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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars My feelings about this one-man project are controversial. There are some very good things joined together with other that I quite dislike, and all inside the same track. Before looking at this album's page I didn't know that the two 32 minutes long tracks were "officially" divided in subtracks (usual in prog), but I had already identified the "mathematical" structure of the two tracks.

Both are exactly 32 minutes long. The first is made of 8 subtracks with a duration of exactly 4 minutes, each of them made of two distinct portions of two minutes. The second track is made of only 4 parts of 8 minutes each.

I think we can consider this like a double sided vinyl with different tracks played gaplessly. Taken in this way the weight of the less good parts is lighter than if we consider "The Ebony Queen" as a single track.

The beginning is symphonic with clear reminds to Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade but with a theme which could fit into a western movie, especially in the second 2-minutes sub- section. A gong at exactly minute 4 introduces a section of acoustic guitar, bluesy but with some dissonances vaguely reminding me to Bo Hansson. The third subtrack starts with a subtle keyboard, then electric piano and bass for a part that alternates jazzy moments and classical influences. Again a gong but the transition is now smooth. Up to now what I have heard was good, now things start to worsen.This subtrack (the fifth) features piano and blueasy acoustic guitar on which a folky flute and what sounds like a concertina play something vaguely dissonant and really not much interesting. Then it's the turn of loops and tapestogether with a blues electric guitar. Usually I don't dislike tapes played reverse if their use is not excessive. Sometimes I find Anthony Phillips boring for the excess of reversed tapes. There's another reminder to Sheherazade and we are in the seventh subtrack, the worst in my opinion. A circus organ plays a waltz based on a trivial melody. In this case 4 minutes are really too much. The last 4 minutes are occupied by a blues guitar with some hints of classical. Not a good closer, but as I have said before, if we consider it as a standalone track it's not too bad.

Let's now go to the "Ivory Tower".

The first of the four let's call them "movements" is progressive electronic. Drone drumming with a keyboard layer with sounds between Edgar Froese and Rick Wakeman, a bit more oriented to the first but also in this case classical influences can be perceived. The fact that this movement is 8 minutes long is everything but disturbing, specially for a listener used to Tangerine Dream. The transition is made with some electronic noises, then the second movement is again classical inspired. Its sub-title "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" gives well the idea. The sound is mimic of a church organ. Let me define it as "Edgar Froese plays Criminal Record". So not bad at all, but there's a sudden break to the 8 minutes rule. Seashore sounds are used to bring us out of the cathedral into the bazaar...well, effectively the bazaar starts exactly at minute 12. Not as intense and experimental as the Grand Vizir garden party on Ummagumma, but interesting enough. Again little electronic noise are used for the transition to the third movement. A leslie organ plays a waltz on drone drums, then it changes to uptime. It's a good keys performance reminding of Rick Wakeman but it's made of several short pieces very disconnected, each of them quite good, but too short and with transitions which apparently haven't requested a big composing effort, thay are just transitions. It's a pity, but probably "The travelling Salesman" means that every short piece has to be considered as a different situation for the salesman it's about. Othe electronic low-volume noises introduce us to the final movement. The title is interesting: "The dining Philosopher" and this kind of electronics is something that I'm used to like,and I like it also this time. Between Tangerine Dream and Mike Oldfield, has some weak moments, like a descending sequence of organ chords which interrupts the track's continuity at minute 26:30 but it's an excellent electronic performance even with that weakness. It proceeds alternatin a funky sequence to pure electronics until the end.

In few words this is a double face album, not only because of the title. The first track is more acoustic and contains many guitar parts while the second track is mainly electronic and keyboard based. I would rate the first with 2 stars and the second with 4 (question of tastes, but apart of making "averages" I think that 3 stars are a good compromise in terms of rating.

I still have to check better the other two albums of this one man project but from the first listens I already have the impression that the formula is almost the same. Formula or not, the second track deserves some attention. There's not a specific reason why I started reviewing this album instead of any of the other two. Just a random choice.

Report this review (#953255)
Posted Friday, May 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars UK project PURPLE is the creative moniker of composer and musician Dan Hodgson. He started creating music to be released using this artistic name in 2007. As of 2013 three full length albums have been released by him, all of them downloadable for free from his website. "Under a Binary Tree" is the second of these, and was issued in 2009.

Hodgson's second album continues in a similar vein as his first one, but instead of one compositions consisting of twelve movements we're served two half hour long compositions on this occasion, the first consisting of eight movements and the second consisting of four. The compositions are rather different in style and expression too, and with a lot going on even within the individual movement.

The Ebony Queen, following a symphonic orchestra inspired opening with a theme then replicated rock band style, a series of constellations unfolds with a great variety in style. Two totally guitars driven pieces followed by a gentler piano and percussion based one, psychedelic guitars a central element in the initial phase of following one replaced by a more conventional guitar construction in the second half, uplifting presumably brass driven music of the kind that invites to circus associations is next up, and the guitars return again for a more jazz-flavored expression in the final movement. There are lots of minute details for the avid listener to enjoy too, like the minor thematic shifts every two minutes or thereabouts.

The Ivory Tower is a much more uniform creation, revolving around organ, keyboards, synthesizers, sequencers and sound effects. Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream are given nods along the way if I'm not much mistaken, and there's quite a few details that should please those with a soft spot for the so called Berlin School category of music I suspect. Again with a lot of minute details taking place in the individual movements, and perhaps with a bit more organ present that you'd find on compositions drawing upon similar sources of probable inspiration.

"Under a Binary Tree" is a fine album on many levels, but not everything is entertaining nor easy to enjoy, and not always in a good way at that. I suspect that people with a firm grasp of composition and composition techniques are the ones who'll find this album most rewarding, apart from those I'd suggest fans of progressive electronic music to give this album a spin due to the second and strongest composition The Ivory Tower.

Report this review (#1014327)
Posted Thursday, August 8, 2013 | Review Permalink

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