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Pentwater - Out of the Abyss CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.68 | 44 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Now here's one for the prog addicts who just can't get enough complexity in their music. PENTWATER were true masters of delivering the perfect balance of melody and crazy complex prog rock elements into their woefully too underground career that formed all the way back in 1970 in the Chicago area by the adventurous duo of Mike Konopka (guitar, violin, flute, vocals) and Tom Orsi (percussion, vocals). These guys were untrained in a traditional sense but were eager in emulating their musical idols and then taking it several steps further. PENTWATER was one of the more unique bands to emerge from the USA. True that they followed down the path that fellow USAmericans Cathedral, Mirthrandir and Yezda Urfa trod with heavy driving complexity on steroids built on the influences of their overseas heroes but more than anyone else, PENTWATER managed to take these influences and melt them together like a prog collector's album collection left in a car on a smoldering hot Phoenix day during a blistering heatwave when temperatures exceed 120 degrees Fahrentheit / 49 degrees Celsius and in the aftermath leave a glistening glob of bizarre and unexpected artistic delight.

While they began their journey as far back as 1970, the duo began as mere imitators covering everything from The Doors, Hendrix and even Ike & Tina Turner however their ambitions were high and without knowing it found a knack and fondness for complex time signatures, polychromatic modulations and idiosyncratic modal interpolations. As they discovered the ever burgeoning world of progressive rock, they realized that their inclinations weren't merely in a vacuum and that there was indeed a desire to hear this strange sort of pomp and awe. As their ambitions flowed, so too did their magnetism and rightfully attracted equally adventurous minds and with the inclusion of Ron LeSaar on bass, Ken Kappel on keys / theremin as well as Phil Goldman on additional guitars and Ron Fox on yet more guitars and oboe too. The band formerly known as PENTWATER RIVER dropped the second part of their name and sallied forth into full musical adventurousness.

Adventurous indeed, but just a tad too late to catch the first wave of prog's golden age. Despite forming at the proper time all the way back in 1970, PENTWATER didn't really get their prog mojo flowing until 1975 and then didn't release their first and only eponymous album until 1977. However, while Beef Records was trying their darndest to steer this loose wire creative outfit into somewhat commercial channels, they didn't quite make a dent with their debut as it came out just when punk and disco were giving the prog world the boot off the world's stage. Luckily PENTWATER was recording and hoarding their heart's desire from 1973 to 1976 and those straight-from-the-heart recordings are featured on this archival release OUT OF THE ABYSS which was only released in 1992. As a result of spanning several years, the tracks are quite varied not only in style but in sophistication and it's easy to peg which came first and which chickens were fully hatched and run around like wild animals doing whatever they wanted.

Musically PENTWATER displays a healthy tribute to the 70s greats. Laced with a freneticism and jittery time signature workouts that pomp prog dreams are made of, OUT OF THE ABYSS displays Emerson, Lake & Palmer keyboard aggressiveness, symphonic Yes inspired classical compositions, Gentle Giant meets Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonic interplay and heavy eclectic jazz rock riffing that can change abruptly in midstream. There are pastural Genesis type segments and some of the keyboard riffs even remind me of Kansas and Supertramp. The beauty is how well it's all thrown in the blender and tastefully poured into a glass to be enjoyed as a prog smoothie with the utmost care in how melodic developments gleefully prance around in full prog regalia with time signatures run amok and filthy abandon at every juncture. In this regard PENTWATER most resembles fellow USAmericans Yezda Urfa in melodic sensibilities fused with reckless prog complexities, a rare trait that few bands can execute with such grace and precision. OUT OF THE ABYSS is tailor made for seekers of the most adventurous prog there is to be heard and more interesting a hundredfold from their sole album released in the 70s. While PENTWATER wasn't the only late to the prog game band that packed a whole career of ideas into a few short songs in the late 70s, they were one of the few USAmerican bands that managed to pull it off so convincingly. This one has become a favorite!

4.5 stars but rounded up because it's not getting enough love in these parts :)

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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