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Algernon Ghost Surveillance album cover
3.86 | 48 ratings | 8 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Briefing (4:24)
2. Broken Lady (4:55)
3. Honey Trap (2:20)
4. Timekiller (3:55)
5. Operative vs. Opposition (8:22)
6. Everybody Stay Calm (6:05)
7. Intelligence Meltdown (1:04)
8. Debrief and Defect (11:03)
9. Objective Compromised (6:43)
10. The L Pill (2:29)

Total Time 51:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Dave Miller / electric guitar, 12-string guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, tack piano, organ, synthesizer, Theremin
- Toby Summerfield / electric guitar, 16-string guitar
- Katie Wiegman / vibraphone, glockenspiel, percussion
- Tom Perona / bass
- Cory Healey / drums, percussion

- Leslie Beukelman / voice (9)

Releases information

CD Cuneiform Records RUNE 297 (US, 2010)

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and to projeKct for the last updates
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ALGERNON Ghost Surveillance ratings distribution

(48 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(49%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

ALGERNON Ghost Surveillance reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first time I heard of Algernon from Chicago was when I saw that their 2010 album, Ghost Surveillance, was being released by Cuneiform Records, a favourite label of mine. Intrigued I proceeded to listen to some tracks on their myspace. Favourably impressed I proceeded to order the album and am glad I did so. Algernon are a five-member band from Chicago and this instrumental album is their third release.

The music here borders on several styles such as "plain" rock, post-rock (in the scenic-atmospheric sense) and to a lesser extent jazz-rock. However, to try and pin-down their style and influences proves harder. While it is a rock affair with a strict form and fully composed, at times light and at others heavy, there is some jazziness and semblance of free spirit in the tunes, as if they are improvising, or at least doing so on a pre-conceived theme. They manage to capture a certain vibe by this that makes them sound spontaneous and fresh. Indeed, from what I read, bandleader and main composer, Dave Miller, is a very flexible guitarist and can play in a variety of styles.

Each track has its unique features and "personality" and they all go very well together. Each one has a clear melodic line, rich with playing of the five musicians, piling the layers of sounds. Their music flows seamlessly and with much power, shifting in its volume, density and layering. There is a sense of vitality and joviality in their music. Combining refined and soft sounds (vibraphone, glockenspiel) with harsher elements (such as some specific guitar tones). Indeed, this balance of power is a major attractive feature of their music. At times I was reminded of the Canadian group Hylozoists, with regards to the softer side of the music and the use of vibraphone. Indeed this and the glockenspiel are a superb tool that helps distinguish them and create their quite unique sound and style. This brings me to the point that Algernon does a great job of merging its raw and aggressive side with a mellow and subtler approach: "Broken Lady" is a good example of that. In fact that song seems to run the gamut of all possible paces and emotional landscapes portrayed in this album. They can be mellow, calm and even supple ("Everybody Stay Calm", "The L Pill") or ragged, adventurous, exploratory, noisy and edgy ("Intelligence Meltdown", "Objective Compromised" etc.). This comes into play within different sections in tracks as well.

Ghost Surveillance is a fresh and quite unique sounding album, an album that builds up on contrasts and shows no fear of experimentation and forward thinking.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Indeed, album full of experiments, finding new sounds and so on. One track even sounds like Post-Rock (Operative) and is successful in being what is is supposed to be. Other tracks are for example jazzy. Hell, even some lounge music (which I from some unknown reason like, it's this xylophone tune that always pleases me). This one of the few albums where I follow almost every word previous reviewer said. Yes, it is true, tracks follows each other perfectly, it seems like gentle hand done editing (cutting?). Tracks aren't just nice, they're breathtaking and stunning. Because one have to envy how easily it goes, or if you want, flows forward. There's probably some kind of story, but I'm not so good to guess it, as long as there is no singing. Album is rather short with just about 45 minutes long (length of LP with strange coincidence, last song is "L P...").

Even there's one big problem. Some elements of this albums sounds very same. Again, it's very clearly to heard on Operative. It can be annoying at times, but so major flaw.

4(-) for pleasant album. Wait a minute, lounge music ?

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Unless I meet any sort of supernatural surprise in my next musical purchases on my way toward Christmas and New Year's Day, I'm afraid that I have just found yet another undisputed member of 2010's Top 5 Progressive Albums List. Oh my? what a way to begin to get acquainted with Chicago-based outfit Algernon! Their 2010 release "Ghost Surveillance" is an amazing treat in which complexity and dynamics fuse in one single sonic resource within the ample, ever-challenging confines of art-rock. The band's nuclear essence is based on a solid mixture of jazz-rock's warmth, post-rock's textures and psychedelia's adventurous explorations within a tight framework that cries out "progressive" across every single pore of every single sound provided by the dual guitars, the rhythm duo and the relevant percussion inputs, with the occasional keyboards adding proper ornaments in the grand scheme. At times, sources from no-wave, heavy rock and krautrock also make their presence noticed in order to capitalize the creativity that is constantly refurbished along the way of this eclecticism that Algernon make their own. This is great, this is greater than just great ? ideas that will flow through your head while you go on listening to this album from the exciting opener to the eerie closer. Well, let's go for the album itself, shall we? 'The Briefing' constructs its main body in a sustained fashion, displayed freely after a brief introductory passage that bears a constrained feel. The track's swing is catchy, even in those moments where acid psychedelic tricks season the musical development. 'Broken Lady' goes for a more fusion-oriented road, with an intelligent architecture that somehow reminisces of Upper Extremities and Gordian Knot (a least, to me). The slow second half shifts toward a more introverted mood, while not feeling to forced in the track's whole scheme. 'Honey Trap' leads us straightforwardly to the sort of jazz-meets-post-rock thing that Algernon masters with such genius: the sonic result is like a landscape amply dominated by powerful grayish ones. On the other hand, 'Timekiller' bears a more brilliant disguise that makes the instrumental framework appear more colorful: having said that, there are also some momentary sources of tension that make the integral delivery quite interesting as it is surprising. So far, so good, and there is more musical extravagance in sore, as the majestic 'Operative vs. Opposition' comes to show right away. Its intriguing mixture of Crimsonian psychedelia and "Unrest"-era Henry Cow and its rhythmic nucleus that alternates Lain jazz, heavy rock and progressive sophistication make it a fundamental highlight of this album: all through its 8+ minute span, this piece never fails to surprise and engage the perceptive listener. The density displayed in the last passages adds a solid sense of creepiness, which conveniently helps to finalize the climax's strength. Once this monster piece is over, 'Everybody Stay Calm' enters in to change things for a while. Its first section is marked by a contemplative atmosphere built mostly by the dialogue of Theremin and vibraphone; then the second section settles in, shifting toward an extroverted development of elegant rocking power. 'Intelligence Meltdown' brings a funny portrait of refurbished 60s garage rock, which makes sense with the previous track's second section. 'Debrief and Defect' is the album's longest piece: it starts with a punchy intro that will eventually be reiterated in the coda, while in the ample middle space there is room for a developing set of variations. The first central motif is built on a slow tempo that enables the instrumental scheme to appear equally calm and uneasy: the vibraphone's protagonist role is essential for this, while the Spartan notes on piano and bass establish a convenient counterpoint. Then comes a moment of abstract serenity focused on a well-crafted crescendo that feels mostly eerie and spacey, but it also contains some sort of aggressiveness. The minimalist ambience we meet here is heavily based on the increasing tension manifested in the synth layers, soon joined by calculated interventions by other instruments (especially on bass guitar) ? very much a GYBE!-meets-Tortoise thing. The track's vigorous coda serves as an announcement of 'Objective Compromise', which is arguably the most successful track in terms of typically progressive dynamics ? I may allow myself to describe it as a hybrid of Crimson, Don Caballero and Attention Deficit. Two highlights in a road? just unbelievable! Finally, 'The L Pill' wraps things up in an atmosphere of cosmic nuances that manifest the band's taste for krautrock's electronic free-form: the soft amalgam of keyboards and guitar adornments make an evocative finale for an album that sounds like a Pandora's box of today's progressive rock. Let's not wait for Algernon's death to bring hem flowers ? let's give them to the band right now, 5 stars for "Ghost Surveillance".
Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I wish I was as enthusiastic as the other reviewers. And I do like this album but to hear pretty much the same style of instrumental music throughout is a bit much for me. Interesting sound though. For me they blend Post-Rock and Math-Rock very well, and I also thought of MEW a few times believe it or not. Lots of Vibraphone which gives it an interesting sound.

"The Briefing" opens with guitar as drums join in and it builds.This reminds me of MEW. It does get intense around 2 minutes and to end it. "Broken Lady" sounds interesting with the bass,vibes and percussion. Guitar does come to the fore a minute in as contrasts continue. Great track. "Honey Trap" features odd-metered drumming and a low hum early. "Timekiller" is another tune that reminds me of MEW when it picks up after a minute. I like this one a lot.

"Operative Vs. Opposition" has a nice heavy sound to it and it's quite intricate too. Tempo continues to change. "Everybody Stay Calm" has some atmosphere 3 1/2 minutes in then it kicks back in a minute later. "Intelligence Meltdown" opens with a barrage of drums as the guitar comes in grinding away. I like it. "Debrief And Defect" is intense to start then it settles. It kind of spacey before 5 1/2 minutes which lasts a few minutes then we get an all out assault. "Objective Compromised" again contrasts the intense and calmer passages. "The L Pill" is a short dreamy track.

I'm surprised this is on the Cuneiform Records label to be honest. It's a very good instrumental album though that most people rate highly. 3.5 stars for me.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When this album first entered the ProgArchives 2010 charts I was very pleased to see that it was near the top. How it has fallen so far I do not know for I truly believe this album will end up as one of my Top Ten at year's end. So fresh and out of the ordinary, ALGERNON is a group of musicians who create unusual music and sound. They use unusual recording techniques (less technique, greater use of space and natural acoustics), unusual compositional and structural choices (are they Math Rock, Post-modern, Avante-garde, Jazz-fusion, Experimental, or Eclectic?), and unusual instrumentation (xylophone, untreated drum kit), while remaining a mostly instrumental band. When I listen to their songs I get the feeling I am there with them in some empty Chicago warehouse or sparsely furnished top floor artist's studio apartment, all of them jamming live, grooving very attentively to one another. Having stumbled upon them by accident on about a year ago, I was very pleased to see that they are sticking together, continuing to explore their unique sonic territory--bordering on a kind of theatric jazz. Also pleased to see that some of the ProgArchives stallwarts are on board their bandwagon. Everybody who loves King Crimson will LOVE "Operative vs. Oposition." Try it! You might like it!
Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars I've read this band has spent a lot of time touring in support of this album and their Cuneiform record deal. So here's the thing - what does an Algernon live show look like? Even more puzzling, what does an Algernon audience look like? That captures my imagination even more than their music, which is admittedly quite fresh, innovative and ambitious while at the same time teeters on a dangerous line between a top-drawer discovery and ambient background for your next avant-garde themed party.

Algernon are a Chicago-based quintet of obviously talented musicians who clearly have gone through formal and extensive training on their respective instruments as well as in music theory. Being Chicagoans they are pretty much required by state law to be well- versed and proficient in all aspects of modern jazz, in this case the experimental variety that ranges from smooth to dissonant, sometimes in the same composition. But they are also of a generation that probably still plays Frisbee golf and drags their fixed-gear bicycle onto the city bus with them, so there seems to be no hesitance to blend post- and math-rock constructions into the music, or to throw in rather unconventional instruments like vibraphone, glockenspiel and theremin to give new textures to already challenging music. Which of course all serves to endear them immensely to all manner of progressive rock, avant-garde and even pretentious poseur music fans. Mix together all stereotypes that come to mind when reading that sentence and you can start to imagine what a couple hours with these guys in a live show might be like. I'd pay good money myself.

Opening with "The Briefing" the band sets a tone of lively, rather ambitious jazzy instrumental music heavy of melodic and rhythmic constructions with very crisp, well- enunciated acoustic string instrumentation layered into a sonic wall of synthesizers, electric guitar and neurotic percussion. "Broken Lady" offers more of the same but a bit more restrained, and I'm left thinking this is a natural progression for two decades of post-Bark Psychosis contemporary music, but not anything really earth-shaking.

This probably puts me at odds with fans of the band that prefer their jazzy stylings to the more rock and avant-influenced compositions on the latter part of the CD. But on the first six tracks I hear a lot of musical variation but don't feel a lot of emotional variation, and the lack of emotional connection puts the album at risk of becoming a chic soundtrack rather than at the forefront of focus.

Things change abruptly, and for the better in my opinion, beginning with the cacophonic, awkward and mostly inharmonic "Intelligence Meltdown", a brief segue that separates the Pat Methany-channeling early tracks from what's to come. And while the 11-plus minute "Debrief and Defect" takes a bit too long to develop in my opinion, it eventually does and listeners are rewarded with a messy and glorious climax of jarring drums, improvisational guitar and layered percussion that leads seamlessly into an even more ambitious and rewarding "Objective Compromised".

The band brings things way down for a slow, keyboard-heavy closing on "The L Pill" which combines hints of the glock and theremin and left me feeling quite pleased with the nearly one hour investment of my time.

I haven't heard the band's earlier self-released albums, but after picking this one up I'm sure I'll hunt them down soon. In the meantime I'll give this one four out of five stars and recommend it pretty highly to post and math rock fans as well as those who just like to listen to eclectic music made by well-taught artists that can't be easily pigeonholed.


Latest members reviews

3 stars This album is a difficult one. The difficulty comes in the way it is built as a journey from A to Z. The A being melodic to Z being impenetrable avant garde post rock. Let's start with A. The music starts with some pretty cool jazzy melodies and moods before some melodramatic stuff comes i ... (read more)

Report this review (#299621) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, September 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yet another "There is still hope" release! Even though new groups will be (for me - an aging boomer) forever overshadowed by the Gods of Yesteryear groups from the 60's/70's, these youngsters from the USA are amazing. I mean amazing!!! From extremely well written compositions to nice clean impr ... (read more)

Report this review (#269969) | Posted by tmay102436 | Sunday, March 7, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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