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Hamster Theatre - Carnival Detournement CD (album) cover


Hamster Theatre



4.18 | 32 ratings

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5 stars What can I say about this brilliant album, the best discovery of last year for me? (And there were a lot of them). They are progressive in the best sense of the word, not beholden to any cliché traditions of 70s progressive, but entirely open to many musical styles, which they juggle with the virtuosity of circus performers. Circus and carnival seem to be themes here, suggested by the very title, and there are often traces of Nino Rota and the circus, as well as elements of French and Balkan folk music. But that doen't mean there's no hard edges, as guitar virtuoso Mike Johnson provides the necessary edge when appropriate. Dave Willey and he are both key members of Thinking Plague as well, and this album shares the same totally uncomprimising spirit.

Opening with "Vermillion Hue over Lausanne", you think you're dealing with a funky Reggae album, until Johnson enters with some crunching crimsonoid guitar, making clear that for all its delicacy, Hamster is a force to be reckoned with. "Jeanne-Marie" has a most unusual setting for a progressive composition, with accordion, clarinet, and glockenspiel, but develops into one of the most intricate and beautiful pieces I've heard in years. "The Breach" sounds almost like an avant-garde tune by the great brasilian composer Jobim, with it's soaring flute melodies over kalimba and electric sitar, but is sadly too short. "Tick Fever" is really deep, melancholy carnival music, as moody as it gets, and "The Carrot is a Hologram" is closer to modern classical and Rota's score for Fellini's "Casanova". "The Cat Song" is like a Klezmer stomp meeting Raymond Scott at night in a deserted alley.

All in all, the album is so varied that each listening is like hearing a new album, it's one of those rare albums (like Thinking Plagues "In Extremis") that never gets tiresome or too familiar. Most astounding of all is the fact that this very European music originated in the United States.

RoyalJelly | 5/5 |


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