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Van Der Graaf Generator - ALT CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

2.51 | 238 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Here's an album almost guaranteed to challenge the ProgArchives rating guidelines. Awarding it two 'fans only' stars obviously doesn't work, judging by the disappointment of so many longtime fans and the low overall score of the album on these pages. And a single star hardly seems fitting for such an unapologetically defiant collection, so contrary to expectations that it even excludes the voice of Peter Hammill, typically the band's focal point and most distinctive element.

But isn't that a part of what Progressive Rock is supposed to do: shake the cages of our musical complacency? According to drummer Guy Evans, these fourteen "instrumental improvs and experiments" (and not songs, please note) were "made while we weren't looking", at various points over the previous six years. Some appear to be concert excerpts; others must have happened during studio rehearsals or soundchecks; most are little more than unclassifiable flotsam from the back of the Van Der Graaf closet. The sound quality varies wildly according to each source (none identified, by the way), making the project even more willfully self-indulgent, in the best meaning of the word.

A brief digression...according to guitarist ROBERT FRIPP, self-indulgence is an occupational hazard of the Prog Rock experience. "In practice, when you let rip this is always a risk", he once wrote, especially when "acting in accordance with one's own musical sense-of-rightness."

This particular bit of creative cage rattling was perfectly timed, arriving so soon after the too- polite "A Grounding in Numbers" album. Here the group was daring to swim dangerous waters again, and without life jackets. The results are more reckless, more unpredictable, and (yes) a little more incoherent as well: the price you sometimes pay for making serendipity your muse. I can't pretend it doesn't wander down some musical cul-de-sacs or chase its tail in circles at times. And never mind how well it actually succeeds (or not, just as often). The album is still a fascinating dissection of the collective VDGG brain pan.

In his sleeve notes Guy Evans adds, "These tracks really require you, the listener, to complete them and give them life." Which may sound like a cop-out of sorts, but he has a point. Even at their best (which this album never pretends to be), Van Der Graaf Generator has always been a difficult band to appreciate. To some fans, that's exactly what makes them so attractive.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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