the debut, but it's still excellent. It's really sad though that this great band called it quits back in the eighties. So talented. After this album was released it received great reviews, and the band started getting invites to go to Europe. So they decided to do a small tour over there. It was a huge success as they played in festivals with Christian Vander, John Greaves and many other like-minded bands. They even got to jam back stage with UNIVERS ZERO and listened to the yet unreleased ART ZOYD ballet. They were on top of the world, that is until someone stole the van they were renting and all their instruments, LPs, audio gear and clothes that were in it. It was all gone. Gone too was the spirit to carry on, they would never play again.

"Quotes" is the 15 1/2 minute epic and opening track. It opens with synths and lots of atmosphere as the sound builds. This is heavenly. It changes before 3 1/2 minutes in to a soundscape of intricate sounds that come and go. Piano, violin and drums end up leading the way 5 1/2 minutes in. I like the aggressive guitar a minute later. A change again 7 minutes in as the melody stops and we get lots of atmosphere. Flute, violin then piano 10 minutes in. It gets a little crazy before we get a great sound 13 minutes in. It ends in a haunting manner. "Bedlam" opens with funny vocal sounds. Love the intricate collage that follows, an incredible sounding melody. A weird steady noise sort of hums until the intricate melody returns before 3 minutes. Random sounds take over, then our melody is back again.

"Light In August" is dark and scary. Bass, French horn and synths are prominant. The tempo picks up after 1 1/2 minutes as the guitar comes in ripping it up. Nice. It then becomes very UNIVERS ZERO-like with the darkness, percussion and overall sound. Violin before 3 1/2 minutes. The guitar is back after 4 minutes as drums pound away. "Scherzo" sounds like they are having lots of fun with these incredible yet cartoonish melodies. "Bottom Of The Ninth" has a good melody, and I really like the sound of the guitar before a minute. It turns dark 1 1/2 minutes in without a melody until the previous one returns a minute later. Outbreaks of drums as keys are played before 3 1/2 minutes. People are yelling funny things in the background to end the song.

In the liner notes they say that this record was improvised to a preconceived form. A must for fans of Avant-gard music.

Report this review (#188482)
Posted Sunday, November 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Music from Left Field" is the second, and - unfortunately - the last album by the crazy american drums-keys-guitar trio by the name of Cartoon. For this release, they actually have two "bonus" musicians, who play woodwinds and violin. And while this album shares some similarities with their debiut from '81, the addition of woodwinds and violin really puts Cartoon in a new, fresh perspective.

First of all, I believe that the new instruments made it much easier for Cartoon to fully express their weird, cartoonish musical desires. The goofy bassoon (or is it a bass saxophone? I'm not sure) and quirky, fidgety violin match Cartoon's vision extremely well. Secondly, "Music from Left Field" sounds much richer and even symphonic (to a certain extent), compared to a rather raw and crude debiut (which is a masterpiece anyway). Cartoon actually sounds a lot like Univers Zero on this album. I think the closest album to compare would be "Ceux Du Dehors" - very simillar, gloomy atmosphere, created by acoustic chamber masterminds. However - the band's name indicates the differences between them and UZ. While dark and scary, their music is also less serious, or - sometimes - even not serious at all. But the atmosphere and overall feeling are quite in the same vein.

This album offers a plenty of different moods - from heavenly, almost minimalistic ambient, through clumsy circus music (which should leave you scared of circuses for the rest of your life), symphonic music, complex disturbing chamber-prog, hypnotising free rock/jazz, pure goofiness, grand musical void... some moments will make you crack a big smile, while others will make you scared and paranoid. And the best thing is - most of them will make you BOTH!

My recommendation: get this album and wait for the night to come. Once it's dark outside, turn off the lights, lay down on the bed, close your eyes, and just let the music play. It's an experience worth at least a thousand circus tickets.

Report this review (#1771879)
Posted Wednesday, August 16, 2017 | Review Permalink

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