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Pentwater - Pentwater CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.72 | 34 ratings

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4 stars It is always a joy to discover a classic-period prog band from the U.S. There were few of them but they were usually good, or at least compelling, and they took influence from America's small but important prog scene as well as from Britain and Europe. When the leaders - guitarist/violinist Mike Konopka, drummer Thomas Orsi and the keys of Ken Kappel - are self-taught, it makes these compositions that much more impressive. A five-piece formed in 1970 from the shards of various Chicago groups, Pentwater played covers of classic rock but soon started writing original material and after working hard, began opening for big acts as Rush and Starcastle giving Midwestern audiences their own version of prog bombast and excess. This 1977 release is the portrait of a band with enormous potential, and with a bit more time and a good producer, they could have found more appreciation. Of course time is what their brand of complex and challenging rock was running out of by '77, and progressive rock's recession was just around the corner. Thank goodness the band reissued the debut because along with Cathedral's Stained Glass Stories, Yezda Urfa's Sacred Baboon and Cartoon's first two, it is another rough-cut gem in the crown of stateside prog.

The blood curdling screams of 'Frustration Mass' introduce an unsettled tone that runs throughout, the music gradually revealing a thoroughly progressive direction showing jagged lines and smart patterns. Bluesy 'Living Room Displays' breaks open with Kappel's ecclesiastic organ and tasteful use of synthesizer, the slow heroin pace of 'Orphan Girl' has room for thematic variance with dreamy space rock, ornate dual guitars laced with keys and counterpointed vocals. Influences are many: Zappa, early Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, but never in distracting abundance, the ensemble fluid in its quiet but efficient use of different styles. Actually the record is closest in kin to the brilliant but slightly mad work of Morgan Fisher, with nods to ELP and even the Beach Boys. Rather good 'Palendrone' rocks a hard anthem, and Konopka's teetering fiddle harmonies open the completely terrific 'War', a bellicose instrumental in the vein of the Tarkus suite, aggressive in all the right ways... driving, unrelenting keyboard-based prog at its very best and a must hear. The nauseous 'Death' waddles through followed by the refreshing 'Gwen's Madrigal', a light folk number with group vocals, flute & strings, and grows into a miniature symphony about the daydreams of a young woman, with the rave-ups of 'Wave' and funny Yes-like prog pop of 'Radioactive' finishing.

The production could be better for such a talented outfit and the material may not seem too distinguished or attractive at first, but the gold is abundant and these guys should delight lovers of good old fashioned prog when it wasn't afraid to lighten-up and have a good time. A wonderful surprise, this CD, and should be snagged if seen by any vintage prog nut.

Atavachron | 4/5 |


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