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3 stars And Then There Were Four

So, if this instrumental four-piece had hired a singer, would they have been called Pentagon ? Whatever, I was gob-smacked to unearth this obscurity in my local Brisbane store as Australian retailers tend to view Prog with the same reluctance as basic hygiene and grammar:

Can I hear a bit of this?

No yeah,'s all good dude (gestures for me to don headphones that appear to have been dipped in a bowl of elephant's earwax and betray a thick blanket of leprous dandruff)

What's this track called again? or summat... (Proceeds to indulge in an impromptu snack from the contents of his nostril larder)

You're kidding!

Ya wannit or not mate?

Not wishing to prolong this dubious hi-fidelity experience any longer than was necessary, I only got to hear half the first track, and so impressed was I by this critter, splashed my filthy Lemming lucre on the even filthier counter. Done deal (bro)

Tetragon's previous release Nature was a good but rather unfocused amalgam of alternately classically inspired prog and jazzy noodles. According to the sleeve notes that Garden of Delights have compiled for Stretch, this appears to be the unreleased follow up which for reasons best known to the band's erstwhile label Soma, never saw the light of day until 38 years later.

Snowstorm - Probably the most fully developed composition on the album as evidenced by the tightly bound unison playing that prefaces a robust main theme. Yep, some fiendish chops are browning nicely hereabouts but I get the nagging feeling that the melodic outline carries more than an aroma of something Beggars Opera served up on their first album? Regardless, the instrumental textures and disciplined dialogue between organ, guitar, bass and drums might conjure up reference points like the Nice, Collegium Musicum, Finch, Beggars Opera and Colosseum. Significantly there is very little horizontal activity here that could be construed as jazz related, (despite the vertical harmonic flavours and scale choices, this has the unyielding grunt and forward motion of unadulterated rawk.

Listen Here - One of the most accurate homages to Brian Auger that I've heard in a long while. Schaper dials up an uncannily Augerish tone on the Hammond on a tune written by Eddie Harris. Unfortunately it ain't no Freedom Jazz Dance but a rather cramped two chord jam which Tetragon to their credit, do disguise sufficiently and with ingenious cunning to carry off as being imbued with more substance than it really merits. Entertaining certainly by virtue of the playing and wealth of ideas culled from such a meagre source but only twice as much fun as a one chord jam all said and done.

The Light - Probably Jaehner's most enduring performance on the record. Up to now his guitar had been a wearyingly thin fuzzy compendium of rock postures but after this epiphanic inspiration, he spices up his tone with creative use of wah-wah, octave soloing and explores a more lyrical aspect to his playing to telling effect. Notice the same wah-wah effect harnessed for Schaeper's organ which appropriates a swelling string pad and just goes to show that with sufficient imagination you don't really need every single Moog gizmo at your fingertips to create arresting new sounds. Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to innovation is innovation itself. There are a lot of very strong ideas on this track and considerable detail to be enjoyed in the careful development and building of excitement as the number unfolds.

Hovering Stones - The angular and rapid-fire unison riff is redolent of Tarkus (but then to be fair to the lads, pluck some notes at random and repeat same in a circular fashion at a high tempo and it's not gonna sound like ELP's epic?) Despite this enticing opening it soon lapses into another distinctly ordinary two chord jam before (rather self-consciously I suspect) they dive into a completely unrelated idea at a quicker tempo. My Uncle Bill who worked in the used car business always told me: Never buy a vehicle that has been compiled from two separate wrecks.

Dragon Song - The album closes on a very distinct high courtesy of a swaggering romp through a John McLaughlin tune (of which I have never heard the original) It could be deemed rather repetitive in places but given the sheer irresistible license of the groovy riff employed, those nay-sayers in our midst are cordially invited to imbibe toxins of their own choosing. Brian Auger's Oblivion Express come readily to mind here as Dragon Song inhabits a similar territory to the latter's more inspired work.

Stretch will appeal to those who enjoyed the previous Nature (but is rationed of the jazzier candy of the former) plus the bands I alluded to above. Well worth hunting down for lovers of the Hammond everywhere, irrespective of what genre of music butters your corn baby.

PS Note to self: Buy Prog albums on-line in future and pass off using 'groovy' in a review as ironic.

Report this review (#260764)
Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars German band Tetragon recorded only 2 albums before they call it a day in 1972. Unfortunately only one of them ("Nature") was released back then, while for another one we had to wait almost 40 years (who kept it so long on the shelf? Damn him!). Was it worth to wait for it? You bet it was! "Stretch" is a truly great piece of art which is maybe a little less focused than their debut LP (after all material for "Stretch" is some kind of demo recording in fact, not proper "final product") but still manages to remain a real gem. I'm especially impressed that quality of this staff is so good, sounds very fresh and there are no scratchin' crackin' or skippin' problems.

Tetragon's music is often described as jazz-rock but I ensure you that their style is a mix of jazz-rock, symphonic prog & heavy prog in more or less equal proportions. While "Nature" had few vocal sections, "Stretch" is a pure instrumental recording. So prepare for 40 minutes of non-stop organ/guitar battles experience!

1. "Snowstorm" - first track is definitely the most symphonic one here. In fact I'm almost sure that this ultra-catchy main melody was taken from some classical music piece, but unfortunately I can't recall which one. Anyway this almost 8 minutes performance is a truly breath-taking masterpiece! Fantastic, speedy Hammond organ solos fight their way with equally impressive guitar ones. And drums with bass create a fine battlefield for them. The most important is that they never lose the main musical theme so they don't proceed to any lousy noodlings typical for many jazz-rock and blues-rock artists. Hendrik Schaper sounds like impersonation of Marian Varga (from Collegium Musicum) or Alan Park (Beggar's Opera) here, and it's a real compliment of course.

2. "Listen Here" - according to Internet sources this composition was originally written by Eddie Harris but I'm only familiar with Brian Auger's version. Anyway I have to admit that Tetragon's style suits very well these kind of tracks, they really know how to play such jammy instrumentals and not "lose its own way". Schaper & Jaehner play extended duels where guitar & over-driven Hammond blend perfectly while rhythmic duo of Rettberg & Luhrmann take care of keeping the main motif alive, so soloists have a good "background" for their show-offs (anyway we also have quite lengthy bass guitar solo here so everybody has his own "5 minutes"). Equally impressive as Auger's version IMHO.

3. "The Light" - more laid-back track, slightly bluesy I would say, almost relaxing in comparison with previous "demonic" instrumentals. But don't worry, you won't fall a sleep here neither, Schaper's dazzling organ solos won't let you do it ;-). Anyway similarities to Brian Auger's Oblivion Express are clear in this track.

4. "Hovering Stones" - this one kicks off with highly energetic intro filled with frenetic organ chops which sound like taken from ELP's "Tarkus" suite. After that tempo significantly slows down and Jaehner's guitar takes the leading role. However in the second part of the track Schaper wakes up to entertain us with another fistful of amazing Emersonian organ solos. Very solid performance.

5. "Dragon Song" - as I read "Dragon Song" was originally played by John McLaughlin but so far I've been able to listen to only Brian Auger's version. It's a stomping, heavy jazz-rock track with slightly directionless guitar & organ solos. But the worst thing is this repetitive bass line. It's one endless "duu-duu-du-du-du", bleh! It's even more annoying than on Auger's version. Overall bearable but can become tiresome.

Conclusion: "Stretch" is a highly satisfying album filled with stretched (sic!) organ and guitar jams which usually don't lose their direction. If you like Tetragon's "Nature", this album is must-have for you too. I also recommend it to fans of Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, Brian Auger & The Trinity, Collegium Muscium, Colosseum, Beggar's Opera, Affinity, Virus or even The Nice and Atomic Rooster. And don't forget to check first Hendrik Schaper's band - power trio called Trikolon. I love it even much more than Tetragon in fact.

Best track: "Snowstorm"

4 stars from ozzy_tom

Report this review (#415948)
Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars GERMANY's TETRAGON recorded two albums back in 1971 but this the second one didn't get released. "Stretch" was recorded in Hamburg at the end of 1971. It had been carefully stored thankfully and was still in mint condition.The Garden of Delights label released this in 2009. I love both albums by the way.

"Snowstorm" starts out sounding a lot like COLOSSEUM as it's uptempo and keyboard driven. It settles some after a minute as the guitar lets loose, then the organ comes in. It picks up again before 2 minutes as they proceed to kick some ass. More excellent guitar after 5 1/2 minutes that goes on and on. "Listen Here" is a cover of a Eddie Harris tune although they confess their version is more like Brian Auger's cover of the same tune. Drums to start then keyboards and bass join in.This is great ! Such a catchy rhythm too. Guitar 1 1/2 minutes in. Drums and bass only before 5 minutes. How good is this ! The keyboards return. Love this stuff as they continue to jam.

"The Light" has an almost DOORS-like pulsating rhythm here and then the guitar joins in and eventually leads. Great sound ! The guitar stops around 4 1/2 minutes but not for long.The organ and guitar dominate the rest of the way. "Hovering Stones" opens with pounding bass and drums as the organ plays over top. Check out the guitar before 2 1/2 minutes as it solos in a laid back fashion until before 4 minutes. Drums and organ then dominate.

"Dragon Song" is a John McLaughlin cover but again like the other cover they followed more closely to Brian Auger's version than the original. Drums to start then the guitar and bass join in.This is an incredible track really with the guitar shining bright.

A solid 4 stars for this 1971 beauty.

Report this review (#481275)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars On `Stretch', Tetragon play fusion-heavy killer instrumental rock, highlighted by endless aggressive Hammond organ and explosive red-hot electric guitar workouts. In the tradition of bands such as Finch, ELP, Santana band, or even a heavier version of Focus without as many classical influences, it's a very upbeat album full of scorching energy and positive vibes. The album gets better with every listen, so just make sure you play this one freaking loud to appreciate it even more - promise me!

Beginning with a mix of symphonic and heavy prog, `Snowstorm' has a very catchy and uptempo melody, overloaded with fiery Hammond organ and non-stop electric guitar rage! I particularly love the grinding guitar rhythm section, and although the track is quite repetitive, it's also very addictive and supremely groovy. Full of endless soloing, but the band never drifts far away from the main melody. In some ways this opener sets the template for the rest of the album. It sounds to me as if someone gave Focus a swift kick up the backside, booting their classical elements out of them but keeping their exciting instrumental power!

The stomping 11 minute blowout `Listen Here' is filled with competitive Hammond/guitar workouts, with a relentless foot tapping melody and a great driving rhythm. It's just keeps going and going, listen to that chugging bass and breakneck drumming! It's also notable for two fuzzy and murky attempts at bass solos! Endless wailing wah-wah guitar solos and a stunning shimmering organ solo in the second half. Best track on the album.

More bluesy and laid back, `The Light' is probably the first spot on the album that allows the listener some room to come up for air. With a lovely guitar/organ melody (which reminds me a little bit of Canterbury band Egg) that is frequently reprised throughout the piece, it breaks up the racket and adrenaline of the first two tracks for something a little more reflective and emotional. Wait for the evocative guitar solo that reminds of the wonderful spiritual Santana band albums from the 70's, very tasteful. But the return of some nasty and dirty organ and guitar shreds in the second half is a nice touch too. Didn't think you were going to get off that easy, did you?!

`Hovering Stones' has some impossibly manic Emerson, Lake and Palmer-styled organ soloing. Chaotic drumming and funky wah-wah guitar attacks all around, and I especially love the maddening pummeling bass throughout the piece! Very unhinged, a totally ballistic track!

The finale `Dragon Song' has a nice plodding bass line, and although the track is a little more restrained and slow-burning than the previous one, it's still full of searing fusion-heavy guitar runs, with some tuneless and noisy Crimson like moments too. Perhaps by this point we're a little burnt out from the rest of the album, and while it doesn't really do much different from the tracks that preceded it, it's still full of outstanding musicianship from the four talented players.

Some listeners will find the repetitive structure of the arrangements extremely tedious and monotonous. Admittedly the band sometimes gets stuck in the same groove for minutes on end, but I tend to find it gives the album a hypnotic and addictive sound! There is such a cracking energy to the album and the band's performance, fans of noisy organ-driven heavy-prog like Atomic Rooster and Bodkin will finds lots to enjoy here.

Full of powerful playing, `Stretch' is not a particularly deep or complex album, but offers hugely entertaining surface thrills!

Four stars.

Report this review (#825852)
Posted Friday, September 21, 2012 | Review Permalink

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