Hi! Remember me? I’m the guy who broke the story that King Crimson was rumored to be over because a player in the scenario affixed situations to realities and created a rumored scheduling rift between when Fripp had wanted to do Crimson dates and the subject of this review, the Adrian Belew Power Trio had dates scheduled during that time. When Fripp became aware of the scheduling rift, he took it as Belew not being as committed to KC as Fripp would have wanted.
Or so it is alleged. I am not sticking my neck onto that chopping block again…
How that factors into this is not my concern. My concern is the music. So let’s take a look at Belew’s latest CD, e, recorded with that same power trio consisting of the amazing brother-sister duo of Eric Slick (Slick) on drums, percussion, and Julie Slick (Ms Slick) on superb bass. (That’s saying a lot seeing as how I am researching an upcoming interview with Jeff Berlin…) Ms Slick has a solo album out with a guest appearance by Robert Fripp!
But let’s get back to e.
When you hear this disc you must keep one thing in mind: Every thing you are hearing was recorded live-in-the-studio. Everybody playing the parts at once with tape (or need I be more contemporary?) or hard drive running. No overdubs. Yes you will hear multiple guitars and ask yourself, if this is all live-in-the-studio (and these arrangements sometimes make that hard to believe, or these people ate, drank, and slept this music for months!) and there are no overdubs, how are multiple guitars possible on a live-in-the-studio recording?
Belew uses a device called a “Boomerang” pedal, which is a multi-track, pitchable, reversible loop pedal. For the further neophyte, a loop pedal can record a sequence as it is played from the instrument AND you can overdub on top of what you loop a few times. Then with a push of a pedal you can pitch it up or down or reverse.
With Slick and Slick providing expert rhythm section backing (which is a total bitch to execute effectively with a looped instrument, much less make it sound this good), the live tracks sometimes sound like there are five or six players playing at once.
There are no lyrics, which is a real shame as Belew is a highly unique lyricist. His often-times beat-poet lyrical style (often compared to early bandmate in Talking Heads, David Byrne) is missed on this disc. Not to mention the voice that led King Crimson, shared with The Bears and would top this trio off nicely!
I guess my first turn-off (if we have to keep count) is that there is no track listing. This is a pain for collectors like me.
My trusty iTunes….
Belew does something on this disc unusual for his later output; he breaks the forty minute mark. A couple of his Side One, Side Two and Side Three discs only pushed up over thirty-plus minutes.
C’mon Ade, it’s a recession/depression. Gotta give the consumer their money’s worth…
But there are eleven tracks on this disc. It looks like Belew could have benefited from the old Deutsche Grammophon formatting system of assigning classical “passages” sub indexes on the display of the disc player. The song titles are, “a”, “a2”, “a3”, “b”, “b2”, “b3” (niacin and riboflavin, this is starting to read like a multi-vitamin bottle…) “c”, “d”, “d2”, ‘e” (that’s title track “e” to you) and “e2”.
“a” is but thirty seconds of woeful guitar. Belew is known for his brevity, if all he has to say can be said in thirty seconds, that’s all there is. You won’t want for more as “a2” comes right in at you hard with a quick descending monochromatic scales. Lively, jazz-ish drums and tightly following bass join the fray. But that fray builds with Boomerang layer after layer until horns, harmonic riffs and a crazed rhythm section fill my 7.1’s.
Remember, this is all live, three people.
A slight solo comes in after the horns cut out. That descending harmonic scale is the only constant until Belew stops everything to reference back to “a’s” woeful notes. Then back to organized chaos.
Yes, there ARE flashes of King Crimson in this! Right to it’s Zappa-esque breaks and quiet passages and cacophony. Between BOSCH and Belew, I am getting a good healthy dose of dissonance!
“a3” sort of breaks away. The guitar loop plays alone at first but that riff is meaty enough to build on. Slick’s pulsating drums kick into very “Red” like song.
GOOD! If this is what Belew intends to do with this trio, that is, give us what Fripp won’t (that being Crimson-like music), more power to him.
Reference, revise, revisit, renew!
More woeful notes wrap up “a3”.
“b’s” distinctly Belew riff has Ms Slick taking full license with the bass neck. A very mature player for her tender age. I am very curious about her solo album…
But besides having several heavy-killer riffs, this song has all our favorite Belew sounds, backwards, aerial tightrope, high-gain, all except my fave, overloading the chorus/vibrato function on a Roland JC-120 guitar amp.
I do it to mine all the time.
“b” ends with some very nice loops and hold notes. Gorgeous!!
Bright finger picking and rubber bass sounds give way to a very King Crimson “Industry”-type song, “b2”. Instead of peaking like “Industry” did, this sort of keeps adding yet taking away sound. The parts are softer in the mix, but so intricate and disjointed.
But this ends with one last “Industry”-type riff.
“b3” has a very militant feel at once, but as we get into the song, it shows its true colors to be more of a Gamelan exercise, even as the break into the climbing and descending interaction between instruments has its moment in the sun.
On “c”, Belew taught Slick well how to put that Bruford-esque snare drum in the strangest places within the beat. The second gripe I can muster is; it can be a little drawn out without a change at a certain point. But when they allow Ms Slick’s bass part to come through unencumbered for a line or two is nice. It’s a tasty line!
Then we come to something that puts me in the mind of “ConstruKction Of Light”.
THANK YOU, ADRIAN BELEW!
I prefer Slick’s drum part to Mastellotto’s on the “COL” track, less busy and lets the Gamelan come through more.
Right after Slick does a flourish, Belew is caught on a hot mic somewhere cuing the end. But the press roll white noise fade to left makes up for it in coolness!
“d” starts off with a ticking guitar and is joined by a typically smooth Belew melody line. That melody line develops into a solo and into a grandiose to null backdrop in front of the ticking.
He got some tympani drums somewhere. But at about two minutes twenty seconds in, this thing explodes with sound! That melody line is there, but it’s pandemonium all around. At times it sounds like a chugging train. Controlled free-for-all? Until it breaks down to Ms Slick’s super funky bass line and we build up samba-style, replete with wavy tremolo notes in the loop.
Love this stuff, it’s good to be able to listen to Belew cut loose.
But that samba-style yields to a tight staccato ending with flute sound, sticks on rims, and a final descend to hold note.
Simply gorgeous. This is what progressive music is SUPPOSED to sound like.
Minor Gamelan starts off “d2” but it pushes to sound very “Indiscipline”-like. Make all the Crimson comparisons you want.
I don’t care that these songs have obvious nods to Belew’s past. I NEED IT!!
This is my third listening to of this album. It’s growing on me, and I love it now!!
“e” is a revisit to the opening woeful notes, but as Ade’s buddy Trent Reznor says, this version is “with-a-teeth-ah”.
“e2” sounds like a cross of “Industry”, “Indiscipline”, “Discipline” some Zappa, hell, get the disc and find your own points of reference, make a game of it! This is another one of those “loop is the common denominator” songs until they break into a monotone note-beat. Belew whips out the piano on strings patch! Then reverts to some tremolo torture while Ms Slick does some Levin funk then he out-right revives his lead break from “Indiscipline” for many of the initial notes!
Between Ms Slick’s nimble bass runs and some Belew effects, Slick’s staccato contributions put the music in a strobe-like effect. How cool is that?
Crimson revisionist? OK, call it what you will, it is music we need. And the Slick kids are impressive players. I thought so when I saw them play with Belew at Philadelphia’s World Café Live.
Speaking of World Café Live…
You should all check out Belew’s website or if you have a favorite ticket vendor as Belew will be playing at World Café Live on July 1st! If you can’t be there, or catch any of the other shows on the “Painting With Guitar” tour, don’t worry, yours truly will be there to cover it for you and hopefully get the low-down from the man himself.
That brings me to the end of e. Unfortunately, I want more. Dammit! “e” the song ends with the crazed 8 finger maniac solo with a side of rock and roll cliché ending.
A fine album of progressive music. It gives me hope. Maybe progressive isn’t dead after all! Hey, I’ve been wrong before…
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