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avestin View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Cartoon (US avant-rock)
    Posted: January 06 2008 at 14:59
CARTOON
 

CARTOON biography

In the deep and darkest depths of 1978, two Camelback High School (in Phoenix, Arizona) friends Scott Brazieal (keyboards) and Mark Innocenti (guitars), with boundless energy and a penchant for liking old cartoons, progressive rock and jazz, decided they wanted to form a band, to play improvisational and off-the-wall music. CARTOON was the band that simmered slowly at first, finally hitting boiling point and eventually entered into the realms of avant-prog folk-lore with their second album "Music from Left Field". With help from others, they unleashed themselves onto an unsuspecting pop, punk and AOR-loving world in 1980, with some live performances in San Francisco (once as a support act to A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS).

Scott and Mark made their first forays into composing music with the tracks “Shredded Wheat”, “Apathy In America” and “Shark” (which all took a few months), whilst Scott Brazieal - with his classical training - scored “Ptomaine Poisoning” and “Atomic Bolero”, which utilised a structured and precise development.

Cartoon at this time, had no drummer, so Scott and Mark tried hard to find a drummer that could play their demanding structures and shifting meters, but none of them could grasp them. Eventually Mark met Gary Parra (who imported European imports for a record store), a very talented drummer, who could play in different styles. All three of them hit it off both musically and as friends and so they now could do some recording.

In May 1979, the band went into Synchestra Studios, in Arizona, to record “Flotsam” and “Apathy in America” (originally intended for a sampler of Arizona bands, but they were deemed too “eclectic”), which they distributed to local clubs and record companies; none of which felt they were suitable. Musically – at the time – they were off the map in their native Arizona. They did however secure some gigs and they played their first gig at Scottsdale Unitarian church, to an appreciative crowd. However, good news was on the horizon, when Steve Feigenbaum of Random Radar Records heard their demo and enjoyed their music. Steve convinced the band members to record an album independently and he would then distribute it through his then burgeoning mail order music catalogue, Wayside Music.

Recording of their debut album “Cartoon” took place in 1979 and was completed in 1980, again at Synchestra Studios, ably assisted by producers Jon Wilson and Ed Van Fleet, on only eight track. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, the album could not be released.

Scott Brazieal then relocated to San Francisco, joining the Conservatory of Music at the beginning of the winter semester of 1980. Whilst studying, he would improvise jams with his roommate Randy Sanders (drums). On one occasion, Herbert Diamant (woodwinds), jammed with the pair and instantly struck a friendship with Scott and was intrigued by his musical direction.

Mark Innocenti and Gary Parra remained in Phoenix at this time and were eventually approached by Craig Fry (violin and French horn), who responded to requests by Mark and Gary, in relation to classical musicians. In the summer of 1981, all three (including soundman Joe Corrao) relocated to San Francisco, to an apartment not too far from Scott and Herb. Cartoon were now a 5-piece and they started rehearsing both old and new material. The addition of violin, bassoon and synthesizer changed their dynamics and timbre.

More good luck followed in 1981, when long time friend of the band, Alex Alvarez won a bet on a horse race. This meant that the remaining bills from the production of “Cartoon” could be paid and the album was finally released in late 1981. Distribution was reasonably large, with albums even selling in France. Critics at the time, likened their sound to RIO originators, such as HENRY COW and UNIVERS ZERO, as well as Zeuhl masters, MAGMA.

The band then played some more live dates, mostly to small audiences in small venues in the Bay Area. Eventually, Mary Tilson (program director for KPFA) saw them perform live as a five-piece and the gig was broadcast on their station. This performance would also be released as “Boot-Legged” on cassette, thus furthering their fanbase. It also happened to be the first time the quintet had been recorded in any form.

Due to this stroke of good fortune, Cartoon would now play bigger venues, opening for acts such as SNAKEFINGER, NEGATIVLAND and ROVA SAXOPHONE QUARTET. This further escalated, when Rod McDonald of THE STONE, managed to secure them to open for national acts (and prog stalwarts), ALLAN HOLDSWORTH, FRED FRITH and RENAISSANCE. They would achieve an audience of over 1000 when opening for JON ANDERSON'S ANIMATION.

They returned to Phoenix and Synchestra Studio, to record “Music from Left Field”, which was a more daring and improvisational album, which did however, follow a pre-conceived structure, relating to “moods, motifs and transitions”. Sound-wise, the album was more classical orientated and also used classical structure in many places. The musicians also overdubbed many of their parts, to add even more complexity.

“Music from Left Field” blossomed into their most successful album, receiving many accolades from more than just the specialist press. They even piqued the interest of countries such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia, whose representatives asked them to perform live at Universities.

They however, did manage to secure two performances at two Festivals in France - thanks to Bernard Geuffier - which took place in 1984. They shipped all their equipment over by boat and rented a piano, mixing consoles and amplifiers (and other large items), in Amsterdam. They first played at the “Maison de la Culture” in Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy on 29th February 1984, where other bands/musicians included UNIVERS ZERO, CHISTIAN VANDER (of MAGMA), CASSIBER, THE CAMBERWELL NOW and LOL COXHILL (Canterbury Scene). They then followed this by playing at the Maison de la Culture in Reims, where again, CHRISTIAN VANDER would perform, as well as such prog luminaries as JOHN GREAVES (formerly of HENRY COW), SKELETON CREW and VON ZAMLA (and many more). CARTOON performed covers of 20th Century Classical composers, such as BARTÓK, STRAVINSKY and WEBERN, as well as television themes, such as “Rocky & Bullwinkle” and “Peabody & Sherman” at these performances.

The afternoon after the Reims performance proved to be an unfortunately unforgettable experience, as whilst staying in a Hotel in Paris, the band had their equipment stolen from Clichy (where it had been stored at a friend’s house), a poor suburb of Paris. This proved to be the last straw for the band and they never performed again. They did try and recover the equipment, but all leads failed and they returned back to America. It turns out that their stolen equipment was “sold” in France and they were billed for import taxes, thus adding further wounds to an already dishevelled band.

Scott Brazieal, Gary Parra and Herb Diamant would later form the equally adventurous group PFS (who would release an album and perform live), whilst Mark Innocenti and Craig Fry would pursue further musical directions.

“Music from Left Field” is their most eclectic and respected album and is definitely recommended to fans of MAGMA, HENRY COW, SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA (and family) and UNIVERS ZERO. CARTOON’s music was never as dark as UNIVERS ZERO, so for those who like more jovial and fun Chamber Rock-orientated music, with a penchant for orchestral and cartoon-styles, then CARTOON are definitely worth investigating. Cuneiform Records released a compilation CD named “Sortie”, featuring both their albums (minus one track from “Music from Left Field), in 1994 and is distributed by Cuneiform Records/Wayside Music (Steve Feigenbaum).

Note: this biography has taken research from the extensive history of the band from the liner-notes of "Sortie", but the words are the author's own.

===James R. Yeowell===

See also:
- PFS
 
 
 
 
 

Latest CARTOON reviews


CARTOON%20Sortie%20progressive%20rock%20album%20and%20reviews RIO/Avant-Prog
(Boxset/Compilation, 1994)
Avg: 4.00/5
from 1 ratings
CARTOON — Sortie
Review by progadicto (Ivan Avila)

— First review of this album —

4%20stars I was waiting many time to see Cartoon (from USA) here on PA. Since the first time I heard their selftitled debut album I was captivated by the exquisite arrangements of every song. Then years after I found this kind of compilation of their two albums (the other is Music from the Left Field) and I get immediatly!

So here is the deal: even when Cartoon doesn't break any musical codes and can be consider a band like many others into the avant garde scene, the truth is that you can find wonderful and awsome details in any of their compositions. Scott Brazieal (keys) and Gary Parra (percussions), natural leaders of the band, had the talent to turn any of their instrumental songs into a nice and enjoyable piece of music, full of syncopated rhythms (Ptomaine Poisoning), catchy crescendos (Shredded Wheat) or funny short melodies (Scherzo).

With consistent emphasys on keyboards and drums, Carton music is a real delight full of surprirses (a little homage to Beethoven in Shark is a good example of that), complexities and epical moments, specially on the first part. Music from the Left Field songs are a more experimental and sometimes even improvised, but with brilliant dark moments, specially in Quotes and Bottom of the Ninth.

This album is an excellent (and maybe the unique) opportunity to know one of the most interesting and underrated Avant GArde bands of the 80's... And if you tried PFS or 5UU's (Brazieal's projects after Cartoon) and you liked it, CArtoon will be definetively one of your favourite bands!

4.0*

Posted Saturday, September 01, 2007, 00:29 EST
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CARTOON%20Music%20From%20Left%20Field%20progressive%20rock%20album%20and%20reviews RIO/Avant-Prog
(Studio Album, 1983)
Avg: 4.00/5
from 1 ratings
CARTOON — Music From Left Field
Review by Atavachron (David)
Special Collaborator Art Rock Specialist

— First review of this album —

4%20stars A slight departure from their first release and a determined progression forward, American avant- garders Cartoon slam their fist onto the prog table with 'Music From Left Field', their aptly-titled second album from 1983. Craig Fry (violin), Herb Diamant (woodwinds), the tin foil drums of Gary Parra, Mark Innocenti's dirty guitar and Scott Brazieal's unhinged piano devour the 15-minute opener 'Quotes', setting this album's frantic tone. A piece that on its own could satisfy any prog gourmet, full of continual variance, gutted melodies, decompositions, clattering street noise, orchestral tunings, Scott Joplin ragtime, John Lennon, Bartok, the Twilight Zone, children's lullabys and creepy cartoon themes. As if that weren't enough to satisfy, 'Bedlam' follows and calms things a bit to let us digest before it goes down a troubled path of dissonance and manic fever. Cartoon's music is both indefinable and deeply disturbed, splitting apart at any opportunity like a crazed man running off half-naked into the street, chased by the screaming harpies in his head. 'Light in August' keeps up the urgency and demented pace, and 'Scherzo' is a tortured soul wanting out of a madhouse that may or may not exist in a world of carousels that go too fast and clowns that smell bad... this is a place for neither children nor adults but no matter how hard you try, you can't find your way out. There are animals too, moustached vendors, dwarfs, geeks, slow children at play, small men in hats and fat women in wigs, all attending this freakshow of an album. Fever-pitched, not for the faint hearted, smashing good stuff.



Posted Friday, June 15, 2007, 06:12 EST
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CARTOON%20Cartoon%20progressive%20rock%20album%20and%20reviews RIO/Avant-Prog
(Studio Album, 1981)
Avg: 4.60/5
from 3 ratings
CARTOON — Cartoon
Review by Atavachron (David)
Special Collaborator Art Rock Specialist

5%20stars 1979 was the death knell of the classic progressive rock era, and only a few gems would arrive by 1980 with 'Drama', 'Permanent Waves' and a smattering of others... but it was all over and everyone sensed it. But in Phoenix, Arizona, things were just getting started and a local group of talented young musicians had something surprising on the menu, especially for an American avant-garde rock band at that time. Keyboardist Scott Brazieal, guitarist Mark Innocenti, and drummer Gary Para wanted to do highly complex rock that was playful at the same time, and their fondness for incidental cartoon music was as strong as the neo-classical foundation provided by Brazieal's keys. The band relocated to San Francisco in 1980 where they were joined by violinist Craig Fry and Herb Diamant on woodwinds, releasing their debut 'Cartoon' in 1981.

Though the music is likened to avant-garders such as Univers Zero and Henry Cow, it is neither as dark as the Zeroes nor as loose as Cow, with a symphonic structure in Scott Brazeal's piano and a heavy rock edge from Innocenti's guitar. Much Zappa-like humor is on hand as well and makes for a well rounded prog rock experience. The chaotic 'Shark' opens the album, a pounder that quickly slips into strangeness before just as quickly becoming light, melodic and linear, with appearances by Ludwig Von's 9th and the fine arrangements and ambition of this outfit who, though perhaps not as tight as their counterparts across the Atlantic, were just as zealous about expanding rock. Brazeal's keyboard takes over for the troubled and angled 'Ptomaine Poisoning', Bizet's influence and some great virtuoso playing shows on 'Anemic Bolero', followed by the crawling anthill 'Flotsam' with its asylum tone and muffled voices, all quite rattling for a group of unknown American rockers in the early 80s. 'Apathy in America' is disjointed and counter-layered with powerful piano, synth, bass and drums, finishing with the descriptive cartoon themes the band liked to highlight and hints at Aaron Copland. 'I Have No Teeth' is a beautiful one-minute synth/guitar tour of linear space and squeeky moments, and the album closes with the eleven-minute opus 'Shredded Wheat'.

A splendid band nearly lost to history, Cartoon reminds us that the United States had some prog treasures to offer at a bleak time in popular music. A real delight.



Posted Monday, April 30, 2007, 22:32 EST
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Edited by avestin - January 06 2008 at 14:59
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 07 2008 at 12:58
Yes,great band,great music."Sortie" was my first introduction in US avant-rock along with The Muffins-Manna /Mirage(another great recording)
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"This British band is just the cup of tea for aficionados who demand virtuosity,progress and originality in their mix."
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 07 2008 at 19:31
love them
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 07 2008 at 19:32
Excellent band.
 
Sortie is one of my favs in the avant field.
Dig me...But don't...Bury me
I'm running still, I shall until, one day, I hope that I'll arrive
Warning: Listening to jazz excessively can cause a laxative effect.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 07 2008 at 19:35
Originally posted by Atavachron

love them
 
Thanks for those reviews!
 
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 07 2008 at 19:43
Hmm, I recognise that biography!

Excellent band and one I must listen too more.

If you want more classical sounding avant-prog, check out PFS as well.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 07 2008 at 21:23
Sounds intriguing. Thank you for sharing- it the right time for me to discover something new.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 08 2008 at 04:11
Never heard them (and Wiki's got nothing, as usual), but thanks for posting about them! I'll definitely check them out soon.
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