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Stick Men

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Stick Men Prog Noir album cover
3.72 | 93 ratings | 5 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Prog Noir (5:37)
2. Mantra (5:46)
3. Plutonium (4:47)
4. The Tempest (5:42)
5. Schattenhaft (4:31)
6. A Rose in the Sand / Requiem (4:36)
7. Leonardo (4:56)
8. Trey's Continuum (4:02)
9. Embracing the Sun (4:53)
10. Never the Same (6:29)

Total Time 51:19

Line-up / Musicians

- Tony Levin (King Crimson) / Stick, voice
- Markus Reuter / U8 & AU8 touch guitars, voice
- Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) / acoustic & electronic drums & percussion

Releases information

Label: Moonjune Records, 7d media, iapetus Media
Format: CD, Vinyl, Digital
October 21, 2016

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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STICK MEN Prog Noir ratings distribution

(93 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (15%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

STICK MEN Prog Noir reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I never kept in secret my dislike for most KING CRIMSON, so when Leonardo MoonJune Pavkovic sent me a copy of Prog Noir by STICK MEN being that the lineup reminded me of Thrak (an album which I absolutely dislike), wasn't really enthusiastic. After some days and with some reluctance listened it and was gladly surprised.

The versatility of Levin and Reuter plus the ability of Pat Mastelotto in the drums simply replace the lack of keyboards (Something indispensable for a Symphonic fan), creating a very special atmosphere that combines strong rhythmic passages with a melodic base that really blew my brains.

Even when they have strong reminiscences of KING CRIMSON, Their sound is so unique that anything they play is simply beyond comparison and manage to keep the interest of their audience from the first to the last note.

My favorite track is Plutonium where after a constant repetition of a musical phrase and narration they pay to visit Carl Orff's 'Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi', YES Roundabout and Tchaikovsky's 1812 (Well really The Marsellaise) in a really amusing way, managing to break the almost hypnotic atmosphere (almost like a mantra) and paint a smile in the face of the listener.

But there are also some other great tracks lie the nostalgic Rose in the Sand/Requiem and the vibrant Leonardo, but in general terms, the album is pretty solid form start to end with no weak spots, so better if listened completely instead of choosing tracks.

Yesterday I was listening the album in the car wit my girlfriend and she asked me 'What do this guys play, Prog Rock, Avant Garde or Metal?' My answer was simple, I don't know or care, but it's great music.....After a few minutes that question made me think that if this guys take the risk to create something so elaborate and hard to catalogue and just worry about the music, I may well take the risk of giving them 5 stars.

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is wonderful!

I still remember that a couple of years ago, Stick Men visited Mexico City for an intimate and wonderful show in which, Levin, Mastelotto and Reuter let us know once again they are truly gifted musicians who really enjoy what they do. Now, two years later, I am delighted with their newest album, the mighty Prog Noir recently released through Moonjune Records; a 10-track album with 50 minutes of great music that in my humble opinion, does not have weak moments.

I have to say that I've been a fan of these musicians for several years, they are incredible with their instruments, but I also have to say that I am not really keen on Levin's voice, however, on this album the vocals sounds pretty good, hence doing no harm to the music, which is simply great. The album starts with the title track "Prog Noir" which is a great introduction, powerful, dense, with cool vocals and that imminent Crimsonian style that has to appear in every Stick Men album, for obvious reasons. In fact, second track "Mantra" is very reminiscent of the Thrak era; the guys don't deny their past and use it to build up new interesting songs.

"Plutonium" demands your attention due to its tension and explosive moments. It has short renditions to Orff's Carmina Burana, to Yes' Roundabout and to Tchaikovsky's La Marseillaise; and a chorus made for everyone to sing and enjoy: "Pluto, Pluto, Pluto, Pluto- nium" haha, truly enjoyable. "The Tempest" is another great track! I would like to point out that this album is quite different from their previous ones, and actually I think this is so far my favorite. I like that for example, in this song, if I didn't previously know they were Stick Men, I would think of another band.

With "Schattenhaft" I kinda want to dance and move my body with its heavy but friendly sound. I love the strings here, so powerful and again with that Crimsonian style, and of course Pat's drumming is always accurate, always spot on, always telling us something. "A Rose in the Sand / Requiem" brings tranquillity and relaxation, its sound is much more oriented to the soft side of music, giving us some minutes in which we can take a deep breath and have even a moment of introspection. Nice!

But be prepared, because after that relaxing moment comes a magnificent storm entitled "Leonardo", one of my favourite songs of the album. Progressive rock, virtuosity and power are merged in this track reminding us just why we love Levin and Reuter's finger work. This is chaotic, dense, powerful, amazing! I bet this might be a favourite for so many people, you just have to listen to it once to become an addicted. "Trey's Continuum" naturally has to do with the amazing Trey Gunn, another member of the Crimson family. The music in moments borders on cinematic, in others groovy and then heavy, which is why I think it never ceases to surprise, so one cannot get bored of it, never.

The last two songs are "Embracing The Sun" and "Never The Same". The first one without a doubt will take you to the Discipline-era, an instrumental track with repetitive but always different notes that produces addiction within ten seconds. I love it! And the last one brings again vocals, creating a great synergy between instruments and voice (which is also an instrument, but different, you know), so I believe this track was wonderfully chosen to close an excellent album, the best, or at least my favorite Stick Men album so far. Highly recommendable!

Enjoy it!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is my first trip into STICK MEN territory and it won't be my last. I'm such a fan of that KING CRIMSON style that is dark, heavy and complex. Having Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin both KING CRIMSON members on board is reason enough alone for me to be surprised I haven't checked these guys out yet. Markus Reuter rounds out this American power trio who are obviously riding the "Make America great again" wave adding his Touch guitars to Levin's Chapman Stick and Pat's muscular drumming.

I became an instant fan when the sounds of "Prog Noir" started to come out of my stereo. So much depth and it's dark as the vocals join in. Lots of atmosphere as well. Simply ground-shaking and where's that repeat button. "Mantra" is another killer track as the first four tunes are. Outbursts of heaviness in this dark atmosphere to start before it settles in with Stick and Touch guitars. The drums and dark atmosphere continue, I'm such a sucker for this type of music.

"Plutonium" is an innovative track with some really cool lyrics. Spoken words and plenty of humour on this one and I like the nods to other bands as the vocalist says "Cue the music of..." and then says the band's name then we get a snippet of their music played by STICK MEN. This happens a few times including YES being mentioned and the song "Roundabout" getting a brief cover by these guys. What an entertaining track! "The Tempest" has a catchy beat and it's very KING CRIMSON-like as these deep, almost spoken vocals join in. Man four really good songs in a row. "Schattenhaft" is fairly uptempo and it turns heavier before a minute. So impressive after 3 minutes, especially the guitar, and the drumming 4 minutes in to the end has my approval.

"Rose In The Sand/ Requiem" is mellow and pretty as the title would suggest. The second half that starts around 2 1/2 minutes in called "Requiem" is slower with more atmosphere and I like it better than the first part. "Leonardo" is also fairly laid back and quite beautiful with intricate sounds although there's quite a bit of depth here. It calms right down late and it's emotional. "Trey's Continuum" has all these intricate sounds coming and going and it's even better when it turns heavier a minute in. So good! The guitar starts to create some noise then a calm arrives around 2 1/2 minutes in, very KING CRIMSON-like.

"Embracing The Sun" has this catchy beat and I love the drumming. This is complex like "Discipline" by KC with all those intricate sounds weaving around each other. A highlight for sure. "Never The Same" is lighter sounding to start and quite uplifting then the drums and some deep sounds join in changing it completely and that for the better as the vocals join in. Man that drumming and sound before 3 1/2 minutes is almost TOOL-like. The guitar then soars as the drums pound 5 minutes in. That opening theme is back before it ends with static-like noise.

One of the years best in my opinion, I think 4.5 stars is about right. I'm so into this album! I will be checking out some of their earlier ones like "Deep" and "Soup" along with the live one "Midori".

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars Maybe it pays to be wary of a Progressive Rock album with the word 'Prog' anywhere in its title. Sadly, the term still carries an unfair taint of mockery, no matter how challenging the actual music might be.

The new release from Tony Levin's Stick Men trio doesn't approach the nadir of Billy Sherwood's odious "Prog Collective" albums. But it doesn't quite redeem the cinematic self-deprecation implied by its title and artwork either, despite the ace musicianship. The album opens strong, on the chunky downbeat of Levin's trademark Chapman Stick, propelling the title track. But here and elsewhere some persuasive chops are let down by the lack of a genuine lead singer.

The tongue-in-cheek "Plutonium" is a happy exception, with its deadpan comic narration and oddball musical digressions, from Carl Orff to classic Yes. And most of what follows is (fortunately) instrumental, better showcasing the trio's capabilities. Levin puts his Stick through some impressive, gut-punching calisthenics, matched by his whirling-dervish King Crimson rhythm buddy Pat Mastelotto.

But the songwriting sounds oddly forced to these ears, as if the band was trying too hard to fit a mold labeled Prog, instead of throwing caution to the wind and attempting anything truly progressive. The tired melody of "Mantra" underlines the album's hairline cracks, by resembling a not-quite successful attempt to break through a wall of writer's block.

The end result is a more accessible sub-Crimson side-project, easy on the ears but hard to recall in detail, even after multiple spins.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars Originally formed in 2008 by Tony Levin (Chapman Stick, vocals), Pat Mastelotto (drums) and Michael Bernier (Chapman Stick, vocals) (hence the band name), the line-up changed in 2010 with the departure of Bernier and the addition of Markus Reuter (touch guitars, vocals). This 2016 album was their fifth studio album, and comprises songs that were specially composed for the purpose, as opposed to ones that they had worked through on the road. I must confess that the first time I played this I really wasn't too sure, as although the musicality on display is of course of the very highest order, I felt the songs were contrived and not allowed to expand to their full potential, while the vocals weren't doing anything for me at all.

But, as is often the case with music of worth, the more I played this the more it grew on me, until I found that my views were quite at odds with what I thought initially. I'm not even sure how quite to describe this to someone who hasn't come across them prior to this, as Pat and Tony are often taking the lead, with Markus providing additional tonal elements which often don't even sound as if they are coming from a guitar at all. Pat seems to have been at the top of the drumming game forever, while Tony is recognised as the world expert in the Chapman Stick, and they have been playing together in King Crimson for more than twenty years. This joined experience means that they know exactly what each other is going to do, where they are going to move, so it is no surprise that they fit together seamlessly. Then there is Markus, who adds additional tonal colour to everything that is taking place: I'm not sure how he always finds room among Tony's double-handed 12-string attack, but find room he does, creating a sonic assault that brings everything together.

Instrumentals like 'Schattenhaft' are simply stunning, while 'Plutonium' is a wonderful little song that is bound to bring a smile to any proghead. As I write this Stick Men are touring South America, and I just wish they would make the little trip over to Australia and New Zealand, as I would be great to see them play. There is a song on here called 'Leonardo', and there can't be many bands who dedicate a number to their manager, but richly deserved as Leonardo Pavkovic must be one of the hardest working people in the business and remains one of the nicest. This is an album that demands repeated playing, but more than repays the effort.

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