Cerebral trio of art-rock celebrities serve up a debut kaleidoscope of multifaceted pieces.
Possessed of immense artistic talents, Nick Beggs has repeatedly painted himself into creative corner by performing within a progressive rock framework, the genre with inherent seriousness restricting the use of this musician’s sense of humor, but his ability to inhabit pun and paradox with life force beggars belief – especially when there’s a brotherhood of kindred spirits around. Adam Holzman, with a Miles Davis’ MD entry in his CV, is surely one of those: another intellectual famous for his improvisatory flair and an uncanny knack for satire, whose funny streak results in a regular issuing of comic strips yet isn’t overtly manifested on records – neither on the veteran’s own, nor on Steven Wilson‘s where Adam and Nick are wont to meet. Perhaps, only the presence of Craig Blundell on those platters was needed for the pair’s critical mass of merriment to be reached and for a nuclear-power band to be born, “Fragments” emerging as their first joint effort… if “effort” is the right word, of course, given how effortless the ensemble’s sophisticated music sounds.
So don’t be misled by the solemn, albeit urgent, fugue of “Clean Up On Aisle Five” that’s supposed to do just that: remove cosmic cobwebs from the listener’s mind and cleanse their palate for much groovier – rather brief and to the point, and sometimes almost stripped to melodic and rhythmic essentials – pieces to appear at the stage steamrolled by Holzman’s organ and smoothed by synthesizers, so there’s perfect logic in “Check Engine Light” offering a bluesy trip in which his electric piano dances to Beggs’ bass shuffle while Blundell’s drums bolster the number’s thin ice before driving the spaced-out “Proto Molecule” towards the event horizon. Still, “far out” or “show off” is not part of this threesome’s modus operandi, as they steer the time machine to the black-tie trad-jazz era to deliver “Sally Doo-Dally” with the same elegance as they do on modern fusion cuts, and let blissful reserve take over “The Mute Gospel” – for those in the know, a probable vestige of Nick’s previous trio, THE MUTE GODS.
Surely, many should choose to focus on such hilariously titled tracks as “Nightmare In Shining Armor” and “The Enigma Of Mr. Fripp” whose expert evocation of, respectively, WEATHER REPORT’s multiverse and KING CRIMSON’s sonics will warrant a nerdy smile. However, “Auntie” which swells from the delicious 8-bit funk to the riff-ravaged baroque grandeur, or “Venn Diagram” with its initially minimalist swirl are no less dynamically impressive, their pseudo-serious scientific aspect thrown into stark relief once “Pavlov’s Dog Killed Schrodinger’s Cat” introduces soft vocals to the album’s effervescent flow as if to contrast the vigorous “Voyage Of Discovery” that might be the most illustrious example of the group’s telepathic, no-frills interplay. So when the energetically translucent “Hold It Like That” brings things to a close, there’s a feeling of lazy satisfaction delivered by these consummate entertainers.
Hopefully, the trio will continue shaping their reluctant mischief – it’s a rare and precious thing nowadays.