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Herd Of Instinct - Herd Of Instinct CD (album) cover


Herd Of Instinct

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars Four years in the making, this self-titled debut by Texas' Herd of Instinct was, in my humble opinion one of the very best progressive releases of 2011, and criminally ignored. Mark Cook and Mike Davison who between them play almost every type of guitar and guitar synth treatment you would care to imagine are backed up by the powerful polyrhythms and percussion of Jason Spradlin, who on Vibrissa is also credited with "Low synth drone". Like it!

Having been around for a while the boys have managed to call on the services of such luminaries as Gavin Harrison (who seems to crop up everywhere these days) and Pat Mastelotto, and a crowd of others, who between them contribute drums, electronica, mellotron, keyboards, more electric guitars of every kind, bouzouki, flute, and synth. Special mention must be made of Kris Swenson, who like Mark and Jason is a former member of 99 Names Of God. She contributes the only lyric and the beguiling and gorgeous vocal to Blood Sky.

The music is a veritable melting pot of Crimson influenced eclectic world musics that knows no boundaries, rooted in complex rhythms and interplay, producing a many-splendoured listening experience. Veering from the ethnic flavoured Road To Asheville with its weaving flute work to the very Crimsoid Room Without Shadows to the downright scary Hex, in the middle we have the sinuous and slinky Blood Sky where Kris Swenson's sensual voice wraps itself round the groovy marimba led rhythm like warm honey, before the song ends with some marvellous Warr guitar runs. Lovely stuff indeed. Pat Matselotto's trademark percussion electronica are present and correct on Anamnesis, which would not sound out of place on one of Crimson's ProjeKcts. Vibrissa ups the ante considerably and has some spiky guitar workouts against a backdrop of synth twiddling and keyboard dexterity from Mike McGary before changing tack somewhere in the Spanish hinterland and then returning to the heavy keyboards. This band do not lack confidence!

Things take a breather on the highly atmospheric Possession and S Karma sees a mating dance featuring Warr guitar and flute, and The Face Of Another ends things with an intricate display of 21st century power trio interplay.

Fans of King Crimson and all its myriad offshoots will love this and should buy it NOW, as in fact should all fans of real progressive music. We look forward to the second album with an eagerness that is frightening!

Report this review (#635643)
Posted Saturday, February 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I've been enjoying this disc for a couple of weeks now and figured it was time for a review. This Texas band are a trio but there are many guests helping out including Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto and Gayle Ellett who also happened to master this album. Gayle of course is from DJAM KARET and this band is on their label called Firepool Records.

"Transformation" is a short instrumental with dark keys, heavy drums and atmosphere. A calm with voices and atmosphere after a minute. "A Room Without Shadows" reminds me of PORCUPINE TREE when it kicks in hard. it settles in before a minute and contrasts will continue. A great sounding song. "Road To Ashville" has a definite Eastern vibe with the sitar and there are many other interesting sounds as well. It kicks in heavily at 2 minutes but not for long as it calms right down with flute. It's heavy again as contrasts continue. "Hex" is dark with an eerie atmosphere until it kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes. The tempo then picks up but it settles back as it continues to shift. "Blood Sky" has intricate sounds like Warr guitar, marimba and percussion as female vocals join in. Mellotron on this one as well. Yay !

"Anamnesis" has some excellent sounding drums and it's heavy. Pat adds drums,percussion and electronics to this one. Guitar to the fore 2 1/2 minutes then it all settles back some. The next two tracks have Gavin on the kit. "Vibrissa" has a haunting intro then the guitar comes in screaming along with some heaviness. It then becomes atmospheric and spacey. It picks up before 4 minutes. "Possession" is melancholic and dark with percussion out front. Some vocal expressions and then it turns experimental to end it. "S. Karma" is heavy but laid back. We get a flute solo and the atmosphere seems to come and go. "The Face Of Another" is a percussion led track. Some angular guitar before 2 1/2 minutes and then the Warr guitar eventually takes over. Lots of atmosphere here.

Heck there's lots of programming, samples, loops and treatments as well on this album, making this a very interesting listen. Love the album cover too.The band says RIP to Captain Beefheart and Mick Karn in the liner notes. Amen to that. A fascinating listen and it's like taking a journey into the unknown.

Report this review (#649808)
Posted Wednesday, March 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This Herd's music combines mystery, ambiance, a sense of adventure and raw power.

A short background on the band: They call themselves Herd Of Instinct, but they're only three guys. Though, if one counts the amount of guest and backing musicians on this album, the term herd becomes more applicable. The Herd is a Texas-based trio comprised of Mark Cook (Warr guitars, programming), Mike Davison (guitar, guitar synth), Jason Spradlin (drums). Mark and Jason came from the band 99 Names Of God, and joined by Mike, they formed Herd Of Instinct. Together they set out to create music that draws inspiration from "multi-cultural music, literary clues, Horror and cinematic film scores, and obscure elements of Rock, Avant-garde, Electronic, Prog, and Psychedelic music." While they perform as a trio live, this first recording of theirs is a meeting ground for many a guest musicians such as Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), Markus Reuter (Tuner), Pat Mastelotto, and Gayle Ellett (Djam Karet) among many others. That last name is of note also since this album is released through Firepool Records, which is Djam Karet's independent label.

Now to the album itself?: Not knowing the band at all, neither their previous incarnation, I did not know what to expect and so with eagerness, I put on the cd and began my journey, which proved beyond satisfying.

Herd Of Instinct play a superb brand of modern progressive rock. Top-notch musicianship lies behind the spellbinding compositions; these combine ominous sounding textures and magical cinematic ambiances with powerful and heavy progressive rock, almost metal-ic at times. The band balances very well between softness and aggressiveness, erratic and restless playing alongside peaceful and calmer streams. Indeed, an eclectic style is featured here, between and within the tracks.

The album flows naturally, almost seamlessly from one piece to the next, always with that peculiar and special mystifying vibe, whether in the background or the forefront. The music is, for the most part, not predictable and following a formula, like one may hear in other, more generic progressive rock releases. The element of surprise is made use of here, whether it is in left-turns in mid-song, or in a surprise turn as we go from one track to the next; this makes the album so fun to listen to. This sense of adventure, this thrilling ride through mysterious and alluring soundscapes is what keeps me, the listener, coming back to the album. Indeed, they follow their instincts with regards how the music should go on.

While the album is instrumental, there is one track featuring female vocals, Blood Sky. Kris Swenson's vocals those match the music very well. The Marimba in this song adds an exotic and cool vibe, enhanced by the guitar solo.

The percussion work here is also of note, especially as various musicians share the duties on the album. One particular stand-out performance is on Anamnesis, played by Pat Mastelotto and another one is Gavin Harrison's drumming on Possession and on Vibrissa where he accompanies thrilling guitar solos from Gayle Ellet and Mike Davison. This piece begins with the rawness of rock and proceeds with the coolness and beauty of space-rock.

I want to give a special note to the production. The sound of this album is crispy clean; one can hear all the instruments very well. For instance, the Warr guitar at the beginning of Blood Sky sounds like it's coming from inside the room, it's crunchy sound counter-balanced by the softness of the vocals and the mellotron and synths.

In my searches for exciting and rewarding albums, this one ranks high in those respective categories. Hearing this album for the first time, I was thrilled with each piece that came up, immersing myself in each composition and telling myself, "the next one will surely not be this good"; but it was. It's always a treat to discover a new band and album that take you out by storm such as I find Herd Of Instinct have done on this album.

Do not listen to this album as background music. Dim the light, put your headphones on if you have them, and focus on the music. Otherwise, the whole listening experience will be lost on you.

Report this review (#762431)
Posted Saturday, June 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars Three people make for a herd? How about if they throw in a few guests?

One of the herd of three is a Warr guitarists so no surprise they have a King Crimson-y sound and not too unlike Djam Karet, either, which often does the KCish thing well as well. The two opening tracks Transformation and Room Without Shadows are intense complex instrumental compositions. The trio alone (a duo on Transformation) pretty much fill out the sound canvas, but they also play well with others. This album is mostly an instrumental affair except for one vocal track and one vocal sample track.

Most of the other tracks feature guests including Jerry Marotta, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, and Gayle Ellett. Gayle, of course being from Djam Karet and this album is on the new DK label Firepool Records. Steve Tibbetts even shows up in the form of percussion and guitar samples from his "Friendly Fire" sample library.

Those of you who were disappointed with A Scarcity Of Miracles in 2011 should have bought this album instead.

Report this review (#776556)
Posted Saturday, June 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Herd of Instinct, as the name would likely imply, proposes a primal, almost visceral take on experimental prog, armed with the latest technological tools of the trade, namely guitar synths and the Warr guitar , both propelled by some bruising drumming. Mark Cook is the Warr man, splashing a vast array of stringy colorations that defy logic, aided and abetted by Mike Davison on various electronic, electric and acoustic guitars as well as the sitar. Then comes along the drum maniac, Jason Spradlin who is a merciless percussor of the very finest ilk. The material is all instrumental, highly atmospheric but instinctive, almost prehistoric in a strange way, an interesting collage of modern and primeval. I am reminded in many ways of the original innovators of this style, the Summers-Fripp collaboration in the 80s that yielded the magnificent" I Advance Masked" and the slightly less brilliant "Bewitched". All the tunes are in the 5 minute range, nothing overtly symphonic or epic, just straightforward experimentation with lots of complex intricacies, amid gales of rhythmic fury and huge cascades of sound.

"Transformation" sets the tone, "Room without Shadows" takes it to another depth altogether, a taut, claustrophobic explosion of sound that will surprise the casual listener and draw them in seductively. Highlight track "Road to Asheville" offers up some flute salad, sitar and fabulous acoustic work on nylon guitar, all packaged tightly and tautly. On "Hex", slithering pools of serenity are assaulted by an unexpected brutal onslaught out of nowhere, devastating and ruthless. This Spradlin fellow really appeals to me a lot, a fantastic drummer who understands the polyrhythmic jungle and yet still beats the skins silly. The colliding guitar work is tremendous and exhilarating. "Blood Sky" even has a female vocal that gives it a delicate preciousness and a sense accessibility that are most gratifying. One will not fail to recognize the legendary Jerry Marotta on drums with his cymbal-less beat made so famous on classic Peter Gabriel albums. First appearance from Gayle Ellett on mellotron, he of Djam Karet fame, a musician who will soon join the core for their sophomore album. "Anamnesis" is technically intricate yet wholly accessible and ear- pleasant, a track featuring the tremendous Dave Streett on bass, King Crimson's Pat Mastelotto on drums and Markus Reuter on touch guitar. "Vibrissa" is the undeniable highpoint here, a colossal piece that screams, howls, sears and crashes like a phosphorous bomb gone berserk, propelled by the mighty Gavin Harrison himself, Davison and Ellett trading axe solos , Streett holding down the low end and Cook plastering the Warr all over the sonic package. The mood veers into jazzier percolations (Gavin really does wonders here!) and the entire track is pure travel and flight. "Possession" conjures up some more vocal samples from Kris Swensson and Gavin remains seated at the drum stool, as Cook, Davison and Reuter weave some axe magic, lush with treatments, loops and sonic manoeuvres, very cool and very vaporous. The "I Advance Masked" influence is very obvious throughout but especially here, as the guitars stitch oh so tightly. I just love solid music like this! "S. Karma" keeps the pace torrid and bellicose, arrayed with some tremendous fretless bass work from Mark Cook as well as some flute dashes, while Spradlin continues to establish his drumming credentials. The album concludes on the rampaging cavalcade "The Face of Another", a fitting finale of brooding exuberance, confidently expressed and ecstatically received.

This is one of the more stunning debut's by any American band ever, where drop-dead brilliant cinematographic music, fabulous production and sound, attractive artwork and devastating enjoyment coalesce as one Herd of Instinct, indeed! The Next one will be even better, believe it or not!

5 Flock Dispositions

Report this review (#941269)
Posted Monday, April 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars An intense album showing the influence of mid-1970s King Crimson as filtered through more modern revivalist acts like Porcupine Tree or Djam Karet (indeed, the album came out on Djam Karet's own Firepool Records label), Herd of Instinct's self-titled release is a compelling mostly-instrumental affair. You get the impression listening to this that if they wanted to, Herd of Instinct could be a devastatingly heavy technical extreme metal band, but instead they go for a more musically diverse sound which displays a wide sonic palette. With impeccable production and excellent performances, the band also strike a fine balance between showcasing technical proficiency and maintaining a distinctive tone and atmosphere.
Report this review (#1025551)
Posted Friday, August 30, 2013 | Review Permalink

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