Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
5uu's - 5UU's & The Motor Totemist Guild: Elements CD (album) cover




From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars What a difference this album makes over their early Marduk album. Having dropped one of their guitarist (Coleman) for another keyboard player (Sanjay Kumar that will also be on the U Totem records) is not the only reason: Wilson's vocals have also changed for the better, dropping that early 80's new wave tone, and sounding much more RIO. The addition of the Motor Totemist Guild is an incredible up-value for the album. Indeed, the Guild is made up of multi-instrumentalist Grigsby, Emily Hay on flute, cellist Heninger and windplayer Johnston. Other guests include amongst others bassoonist Johnson.

Indeed the music has not only darkened and become more serious (but not losing a certain sense of humour), more severe and tighter, but one can sense Univers Zero and Present's influence clearly in this album. Not to say that the Henry Cow legacy influence is absent far from it, but there is a clear evening out between the UK and Belgian schools of thoughts. Starting with Ignominies, you just hear the oppressive march so Present that it seems to overshadow most everything else.

The short title track reaches an apex in oppressiveness, but the apex is reached in the coming In Life's Hands, where there is even a bit of Zappa's attempts at Kobaian choirs, the whole thing chased by a dissonant sax, before a Keith Tippet-like piano changes the plot all over again. Some tracks are just so solemn in the way they advance methodically, trampling systematically every inch of your sanity, but still doing it with enough humour such as the elephant squeals in the background of Futility Of Oneness, which makes an excellent finale.

Clearly this album Elements will sound much more like U Totem's first album "avant-la-lettre", rather than a typical 5UU's album, partly because of Sanjay and the Totemist's presence, but also because the songwriting is much more advanced than in their Marduk album.

Report this review (#151054)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Second album to 5uu's, that more than band name it's a code name or logo for Dave Kerman and his cooperates. For those who are unfamiliar with the RIO scene, I'll mention that Dave Kerman is a well known musician from the American RIO movement, being a Drummer, composer-song writer and lyricist, active from the early 80's until today.

In this album he cooperates with the Motor Totemist Guild (what a great name for a band), in addition to some original 5uu's members. The other key member here is James Grigsby, the Totemists leader, and it seems that he took those origin, modern short songs by Dave Kerman, arrange them, 'structured' them a little bit, and the result is captivating, much better than 5uu's first album, and I would dare to say, much more organized than some later albums.

The entire album sound is very warm and acoustic, featuring instruments such as piano, cello and various woodwinds. Most of the melodies could be considered as modern/avant 'quirky' ones, but with a lot of grace and some of contemplative mood.

The lyrics, most of them written by Dave Kerman contain some philosophical thoughts about mankind and human nature, some 'echological' ideas, and some 'quirky' little stories.

The simplest song is 'Acknowledgments'. It sounds to me like a 40's-50's American song, delightful and sentimental tune instrumented by chamber acoustic ensemble. The most modern/avant song is 'Imperfections' which contain a unique structure: Each song line is separated from its successor by long silence, and starts with a dominant reverse effect. Any rhythmical approach is neglected, deliberately. This structure reminds me of some modern classical songs, and in my opinion to implement such a structure in a rock album is a very courageous and pioneering act. A great step forward has been done in this short, little song.

Other songs move in between those two edges, but tend much more to the avant direction. Few examples: 'The cause of merit' got interesting duo between vocals and bassoon, played by excellent bassoonist Eric Johnson. 'Elements' got a lazy, jazzy tune, which reminds me in association the American composer George Gershwin. 'The artist' is accompanied by dominant drums and vibes.

The overall level of this album, in aspect of songwriting, musicianship, arrangements and so on, moves between very well to excellence. A little reservation I have from vocalist Kurt Wilson, that although doing a good job transferring these non simple songs, in musical and expression terms, nevertheless something is missing here for me, or maybe it's just the too 80's flavor vocals? But let's consider that this is the era which this album has been released, and sure they didn't act in a vacuum.

All in all, personally I like this album very much, but somehow hesitate to award it full 4 stars. I'm not sure if it is that essential, even for RIO enthusiasts. It's a very much a matter of an acquired taste. In this particular case I won't try too hard to convince every proghead or even every RIOist to listen to that. But, if the album description seems to feet your personal taste, do not hesitate for too long before checking it out.

Report this review (#181278)
Posted Monday, September 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. "Elements" combines the forces of the bands 5UU'S and MOTOR TOTEMIST GUILD plus we get five guests helping out this nine member super-group. One of my biggest issues with this album is the vocals of Curt Wilson, and while he is an upgrade over the vocals from the debut, he pales in my opinion with the vocals that are on the four albums that followed this one. In fact to my ears his vocals just don't suit the music, not like Susanne Lewis and Bob Drake who would sing for example on the followup to this called "Hunger's Teeth". Heck I wish Emily Hay was the singer here instead of just playing her flute. Even instrumentally I feel this is a step down from what would follow.

The album is under 37 minutes and divided into two sections. "The Ends & Means Of Privileges" is the first section and the first track is "Ignominies" a top three track for me. I believe that's bassoon to start from guest Eric Johnson as flute and more join in. This is melancholic but it turns fuller before 2 minutes and this sounds really good before settling right down as the vocals arrive. I do like when the intensity rises each time although they are brief sections contrasted each time with the more mellow vocal sections. Love the guitar 4 1/2 minutes in.

"Imperfections" features lots of piano melodies early on in an Avant soundscape. A calm with vocals follows and this is experimental to say the least although it stays fairly relaxed overall. "Resentments" is uptempo with the drums and piano standing out, vocals before a minute. Horns before 1 1/2 minutes as the vocals stop. I like the determined sound before 2 minutes then the vocals return after 3 minutes. "Acknowledgments" is almost folky with piano, cello and vocals. I'm really not into this but thankfully it's under 2 minutes.

"Elements" is a top three for me. Piano and some depth of sound here in this relaxed start. Vocals join in quickly. Heavy outbursts will be contrasted with the mellower sections. Dissonant horns before 2 1/2 minutes and I like the drum/ piano section that follows. It's building then the vocals return. The second half of the album is called "The Distrust Of Merits" and it begins with "In Life's Hands". An interesting soundscape to start then we get multi-vocals a minute in as Kerman comes to the fore on drums. Catchy stuff. A horn before 2 minutes. Discordant piano 3 1/2 minutes in then the vocals return.

"The Artist" is my final top three and it opens with the piano and drums both pounding away. Then it gets interesting instrumentally while the vocals join in. These contrasts will continue. Great sound before 3 minutes including the bass. "Causes Of Merit" doesn't do much for me as piano and vocals dominate. "The Futility Of Oneness" is the longest track at almost 7 minutes but man I can't get into the vocals here. Instrumentally this is incredible though. The vocals come across as being lame to begin with and they will come and go unfortunately. Love the experimental sounds after a minute as the vocals have stopped. The vocals are back sadly at 2 1/2 minutes but man the final minute or so is really good as the vocals have stopped again.

The last four studio albums from 5UU'S are amazing and they really are the standard when it comes to American Rio music. I just feel that it took a couple of records for them to get to their unique sound.

Report this review (#1609392)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2016 | Review Permalink

5UU'S 5UU's & The Motor Totemist Guild: Elements ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of 5UU'S 5UU's & The Motor Totemist Guild: Elements

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.