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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Sounding somewhat like a mix of Lark's Tongue in Aspic, Fred Frith's Gravity, Bartok string quartets and McLaughlin's Indo - fusion, Moraine's Manifest Density draws on Progressive Rock's past, but synthesizes something totally fresh and new at the same time. With two string players on board they are able to expand further on the violin-rock sound initiated by Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson. In fact, it's that seamless mix of semi-sting section and jazz-rock trio that is the hallmark of this band's sound.

Although this band can improvise on a scale comparable to the best fusion bands, their love of progressive rock composition often makes them more similar to jazzy prog-rock bands such as Focus or Quiet Sun. Meanwhile, their tendency to favor heavy diminished scale riffs with odd-metered rhythms will bring on the Mahahavishnu/Crimson reference again. To their credit though, despite all the obvious tributes to their favorites of the past, Moraine never sounds cheaply derivative or short on original musical ideas. Also, their tendency towards the occasional 'pretty' melody or chord progression makes them different from the harsher members of the jazz-rock set. Album closer, Middlebrau, in particular recalls a classic escalating 'prog-rock' chord progression, but with a more modern less indulgent approach.

Like many of the artists on the Moonjune label, Moraine has a very pure 'live' sound with little or no overdubbing or slick studio technology. The exact antithesis of ambient nu jazz, acid jazz, trip-hop or much of today's post-Laswell neo-psychedelic music, the individual musical lines of each player can be clearly heard and they are not buried beneath reverb, echo and a plethora of modern 'dubbing' techniques. If you are looking for a modern and original extension of bands like King Crimson, Henry Cow and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Moraine has it.

Report this review (#253501)
Posted Sunday, November 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Trying to explain this album is a challenge.

In Moraine, the excellent writer and guitarist Dennis Rea has made a big, bold statement. I am not so sure if this review will do the same, but I will do my best though.

Excuses submitted........

Moraine is not making things easy for themselves or the listeners with their dense and mostly disharmonic soundscape. The emphasis is on violins, cello and guitars. This is an instrumental album. The first musical and I am sure; philosophical reference is King Crimson. Secondly a fusion band like Mahavishnu Orchestra and bands like Aranis and the chamber rock scene within the RIO movement. The jazz ethos runs through this album though as a guiding beacon.

The music is very dense at times and offers little rest for the ears. Most of this album is very intense and driven. But it also have some nice reflective pieces of music too with some wonderful guitar solos. But I will most of all remember this album as an intensive album.

Melody wise, this is not a great album. But this album has the X-Factor I cannot really put my finger on. No, it has nothing to do with non-musical stuff. There is something here which draws me back to this album like a box of tuna fish attracts a cat. I am purring when I hear this album, but don't know why. This makes this album a great album in my view and I have been listening to it for the best part of two months now. Far too long, in fact. It is a grower album which needs time to really settle. I do put this album next to my King Crimson albums and that is probably another reason why I like it so much.

This album is impossible to describe, but still a great album.

4 stars

Report this review (#344103)
Posted Sunday, December 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars A challenge to the senses

Each time I receive one of this album collections from Leonardo "Moonjune" Pavcovic, my taste expands more, because I used toe a simple Symphonic Prog fan that sometime bought some Prog Related albums, but this packages have created a new addiction for extremely complex and intelligent music that "Moonjune Records" signs with.

After opening every album, I noticed that the concept of Jazz + Rock equal Fusion, is something from the past, because contemporary bands add more and more different elements as the time passes, but this guys from MORAINE have really broken all my schemes, their album "manifest deNsity" consists in one surprise after another, something that makes the job of a reviewer harder, but the musical experience more satisfactory, specially for somebody who hates predictable music.

Even when the Jazz structure is clear and obvious for any listener, this guys are experts breaking boundaries, because they show influence of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, KING CRIMSON, ZAPPA, etc (For God's sake I even listen some KANSAS hints) with an Avant Garde and RIO touch. The strange thing is that I'm not a fan of most of this artists, but I enjoy the ability to maintain an extremely complex and elaborate structure but without loosing the ability to jam when necessary.

Normally I make track by track reviews, except when I write about Fusion bands because it's extremely difficult top make justice to the general mood of the album, and in this case it's even harder, being that MORAINE has such a diversity of influences and styles that would be an almost impossible task.

But still I have to mention at least three tracks, the frenetic and eclectic "Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds", where the extravagant caprice of Jazz blends with the dark mysterious sounds of ethnic music and "Manifest Density" which kept me at the edge of the sit with the breathtaking guitar and Jazz performance enhanced with the intense violin sections and perfect percussion, disturbing and enjoyable.]

Last but not least, the nostalgic and experimental "Revenge Grandmother", a song that challenges the preconceived ideas I had about music, something that after 3 decades of Prog listening is hard to achieve.

So, again I'm before a great Fusion album that deserves no less than 4 solid stars.....Highly recommended.

Report this review (#463523)
Posted Friday, June 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars Playing this album now, some four years after it was originally released, it is somewhat hard to realize that this is a debut. Here is a band that somehow fuses the strange weird anarchy of Art Zoyd with traditional Chinese influences, avant-garde jazz, hard rock and everything in between. The name of the band is in itself a clue to the music to be found inside the covers, as it is often defined as "An accumulation of boulders, stones, or other debris carried and deposited by a glacier". What we have here are various talents who have somehow ended up in the same place and have formed a band, and sometimes they even sound as if they are on the same planet. I don't want it to seem that there is no structure to what they are doing ? rather it is the opposite, the only way musicians can play so diversely yet make total musical sense at all times is by having an innate agreement and strong understanding of the direction.

The line-up on the debut is Dennis Rea (electric guitar), Ruth Davidson (cello), Alicia Allen (violin), Kevin Millard (bass, baliset) and Jay Jaskot (drums) and while the rhythm section provides the foundation the three melody players vie for centre stage. I have lost count of how much I have been playing this, as it is one of those albums that has somehow refused to be review as every time I have tried to write the words I have instead sat back and let this incredible album flood over me. Personal favourite (today) is the title song, which starts with a repeated guitar line which is then joined by the others. Amazingly, this album was recorded in just three days yet is highly complex with purpose and direction. There is a real sense of togetherness and understanding of the journey to be followed which is often missing from this style of music where those involved are creating the path as they go along. Here the path is known, if only to them, and they follow it to new heights as if they know the route to the top, which may seem either impassable or invisible to others.

An absolutely stunning album from the first note to the last.

Report this review (#910844)
Posted Thursday, February 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Seattle-based band Moraine came in life in 2005 and its father is guitarist Dennis Rea, who has been an experienced professional musician for over two decades.Rea started his career with the Kraut-Electronic act Earthstar in late-70's and later he appeared in the Land project of Jeff Greinke, a band that played a mix of Electronic and Folk Music.But his collaborations include names such as Trey Gunn, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. as well as a few solo albums of Free Jazz/Improvisation.In Moraine he originally recruited Alicia Allen on violin, Kevin Millard on bass, Ruth Davidson on cello and Jay Jaskot on drums, the band was then discovered by Moonjune Records and released the debut ''Manifest density'' in 2009.

I do not know if the title was accidentally chosen, both words characterize Moraine's sound pretty good, the music is extremely dense and competes for a manifest of styles, including Prog Rock, Zeuhl, Avant-Garde, Jazz-Fusion and Experimental Rock.Those particular styles tend to be rather chaotic as a mix and Moraine's sound can be efficiently be described as such, it contains hints from the music of KING CRIMSON, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, FRANK ZAPPA and even covers the ground of R.I.O.-styled music with strings in evidence.The music ranges from rich and dominant string-based Fusion with some incredible guitar chops by Rea in the process to very loose jams with an experimental mood akin to KING CRIMSON, which even flirt with improvised stylings.Most pieces with the violin in evidence contain both romantic parts and virtuosic mannerisms with a jazzy attitude in the vein of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and even DIXIE DREGS, propelled by the nice battles between the strings and Rea's sharp guitar moves.The cello-drenched themes are closer to R.I.O., the music again contains both laid-back and denser moments, but the more abstract and dissonant passages appear here.Rea often takes the lead and his guitar work is always technical, energetic and diverse.The result is a mix of nice and not so good pieces, featuring both atonal and more ''progressive'' moments.

Weird album indeed, but overall pretty satisfying.Avant Prog meets Fusion meets Experimental Rock.Too professional for its own good but still recommended.

Report this review (#1301898)
Posted Sunday, November 9, 2014 | Review Permalink

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