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Listen To: Frogg Cage - The Bateless Edge

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Post Options Post Options   Quote avestin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Listen To: Frogg Cage - The Bateless Edge
    Posted: September 15 2010 at 19:06
So far, this is my favourite release this year (I've heard only about 200 releases from this year, and there are some other great releases but this one is above all others so far)

You can stream the entire album here



Frogg Café Bateless Edge album cover

Bateless Edge
Frogg Café




Here are the PA reviews for this album:


5 stars From the state of New York come the marvellously diverse Frogg Cafe. Formerly a Zappa cover band, they released their eponymous debut in 2002. Bateless Edge released last month is their 4th studio album proper, and easily their most ambitious effort to date. The album consists of eight tracks spanning 77 minutes, so there are no off the cuff pop tunes here matey! The highly personal lyrical themes touch on child adoption and the 9/11 tragedy, the latter is also apparent from the artwork. This is done sensitively where it could so easily have been seen as mawkish to those of us detached by thousands of miles, not to mention our countrymen regularly returning home in boxes from Afghanistan as a consequence - anyhow, that's not a debate for these pages. The first track Terra Sancta deals directly with 9/11 and is lyrically very moving. Musically it's a great piece of orchestral ensemble playing, which at times in the main theme if comparisons have to be made reminds me of Kashmir, in that it carries a similar sense of foreboding. There's a great guitar break about 8 minutes in backed by scat piano, the main theme returning at the end but in a more optimistic vein. A great arrangement and an awesome start to the album.

Following this is an instrumental Move Over I'm Driving, which after the intense first track calms things down a little. There appear to be no added musicians on this track, but the group themselves give another fine show of ensemble playing. Some nice time signature shifts and arpeggio violin work flows smoothly into subtle jazz guitar noodling and trumpet blowin'and is a fine piece of work. There sure are some highly competent musos in this band....

Next up is Pasta Fazeuhl. Fans will know that a lot of the band's more improvised work ends up being named after types of pasta, and this one invents a new Teutonic strain. Get your local Italian restaurant to patent it lads! This one apparently started life way back in 2003 after seeing Magma play live and is described as "not in the style of Magma....(but) in the spirit (of).." The band stamp their own jazz-classical style on this "tribute", if that's the right word. Less angular than Magma, who I have always struggled with to be honest, this excursion into weirdness has a touch of Sun Ra in there somewhere too, which is no bad thing. Around 5 minutes in the cacophony halts abruptly, and a cyclical bass riff is slowly built on by violin, guitar, drums and gradually builds into a very strange sometimes almost Crimsoid section, in who knows what time signature! Weird but good. On first hearing I found this one hard work, but repeated listens have made me appreciate just what great players FC are.

Now we have the centre piece of the album - Under Wuhu Sun - a 20 minute epic split into 3 parts. Another highly personal lyric from Andrew Sussman based on "Wuhu Diary: On Taking My Daughter Back To Her Home Town In China" by Emily Prager, and on his own family's experiences in their trials and tribulations adopting their daughter from China. Starting with a slow theme, the sad emotive song of the first part is followed by a nice guitar break that lifts the mood while still remaining introspective. The instrumental second part opens with a chugging riff, followed by a slower quieter but still intricate piece of ensemble playing and forms a bridge to the concluding third part. The opening of the final section is the most Zappaesque instrumentally, but still retains the by now recognisable Frogg Cafe style. A nice clarinet followed by trombone (I think) solo comes in at around the 3 minute mark leading to a nice bubblingly fluid guitar noodle - mmmmm, nice! I've only had the opportunity to listen to this track a few times but it's already in danger of becoming my favourite piece by the band.

Following this is From The Fence, the only track with lyrics not by Andrew Sussman. This time writing duties are taken by Nick Leito, and they are more ambiguous than his band mate's. The song could be interpreted in a number of ways, suffice to say the protagonist seems to be unable to make up his mind which way to turn. Whether personally, politically, emotionally I can't say, I'll leave that up to you. This is also the straightest "song" on the album, not that it suffers in any way for it. Quite uplifting, it must be in a major key (don't hold me to that)!

The final track Belgian Boogie Board was originally written for 2 clarinets and 2 electric basses and has now had all manner of extraneous instrumentation added and fair belts along with joyous mischief for its 10 minutes.

All in all this is a highly ambitious work and is deserving of far more attention than it will inevitably receive. How on earth the band find time to write the songs and complex orchestral arrangements, and oversee the recording in tandem with their day jobs and the usual stuff of daily life, families etc, is beyond me. If their was any justice they should be able to at least make a living from this astounding music.


 Mellotron Storm
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5 stars This is one of those reviews that won't justify the music one iota,but here goes. This latest album from FROGG CAFE was an automatic buy for me after getting so much enjoyment from both "Creatures" and "Fortunate Observer Of Time" over the years. I just wasn't prepared for what they created here. At over 77 minutes i'd usually complain about that ,but not when every song is so good. They've really changed and added to menue here at the cafe,sure we get the things we love about this band, but they've really brought in some new flavours including a dark,avant mood at times.Lots and lots of guests as well to fill out the sound.Frank Camiola who wasn't on the last album but who's been on all the other studio albums is back. "Terra Sancta" is dedicated to the children who lost parents on 9/11. It opens with Indian slide guitar.We also get tabla in this track.It kicks in with horns around a minute.Vibes too.How good does this sound ! The instrumental section stops as thunder and rain arrives.Vocals follow with these words "Any other day a snack in your lunch and a kiss from mom sends you on your way.Not this day." Nice guitar 5 1/2 minutes in.A change a minute later as the bass becomes prominant and the piano and guitar play over top.This is great ! Horns 11 minutes in then the guitar lights it up.Vocals are back. "Move Over I'm Driving" written by Nick Lieto has this thought behind the title."It's not really fair that you can't drive the taxi yourself once you flag it down". It's jazzy to start out with horns and violin.Bass and drums add some depth.It settles before 4 minutes as sax plays over top.Violin is back around 6 minutes,guitar too. "Pasta Fazeuhl" ends with "zeuhl" in the title you may have noticed. The song began it's life after Frank saw MAGMA play at NearFest in 2003. "It's not so much in the style of MAGMA per se,but rather in the spirit and energy that the band exudes,and it's a tribute of sorts,Frogg style". The song builds until it kicks in after a minute.Vibes after 2 1/2 minutes.A calm follows then things get a little Avant/Garde.Another calm after 4 1/2 minutes as cello enters in then it builds.Check it out 7 1/2 minutes.Nasty ! Strings only before 9 minutes then it kicks back in after 10 minutes.Killer track. "Under Wuhu Son" is divided into 3 sections.This song is based on a book and related to Andew(i beleive) who with his wife had a four year struggle to adopt their daughter from China. First up is "In The Bright Light" which opens with intricate sounds.A gorgeous intro but i like when it turns darker and heavier 2 minutes in.Vocals follow as it settles.Man this is good.Love his vocals.It kicks in before 4 minutes.So good after 5 minutes both lyrically and instrumentally.Emotion.The guitar 6 minutes in is a nice touch.Horns and vibes after 7 minutes. "Left For Dead" opens with horns blasting with a heavy rhythm section joining in.Too much ! It settles before 3 minutes.Nice.Chunky bass as it builds.Thunder and rain end it. "Brace Against The Fall" is the final section.A good rhythm section with horns eventually leads.The vocals before 1 1/2 minutes are again so good from Nick.They stop after 3 minutes as horns lead.The guitar before 4 1/2 minutes is sublime.Horns and vibes a minute later.Amazing ! "From The Fence" settles with vocals before a minute.It's so uplifting.Check out the thoughtful lyrics too.I just get lost in this one. "Belgium Boogie Board" is the closing 10 1/2 minute instrumental. It's experimental to start then the strings and horns rip this mother up.Drums join in and vibes.It turns dark with violin and piano after 2 minutes.Intense.A good rhythm follows then it settles after 4 minutes as sounds come and go.It turns dark before 7 minutes.This is so good.It's like Chamber music here.It picks back up before 9 minutes.I like the last gasp of music here after the song has already ended.Like a monster not willing to die. Without a doubt this will be right at the top of my list for best 2010 release.This must be heard to be believed
4 stars FROGG CAFÉ Bateless Edge is an exciting find for me because its sounds and instrumentation choices are rather unique and unusual: Brass with tuned percussives and Zappa-Frippish guitar leads?! Ultimately, however, like it's comparable genre-mate ECHOLYN, the music never quite attains consistent heights of glory, cohesion, and accessibility.

The album has, for me, four highlights of admirable height, however: The opening song, "Terra Sancta," with its highly engaging electric guitar riff and powerfully chaotic and frenetic electric guitar solo (8/10); "Move Over I'm Driving" which recreates the JEAN-LUC PONTY-FREDDIE HUBBARD-WEATHER REPORT-MOTHERS OF INVENTION album that never occurred (7/10); "Pasta Fazeuhl" which fuses so many unusual musical styles into one song that it defies categorization (fusion-fusion?!) (7/10), and; "From the Fence" a more traditional song of almost ballad feel, beautiful lyrics and singing, interlaced with some awesome hooks from violin, CHICAGO-like brass section, trombone and trumpet soli. Actually, all in all this song has a very CHICAGO-ECHOLYN hybrid feel/sound to it (8/10).

The rest of the album (one 10 ½ minute song and a 24-minute, three-song suite representative of the process of adopting a Chinese child) fail to engage and/or entice me.

Overall an album of very interesting music and songwriting from very talented and adventurous musicians. I will continue to listen and look for FROGG CAFÈ music because it makes me pay attention and smile. 4 stars. Try it! You'll (probably) like (some of) it!

4 stars To say the very least, Bateless Edge is an interesting album. The music contained on it ranges from Eclectic prog to Jazz fusion, from crossover prog to RIO/Avant type music - which, indeed, makes it seems slightly unfocused. But this is not much of a problem, since, in a Zappaesque kind of way, this band is good at all these seperate styles! All of this combines for an amazing musical experience through the Magma-inspired avant-garde ostinatos of "Pasta Fazeuhl" through the Crossover Prog verses of "In the Bright Light" and the Jazz Fusion stylings of "Move Over I'm Driving". Each of these seperate compositions brings something to the table.

The horn playing on this album is very virtuostic - especially the very Zappaesque runs of notes and the strange time signatures of certain parts. There aren't any shredding guitar solos, but the guitar is very well handled for what it is, and stand-out instrumental moments include the upright bass part on "In the Bright Light", the guitar solo of "Terra Sancta" and the marimba/xylophone playing across the album.

Most of the melodies are extremely beautiful - "Terra Sancta" and "In the Bright Light" are just downright catchy whereas "Pasta Fazeuhl" and "Belgian Boogy Board" are beautiful soundscapes. None of the songs are bad. There's no filler on this album. Just great music.

In conclusion, this is an album which uniquely blends jazz horns and mallet percussion with avant themes and disharmony with beautiful melodies and skillfull instrument playing into a hodge-podge masterpiece.

***** songs; "Terra Sancta", "Under Wuhu Son: In the Bright Light", "Under Wuhu Son: Left for Dead", "Belgian Boogie Board"

**** songs; "Move Over, I'm Driving", "Under Wuhu Son: Brace Against the Fall", "From the Fence", "Pasta Fazeuhl"

Final rating, 4.4/5

Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Frogg Café is more than just a rock or prog rock band, it is a musical force encapsulated simultaneously in the minds and souls of a host of talented musicians blessed with A-level musicianship and indefatigable creativity, and all this glory is once more confirmed by the reality of "Bateless Edge", the band's most recent effort. It is, indeed, a mandatory member of any Top 5 or Top 3 list of 2010's outstanding prog releases worldwide. I am so glad that the devotion I have been feeling for Frogg Café has currently met a perfect reassurance. As in their previous release, the double album "The Safenzee Dieries", the younger Lieto on trombone acts as an official member, and unlike the last two releases, founding guitarist Frank Camiola is back in the line-up. The presence of an important number of guest performers helps the band to achieve a solid, fully expanded sonority for each track: not that this is a Baroque-oriented or overdone repertoire, but it is evident that the textures and harmonic schemes of each track are craftily benefited from the presence of more musicians than the very band itself. Well, this is after all, a major album. As a major album, it starts on a major note right away with the exotic tambora and acoustic guitar prelude of 'Terra Sancta'. The exquisite jamming and the tasteful orchestrations delivered on brass, violin and tonal percussion bring a delicious journey that sounds a little like some sort of "Echolynized" Dave Matthews band, or to put it in a less complicated form, like the "Fortunate Observer" era. Right before the 6'30 mark, the alternating guitar and piano solos develop a deeper jazzy ambience until the guitar alone gets pretty psychedelic, which makes the whole mood turn a bit denser (just a bit). The last sung section completes the song's concept in full circle, and then the closing acoustic guitar chords segue into the next track, 'Move Over, I'm Driving'. Here we witness yet another exercise in Zappa-meets-Happy The Man, the kind of exercise that we have found in previous album and that the FC handled with their usual mastery and never ending sensibility. This track incarnates the very essences of elegance and vivacity: the captivating beauty of the horn arrangements help the listener to forget the transit of the track's 8 minute span. 'Pasta Fazeuhl' shifts toward grayish tension while preserving the current doses of energy and musicality intact. Despite the allusion to the zeuhl genre in the title, it is mostly chamber-rock that champions this piece's direction: there is so much Univers Zero influence in the passage that goes from 5'00' to 8'30"? so much, really? but since FC is an American band (yeah, like Grand Funk Railroad), one can notice a more playful approach to RIO as instigated by older bands from the USA like Pocket Orchestra or Cartoon. So far, here we have 34 minutes of progressive grandiosity, and there is still more for the listener to enjoy avidly and bravely. The three sections of 'Under Wuhu Son' are a real treat. The first section, 'In the Bright Light', bears a melancholic aura developed consistently by a varied set of arrangements that comprises bucolic acoustic moods and constrained string and horn arrangements inundated with delicate elegance. 'Left For Dead', the second section, elaborates yet another example of chamber-rock, only this time it is more muscular and vibrant, almost Present-like at times: weirdly beautiful, beautifully weird, great one way or another. Section # 3 is 'Brace Against The Fall', which tones down the chamber-rock element quite noticeably and aims for a more straightforward approach to jazz-rock. I can't avoid the feeling that a rebirth of the "Creatures" days is emerging whenever I listen to this one ? and hats off to Camiola for his spectacular guitar solo!! 'From The Fence' is the most accessible piece in the album, but since it lasts 12 minutes it is hardly your condescending pop song full of radio interplaying and massive consumption potential. This track's basis is a sort of jazzy ballad on ¾, kind and gentle, somewhat romantic, bearing good vibes with an extroverted accent. It is from these extroverted undertones that the instrumental journey delivered by the FC guys delivers a typically progressive emphasis. The album's last 10 ½ minutes are occupied by 'Belgian Boogie Board', a full-frontal RIO piece whose colorful dynamics and challenging set of tricks and twists create a genuine adventure for the unafraid listener. Anyway, the playful overtones (no doubt a Zappa thing) provide a joyful element that remains relevant and defining all through the bizarreness that operates from beginning to end. This is such a terrific closure for such a bateless musical work: Frogg Café manages to gain yet another artistic triumph in their résumé. It is hard to imagine to have someone listening to this album twice in a road, but indeed, listening to it once has got to be one of the most exciting aesthetical experiences in 2010. One of mine, for sure, and I gladly put this one in my personal Prog Top 3 without having to wait until next January.




Edited by avestin - September 15 2010 at 19:07
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Truth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 20:38
Amazing album, review upcoming.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SaltyJon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 20:45
Ooh, I'll have to check this one out, thanks for the heads up!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 20:47
I heard Frogg Cafe for the first time earlier this year when I got their Creatures album. I am definitely going to be picking this one up in the very near future, perhaps with my next CD purchase if I am lucky. Unfortunately, I don't go through music quite as fast as you Avestin (Tongue) and am still working my way through a backlog, so that might be in a while.

I actually think I've given this spiel in about five different cases in the past little while, so I imagine as soon as my current backlog is cleared, another will emerge...Embarrassed
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Man With Hat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 20:51
Yes!
 
An excellent disc. Insane that you can here this album completely for free. Completely worth it.
 
I'll be the first one to say I was underwhelmed with their last studio album, and even that live album is pretty sweet, its nothing as good as BE. A step up in everyway from any of their previous efforts. Nice and complex, avanty and jazzy...honestly I can't think of a way to improve the album at this point.
 
Unfortunately for BE, it was released in 2010 where there are many more good albums than 09. Honestly for me, its #2  so far at this point, with Nels Cline's Initiate topping it. And this next quartet by AltRock certainly contains alot of heavy hitters.
 
But that takes nothing away from the awesomeness of BE. It will certainly be in my top 5 this year and I'm stoked for where they will go next. Definitely a 5 star album. Hopefully one day I'll be able to review it.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 22:17
Originally posted by Man With Hat


Unfortunately for BE, it was released in 2010 where there are many more good albums than 09.

You must be listening to better albums than me. Shocked
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Man With Hat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 22:33
Originally posted by TheGazzardian

Originally posted by Man With Hat


Unfortunately for BE, it was released in 2010 where there are many more good albums than 09.

You must be listening to better albums than me. Shocked
 
Maybe you listened to better albums from 09 than me. Tongue
 
And admittedly, this was a bit of a prediction. I mentioned the AltRock quartet, which honestly could all be top five material if done right. Ulver is also suppose to release a new this year. I've heard some great things about the new Spock's Beard. Comus are supposed to have a new one out. Jean Louis as well. And there are a couple more leftovers that were "suppose" to be out in 09 that I've still heard nothing about for coming out in '10, so wishful thinking perhaps on my part. There are also a couple of strong contenders out there (like the aforementioned Intiate) and Jaga Jazzist's latest. Korai Orom also put one out this year which I need to track down. Univers Zero album is also top notch.
 
What I should have said, is that there are alot more bullets for BE to dodge than anything from last year (which I'm not saying was bad...just for me BE beats every album I've heard from 09). Mostly in context of the number one album spot. I'm 90% confident that BE will make top five, just where is alot more uncertain.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Doctor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 22:57
Have to say I love this album.  I only have one other one from them, Fortunate Observer of Time and that one blew me away.  Bateless Edge is even better.  Definitely a great starting point for the unitiated and for the unitiatied, you don't know what you're missing.  These guys rock (in an odd time signature, jazzy and counterpointy sort of way).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 15 2010 at 23:29
Originally posted by Man With Hat

 
Maybe you listened to better albums from 09 than me. Tongue
 
And admittedly, this was a bit of a prediction. I mentioned the AltRock quartet, which honestly could all be top five material if done right.

I'm excited for that one too. (Insert my previous spiel about backlogs here...I should just put it in my signature, would save me much exposition)

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Man With Hat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 16 2010 at 00:18
Originally posted by TheGazzardian

Originally posted by Man With Hat

 
Maybe you listened to better albums from 09 than me. Tongue
 
And admittedly, this was a bit of a prediction. I mentioned the AltRock quartet, which honestly could all be top five material if done right.

I'm excited for that one too. (Insert my previous spiel about backlogs here...I should just put it in my signature, would save me much exposition)

 
Haha. Yeah. I hear you there. I have a sizeable pile of stuff I haven't listened too. I make some slight progress but then...new orders are placed. Embarrassed
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Warning: Listening to jazz excessively can cause a laxative effect.
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