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DAVE WILLEY

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Dave Willey biography
Dave Willey, the multi-instrumentalist/composer, has been a very active component of avant-garde rock since breaking onto the scene in the 90s with Hamster Theatre. Willey's music draws influence from a wide spectrum, ranging from groups such as The Beatles and Beach Boys to Zappa, Henry Cow, and Zamla Mammaz Manna. Early in his career, Willey performed with various groups, both within and without of the progressive rock sphere. While playing in the Denver Gentlemen and Big Foot Torso, Dave met keyboardist/trombonist/composer Jon Stubbs, who would later become one of Willey's regular musical partners.

Eventually, Willey moved to the Czech Republic for a year with his girlfriend at the time, where he attended concerts by Lars Hollmer and other musicians/bands, along with the Festival MIMI in France. He started recording some of his own music to a four-track recorder which he carried around in a pack. Originally, he was against anything that was composed or in a time signature or with a melody, as he told the magazine Westword, but eventually he became interested in making accessible, yet still challenging music.

After Willey returned to the U.S., he moved into a cabin near Boulder, Colorado, and started recording material on many instruments. Eventually, he came up with all the material which would be present on his first solo release, Songs from the Hamster Theatre, the album on which we hear his mix of rock, European folk, and avant-garde experiments for the first time. By the early 1990s, Willey formed Hamster Theatre into a performing group, consisting of himself on several instruments, Stubbs on bass, and a plethora of other musicians on various instruments. Deborah Perry was one of the musicians, playing keyboard with the group.

In 1996, Willey (and Perry) joined Thinking Plague, and Mike Johnson and Mark Harris, from Thinking Plague, joined Hamster Theatre. Willey remained busy with both Hamster Theatre and Thinking Plague for the remainder of the 90s and much of the 2000s.

Willey was also working on another project at this time, one which was deeply personal and important to him. In 2011, after being in progress for, according to Willey, a million years, his second solo album Immeasurable Currents was released. This album set some of Willey's late father Dale's poetry from his book Tin Box Papers and Other Poems to music. Willey received help from many other musicians notable on the RIO/Avant Rock scene...
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4.00 | 1 ratings
Songs from the Hamster Theatre
1995
3.72 | 10 ratings
Immeasurable Currents
2011

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DAVE WILLEY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Immeasurable Currents by WILLEY, DAVE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.72 | 10 ratings

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Immeasurable Currents
Dave Willey RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Dave Willey is the leader of HAMSTER THEATRE and he's also been a part of THINKING PLAGUE since the "In Extremis" record playing mostly bass and accordion. This is a very special album for Dave as the lyrics were all taken from his dad's book "The Tin Box Papers And Other Poems". His father is no longer with us sadly but man would he be proud of this recording. What also makes this significant is Hugh Hopper's involvement. Dave related to me that he met Hugh as well as Elaine Di Falco (who sings and plays on here and was part of Hugh's band back then) at the Progman Cometh festival in Seattle in 2003. Hugh's HUGHSCORE band and Dave's HAMSTER THEATRE group shared the stage. Dave and Hugh exchanged addresses and sent each other tracks through the mail. Dave said that for a project such as this he could only work on it when it felt "right". He gives Udi Koomran a lot of credit for rescuing Hugh's music from his computer.

So the "& Friends" of this project include Deborah Perry, Elaine Di Falco, Wally Scharold, Hugh Hopper, Mike Johnson, Dave Kerman, Farrell Lowe and more. The first time I heard this it felt like a combination of THINKING PLAGUE and ART BEARS. Again the lyrics play a major role and they sort of grab you by the heart. The combination of these words with this style of music is a very powerful experience.

"Too Much Light (Lonesco's Theme)" hits the ground running with vocals (Deborah & Elaine) and some fairly heavy music. An accordion solo a minute in then the vocals return but not for long as we get a calm. Reserved vocals before 3 1/2 minutes to end it. Check out the lyrics though ! "The Old Woods" opens with the music sort of starting and stopping as this is repeated until the vocals (Deborah) arrive a minute in. Themes are repeated. It does turn experimental with water sounds 3 1/2 minutes in. Vocals return and they are psychedelic and dreamy. Hugh plays bass on the second half of this track. Again the lyrics are so good like "How can we tell what's human when these woods are gone ?" And you should read the words to the next song "If Two See A Unicorn". Prominant drums and vocals (Deborah) and it becomes catchy late before ending in a dark and chaotic manner. "What A Night" has this thick atmosphere with vocals (Deborah). Hugh on bass and Mike Johnson on guitar here. "The Conservatives" has a catchy beat with whistling as vocals come in quickly. Abrasive guitar follows then vocal melodies and more whistling. The lyrics are brilliant. "Winter" is an incredible piece of music composed by Elaine. We get bassoon, accordion, clarinet, viola, piano and cello. Vocals by Deborah and Elaine. It's so eeirie 1 1/2 minutes in when the vocals stop.

"I Could Eat You Up" kicks in quickly then the vocals (Deborah) join in in this uptempo barn- burner. Kerman is on the drums here. A calm before 2 minutes as haunting vocals join in. It kicks back in late. "Wordswords" is heavy and slow with vocals. Spoken words before 3 minutes in a dark soundscape. This is like UNIVERS ZERO meets COMUS. "Autumn" has reserved vocals (Elaine) with piano with dripping sounds. "Mitch" has Dave on vocals in this dark and deep soundscape. Check out the lyrics here. Harmonium too. "A Garland Of Miniatures" has emotionless vocals (Deborah) with accordion and harmonium. Music by Hugh Hopper. "Nightfall" is such a cool track with those loops from Hopper along with the vocal (HAMSTER THEATRE) loops that create a spacey and dreamy backdrop to the relaxed vocals.

Dave also mentioned that it was a very emotional experience to continue recording this with Elaine after Hugh's passing and that it was unfortunate that Hugh wasn't able to listen to this finished work. Fans of THINKING PLAGUE, ART BEARS, 5UUs and the like should not hesitate in seeking this out.

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 Immeasurable Currents by WILLEY, DAVE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.72 | 10 ratings

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Immeasurable Currents
Dave Willey RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by avestin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Stranger in a strange land

There are those albums that upon listening to I feel I've stumbled into a different dimension, a foreign land. This doesn't imply estrangement; on the contrary, I feel at ease, and am curious to investigate this new and uncharted place. Immeasurable Currents is such an album; one that despite its slightly weird and odd sounds, is inviting with its magic and charm, and while appearing at first listen as cold and somewhat off-putting, is a glimpse into a warm and comforting place.

This album is (or was) facing a problem. Given that this is a Dave Willey's album and that luminaries such as Hugh Hopper, Elaine Di Falco, Deborah Perry and Mike Johnson play on it, expectations of some people were to hear an album of complex or otherworldly sounding avant-rock (or the so-called RIO). Well, if those are your expectations, either abandon those at the door or go look for another album of that ilk. This beautiful album is a rather calm and relaxed collection of 12 songs, composed by, as the title suggests, Dave Willey and friends. You will hear resemblances to these fine musician's other work in Hamster Theatre, Thinking Plague et al. but those are hints, much like one tastes hints of fruit while tasting wine. Indeed, like a good wine, this album takes time to "open" and bloom, revealing its flavours slowly and gradually, requiring recurring tastings. It is a mostly minimalist and restrained album, but one that holds in its "guts" great strength and powerful emotions. As much as it is different from what you usually hear from this bunch of musicians, it is as remarkable and potent in its emotional impact. What it "lacks" in its musical complexity compared to Hamster Theatre and Thinking Plague, it more than makes up for in beauty, elegance and charm.

The intimacy of the music matches very well how personal the lyrics are, giving the songs that timid ambiance and tenderness that doesn't overshadow the lyrics. The person responsible for the lyrics is Dale Willey, Dave's father, now deceased. These poems were taken from the book "The Tin Box Papers and Other Poems". The music suits the lyrics very well, whether its simplistic and beautiful, slightly erratic and faster, or eerie and melancholic (enhanced by the wonderful vocals of Elaine di Falco and Deborah Perry).

If subtlety and otherworldliness are attributes you'd like to experience in music, intimacy and calmness, beauty and eeriness, immerse yourself in the currents of the 12 songs by Dave Willey and his friends.

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 Immeasurable Currents by WILLEY, DAVE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.72 | 10 ratings

BUY
Immeasurable Currents
Dave Willey RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ShW1

4 stars Father would be proud.

This album is a homage from Dave Willey to his father Dale Willey, a poet, And holds 12 'art songs' composed to his lyrics, from the book 'tin box papers' that published in 2001, the very same year Dale Willey passed away. The music written and perform by Dave Willey and his 'friends', most from Thinking Plague which Willey is a member of, and some others as well.

From subgenre point of view, such 'art songs' are hard to be classified. Indeed, RIO enthusiasts happily adopted this album into the RIO subgenre, and not without any reason. After all some of the most well-known and appreciated members of the scene are here. But IMO, such songs should be under the crossover subgenre, albeit the relatively 'quirkiness', at least for some songs, that perhaps will challenge the casual crossover listener. On the other hand, under the crossover subgenre at this site, this music apparently would get much more exposure and gain a larger audience.

As a poet, and not just a song writer, Dale Willey did not stick to a versus-corus structure. Thus the music is much derived from this tendency, and in most cases the songs structure is not 'regular' by any mean. Not even the 'proggy' way of songs development.

Not only the song structure, but the atmosphere is derived from the lyrics too. The lyrics move between humorous, contemplative, and sentimental moods, with a lot of love to the nature, landscapes and seasons. Musically, each song has its own 'differ' from others and arranged for a unique set of instruments. Some memorable instruments are old fashion roughly tuned piano, zither, and accordion, which became Willey's main instrument and specialty, among many other instruments that he rules so well.

Vocals and composition credits goes for many of the 'friends'. There is not one composer, and not even one vocalist here. Most of the songs sung wonderfully by Deborah Perry, but also by Elaine DiFalco, Wally Scharold, and Dave Willey himself.

As for colleagues' contribution and compositions: 'Wordswords' composed by Mike Johnson. The song lyrics remind me an old Scottish ballad with a tragic end. The musical implementation provides a quite but still tension background, and a delicate lyrical melody, accompanied mainly by nylon classical guitar. Elaine DiFalco wrote two wonderful songs, to lyrics about seasons, 'Autumn' and 'Winter'. 'Winter' got a wonderful medley arrangement for cello, viola, clarinet and bassoon. And in 'Automn' one can recognize sounds of droplets. Another well known friend is Huge Hopper that provides unique bass playing in 'The old woods' and 'Nightfall', and designed electronic loops for 'Nightfall'. Hopper co-written the two songs mentioned above and also wrote the music for the 'a Garland of miniatures' song. This song got relatively simple, melodious tune, accompanied by long slow stretches of accordion, and harmonium.

However, as much as good and valuable the friends help is, the one who stand behind the album concept and vision is Dave Willey himself, with a set of excellent songs that reflect the lyrics diverse moods and structures. There are some poprock songs, homage to old music (Mitch), and old American country in a new interpretation (the Conservatives). Many instruments are involved here, and Dave Willey plays on most of them. Some of the songs are very short, but everything seems to occur in this shortness. Others are longer, takes its time for a little bit improvising and environment designe by the unique instrumentation.

Willey's 'poprock' songs are 'Too much lights' and 'I could it you up'. 'Too much lights' holds an excellent duo vocalization, sort of call and response by Deborah Perry and Elaine DiFalco, with very intriguing harmonies and scale changes. 'I could it you up' is a modern adaptation of the 'Hansel and Gretel' tale. A kind of 'chase' song, with a frantic (and brilliant) guitar solo from Mike Johnson, and energetic drums from Dave Kerman.

In today realm and way of life, there are so many 'instance' things, Instance music... Even qualified music or higher culture in general, will probably sink in our too-confused, always loaded-by-stimulations minds, and regretfully won't be remembered years from today (years? hardly weeks). Still, I feel that this collection of songs should and will remain as 'classics' of our time. At least in my mind. I hope yours as well.

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