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Michael Zucker - Strawberry Melt CD (album) cover


Michael Zucker


Heavy Prog

4.00 | 1 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Michael Zucker has worked with several bands over the years, including the video game themed band "This Place is Haunted". As a solo artist, he has released 27 full length albums between 2002 and 2016, and several EPs and singles. This EP, "Strawberry Melt" was released in early 2019. It features 5 tracks with a total run time of 26 minutes. This EP is by the Michael Zucker Ensemble, an avant-garde jazz-rock fusion band. All of the tracks flow into each other over the course of this EP.

Starting with "Selfish Lovers", this avant-jazz track is introduced by a quick bass line, then sets up the quirky rhythm with the drums, sooned joined by a guitar groove, some synths and some spiraling and jazzy sax. As the groove settles in, the quirkiness does too and we go into a good fusion style track. Later, the guitar and bass intensify the music so that it goes into a more rock-heavy sound returning to fusion again later as the sax goes more into a free jam and the guitar gets quite wild.

"Strawberry Melt" takes over by disassembling the groove from the previous track and the sax continues to wail and screech while the percussion moves into a free beat. Finally, the bass and drums get control of the situation and settles into a slow tempo, but the sax plays on like it doesn't like that situation, but goes along with it anyway. In the meantime, some strange guitar sounds keep things a little dissonant and quirky.

"Crushed Velvet" continues the flow of the tracks by picking up the pace, urged on by the guitar this time. As it continues, things get heavy with the guitar in control. When the sax comes in this time, it starts out restrained, but both instruments fight it out with everything else supporting it all. The rhythm soon falls into a more pronounced beat and now the guitar pushes that to an even faster tempo and more intensity until everything becomes more like a psychedelic space jam. Everything falls apart as we move into the next track.

"Feathers" is the longest track at almost 7 minutes. Starting off on a meandering and softer feel, this track quiets everything down for what seems like will be a more mid-tempo feel, but things still remain on the edge, like anything can set the chaos into motion again. The sax takes the center stage again improvising over the walking tempo of the foundation. Towards the end the guitar starts to take over, then the sax wails out it's frustration of being pushed out of the spotlight and growls and grumbles about it all.

This pace continues into "Crippled Anthem", but things start to sound ominous as the guitar continues to try to take over. A more positive and standard sound seems to be on the horizon, but now the guitar wants none of it. Things want to get out of hand again, but somehow it all stays together and ends suddenly, but without anything being resolved.

This is a decent instrumental EP and remains a bit dark, dense and quirky all the way through, with sections that try to get everything under control, but never really succeeding. The overall feel is that of a heavy avant-garde jazz fusion, in the vein of Tortoise, Don Caballero or Henry Cow. I found it quite enjoyable, and at 26 minutes as an EP, it is the right size to bite off if you are thinking about exploring this genre. Easily a 4 star effort, well produced and tastefully executed.

TCat | 4/5 |


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