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Van Der Graaf Generator - ALT CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

2.52 | 242 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Only a short year after the rather average GIN album, the trio comes back with an uncharacteristic album, made for recent "odds and ends", improvs, soundchecks and other tidbits of the ilk. Of course, like everyone else, you're tempted to think of 05's Present's second "tedious" disc, and in some ways, you'd be absolutely right to think of it. But Alt is also rather more interesting a release; not least, because it is not overshadowed by a studio album with proper songs, like Present was. So the present (no big "P") album is made up of instrumental pieces that somehow found their ways into tapes or memory banks in the last six years ? none feature Jaxon's sax. And just like the improvised Present pieces from 05 were credited to all four members, all Alt tracks are credited to Evans, Banton & Hammill. The actual piecing/correcting and mixing of the material took place in a very inadapted place, modified by the band, as can be seen in the booklet's pictures.

Opening with birds chirping away, the aptly-titled Early Bird is a slow dronal ambient, but occasionally tense pieces, (as will the closing 10-mins+ Dronus), and in some ways, you could think of some post-rock bands' soundscapes. Some other pieces are more Graafesque sonic-wise (Midnite, Batty Loop, Tuesday Or Extractus), but the conspicuous absence of vocals can somehow dismay the listener, but since we're never (or almost) in an actual "constructed song" context (probably even less so than on Present's disc 2), one should easily adapt and accept Alt for what it is: an anecdotic but instructive Graaf "archival" (not sure this is the right word for it) release. To call Alt an experimental album might just be overstating things (it's not revolutionary or groundbreaking) and yet it teaches us a few things about the band, and lets a different facet of the trio surface. More than in any other Graaf album, Alt lets you see (or hear, in this case) just how good Evans and Banton are on their respective tools. You'd tend to think that Jaxon's absence would be insurmountable on instrumentals like these, but it's just not the case: it forces Peter and Hugh to surpass themselves and be even more inventive. And there is no doubt that Hammill keeps getting better on keys and strings. Actually, Repeat After Me is a fairly good base to solid song, as it seems that it's only missing Peter's deep vocals and solemn lyrics. At times, the trio can get very Crimsonesque in their improvisations, like Elsewhere, Here's One, Colossus (where Banton deals with heavy-duty synth and loops), D'Accord and Mackerel.

One more good point about Alt, is that it made me revisit Present's second disc with the improvisations, and I re-evaluated it (positively) in my book. Soooo, while not a normal studio album, Alt holds at least as much interest as some of the band's less inspired albums like World Record or the recent Grounding, but most likely for the average Graafhead, it will not get as much airplay in the long run, though I will probably be in the minority and come back to it occasionaly.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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