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David Bagsby - Xen CD (album) cover


David Bagsby

Eclectic Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Xen is a collaboration between keyboard wizards Kurt Rongey and David Bagsby, and though a touch scattered on the surface, is a juicy, well-crafted record filled with the adventures and escapades that make Bagsby & Rongey two of the best of the smaller American proggers. When paired, these heartlanders offer a rare treat.

Mr. Bagsby's growing reputation precedes him, and fans of the Texas prog scene will know Kurt Rongey from The Underground Railroad and his acclaimed solo work. Here these maestros are at liberty to really let go and give a performance that pushes at the ceiling of even the most bold prog rock. The project was named after 20th century musician Iannis Xenakis: "The music is completely electronic," reads Kurt's bio, "and was composed using, among other things, mathematical formulas to determine pitch and rhythmic values. Taking the artwork of Max Ernst as inspiration and, in fact, composing soundtracks for the drawings, the two came up with some truly captivating prog". I'll buy that, and Xen lives up to its description.

Chopped lines of piano crash into each other waiting for something to emerge, and it does with rushes of varied tempos, each shot down and reborn as something else. The fickle pattern-building continues, making us yearn for something to latch onto. But Xen isn't an easy album and it requires payment. 'Nearly Immaculate Conception' blows up with a thrilling groove of sampled opera and pounding bass lines, and 'Sky Opens Twice' develops nicely between composition, improvisation, and hints of John Carpenter. Seductive and strange 'Crime or Miracle' entices us into its web where struggle becomes useless and our fate is soon sealed, the weird jazz of 'Nightly Food to the Streetlamps' never rests, foreboding 'Immaculate Conception', 'P.E.D.', and the cybernetic 14-minute closer as the two players create an artificial solar system with nothing but spare parts.

At once ahead of its time and stuck in the past, Xen is something to be gradually sampled, perhaps only a few tracks at a time, before it can be heard with the perspective required. Virtuosic, and rather insane.

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Posted Friday, November 26, 2010 | Review Permalink

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