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Van Der Graaf Generator - Trisector CD (album) cover

TRISECTOR

Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog


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Jim Garten
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
3 stars First of all, I would like to give eternal thanks to VDGG's record company for providing a pre-release copy of Trisector to PR's admin team as part of our collaboration with them in respect of the competition currently running.

When VDGG's classic lineup of Hammill, Banton, Evans & Jackson got back together after nearly 30 years, and released the marvellous 'Present', following this release with a string of acclaimed live shows, it seemed as if we had one of the real vanguard bands back with us. However, David Jackson has now left the fold, so Trisector is their first release as a three piece. I freely admit, I approached this album with no small degree of trepidation, as Jackson's sax & flute work was always a keystone of VDGG's sound, but after giving the album a fair few listens now, I have to say any fears were (mostly) unfounded.

I'll not go through a track by track analysis of this album - I'll leave that to more knowledgeable fans of the band; I will, however, highlight what I consider to be real showstopper tracks & a couple I consider that in my opinion don't work quite so well.

So far as high points go, there is plenty of choice here on what is a hugely varied album, from the barking madness of 'Interference Pattern', the slow bluesy growl that is 'The Final Reel' & right up to the epic glory that is 'Over The Hill' (a track which would fit in any dictionary as a definition of 'Progressive Rock' - it's that good) - my only issues are with the two tracks which in my opinion don't really fit here; those being the opening instrumental 'The Hurlyburly' and the ranting 'Drop Dead', neither of which are bad tracks in their own right, but to my mind they're overshadowed by the subleties, nuances & sheer high quality of the other tracks on offer.

With Jackson gone, Trisector has to by necessity focus more on Banton's keyboard work throughout; in this, he never disappoints, his Hammond playing taking front seat to drive the entire album, backed by Peter Hammill's piano & guitar & Guy Evans on drums & percussion. Above the musical treats on this album, we have Peter Hammill's lyrics, which throughout display the sarcasm, scathing wit & cynicism we've come to expect from him within & outside of VDGG over the years. long may he continue.

My only question at the end of this album is - 'is this just a great prog rock album, or is it a great Van Der Graaf Generator album?'

Jury's still out on that one.

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Send comments to Jim Garten (BETA) | Report this review (#163289)
Posted Thursday, March 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
Angelo
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars I don't know if I'm cracking up...

I must admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Van Der Graaf Generator. Their music I can appreciate for it's darkness and texture, but you'll never catch me playing a marathon session of their albums. Still, I very much appreciated listening to this, their latest effort - Trisector. The circumstances may have helped, me walking around Paris looking for myself, or maybe it's a slightly different VDGG album than usual - who knows.

So what's there to enjoy? Sandwiched between the rocking opener The Hurly Burly and the adrenaline pumping keyboards work on the final We Are Not Here we find a variety of proportions, which unfortunately does not always work to advantage of the former Pioneers over C. Almost plain rock tracks like the opener and Drop Dead (The Clash on keyboard steroids?) are not exactly what one would expect from this band. This is however more than made up for by the spooky keyboards work on Interference Patterns, and the typical Van der Graaf Generator darkness of Over the Hill. The latter is best described by means of the last words of the first vocal part: a roller coaster ride. Just imagine Peter Hammill singing those words, after which Hugh Banton's organ takes you slowly up to the highest point before letting go and leaving you to yourself on the way down. There are times when when I don't put a 12 minute epic on repeat - but not so this time.

A final remark from me on All this Before. The lyrics are obviously inspired by someone either cracking up or getting old, but what struck me most is the main theme. I cannot help but think this is a free organ improvisation on the main theme of The Kinks classic You Really Got Me, and even the vocals go a long at some point... Now there's a question to ask Peter Hammill in the Trisector competition!

Overall, Trisector is a more than decent album, even though it's a bit unbalanced and less progressive compared to older Van der Graaf Generator works. Not their best, probably also not there worst.

N.B. thanks to EMI for the preview copy of the CD provided to the ProgArchives admin team.

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Send comments to Angelo (BETA) | Report this review (#163635)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Yesterday I bought the new VDGG's album and I've heard it three times. No doubt that's the best VDGG album since Still Life. It's strange that Hammill in is long solo carreer has never reach the level in his songs as those played with this guys (in his 3 masterpieces played VDGG memebers). Yes, there's not Jaxon's sax, but in 2007 tour we have seen that thanks to the great work of Hugh Banton the old song can be rearranged and well played. Trisector has 9 pieces, 2 (Lifetime and All that before) just played last year and represented very similar in the cd. The first track is the instrumental The Hurlyburly, nothing special, as the 2 cd of Present. Also Interference Patterns is only a good song, but with The Final Reel we can reach hoghest level: a ballad that could be in a Hammill's solo Album (Clutch), but played and arranged by Vdgg!!!! Lifetime is a splendid ballad and Drop Dead is similar to Nutter Alert, but more dinamic. Only in a Whisper is the last calm track of the album, than is a crescendo: the sincopatic All that before and the masterpiece longpiece of the cd Over the Hill a classic Vdgg that we have never had since Childlike!!!!!!! We are not here is the logic splendid conclusion of the album. In conclusion we have 3 old men in very very good form: Peter Hammill with is always splendid voice and a good work on guitar, Guy Evans on drums that is come back his 70's level, after the not entusiastic performance in Present and in 2005 tour, and Hugh Banton, that now plays for 3: organ, bass and flute and sax line!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 29th march i'll be in rosignagno to see their show, and i'm sure it will be very and very great

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Send comments to borussia (BETA) | Report this review (#163968)
Posted Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've always be a huge fan of VDGG and PH and the wait for the release of a new album make my very nervous...now the day has come,and after different listen i can express my opinions. I want to begin with the track by track analysis:

The hurlyburly:7 - i really appreciate this ambiguos song...ambiguous for vdgg style!!!Remind me some protoprog song of late seventies...Anyway nothing speciale here,only the dark organ riff that i would have preferred more energetic...i hope for a live version!

Interference patterns:7,5 - syncopatic rythm for a fullfilled organ song...reminds me some passages of Gentle Giant!Great but weird vocal,a little bit out of focus but not a bad song...not so inspired...uplifting!

The final reel:6,5 - this seems a sogn extracted by Singularity album of PH...not too bad,not very good,a little bit undertone and neutre.with more relisten is possible to revalutate.

Lifetime:9 - i love this song,more dark,more personal,more mature than the previous 3...Peter voice is in perfect form(better than in present)and its interpretation too...this song is simply but there is a veil of pathos that enveops the song...i appreciate this song already when i listen it live some months ago...

Drop dead:6,5 - the rock song of the album,taken almost directly by Nadir'big chance,is surely a discrete song...but very far from the repertoire of VDGG!More near at some PH album of late seventies.The organ parts at the finish are really unespired...and bad recorded.It's a crude recording this album...

Only in a whisper:7 - particular track...starts slow,subtle...bass,rodhes and percussions,good!a Strange singing by peter fill this song...fill because is the conductor whire of the song that at the end seems a little poor,poor of instruments...a sax part...woul not faulted!A song not for impatient!this song encapsultes the essence of the album...good but not fully developed...adn i ask:why?

All that before:8,5 - Another ambiguos song for vdgg parameters but invariably energetic,humorous,rockprog!This show the youth of the (fabolous) trio!!!Listen some months ago i like also the live version,very similar to the studio version!I want to focus a moment on this songs..when i listen it i think that this album is specially made for a great live representation,who have seen the trio performing live know what i want to say!I see the umbertide(and amsterdam on the net)show,what i can say is a big presence on stage focused on virtuosism and technical of Banton and Evans sorrounded by the forever beautiful voice of mr.Hammill...a second youth for vdgg!!!IMHO better than Real Time.Then i think this album is a expedient for a more energetic live experience.

Over the hill:10- - The masterpiece of 2008 vdgg career...only whit this phrase i can describe this track...nothing to add,this is probably the best that can i ask at vdgg NOW...probably beacuse is the only true vdgg song...

(We are) Not here:7,5 - ElPish song...ripetitive organ riff,strange percussion on the ground and dark and abrasive voice with a chorus in the end...good!But at the end,ripetitive and less developed,is always the same riff!Metallic...

I ask forgiveness for my pitiful review but i'm not english!!!! In conclusion:a new incarnation of vdgg,new sound,new energy...very very good,but a little unfocused! And as always i think:listen a judges by yourself!don't read too seriously reviews! A great addition to any prog music collection. Ciao a tutti!

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Send comments to gm86 (BETA) | Report this review (#164267)
Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Trisector", Van der Graaf Generator's second album since reforming in 2004 after a break of nearly 30 years is a pale shadow of their 2005 return offering, "Present".

Crucially for "Trisector", David Jackson, their very talented saxophone player, decided to leave the band last year and was not replaced. Fans of the group will immediately say "irreplaceable!" - indeed, but when for 1977's "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome" both Jackson and Hugh Banton left, Peter Hammill did at least bring in Nic Potter and, more significantly, Graham Smith on electric violins in order to try and beef up the sound Additionally, for that album and the subsequent tour, the band's name was shortened to "Van der Graaf", perhaps as an indication to fans that this wasn't quite the band's classic line-up.

"Trisector" does not sound like a Van der Graaf Generator album - it sounds more like a Peter Hammill solo album, more so than "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome" ever did. As such, it is not a bad album - indeed, it is an enjoyable album - the disappointment is felt only when comparing it to the band's strong return three years ago with "Present".

So, sonically the album is a bit short of reaching what you'd normally expect from VDGG. Hugh Banton in particular tries really hard (perhaps too hard!) to make up the shortfall by enhancing the music from his organ and elsewhere Hammill himself plays some meaty electric guitar but neither makes up for the loss of Jackson (or, as on "The Quiet Zone." a fourth virtuoso instrumentalist). In VDGG soundscape terms, "Trisector" comes closest to "Godbluff" but without Jackson it never threatens to approach that album's quality.

Highlights for me are the opener, a rocky instrumental called "The Hurlyburly", which puts one in mind of "Theme One"; and "The Final Reel", which has a good melody and a jazzy feel. Also, "All That Before" is great fun, a humorous song that is a 21st century version of Free's "Alright Now" complete with musical and lyrical echoes of that famous song - Hammill must have enjoyed riffing away on that!

Overall - enjoyable but without the impact of VDGG at their best.

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Send comments to alextorres2 (BETA) | Report this review (#164272)
Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The return of VDGG is indeed a welcome event, especially as they deliver albums that rival their past achievements in terms of songwriting and execution.

Some might say that there are tracks here that don't sound like VDGG. It's not just about the absence of the Jackson instruments from the soundscape. I agree, however it's worth remembering that several songs on earlier VDGG albums don't sound anything like VDGG either! They've always experimented with sounds and songwriting approach, so it's only fair that they should continue that way. Furthermore, I like most of the non-traditional songs here; there are some fairly riffy and brooding pieces here that are hypnotic in a way that we recognise, even though the sound may be a bit of a surprise.

The more traditional VDGG tunes are to my ears on level with some of their best stuff, but I hesitate to give the album the 5 stars. Ask me one year from now and I'll tell you if I think it's a Masterpiece, but after a couple of spins I feel no hesitation to award the 4/5.

Highly recommended!

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Send comments to lanfear (BETA) | Report this review (#164565)
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The present trio format seems to suit the band well. While Present sounded like a laid back recording made by old band mates getting together after so many years, it proved the magic was still there. Now, without Jackson, the approach is different, this is a different animal. Listening to Trisector it becomes apparent this is not a reunion, this is an active band. Gigging has done good and these old men play tight. Evans is beating the drums like ever and Hugh Banton is in a big role and does an excellent job. Peter Hammill and a guitar is a dangerous combination, but it works here. I'm sure it will get out of hand at times during the live shows, but isn't that what Hammill's work has always been about? Sometimes going over the edge is the only way to find out where exactly that edge was in the first place.

I wouldn't call any of the songs on the album weak, but for the sake of the whole a couple might have been better left out. Time might change my view on this one though. Especially the latter part of the album is killer material and fits perfectly together. At first listen I thought I had a rather mediocre effort in my hands, but the more I listen to it the more I like it. In my opinion, an excellent album and a must have for fans of the band. For the rest, this might be a bit too much and for newcomers one of the classic albums would be a better place to start. But Trisector is not a bad place to be.

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Send comments to kaibe (BETA) | Report this review (#164858)
Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Trisector can't be considered a real VDGG work. Jackson is not there, and three members are really few for a band that was based on sax and voice. Maybe Present was a bit long, but the quality of the compositions was really high, like Godbluff or Still life. Now the sound is still good, but only for someone who has never listened to a masterpiece like Pawn Hearts. If you know well VDGG, you cannot be so satisfied about Trisector. It is simply incomplete, there's a part of the sound missing. There are 3- 4 really good tracks, but the rest is simple, there's no search for the old sound that characterized the band. Arguably the worst VDGG work... And it's a pity, because they can still do a lot, but three of them aren't enough.

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Send comments to paloz (BETA) | Report this review (#164899)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having reformed after 28 years in 2005, their previous album 'Present' was thought to be the final statement from vdgg. Comprised of 2cd's , with a few new tracks and the rest comprised of intense improvised jam sessions, 'present' was about celebrating the band's return and the joy in playing together rather than a collection of new songs. Nobody thought this would happen, but even with just 3 members, vdgg are a working living band again.Famously never having employed a guitarist, vdgg made a kind of dark intense soul music with a classical progressive feel from a prominent organ sound. Making some of the most edgy quasi satanic music in rock history, the equally dark lyrics and theatrical delivery of peter hammill made them stand out as uncompromising challenging music. With their trademark saxophone sound now gone following the sad departure of david jackson, and with no guitarist, what would an album featuring a drummer , singer and keyboard player sound like? I have to be honest, i didn't expect a lot. But, every Van Der Graaf Generator album is different, and so is this, different but - in it's own way, very good and occasionally brilliant.

It doesn't start very well, however. Instrumental opening track ' The Hurly Burly' is straight rock , like Dire Straits playing surf guitar. It's something i never thought i'd hear vdgg do, famously an edgy band, this is very standard. It rocks fairly well and has a toe tapping upbeat style, but we don't love vdgg for their conforming music.Similarly, 'Drop Dead' sounds like 'Money For Nothing ' ;another Dire Straits reference, all fine and dandy but lacking edge. That leaves us with 7 tracks that hit the spot, and a variety of styles included. Perhaps it's necessity being the mother of invention, but the band have reached further to create one of their most eclectic albums ever. So, we have an organ/keys heavy sound with tight drumming and guitar thrown in for depth, the musical space they have now creating a looser more chaotic - edge of insanity-feel. The themes here are quite philosophical, our place in the universe, the brevity of life and dealing with it's end, but still done with humour - 'All That Before' for example, dealing with middle aged forgetfulness in a charming way amongst a backdrop of edgy organ led soul/rock, adding some mean guitar riffs and a tight heavy rock drum pattern into the mix. It's vdgg in every way, just reconfigured. Elsewhere, tracks like ' Lifetime' and 'Only In A Whisper' are slow powerful building compositions- Hammill's own yearning delivery as powerful a tool when stripped bare as any instruments could be. And it's in these reflective tracks that we see the essence of vdgg distilled, making an awkward, atmospheric, compelling power from very few ingredients.

So far, so good but not so epic. . Where's a taste of the full vdgg experience. . Can they deliver the same kind of raw unsettling assault now they're a 3 piece?. Yes. 'Over The Hill' isn't just a great vdgg track, that would hold it's own with anything they've done, it's a genre classic. When Van Der Graaf Generator are firing on all cylinders, nothing can touch them for delightfully demented power. 12 minutes of epic, operatic madness, as beautiful as it's eerie. As well composed as it is shambolic. Nobody in rock sounds this alien, they're back in the same form as fans would hope but not really expect Final track 'we are not here' seals the deal with a powerful satanic bluster of organ and vocal, and caps an album that isn't their best, in the high standards of previous releases, but will definately supercede expectations from 3 guys in their later middle age, minus a key member, nealy 40 years after their debut. So many veteran bands fall into medeocrity, lose their hunger; but this stilll has that same vital van Der Graaf spirit, against all odds.

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Send comments to gabriel9 (BETA) | Report this review (#164903)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I am listening to this album for the first time, it is to me like unearthing a VdGG 70s classic that I missed first time round.

It reminds me of a cross between World Record and Still Life. Whoever said there was no guitar on this album obviously doesnt have an ear for detail.

I will not go into great detail about each track, as that has already been done.

The Hurlyburly wonderful instrumental to get you into the mood for whats to come.

Interference Patterns my fave track on the album, an epic in less than 4 minutes cant be bad eh.

The Final Reel could become a VdGG classic.

Lifetime a relaxing tune, has a good ambience to it.

Drop Dead just to get back on your feet after the chill out on Lifetime.. very heavy, thumping good beat

Only in a Whisper back to relaxation with a nice laid back track. The classic prog is there to hear.

All That Before.. Hey, psychedelia for the 00s.. I heard this (as well as Lifetime) at the gig back in 2007. Loved it then, and now I finally have it, I know I will play this track to death.

Over The Hill.. Ahh, the VdGG epic. A mixture of everything going on here in 12 1/2 minutes.

(We Are) Not Here If I had my way, this would be a single..

To sum it all up, 5 stars.

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Send comments to Frippertron (BETA) | Report this review (#164929)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is so very good to see VdGG making music again albeit that David Jackson is missing from this line-up. That said the remaining trio have provided an album that is light, dark, operatic, theatrical and visceral, delivering the impact that only VdGG can.

It is hard to compare this album with earlier releases by either VdGG or pH other than to say that they have all retained the mastery of their instruments that was evident throughout the 70s. This means that this album, whilst varied, is musically very tight and features a natural interplay between musicians who are obviously on the same wavelength creatively. As always they are progressive but unconfined by the expectations of the genre, something that for me has always been a VdGG trademark.

If you're a fan of these guys then this will, of course, be an essential album. If you're new to their output then there may be better places to start such as Real Time, the recent live album, which covers a good range of their past work including their previous studio album Present. Then again, we're talking VdGG so in reality anywhere would be a good place to start.

Anyway, this one rates a very solid 4 stars so give it a spin!

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Send comments to scarista (BETA) | Report this review (#165019)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars And then there were three...

Van Der Graaf Generator reformed for the second time to make Present in 2005, and since then Jackson has jumped ship for the second time. On the previous occasion that this happened VDGG recruited a violinist and welcomed erstwhile bassist Nic Potter back into the fold; the resulting album, The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome was generally considered a disappointment when it was released but has stood the test of time rather well. This time around the core members have decided to continue as a trio, and the resulting album is perhaps less immediate but deeper and more coherent than Present.

Trisector sees a number of changes for the band, some more obvious than others. The three piece VDGG has something of a keyboard dominated sound, although Hammill's distinctly non virtuoso guitar gets a more than adequate airing, and comparatively short songs are the order of the day. All but one of the nine tracks is credited to Banton/Evans/Hammill, the first time that group songwriting has dominated a VDGG album, and the overall mood and sound is relatively low key and gloomy, perhaps due to the church organ sound that Banton favours for many of the songs. They toured as a three piece before this was recorded, and they are clearly relaxed and confident in their stripped down format. But is it any good? The answer is a definite, though not unqualified, yes. The writing and arrangements are tight and focused, the musicians demonstrate a spellbinding interplay and the album's high points are well up to their extremely high standards.

There are a few weak spots; the instrumental opener The Hurlyburly would have been twice as effective if it had been two minutes long instead of four and half, and there are passages where Hammill adds some lead guitar and the absence of Jackson's sax is really noticeable . On Drop Dead it sounds as though Hammill's old alter ego Rikki Nadir has briefly taken over the proceedings - it will probably work superbly in concert, but the clodhopping beat rather disrupts the flow of the album.

The best tracks more than make up for the weaker moments, though. Only In a Whisper is a jazz tinged number featuring Hammill on Fender Rhodes and Banton on bass guitar, with splendidly restrained vocals and featherlight dumming. It's a beautifully understated performance from a band that has never shied away from the grand gesture, and all the more effective for it. All That Before is an uptempo rocker that really hits home, and Hammill's rhythm guitar playing beefs things up to great effect. The centrepiece of the album is the epic Over the Hill, which is everything an old school prog fan could wish for; time changes galore, constantly shifting moods and tempi and a bravura vocal performance of some suitably oblique lyrics which could refer the history of VDGG or Hammill's own existential turmoil. Prog rock doesn't get much better than this in any era or sub genre.

Following the triumph of Present and the subsequent live shows it seemed that VDGG had nothing left to prove, but Trisector demonstrates that they've still got everything to play for. Banton and Evans have rarely sounded better, and they provide some of the best settings ever for Hammill's voice and lyrics. Trisector isn't Pawn Hearts or Godbluff, but it isn't trying to be, which is probably its greatest strength. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the magnificent Only In a Whisper and Over the Hill.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#165074)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well the wait is over and i can finally sit down and enjoy the newest CD from one of my favorite bands. As soon as this album starts going you feel the difference without David Jackson on the sax, but it's nice because it sets itself aside from the rest of their discography.

The first track on the album is The Hurlyburly a wonderful instrumental to kick things off, nothing more nothing less.

Hammill comes in on Interference Patterns and shows that his voice is still wonderfully chaotic, and that a catchy song can be a great song.

The Final Reel along with Lifetime both sound like songs would be more fitting for a Hammill solo album, but that doesn't mean they're not great tracks.

Lifetime is a very typical of Peter Hammill sounding song that sounds very hopeless dark and cold.

Drop Dead one of the most staple rock sounding songs I've ever heard VDGG do, and while I can't say it works great, it doesn't hurt either.

Only in a Whisper is a very quite song that may sound a bit dull at first but has considerable room for growth.

All That Before defiantly one of my favorite tracks, i love the keyboards.

Over the Hill took a good album and just made it great, defiantly one of the better epics I've heard in a while. An instant classic in my book.

(We Are) Not Here Last song on the album, it's a bit haunting and maybe not my idea of a great closer but it still works with whole going out on the same note you came in type idea.

Well, woo VDGG made another exceptionally good album, and hopefully not the last either.

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Send comments to acelxpro (BETA) | Report this review (#165250)
Posted Friday, March 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The first time I heard this album I was very sad: All songs seem to be past albums fillers mainly because of their low creativity level, but after several listenings (one week by now) I started changing my mood towards this album. Trisector songs are deeper than Present, but Jackson's absence is noticeable and makes the album lack those typical VdGG progressions which I love(and miss) so much!!!

The savior song Over the hill doesn't make a huge difference, and I'm rather dissapointed beacuse I was hoping for a great song after I read some reviews. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks like these. I have to say thay VdGG is my all-time favourite band, and Pawn Hearts my all-time favourite album, but I prefer Present (just Every Bloody Emperor, Boleas Panic & Nutter Alert) mainly because of Jackson's brass.

Present has great instrumentation but lacks deepness and darkness, Trisector has deepness but lacks instrumentation.

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Send comments to keith_emerson (BETA) | Report this review (#165267)
Posted Friday, March 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars 5 stars. I don't know my exact motives for 5 stars, I have only had this album for a little longer than a week but that has given me sufficient listening time for it. I have enjoyed this to no end. I don't know if its just the fact that this may be one of the only rock bands who in their older age can release records rivaling their finest ones of years past, or just the fact that it is a simply great record.

I hear a depth...a passage of time that so occupies Hammill's songwriting, being fulfilled and expounded upon here. I hear three musicians who manage to make up for the loss of their amazing sax player with well put together instrumentals combining Hugh's powerful organ (and even great bass guitar playing on a few tracks) Guys intensely talented drumming, and Peters uniquely beautiful guitar and keyboard work. It seems the Van Der Graaf of old has matured and decided to produce something they can be completely proud of and can perform with intensity.

Peter can still sing. No doubt about it. Not only can he still sing, even after the years of smoking his voice retains its former beauty and, at times, harshness. I have NEVER heard a rocker of his age sing so well. Amazing. Don't ask me how he has kept it up, but I love the fact that he has.

The songs : What I have found interesting about them

1. The Hurlyburly - I hear a collision of Van Der Graaf intensity (Something like the middle instrumental in The Sleepwalkers) with surf rock. Surf Rock? Yes, kind of odd but Hammill's tremelo bar usage and Guy's 60's style drumming really reminds me of it. This one rocks and opens the album with a bang.

2. Interference Patterns - After I listened to this for the first time, a knowing smile crept across my face...I thought Van Der Graaf can create a very deep musical landscape in under 4 minutes...wow It really is a disconcerting listen that totally enjoys its place as a bearer of heavy and difficult Van Der Graaf Generator riffs.

3. The Final Reel - Beautiful usage of piano and chording. I don't know how they write em like these but this one really blows me away...also Guy uses brushes which is a bit of an oddity for VDGG. There is a chord in this song that will make the hair on your neck stand on end. And you will love it.

4. Lifetime - The inverted chords of which Hammill and Hugh have been known to use come to phenomenal usage on this amazingly dark but beautiful song. Lyrically astounding. Almost minimalist in its instrumentalism...Guy is reduced to great effect to a simple hi-hat rhythm at the start (not simple to play, just simple sounding) that brings to mind Miles Davis' In A Silent Way This one is a treasure and a sure classic.

5. Drop Dead - And here we are with the first riff-rocking song on the record. I don't mean riff-rocking as in repetitive or anything, this one does rock and is a bit angry, showing why Hammill had an essential part in the formation of punk. Put your fist in the air.

6. Only In A Whisper - Again I hear a similarity to Miles Davis - the electric piano combined with Guy's subtle fusion drumming and Hughs pristine bass tone. Of course we have Peter Hammill singing to great effect with his wonderful voice. Truly a good song and a good fusion of talents.

7. All The Before - Wonderfully catchy and moving. It sounds trite on paper and is a classic example of people talking about being old but for some reason this time it works. He loses his glasses but this song is done in a way that makes you want to go find them for him rather than point and laugh. It is kind of a welcome break from the more heavy subject matter before delving into even more deep matter. Wonderful song with a great riff.

8. Over The Hill - I suppose this would be the centerpiece of the album. An epic definitely. People have likened it to Childlike Faith and that would be a fair comparison, sometimes majestic and huge, other times dark and dissonant. A true masterpiece of 12 minutes but with some odd little Gentle Giant'isms that might throw you off. Think of what Gentle Giant would write in the dark. The lyrics detail standing fast in a way that is quite original and inimitable. They can still write the epics.

9 - (We Are) Not Here - I would have asked for something slow and quiet to close the album but was pleasantly corrected with this prog rocking closer that both rocks and is dark. With such a taste for what is necessary for the album, the crew creates yet another song that works in harmony with the others and closes the album perfectly.

And there it is. I do believe this a wonderful album and one of the best records I've ever heard from a band that is Over The Hill

To achieve such as they do after such a long time of being in the music business and growing older is quite a feat, but I do believe even if I didn't know the situation I would still be engrossed by the music. Thats what it is all about isn't it? The music? Yes, and Van Der Graaf Generator have done it. They have made wonderful music.

5 stars. Please. Buy this album.

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Send comments to endlessepic (BETA) | Report this review (#166104)
Posted Wednesday, April 09, 2008 | Review Permalink
BaldFriede
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After having heard the album several times I can only say: They did it again! VdGG are full of surprises still, at least for me. This starts right with the opening track The Hurlyburly An instrumental, which certainly is unusual for VdGG, if you don't count the 2nd disc of Presence. Not my favorite track on the album though, but I guess the message of that track is Hey, we are still having fun and don't take ourselves too seriously. Interference Patterns is a great track and quite complex, although short. Hammill shows he knows a bit about physics in the lyrics. The Final Reel is a melancholy number about a couple committing suicide. It seems simple on the surface; the complexity is in the details here, like that slow repeated riff at the end of the song. Lifetime is another quiet track with a meandering melody line; Guy Evans almost exclusively plays on the hi-hat for most of the time on this one. Enough of the sentiments, time for a rocker. Drop Dead is just that, a song I really like to dance to. Hammill grunges on his axe with his typical dirty chords, and Banton adds slightly overdriven organ bits in between, while Evans pounds away maniacally. One of my favourite tracks on the album. With Only in a Whisper we are back on quiet territory again, at least at the beginning, but the song rises to a climax in the middle. Hammill on electric piano and Hugh Banton on bass guitar for a change (I always like it when he does that). The 10/8 rhythm drives the song along like a sailboat. Another rocker follows: All That Before is a song about losing short-time memory and displacing things. The joys of getting older; is Hammill being self-ironic here? Great organ licks of Banton here while Hammill is being Nadir on his guitar again. And now for the epic of the album: Over the Hill takes you on a typical VdGG roller-coaster ride. This is definitely a VdGG classic. The rocky instrumental parts remind me a bit of Man-Erg, but VdGG are definitely not plagiarizing themselves here. The majestic chorus of the song reminds me a bit of Childlike Faith in Childhood's End, lyrically as well as musically. But again, this is not plagiarism; I am just trying to give you a an impression of what it is like. The final track (We Are) Not Here has an interesting rhythmical pattern and is in my opinion another great track to dance to. And now the question some of you may ask: What about Jackson? To that I answer: Well, what about him? He does not play on that album! A solid 4 star effort. VdGG remain one of my favourite bands.

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Send comments to BaldFriede (BETA) | Report this review (#167586)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
ghost_of_morphy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I don't like Van der Graaf Generator. I never have. And yet, since they have released a new album and have been kind enough to promote it through Prog Archives, I felt it incumbent upon me to at least listen to it.

And I was surprised, so I'm reviewing it to share my surprise with the rest of you.

VDGG has been stripped down to a trio on this release. Organ and drums, with Hammil covering vocals and throwing in guitar and piano as he sees fit. This isn't really a power trio in the ELP or Le Orme mode. These guys realize that the grand symphonic sound is beyond them (for the most part) and don't strive for it (again, for the most part.) And I find that their acceptance of their limitations is a welcome relief from much of what modern prog offers. The inevitable metal influence that pervades modern prog is thankfully muted, yet these guys don't pretend to be living in the '70's. The music is dark, but not bleak and uninteresting for the most part (something I have found VDGG guilty of in the past.) I find this an interesting way of furthering prog in modern times without resorting to the excesses of groups like The Mars Volta or the pandering to modern sensibilities like innumerable prog metal groups (think Queensryche or Tool here.)

Again, I am pleasantly surprised.

Three stars for this album. It's good. I don't expect that I'll listen to it again and again, but I do think I will probably put it on occasionally. There is a quality about it that begs you to listen closer, even if there is nothing compelling about it.

It's good. If you buy it, your money won't be wasted, even though there are better offerings out there.

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Send comments to ghost_of_morphy (BETA) | Report this review (#167744)
Posted Thursday, April 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
laplace
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars So obv. it's inf. neato that teh VdGG are still together and continue to release new music and I really am thankful for that, but despite this reviewer's tendency to be greatly forgiving when it comes to the cult side of progressive rock, Trisector simply lacks as an album and I think it's easy to pinpoint exactly what's missing.

The notable non-presence of a certain musician isn't a wall in the road of VdGG's creativity but it certainly is a hurdle, so because the band suddenly want for range, Mr. Hammill has much more room on Trisector in which to swing his axe, to mixed results. The song Drop Dead is a foray into the heart of classic rock glory, which this reviewer finds painful in general. It has Kinky riffs and really naff lyrics. That's right, naff. Try harder. ;P The opening track is only a little more tolerable, in that it'd still suit the sort of AOR fans who typically drown in Van der Graaf music but at least doesn't have rawk anthem texts.

Lifetime starts in the vein of an intro, and stays in that groove until its conclusion. Well, that's one way to vary an album's intensity levels and the music does seem to suit the mood of the lyrics but it's a bonus track, a B-side, a lacklustre hop into less polarising territory. I appreciate that the band have greatly matured following their classic era, but it's hard to accept that they've mellowed to such a degree. Someone who knows the band in person should start talking about politics, religion or economics in a really loud voice because here's a trio of musicians who do their best when they're furious - if you've read about their escapades and crushing experiences in Italy then you'll know exactly what I mean. Still, I don't claim to understand their intentions or current temperaments; I'm just teasing a standoff-ish, complacent song. <3

As for the love-sized Over the Hill, well, in the parlance of lolcats everywhere, sort of want. It's easy to appreciate, smooth and cut into respectably prog chapters, with a conclusion sure to be envied by scores of neo pretenders, so despite my opinion on the song you need to hear it all the way through. Personally I find it a little too neat (even considering my enduring love of the word neato) and it seems to suit catholic prog tastes a little too exactly, surgically. If it was written this way in all sincerity then congratulations to the band, it's a masterpiece.

What this reviewer enjoys on the album are the times when Banton and Evans grab the reins and steer the songs into less comfortable territory; Interference Patterns intrigues by having VdGG play short notes on their instruments. Gasp, I know! o:) That song's mother was a calculator, and its father was a Geiger counter. Also, Hammill's melody line introduces a little distress and his lyrics are one big metaphor, which is always a good sign that the song's a classic. (We Are) Not Here follows a similarly stark formula and zaps you right on the nose following the over-comfortable epic. I really appreciate as an album-closer; it's the best place they could have installed it in the track order, almost like an antidote. I almost forgave a lot of the transgressions that came before that song but it turns out that I hold my grudges. =P

I'd like to mention Only in a Whisper because it also stakes out new ground for the band, since it's fairly jazzy and explorative without being whammo! like Pawn Hearts or Arrow from Godbluff; i'm particularly thankful that it continues for so long, since Hammill certainly wrote a line of poetry which deserves to be repeated for as long as the listener is receptive.

So when I give this album two stars, understand that it still has content that's relevant to long-term VdGG fans, but that I think the bad slightly outweighs the good. Even after hearing this album I'm still excited that they continue to exist as a band and wish them well, no matter how they choose to progress.

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Send comments to laplace (BETA) | Report this review (#168320)
Posted Monday, April 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Almost 40 years after the release of their accidental debut album, the resurrected Van der Graaf Generator is still not too old to rock'n'roll, as the opener to their 2008 offering Trisector shows: 'The Hurlyburly' is pure rocking fun with a slight touch of sophistication filtered through the jamming mood, something like Rolling Stones-meets-Rick Nadir. Van der Graaf Generator is neither too old to face new challenges or provide genuine strength to their music: in fact, they were driven to do the latter in order to achieve the former, because that's what a band like this has to do when saxophonist David Jackson, the real instrumental protagonist in the ensemble, is missing - face a new challenge. And so they did, and successfully. As it happened with the comeback gem Present, the band's nuclear sound is well set on the paths followed during the 75-76 era, although the remanent trio is forced to bring out a tighter sound: the ethereal aspect of the VdGG sound has to be underscored since banton has to stop creating layers and ambiences as background for Jackson's archetypical sax flourishes and textures. These are gone, so it leaves Banton as the leading instrumentalist, which in turn forces Evans to reinforce his rhythm foundations in a peculiarly rocking fashion: in order to make the whole ensamble work integrally in this new scheme, Hammill has to focus (either in the fast or slow songs) on his recognizeable energy, related to the most powerful passages of his later solo albums. Much guitar input by Hammill here, when compared to volume 1 of Present. Even though his singing is a bit waned, you can still notice the passion, conviction and muscle whe ndepicting his tales of solitude, coming of age, lovers' suicide, etc. So, Trisector ends up being more robust and less atmospheric than Present: both albums are equally excellent for different reasons, always making sense in the VdGG idiosincracy. After the catchy fun of the instrumental opener, things starts getting serious immediately with 'Interference Patterns', a rack solidly based on the dynamic interaction between the organ harmonic flows and the tight drum cadences. This course of action will also prove relevant in on tracks such as 'All That Before' and the tremendus closer '(We Are) Not Here'. The former bears a reasonably constrained anger recycled through elegant energy, while the latter brings a moderately bombastic mood not too far from the staple 'La Rossa' (albeit, not as epic: this song was designed to especifically close down the album). The real epic stuff is comrpised in 'Over the Hill', whose almost 12 ˝ minute span is full of a well organized set of various sections, diverse moods and alternations between climaxes and relaxed passages: the whole amalgam is really hypnotic, yet another VdGG gem, yet another gigantic step for prog music. 'The Final Reel' is a jazzy ballad that finds the piano and organ creating a sonic community of grey moods. While keeping a similarly ethereal instrumentation, 'Lifetime' patently delivers more tension, with the soft organ putting thoughts of mysterious menace in the listener's mind. 'Drop Dead' brings back the rockiest side of Hammill and co., again in a Nadir sort of way, something halfway between 'Nobody's Business' and 'Two or Three Spectres'. 'Only in a Whisper' is a 5/4 nidtemp owhose jazzy cadences make it related to 'The Final Reel' - arguably, here 's Evan's mos taccomplished performance in the album. Well, well,... it is OK to miss Jackson when it comes to facing the opportunity to listen to Trisector for the first time, but once you get to listen to it, then comes a new idea in mind, an idea that can be easily confirmed after one or two more listens: the new material works well for this trio format, and so do the arrangements. This is an indication of how talented this band is with any format.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#170152)
Posted Wednesday, May 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars After listening to this album about 20times I think I have now vary clear opinion. For me it is the best Van der Gaaf Generator album since Still Life. It contains one of the greatest song I`ve ever heard- Over the Hill. I think this composition is on the same range as Childlike Faith in Childhood`s End or A louse is not A home. Other great number for me is very short Interference Patterns which sounds like something out of King Crimson. What is funny about this composition for me is that at the first time I didn`t like it at all and I thought “what the hell is that”. Now it is one of my favorite Van der Graaf Generator songs. All that Before and Lifetime we had opportunity to listen to them before they were out. They are just great songs. The Hurlyburly was very surprising for me because I would never think that VdGG could sound like that. All In all it is very nice instrumental song which sounds like wild west. Drop Dead is another nice song which resembles All that Before. The Final Reel and Only in a Whisper are very peaceful songs which would fit perfectly to some of the Peter Hammill solo albums. The last composition (we are) not here is something like continuation of Over the Hill and substitutes the great end of the album.

I think this album deserve five stars without hesitation. If you didn`t like this for the first ten times give it another ten because I consider this album as an essential: a masterpiece of progressive music and that is the one that can`t be omitted in any prog rock collection.

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Send comments to Wobbler (BETA) | Report this review (#170772)
Posted Monday, May 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Trisector is an honest work, good, fresh and mature. David Jaxon is not there, but the energy of the trisector(Hammill-Evans-Banton) announces a new horizon of the group. Banton is now the outsider solist but Evans puts the rythm:pure and solid and Mr. Hammill expends all the force in reache an outstanding work. Jazzy, bluesy, easily,epic,warm,progressive, anti-progressive.... all in a new sound. VDGG gives another tour de force and this is the reason for give 5 stars to his work. We have an other great epic song: Over the Hill... but VDGG are over the years and like always gives us the passion of live and the honestity of his brave and direct existence. We are in the fourth step of the band??? I saw them in San Sebastian.. and was spectacular his perfect performance. Still Life!!! Long life for the band. Please, don´t try to change!!!

Viva VDGG.

And the spirit survives.

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Send comments to palinurus (BETA) | Report this review (#170866)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
5 stars After Jaxon's eviction from the Generator (for obscure disagreement about his participation in one of those exploitation career overviews), how was the trio to go on without one of their most noticeable members absent and the sonic void bound to happen? Would you believe that Jaxon is hardly missed? I mean this album is sooooo good (in the songwriting and overall execution) that Jaxon's absence goes barely noticed. Actually I'd hate to think how perfect Trisector would've been, had Jaxon been part of it.. Yes!!! That good!!! All fears of another average Present album cast aside, Trisector is actually excellent enough to rival with Godbluff or Still Life.

With the ever solid Guy Evans still as inventive and right on the dot as he's ever been, Peter clearly kept some of his best songs for the group (not sure it was the case for Present) and he's particularly fine form vocally (the best album vocal performance along with Incoherence), he's obviously taking more space left empty with his electric guitar (never his strongest instrument >> the instrumental surf music Zep-esque Hurly Burly and the punkish Drop Dead), but the album is clearly Hugh Banton's. Not only is he playing bass guitar brilliantly, but his organ parts are absolutely brilliant and shinning like a thousand suns. Indeed he fills even more of the void left by Jaxon's exit. To make a point, most likely the group avoided the usual logo and chose to pass it trough as the triangle present on the front artwork and throughout most of the booklet's pages.

After the unusual but fun Hurly Burly, Banton hammers away a very complex riff pattern that fits the song title perfectly. Interference Pattern is so off-beat, that it indeed can be mistakebn as an interference, Hammill's verses reassuring us we're not in some crazy KB-dominated progmetal band, while Peter's chorus brings complete madness, the middle section veering obtusely complex. What a pure nightmare and what a contrast with the calmness of Final Reel, which is maybe the low point of the album, better suited for a solo album, IMHO. Lifetime is the first masterpiece of this album, Banton's organ resonating with Hammill's quiet electric guitar, the song gradually picking up solemnity through Peter's superb lyrics (ceremonial quicksand is a FIND!!) and great melody.

The punkish powers of Drop Dead (just the title is punk enough) would've been better suited after Final reel, rather than lifetime, but nevertheless it gives the proper boot in the butt for the rest of the album to glide ever so smoothly, even though it's not an easy ride home. As much a stark contrast DD was, wait till you get to Only In A Whisper, which starts on Hammill's electric piano, while Evans provides much background Banton coming in like a sonar (keeping for the length), preceding Peter's superb solemn voice. Another stunner. All That Before returns to the beefy rock of the hard&fast/slow&quiet alternation of tracks, with Hammill's fat's guitar riffs echoes away Banton's heavy organ lines, while Peter is quite talkative and an absolutely whacky ending in chaos. But you haven't heard anything yet as the 12-mins+ Over The Hill is the peak of the album, starting slowly a bit like in Jaws-like move from Hugh, than Peter taking the song on the Killer trail (the riff around the 8th minute), but ultimately, the track grows quickly to monster-like Lighthouse (with Hammill showing progress in his electric guitar playing), before dying away slowly. Not Here is starting solemnly on a descending riff then veering a tad dissonant ala Lemmings. Absolutely fabulous a track, Hammill's voice overdubbing to create a chorus over the descending riff is haunting, until a gradual fade-out over train noise, it creates a stunning end to the album.

While the previous album had given the same kind of thrills as Trisector on the first two listens, they went quickly away: but for Trisector, these thrills are clinging on and often ceding to admiring shrugs of how close to perfection it is. Sorry Jax, but you're long over with, but hopefully not completely forgotten. Many of these tracks, I can't wait to see in concert again.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#170868)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well this is the 2nd release from the reformed VDGG but its the first without Jaxon on sax's. Of course this begs the question is this a real VDGG record or simply an exercise in making cash on the strength of the name with an eye to retirement ? I suspect the latter but this is a real VDGG record in its own way. Firstly the quility of the music is not as high as during the Bands Early glory days. In fact P.H.'s Albums have suffered from being produced at breakneck speed for many years now. However this record has a similar feel in places to world record, whilst many of the ideas are rehashed from P.H's many many solo lp's. I am not going to go through each track pointing out its forerunner in the catalogue I'll leave that to those who have considerable more time to spend on the project but the precursor tracks are often obvious. There is not one classic track here but there is also no howlers or utterly substandard ones either. The tracks in general are entertaining and the recorded sound is excellent. I like this record more than Present and its been played a great deal more than any PH record since Fire-ships so far. The extra space reveals just how important Hugh is to the sound and its his inclusion that finally convinces me that this record really belongs in the VDGG catalogue and not in the PH one. I'll not do a track by track run through as I believe records should be enjoyed as a whole or not at all. Trisector is certainly an album by an Lp band and it has a consistency and feel all of its own. In the end Jaxons departure has only dented VDGG not sunk it. I hope that this will not be the last shoat of this great band and that the next album will feature some stronger song writing, over wise this is a pretty good late period record and one that all VDGG fans will want and many none fans would enjoy. 4 stars..

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Send comments to burgersoft777 (BETA) | Report this review (#171377)
Posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Van der Graaf are back and just as wonderful as ever! The overall texture and feel of Trisector couldn't have been much better...it really stands alongside their 70's output quite well, despite the obvious absence of woodwind wizard Jackson. VDGG remain one of my favourite bands, and they have proven yet again that they aren't too old to make relevant, energetic, and dare I say youthful music! Having said that, Hammill's lyrics certainly show that he is a man of many years and great life experience, but at no time does he sound like an aged man - quite the contrary - he is in great voice here!

The only two bands I know of that seem to be able to still capture the magic of their original heyday are Magma and, now, Van der Graaf Generator. Take a lesson, Yes and Genesis! Re-inventing the wheel is not always the right answer!

VDGG have stuck to a formula which has endeared them to fans for nearly 40 years...thank God! I quite honestly didn't know what to expect when I first pressed 'play'...knowing that David Jackson was no longer with the group concerned me a bit...I think I almost expected this to sound like a PH solo record. However, those concerns melted away quickly - especially once Interference Patterns began - the complexity of those ostinato patterns remind me of a keyboard version of Discipline-era Fripp!

There is something for everyone on this record...as far as I'm concerned, it's an instant classic!

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Send comments to themootbooxle (BETA) | Report this review (#172587)
Posted Friday, May 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another good one!

Its a new great album from the new power trio generator, this album is a bit easier then the previus Present it got a diffrent sound more keyboard oriented, it sounds modern and old school prog at the same time, its very fresh feeling and culd probobly be liked by none prog nuts if they stumbled upon it becaus most of the music is pretty simpel and easy to like and some songs are very soft and nice, i dont realy mind Jackson's not here anymore this is a new fresh generator for the 21st century, and i think they still have many good albums ahead of em. VDGG semes to be one of few of the old 70s ands that have come back and still are abel to make realy good music, there isent much to say realy, this is a highly recomended album for VDGG nutts and noobs alike.

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Send comments to Zargus (BETA) | Report this review (#173668)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars No doubt like many fans of Van Der Graaf Generator I was a little concerned at the departure of Sax man David Jackson; after all he was such an integral part of the VDGG sound. Is he missed? Well to be honest, yes, very much but to their credit they've still managed to produce a more than acceptable album. Hamill's guitar features more to compensate but he's not a great guitarist and no substitute for Jackson's dynamic playing. As a result the worst tracks are usually when Hamill plays in a heavier more riffy vein like on Drop Dead, a fairly pedestrian rocker and similarly on opening instrumental The Hurlyburly which is slightly better and strangely Hamill's guitar having a bit of a 50's twang to it at times.

There are some very good moments though; All That Before is the best track to feature Hamill's Guitar more prominently. It has a great grinding riff courtesy of Hamill and played in unison by Keyboard maestro Hugh Banton and a complimentary offbeat drum pattern from Guy Evans, the song almost sounding like it's about to fall apart (deliberately) towards the end.

Over the Hill is excellent. At over twelve minutes long it remains enjoyable throughout and features all the traditional VDGG dynamics with some powerful Banton Organ moments. In fact as might be expected due to the absence of Jackson, the whole album musically rests on the shoulders of his brilliant Organ playing and he rises to the challenge admirably. Hamill also remains in fine voice retaining all the drama of their seventies output.

On the quieter side Lifetime is up there with the better tracks and here Hamill's Guitar is more in keeping with the band sound and adds greatly to overall appeal of the song.

Overall I find this album a more consistant affair than their first post reformation release Present, despite the absence of Jackson but nothing in this album quite competes with the two killer tracks from that album, Nutter Alert and Every Bloody Emperor. Nor as might be expected with such an illustrious back catalogue is it up there with their classic seventies output but an average Van Der Graaf Generator album is better than the best by many a lesser band.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#173694)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A consistent music format .

Having reunited in 2005 and released an album called "Present" which received rave reviews from prog music critics, the legendary band has now come back with another brilliant album "Trisector" (which I presume the name represents the fact that they are three-piece band after David Jackson left the band). The main reason why their previous album received rave reviews revolves around the band's consistency in their music format which has been very "specific" Van der Graaf Generator sound. What is that? It's typically the replacement of guitar (mainly) with pulsating organ sounds augmented with saxophone with dark nuance resulting from the compositions. This is brilliant considering the band had practically in vacuum stage for 30 years since their album "The Quite Zone / The Pleasure Dome" released in 1977. It does not mean that the members of the band had been nothing to do during that span of time as Peter Hammil had been releasing numerous solo albums and David Jackson (sax) joined a powerful prog Canterbury band The Tangent in 2000.

The reunion continued as it was proven by the release of "Trisector" on March 17, 2008 even though only three original members - that's why the album is called "Trisector" - with Peter Hammil (vox, guitar, piano), Hugh Banton (keyboards, organ) and Guy Evans (drums). David Jackson, the critical member who used to play saxophone, left the band. With the departure of Jackson, VdGG still proves solid in their music endeavor. In fact, this album is better than their previous "Present".

VdGG is consistent with its musical characteristics which basically dark, complex and sometimes there are parts with avant-garde elements. With nine tracks, there is an unusual thing that it also includes one instrumental track as opener. If you have observed the band since its glory days in 70s, you would feel the need to enjoy this album in its entirety even though this is neither a concept album nor the songs seem to interrelate one to another. I can sense how elegant the compositions the band offers right from the beginning track "The Hurlyburly" until the concluding track " (We Are) Not Here" which overall sounds like a cohesive whole.

Hey, this is definitely not ELP where the keyboard takes all music maneuvers wildly by Keith Emerson. However, this latest album relies heavily on unique organ sounds brilliantly produced by Hugh Banton in a format that is not as complex as the band's legendary albums. The chief characteristic, in addition to eerie organ sounds, is the baritone quality of Peter Hammil's voice. He has been one of great prog vocalists who can maintain his quality really well, and in fact, I think his singing style is really improving in this album. And I think, he is pivotal in this reunion because without him it's definitely not VdGG anymore. Until now I have not found any vocalist who can sing as great as Hammil.

"The Hurlyburly" kicks off nicely with dark nuance using some touch of avant-garde without vocal line. It sounds VdGG in the seventies with modern world as the rhythm section sometimes reminds me to Dire Strait's "Money for Nothing". It depicts a paradox: dark nuance with happy rhythm section - how can it be? That's the genius of the band creating such synergy! With no saxophone, the band is quite inventive by putting Hugh Banton provides great maneuvers with his organ work. The next track "Interference Patterns" provides a dynamic interaction between organ and dynamic drumwork by Guy Evans. This pattern is repeated excellently as you may find as in " All That Before" and the concluding track "(We Are) Not Here".

"The Final Reel" is a ballad with jazz nuance which gives a chance to piano and organ on dark setting. With similar instruments, the band moves forward with "Lifetime"which flows naturally with Peter Hammil's technical ability in his singing style (dynamic, powerful). "Drop Dead" brings the music in rock fashion with VdGG style.

It's not something strange that VdGG creates a composition with relatively long duration like in an epic "Over The Hill" which spans into a 12 minute long. This track might be something that you have dreamed about from the band if you yhave been with the band since the 70s, because other tracks are basically shorter. Again, if you were there in the 70s, you might find some passages (during breaks) in this track sound similar with what Jethro Tull made in "Thick As A Brick" album. Overall, this epic is really excellent!!

One thing that's worth mentioning: even though this time the band remains only three original members (without David Jackson, whose contribution was pivotal in the band's legendary albums), "Trisector" has firmly positioned VdGG consistent music direction and format. For newbie, typically the music of VdGG is quite difficult to digest but it'll grow over time and repeats of spins. For those of you who have been with the band in decades, this album makes you happy, really! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#173866)
Posted Friday, June 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Being a big fan of VdGG, I had relatively high hopes for Trisector. Since it's almost four decades since the formation of the group, I don't expect a complete change or totally new soundscape. After all, who's to blame Mozart for sounding like Mozart? VdGG have the right to be faithful to their style.

Problem is, they do sound quite how they did, but with the exclusion of David Jackson's saxophones, the things that are left are their compositions, Peter Hammill's voice and lyrics. That's 25% off, and more. Only when he isn't there, I really do appreciate how huge, and important, Jackson's influence in the VdGG sound really is.

All other things still work quite well: Hammill is his old self. He isn't a remarkable guitar player, and probably is the first to admit that himself, but his singing is great and colourful in the best Hammillesque way. Hugh Banton and Guy Evans are as reliable as ever. The compositions, however, aren't of the high quality of the gone times. The opener The Hurlyburly is a meaningless Schlager ohne Worte, but there are some quite nice tries, as and Over The Hill. The latter wouldn't sound too out of place on some VdGG's album of the seventies.

I know I may sound a bit harsh here, but this album doesn't add to the high quality of Van Den Graaf Generator's overall fantastic output, and might as well have been left undone. Yet - I stress - it is not a bad album.

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Send comments to OT Räihälä (BETA) | Report this review (#173970)
Posted Sunday, June 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars One Jaxon short of four stars.

I'd really like to enjoy this album, I'd really like to find something that would make me name this an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Unfortunately the album's name is the best image of the band's state & quality.

Trisector shows a huge and bitter resemblance to Genesis' ...And then There Were Three... hopefully the band does not try to sway the mood in favour of cheap pop. The main resemblance is, how the loss of one band member (David Jackson) results in a drastic loss of essence. Now that Jaxon is gone, I've apprehended his value as a band member. Having always thought it is Peter Hammill, who holds the key to de VDGG sound, I needed listening to Trisector (and comparing it with The Tangent, which made a new home for the brilliant saxophonist & flautist), to find out, how huge a mistake I've made.

I still believe Trisector makes more sense, than Present (with its 1CD-long improv marathon, that leaves me with nothing more than a sense of void and a long-lasting mind-ache), but sounds flat, when compared to the 1970s VDGG albums, or even some PH solo albums.

Back to the currently reviewed album - it can be simply described as a coherent, yet repetitious and uninspiring piece of organ-based musical work. The music is vastly missing something, besides, of course, Jaxon's saxophone. Each and every song is quite good, but their similarity causes, that their goodness gets boring after the 5th or 6th track. Apart from ideas the album, falls short of moods (Yes! Jaxon's saxophone/flute was the key to making a Arrow-like thriller or a torch song, beautiful just like Refugees).

Taking on the songs one by one wouldn't really make any sense, because they all go by the same patterns. Trisector is a ride up & down between simple rockers (The Hurlyburly, Interference Patterns, Drop Dead, All that Before) and similairly simplistic compassionate sad Hammill-ish ballads (Final Reel, Lifetime, Only in a Whisper). Yeah, you can hear the very characteristic Hammill-goes-solo piano compositons, backed up by Hammond organ and percussion... wait... now I get it! It's a PH album, overdubbed with Banton's and Evans' instruments. The guitar, organ, piano and the percussion don't really seem like working together, rather like playing in the same studio. Listen to the Interference Patterns chorus or the intro of Lifetime and you'll get it.

Only Over the Hill and (We Are) Not Here sound a bit different from other tracks. I hate to disappoint you, but different doesn't mean better. Still, too much organ sounds and not enough Van Der Graaf Generator.

Call it whatever you like - boring, plain good, coherent, unimaginative, a Peter Hammill solo album, Hugh Banton and friends - it is gonna be true in reference to this album, but without Jaxon, who made it all miraculously play together, it's gonna be another Good, but non-essential progressive rock album.

Best Song: The Hurlyburly (it really rocks, something like Theme One, it could easily become an opener of a action-movie)

Worst Song: Interference Patterns (starts off really good, but then the chorus comes in and... aaargh the noise!)

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Send comments to Mike_Zed (BETA) | Report this review (#179934)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Rhyming Without Meter - VDGG's new album is a return to form, but does not quite reach the heights of their 70s masterpieces.

At first glance the cover art reminds one of the pyramid structure of PF's 'Dark Side of the Moon'. The 3 members are shown with laser lights forming the pyramidical icon - the trisector - there are now three; Banton, Evans and and Hammill. The trisector signalling the train VDGG - 3 virtuoso musicians. But does this live up to their classic works Pawn Hearts, Godbluff, Still Life, The Least We can Do and H to He... ??? No, but it is certainly great music, played very differently, in some ways more mainstream but distinctly prog.

'The Hurly Burly' is an instrumental that is pleasant enough though takes a few listens to completely enjoy but it really grows on you. The Shadows style twanging guitar is particularly good. It now rates as one of my favourite prog instrumentals.

'Interference Patterns' has that familiar esoteric existentialist lyric -

All that we see illusory every assumption based on blind faith alone.... On with the motley, bring it home! Everything's formed from particles, all that you see is a construction of waves. Hold onto both thoughts, under general relativity the cradle connected to the grave.

Banton's organ is played with an asymmetrical time signature to Hammill's blank verse in emittable style, a recitative style that is distinctly VDGG. The scientific psycho babble though is overshadowed with the frenetic shifting metricla shapes of music. There are pauses, pulsating rhythms and changes in texture throughout. A great addition to VDGG catalogue.

'The Final Reel' begins with the contemplative piano of Hammill and speaks of Jack and Gillian (a bit kitsch) who are facing their decline into a broken relationship. There are thoughts of suicide as they contemplate taking the final dive. A very downbeat song but beautifully performed.

'Lifetime' begins with the jazz improv style drums of Evans underneath a layer of brooding organ. The lyrics are familiar to the VDGG catalogue.

I could foresee what was to come, I had a sense of what might happen. The river runs and very rapidly becomes a torrent, sweeping us towards our ricochet. It takes a lifetime to unravel all the threads that have tied us in our webs of tourniquet. I stake no claim on memory. I stand on ceremonial quicksand. I look for something with solidity to hold: something lasting, something pristine, with no sense of decay.

Let the current sweep you away, memories are like quicksand, so we must unlearn all that we know in order to return to the things we borrowed for a day - the things that last are all that we hold dear. A sad ballad of remorse and reflection of what could have been, similar to Hammill's solo material.

'Drop Dead' turns up the pace and rocks hard with a driving guitar riff, one of Hammill's best guitar performances. The hammering organ is a delight on this track. It' about how a woman deflates the bloated ego of male testosterone charged masculinity with 2 words - Drop dead! A parody of broken relationships, the star of this track is the hard driving rhythm. There are references to fairy tales within and some of the most endearing lyrics are prevalent:

In a sense some men are always caught in adolescence, trying to crack the mystery girl cocoon. It doesn't take a wicked witch to point out obsolescence is a state they might wake up to pretty soon. Is it any wonder when they hone that perfect put-down to deflate the macho tough guy male buffoon?

A more pensive track follows, 'Only in a Whisper'; the lyrics suggest the cyber society of faceless people who say they are one thing but are really another.

Welcome to the Power of Self-deception, head high in the grip of Holy Deadlock. Don't count on the way your days are numbered, listen to the wind which whips your every word away. Word-drunk, has the Inquisition found you? Weight falls on your shoulders, under pressure. Black dog in the desert heat will hound you - hang on, only Faith is holding us together.

Take it as you will, the lyrics are as in depth as Hammill can get. The track is quiet musically at first and builds up only to be taken down to the minimalism of the opening section.

'All That Before' is an outstanding return to form after some mediocrity in the last couple of tracks. Hammill's vocals create the off kilter rhythm accentuated by sizzling keyboards. I sorely miss the sax at times like this, however the track is filled out my multi-layered organs and fuzzed out guitars. There is an excellent section 3 minutes in with a strange metrical signature that overturns the structure.

The longest track is 'Over The Hill' clocking in at 12:26 and it is one of the best. It begins slowly, patiently with emotive lyrics and soulful organ, cabaret style. The piano chimes in the key motif and sends the song into a new direction with time sigs that are hard to define in their complex arrangement. The organ and piano answer each other and explode in to a new rhythm that bursts out as Hammill declares "If we're living as though Gods at our shoulders, if we're giving of our best, by an effort of will, then we'll be up for the test, we'll never know when we're over the hill." VDGG's members are getting older so this is a type of autobiographical examination of their existence today. Their music is as vibrant as ever in the midst of mainstream mediocrity. The album is a welcome addition to the third wave of prog - there is definitely room for the progenitors of prog to continue with innovation and a daring sense of abandon.

The album ends on a bleak note - 'We Are Not Here'. There is an excellent out of sync rhyming pentameter, a non- syllabic phrasing that works well. Hammill sings "vibration without meter" as if to inform his listeners of the type of music they are hearing.

'Trisector' is a great album, and though not to the standard of their classics, there is still a lot on offer here. Hopefully there are greater things to come from VDGG.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#185542)
Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Nice follow-up to _Present_. Many of the tracks sound as though they have a Van Der Graaf Generator twist on early '70s Deep Purple and Gentle Giant. A very bottom heavy sound. Actually, the lengthier tracks remind me of later Talk Talk and Bark Psychosis...an organic post-rock with a jazzy feel. Amazing what VDGG 3 can pull off with such a small collective. _Drop Dead_ should be on the radio as a single. Great stuff and highly recommended. _Interference Patterns_ should be listened to at high volume, preferably at 11. Probably the most technical I've heard Van Der Graaf Generator. Excellent counterpoint. Of note, David Jackson is absent on this recording but he is hardly missed. Every serious prog.rock fan should not disicriminate and embrace the _...And Then There Were Three_ version of VDGG.

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#186587)
Posted Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars THIRTY-FIVE YEARS!

In October 73, I purchased my first VDGG album (Pawn Hearts) which was almost instantly followed by The Least and H to He. All these before the end of that year. I was fourteen years old.

The Hammill gang has ever since been a companion of mine (even if there was a ten year's break in my music addiction from 86 to 96). Unlike most prog reviewers, I am worried that Jackson is not here. I am missing his huge sax play as well as his delicate fluting exercise. IMHHO they do belong to the genuine VDGG sound and no album without him would ever sound as full Graaf one. This is my personal feeling.

After their long awaited reunion album Present which held an awful experimental CD (and another good one to be complete), I was curious to hear what the band was still capable to propose.

Trisector is made of ten (relatively) short songs of which the opener is fully instrumental. It must been ages since the band didn't release an instrumental piece (Theme One maybe). It is on the upbeat side and to be honest it is quite a good introduction to this album.

One of the best song featured IMO is the wonderful Lifetime. Peter is so moving and convincing during this exercise (as always I should say). It is true that the absence of Jackson is almost unnoticed here. The passion delivered here is phenomenal and this track ranges to the best ones of the band IMO.

Some other pieces are on the upbeat side like Drop Dead and can be considered as out of the normal status. Heavy-pop? Not my cup of tea. Fortunately, an almost classic song takes place in the form of Only In A Whisper: lots of jazz feeling, fine organ play, almost psychedelic atmosphere. This song seems to come out from their early repertoire. It is not easily accessible but I guess that each old and devoted fan must salivate while listening to it.

The heavy mania also stroke the Graaf in these days. All That Before holds very heavy keyboards and a dark mood. If it weren't for this exaggerated hard tone, it could have been considered as another Graaf classic. As such, and even if the band released some heavy tracks in their glory days (Killer) I can only consider this as a good song, no more.

We are brought back again into more intimate, personal Hammill sound (even if this album is signed quite democratically) with the brilliant Over The Hill (which is no Machiavel cover.). Over twelve minutes into the dark VDGG world.

All the darkness, the subtlety, the emotion, the passion of Peter is sweating each second of this great song. For the ones of you who are waiting their more experimental and chaotic style: don't worry there are such passages as well in here. And when the whole band gets back together after such a break, I can only tell that I miss dear old Dave. Still, this song is one of the best of this album and it holds the comparison with some good old ones as well. The vibrant finale is quite a musical experience.

The disjointed Not Here is a good closing track which features again a dramatic Hammill. This is a very good album indeed. Not a masterpiece IMHHO (I hold this status for Godbluff and Still Life), but a much better effort than Present.

Four stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#187002)
Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars One of the icons of progressive rock returns...

Their previous album had some very good songs and I was hoping for the lightning to strike twice. I was not happy to hear that Jackson had left the band and my expectations was downgraded. But Hammil, Evans and Banton is still in the band. But I am missing the saxophone..........

The opening track is also a bummer. It is followed by the inadequate Interference Patterns. But the VDGG trademark sound is there, at least. That's the only joy. The third track, the ballad The Final Reel is a good song. It is black and melancholic in the VDGG vein. The twelve minutes long Over The Hill is a glance back to the heydays of VDGG and the best track of the album. A timely reminder of what VDGG did in the 1970s. The rest of the tracks is OK.

The main problem with Trisector is the lack of one or two outstanding tunes. Trisector are just OK and nothing more. It satisfy the fans and nothing more. But I prefer their albums from the 1970s.

3 stars.

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#188143)
Posted Thursday, November 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The first time I heard the opening track on this album I was really disappointed. I remember thinking "This is VDGG ?" I still don't like it even after many listens. Heck I don't even like the title of this song. Haha. It's called "The Hurlyburly" and it's the only instrumental on here.The beat kicks in after a minute, and it's really commercial sounding. More of that to come. "Interference Patterns" sounds more like the VDGG I know. Lots of organ in this one with vocals coming in before a minute. "The Final Reel" is a top three song for me on this record. Piano leads the way in this mellow tune with vocals and organ after a minute. "Lifetime" has this steady beat throughout with organ and bass supporting. A good reflective track. Great lyrics on this one. "Drop Dead" is the other commercial sounding song on here. I cannot stand this one. It's the kind of song that plays in your head and drives you crazy. Even the lyrics are brutal. Organ leads the way.

"Only In A Whisper" opens with some atmosphere as vocals come in almost whispering. It does build to a fuller sound. It's ok. "All That Before" is another of the top three song for me. Uptempo with organ and some humerous lyrics about getting old. There's even some heaviness a minute in. "Over The Hill" is the song for me that recalls the VDGG of old. Some heavy lyrics here too. Organ opens the proceedings as reserved vocals come in. The tempo picks up after 4 minutes before settling again. The organ rips it up after 8 minutes as the sound builds. It calms back down 11 minutes in to end it. "(We Are) Not Here" has a fairly heavy soundscape with piano and organ leading the way. I like this one a lot. The song ends as the album began.

Take away the two songs I dislike and this is a solid 4 star album. Lots to like here anyway. Good record.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#192261)
Posted Sunday, December 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars After finally completing my 1970s VDGG collection and enjoying Present, I decided to pick up Trisector. While not classic VDGG (I doubt we will ever get another Godbluff or Still Life), Trisector has enough strong material on it to make it an excellent listen. While Interference Patterns comes closest to classic VDGG, other cuts have a more commercial sound though I don't mean this negatively. There is even some humour on this album. Its unfortunate that Jackson decided not to participate but his abscence is not lethal in anyway.

I'll give it 4 stars because I've played this too many times to count over the past few months, my wife and kids don't like it (so its not that commercial sounding) and I'm hoping for another release in the next couple of years even if they remain a three piece.

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Send comments to proggesser (BETA) | Report this review (#199947)
Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR
Jazz-Rock/Fusion Team
3 stars An album of threes?

Maybe. Three members. Three songs I love. Three songs I like a lot. Three (times three) number of tracks. Almost three songs I think the record could have done without. And, perhaps thusly, three stars. Van Der Graaf Generator continues their (second) comeback period with Trisector, an album that feels the least VDGG, even compared to The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, out of their whole catalog. For me, this has less to do with Jackson's departure and more about the style of the songs. Shorter, sparser, more "song like" (admittedly a phrase I do not like). To me, this is more like a Peter Hammill solo album, which is not a bad thing, but it is not Van Der Graaf Generator. Of course this is not meant to discredit the more explosive, heavier, fuller moments (which are all great), but overall something is missing for me that doesn't allow this album to really reach out, grab my shirt collar and shake my head about whilst yelling 'listen to me!', like a majority of their music does. But what is progressive rock without progress?

I'll start off with the good. The opening track, 'The Hurlyburly', a rare instrumental track from VDGG. After some sound effects the song really takes off. This is a really fun surf-rock- esque song that really gets my toes-a-tappin'. Aside from 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' this is perhaps the least serious (sounding) song VDGG has produced yet. Maybe its this quality that really makes this song stand out for me (or that I really like surf rock). The only thing I wish was that Jackson was still around for this song. Saxophone really fits into the surf rock sound, and its absence is a bit disappointing. However, this is something that passes with more and more listens and I can appreciate the song for what it is now. The second track. 'Interference Patterns'. Perhaps my favorite on the album, this a jagged, angular, keyboard dominated piece that doesn't let the listener rest for a moment. (Also, as a bit of a science nerd the lyrical content is very appealing to me.) As one of the other reviewers said, its almost as if the music itself is creating interference patterns out of the sound waves. It is hard for me to call this classic VDGG, as it is a real departure from the classic VDGG sound, but this tune will certainly become a classic VDGG song. The seventh track, 'All That Before'. Another real departure from the classic VDGG sound, this rocker amps up the heaviness and offers humorous musings on getting old. I've always been a fan of Hammill's guitar playing and this one has some nice guitar moments and a very catchy main melody(ies). Other songs of interest are the closer ('(We Are) Not Here') with excellent ghostly vocals and some good sound poundings, 'Drop Dead', with some particularly fierce drumming from Evans, and 'The Final Reel', a softer song with some great piano and melodies throughout (and is a nice calm down from the opening couple).

Unfortunately, the highs are balanced with some lows. 'Lifetime' is pretty dull and relatively static song. This song is perhaps the most similar to a Hammill solo song as the music mostly serves to support the vocals. However, one plus I find is the guitar work, which, for reasons unknown, I like alot. 'Only In A Whisper' drags on a bit too much for my tastes. While it is not a terrible song, it would benefit from being about half its length. And finally, 'Over The Hill'. I haven't read all the reviews for this album, but all the ones I have have praised 'Over The Hill'. I must play foil to these statements. There is little here I can get into. There's plenty of slow build, and quieter moments, able to fit on to a number of Hammill solo albums, which are contrasted by louder, heavier moments (and seemingly even an angry reprise of 'All The Before') but overall, I feel a lack of direction. Perhaps if it was shorter and more streamlined it would be a stronger song (there are some ear catching melodies and a playfulness [although sad sounding] piano riffs). As its presented, however, there isn't enough here for me to grab onto.

All in all, this a good album. I was afraid how VDGG would be as a trio, but this album doesn't lose much without Jackson. Sure, there are moments where it would have been nice to have some saxophone or flute, but overall, their are plenty of instants where the three of them fill in the sound nicely. In a way, this can be seen as some sort of debut album. The sound here is different from classic VDGG, but with enough underpinnings (if you can call the lyrics, a main component to almost every song here an underpinning) that you can tell its still them. Additionally this album is a grower. After the first listen I was disappointed, but over time I learned to appreciate what was happening on this record. There is also a lot of potential here, and I hope they continue to record over the coming years and develop this trio format into the fantastic beast it can be. 3-3.5 stars.

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Send comments to Man With Hat (BETA) | Report this review (#222796)
Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Upon the first few listens, I wasn't into this album at all. It lacked the larger-then-life quality that you expect from a VDGG record, it sounded a bit muffled and even dated and damn, do we miss that saxophone! Basically it registered more like a Hammill solo album then a band effort.

One year and another few listens later I finally got it. The inferior tracks Hurlyburly and Drop Dead aside, this is yet another fine selection of tracks representing another expression of what VDGG is about. It's an incarnation that has survived Hammill's recent heart attack and that consequently has accepted that it is older, less energetic and maybe even less vital, but still convincing, burning with a more subdued passion.

Considering the age and health of the guys involved, this approach might actually be longer-lived and even more 'true' and relevant then the incarnation on 'Present'. We'll wait and see. Thanks to Hurlyburps only 3 instead of 4 stars.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#236933)
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Although not exactly my introduction to Van der Graff Generator, this was the first album I ever owned, as I purchased it not long after it came out, when I spotted it in a store. This is not exactly the same music as one can hear from the band's classic era, but for that reason may please those who never cared for the over-the-top vocals, sprawling arrangements, or caterwauling saxophone. Overall, this music is dark and smoky, husky in a way. It's subdued throughout, with some really memorable songs. There is nothing flashy or ostentatious here- just solid music.

"The Hurlyburly" A gritty guitar plays a repetitive riff and suddenly there's plenty of crunch, heavy drumming, and some fine organ work. This is essentially a surf-rock instrumental- something I was not expecting at all.

"Interference Patterns" Several repetitive organ riffs build on one another. Peter Hammill sounds like he has a cold- but it's still Hammill. That distinctive voice is still there, though more restrained.

"The Final Reel" One of my favorite songs on the album, this begins with soft piano, and has some dark, jazzy instrumentation. The hook is dissonant and yet catchy. I love the melody and the build of it.

"Lifetime" Soft drumming and funeral-like organ begin this one. While not exactly memorable, it's a pleasing enough piece.

"Drop Dead" A stranger, straightforward rocker for this often esoteric band. The organ solo, full of tremolo, is a highlight of the album.

"Only in a Whisper" Electric piano and a thick bass begin this interesting work. Hammill's vocals are at their most theatric, but he really sounds a tad decrepit throughout this one. I enjoy the ending, static and repetitive though it may be, but I think the real highlight of this song is exceptional drumming, with rim shots that crack right through the mix

"All That Before" Here is a peppy number, with some fuzzy guitar backing up a classic organ. It's an intriguing piece, mainly because of the interplay of the organ and the vocal melody.

"Over the Hill" The lengthiest track by far, this has some of the avant-garde tendencies of yesteryear. Though starting off in the same manner of the rest of the album, the middle section has some stark piano and organ, accompanied (roughly) by drums and some outlandish sound effects. The varying movements should please those looking for more classic Van der Graaf Generator.

"(We Are) Not Here" The final track is a darker and fuller song, with dissonant piano and organ work and an odd time signature. The vocals are once more dramatic to a fault (coming across as goofy to me, to be honest). I believe this would have made an excellent instrumental, since I feel it's the vocals weighing this one down.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#237007)
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars This album was an entirely spontaneous purchase on my part. To tell you the truth I still don't know what I was thinking when I decided on picking up this particular release. Granted that I still to this day have not heard the reunion album Present nor the live album that followed it you would think that this erratic behavior is peculiar on my part and I agree with you, so let me be the first to cast that stone... at myself?!?

The absence of David Jackson didn't bother me one bit because his work only added a new layer to the music and as long as the powerhouse of Hammill/Banton was at work how could it possibly go wrong?

The Hurlyburly is a fun little instrumental opening that caught me off guard the first time I heard it. Definitely fun and playful, but a moody atmospheric tracks should come any minute now, right? I had to wait until The Final Reel and unfortunately felt really underwhelmed by that particular track. The song would have never made it to a regular Van Der Graaf Generator album from the 70's and mostly feels like a rehash of the good old days. This is basically the trend embedded in most of these compositions.

Generally I don't consider it a good idea of recording an album just for the sake of it but seeing that the band decided to carry on without Jackson made me assume that they still had something important to convey with this release. The truth is that there is nothing here to make Trisector memorable enough for anyone seeking new creative approach from the band. A few tracks here and there work as tributes to their previous accomplishments but there is definitely no sign of progress.

The recording still manages to keep its head above the water and the overall vibe I get from it is pleasant so there is enough material to please the fan-base but not enough to make any new recruits. Good but not essential seems to be the general conclusion and I'm sticking with the majority on this issue!

**** star songs: The Hurlyburly (4:34) Interference Patterns (3:49) Only In A Whisper (6:43) All That Before (6:26) Over The Hill (12:26) (We Are) Not Here (4:04)

*** star songs: The Final Reel (5:47) Lifetime (4:43) Drop Dead (4:44)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#266931)
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
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

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Send comments to TGM: Orb (BETA) | Report this review (#273600)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Sometime after the band finished its comeback/Present tour, Dave Jackson left the group, and from all signs it appeared the split was acrimonious and pretty much irrevocable. I was quite surprised, then, to learn that the remaining members were quite intent on staying together and putting out another album. I suspected they probably wouldn't repeat the mistake of Quiet Zone, completely reinventing the wheel by bringing in a different type of instrumentalist than Jackson, but what I sure didn't expect was that they wouldn't even bother to bring in a woodwind player as a session musician. This is Van Der Graaf Generator reduced to a really bizarre trio, stripped of one of its most distinctive elements, and I was really puzzled by how they'd be able to compensate for the loss.

Honestly, they compensated shockingly well on this album. I had expected that the sound would be uncomfortably empty, but that isn't the case at all. There are very few moments on the album when I feel that some saxophone noodling would be the most logical way to complement the other instruments, and these moments are adequately filled by rather satisfying guitar textures. This is by far the most guitar-heavy Van Der Graaf Generator album, and by the end I start to find myself wondering if, just maybe, relying on Jackson's woodwinds all of those years had been an impediment for the band, not a boost. Banton still relies heavily on his Hammond and on other "traditional" rock keyboards, and Guy Evans bashes about just as strongly as he ever did. This is a loud, noisy album (with some quieter tracks) that sounds like quintessential Van Der Graaf Generator, and that feeling seems less and less miraculous with each listen.

I don't think the songs are all amazing or anything, and the album is longer than I'd prefer from something in this style, but the album is a very intriguing listen, and quite well structured. For one thing, I think that sticking "The Hurlyburly," kind of a futuristic surf instrumental, at the beginning of the album was an incredibly good idea. I think the band knew that any serious fan of the band was going to come into this album with the question in the back of their heads as to whether or not the band could survive with this instrumental combination, and what better way to quash those doubts than with an effective instrumental? It's not complex or profound or anything like that, but it highlights the band's guitar/organ/drum interplay very well, and that's enough to make it work for me.

Another major highlight is "All That Before," which mixes heavy guitar riffs with prominent Hammond riffs in a way that almost reminds me in parts of late 90's Deep Purple, while Peter sings (surprisingly well) decent lyrics about feeling overwhelmed by the technological world around him (I guess). It's a little overlong (like most of the songs on the album), but I don't mind it too much while I'm listening. Among the softer tracks, then, my favorite is probably "Lifetime," if only because of some quiet guitar bits in the middle that are incredibly simple but incredibly moving (the rest of the song is quite nice too). "The Final Reel" threatens to get a bit adult contemporary-ish in the beginning, but it becomes more recognizable as a VDGG track later on, and turns out pretty well.

If there's a clear weak spot on the album, I'd say it's probably the 'epic' 12-minute "Over the Hill." There are certainly some moments that conjure up memories of the better parts of "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End," but there's a lot of the kind of noodling that reminds me why I don't always love VDGG. I suspect that some fans will like it a lot, but it doesn't thrill me a lot.

The other songs are pretty good, but not so much that I can think of anything interesting to say about them, so I'll wrap this up. This isn't one of the most amazing albums I've ever heard, but it is as amazing as I could imagine an album from VDGG at this time and under these circumstances. Plus, it kinda beats the snot out of the non-improv half of Present. Fans should definitely seek this out.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#275548)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Trisector is a more modern VDGG album, and the more polished sound is completely obvious. I don't consider this album to be better than the material on Pawn Hearts, but it is better than nearly everything else they've done.

Though better, nothing here is memorable. The tracks are generally either fast and wacky, soft and psychedelic, or passionately boring. By the time this album ended, after a few times of playing it on repeat just to be sure, I had decided that VDGG is of little interest to me. Pawn Hearts was exceptional, Godbluff was good, but this really proves to me that their downhill movement has gone to its lowest point.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#431093)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Is it wrong that I like VdGG better as a trio? I played Godbluff and Pawn Hearts well beyond their reasonable shelf life in college - my mind was more in tune with walls of organ and groaning saxophone back then, I guess. I find now, though, that the band - Hammill in particular - are more interested in writing songs that require focus to understand rather than waltzing, yelping, and gallivanting all over the room to catch your attention at every moment in case your interest starts to fade. Hearing this album really makes me understand what a mess After the Flood and A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers really are...for all the eccentric fun of the old Van der Graaf, it's a song like "Lifetime" that separates the sheep from the goats; the airy tension in modern VdGG and Hammill's solo writing really gets me when I am not in the mood for a show, but just music.

It wouldn't be the Van der Graaf without convolutions of course, but even here the band's taste has matured - Interference Patterns is just a real mathy treat for prog fans who enjoy their twists and turns in good measure, but even the raunchy chorus I just find gorgeous rather than gross. Most of this album's appeal comes from its more subtle tensions, however - the rhythm section in Only in a Whisper makes beads of sweat form on my brow, and even in the more straightforward rocker Drop Dead the drums have to act as a mediator to the constantly bickering guitar and organ. Hammill's unique brand of vocal histrionics has kept its unorthodox phrasing, funneled into memorable if difficult melodies (no DEATH IN THE SEA, SOMEONE COME AND HELP ME here).

The instrumentation is always full, but never busy, and the music is elaborate, but never frivolous. Prog grown up - this record is full of an adventuresome maturity that draws me back again and again. That the band remains this musically relevant (and this downright good) after 40+ years amazes me. Trisector doesn't just do their legacy justice, but actually improves on it, and I am excited for the band's future prospects.

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Send comments to 1791 Overture (BETA) | Report this review (#461602)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars The first thing that strikes me when I listen to this, the second release from the recently revived Van Der Graaf Generator, is how strong Hugh Banton's organ playing is on this album. Well, I suppose it has to be strong, as David Jackson has once again departed, and this time not replaced, leaving the group without it's front soloist.

VDGG's music has somewhat matured, as you would expect, but there are still some thrills. Peter Hammill sounds as good as ever. His lyrics are deep, and his voice is still youthful sounding.

The album starts with an instrumental. It sounds almost like surfer rock. And it gives an impression that this album may not be as adventurous as past VDGG albums. But then Interference patterns starts. It has Banton playing layered organ lines in an almost Gentle Giant style. It's beautiful and amazing.

The other high points come toward the end of the album, with Over the Hill and (We Are) Not Here harkening back to the classic era of the band.

It may take a bit to get used to, but VDGG has produced yet another nice prog album.

3.5 stars, rounded up.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#562201)
Posted Friday, November 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Maybe it's the lack of David Jackson, or maybe the guys needed to spend just a little longer refining material - either way, Trisector is lacking something. It's not that the songs on here are bad - far from it - but all too often, they feel just a little sparse, and sparse in a "this isn't really finished" way as opposed to a "this is deliberately minimalistic" way. Segments of songs chug along in a similar vein without variance for just a little too long here and there, and in general the overall impression is of a first draft of what might be a really good album given a little more work and polish. Still, Hammill's lyrics and the band's songwriting are a little sharper on here than on Present.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#726387)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars firstly i should mention that i am a fan of vdgg for the gems they created in the seventies.i liked this band first of all because they used saxophone as a leading organ i found this very innovative.this album had a strong weak point the absence of jackson so i suggest that collectors only buy this release.the voice of peter is as good as always.the keyboards the hammond organ especially is very good has its strong moments.it creates a obscure atmosphere as this defined the sound of the band.if this album had a woodwind surely it would be a vdgg classic.

also forgive me for mistakes in the use of english language.in the last months i tried to improve my english

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Send comments to pkos76 (BETA) | Report this review (#816007)
Posted Thursday, September 06, 2012 | Review Permalink

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