Monday, August 31, 2015

Curating the Past and Predicting the Future: Yes' "Union"

Hopes were really, really high when Union came out. By the time it was released in 1991, I was pretty familiar with Yes’ entire catalog. 90125 had made me a devoted fan of the Rabin-led lineup of the band, but I quietly held the opinion that the clumsily named Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe album released in 1989 was a superior album to Big Generator. The press for Union advertised that it was to be the ultimate lineup, combining the personnel from both groups. I envisioned a broadly collaborative album, with Rabin and Wakeman facing off in a virtuosic prog-rock wankery of the highest order. When I got the album to my dorm room and perused the liner notes, however, I was profoundly disappointed.

Despite its broadly inclusive roster, Union might be the least collaborative Yes album in their catalog. The two lineups had discrete tracks from one another, with the “Big Generators” contributing 4 tracks and the “Starship Troopers” contributing the rest. I was willing to look at it like Fragile, where different aspects of the band lent their voice to a larger picture. But the truth of the matter was, the majority of the material on the album just wasn’t very convincing. The best thing to come out of the album was the tour.

Still, I recently had a revelation about Union that has some relevance to the band’s current situation, so with some trepidation, I revisited it. Union has always sat quite comfortably very close to the bottom of the barrel for me as far as Yes albums go, but what if time had actually been kind to the album, and it was better than I remember? My whole hierarchy of Yes albums might come crumbling to the ground!

Fortunately, I suppose, this was not the case. Although there are a few good moments on the album and some outstanding musicianship, by and large it sounds as it did in 1991 - unfinished and uninspired.  One of the more outstanding moments on the album, however, is the track The More We Live – Let Go. I always felt that this swirling, powerful piece stood out in terms of quality. This track is of particular relevance now because it is, to my knowledge, Billy Sherwood’s first appearance on a Yes album.

Which I think is interesting. Union was intended to unify Yes’ convoluted history, but one of its more musically convincing moments also inadvertently foretold Yes’ future. Now, almost 25 years later, this single writing credit was the first stone in a long path that led Sherwood to a position in which he could significantly contribute to the band’s continuing output.

With this in mind, Union might be viewed as a reservoir of under-credited potential rather than an album sunk by record company meddling. If that is the case, despite its somewhat spotty political setting, Union could be a resource by which other musicians already woven into Yes’ history could carry on the Yes name.

If you are just tuning in, I have been playing this "Nu-Yes fantasy football” game for well over a year, and it was all fun and games when I made that first post.  Clearly, things took a more serious turn this summer, but Yes has continued (as I predicted, eerily enough) and, according to reviews, the current lineup is playing quite well, due in no small part to Steve Howe. Certainly, he shows no sign of slowing down. Still, one must wonder what would happen if he were at some point decide not to carry on as Yes’ guitarist. As the most longstanding member of the current group, his successor is not as visible as Squire's.

There is, however, a somewhat awkward situation surrounding the guitars on the Union album that most fans don’t like to address, but that might provide a solution. According to legend, Howe’s contributions to Union were demo quality, and he intended to rerecorded them before the album’s release. The record company’s unreasonable deadlines, however, could not accommodate Howe’s other commitments. Guitarist Jimmy Haun was brought in and in the end, many of the guitars on Union that are recorded in Howe’s name are not Howe. They are instead Haun’s uncredited performances.  Without Hope You Cannot Start The Day is one of several tracks that are entirely Haun.

Although I have no way to really prove it, I have sometimes had the sense that Howe’s parts felt a little different on Union, as if he was trying something new.  This track was not one of them.  It sounds like Howe, and I think it is absolutely astounding that Haun could mimic his distinctive style and sound so well.

Haun was my dream team choice for a “nu-Yes” from earlier this year, mostly due to the work he has done with Sherwood in Circa:. I knew that he had contributed to Union, but I was not aware to what extent until I began researching for this post. If Yes fans were to openly accept this uncomfortable chapter in the band’s history, it might not be unreasonable to view Haun as an uncredited Yes guitarist, and one that has enough respect for the band to carry on its creative legacy in the unfortunate event that Howe chooses to retire.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Superhero Theme Project: Scarlet Witch and Silver Surfer

My previous post indicated that the Little One’s interest in the Superhero Theme Project wound down earlier this year. To a degree that was true, but her interest in superheroes never really waned at all. In fact, all of the effort I put into acquainting her with Marvel characters paid off when she discovered The Superhero Squad Show on Netflix. This show is a kid-friendly microcosm of the Marvel Universe, with low-key violence and funny side jokes for the comic fan parent that is undoubtedly nearby. Although pretty bereft of any real educational value, it has familiarized her with a lot of my favorite characters and, eventually, granted her enough expertise in their backgrounds to come up with her own favorites. She had several characters that she particularly liked, and that gave me the leverage to pry the playlist back open.

During the last run on characters, I ran across the End Credits theme from The Black Hole. If you were a fan of this movie from back when it was released, it is best kept in your memory. It has not aged particularly well. The soundtrack, however, is still incredibly evocative. Revisiting this composition vividly brought back that swirling maw through the perception of my third grade eyes.

For the Superhero Theme Project, I really like to adopt themes like this – ones that time will probably forget. The likelihood that the Little One will ever see The Black Hole, much less become a fan, is pretty slim. This End Credit theme is a very compelling piece of music, though, that deserves to live on in some form.

Still, when it came to my attention, there seemed to be no characters that fit. It had potential as The Red Tornado’s theme, but it was too menacing and ponderous to make sense. I considered using it as a villain theme, but that still largely went against the mission statement of the project. The solution came when the Little One declared that one of her favorite heroes was The Scarlet Witch.

This character had a background as a villain (which is actually addressed in The Superhero Squad) who turned over a new leaf. Additionally, her probability-bending powers satisfyingly mapped to the theme’s kaleidoscopic texture. Its depth caused her to initially mistake it for the Hulk theme, but she quickly learned to distinguish one from the other.

For the second character, I had to make a concession. Over a year ago, I made a pact with myself not to use any Star Trek music, in the hopes that the Little One would one day become a Trek fan. With so much outstanding and memorable music in the franchise, however, it has been very difficult. I conceded by using material from the movies to represent on Iceman and Robin, but I resisted using any of the more familiar themes from the television series. When she told me that the Silver Surfer was one of her favorites, though, I could not use anything but the theme from Voyager.

Again, to be realistic, the probability that she will end up being a huge fan of this series is relatively slim. To be honest, even though I watched the series, I was not its hugest advocate. Its theme, however, is one of the best compositions in the entire franchise. It evokes majesty and power, and it is not at all a stretch to replace the images in my mind of Voyager gliding through space with the Silver Surfer, who is one of my personal all-time favorite characters. It seemed fitting to overlook my self-imposed stipulation in this case.

These two themes are now part of a four-track “sub-list” that was uploaded shortly after the last post, and she is very, very enthusiastic about these entries. I am too, for that matter. It helped to have some time and space to allow these themes to find their way to the right heroes. The other two tracks were a different story.

To go back to the previous post, click HERE
It all started HERE about two years ago.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Seeking Continuity in Retrospect: Yes' 90125

Although I cite Fragile as my entry point for Yes’ catalog, it was not my introduction to the band by a long shot. In 6th grade, long before I became aware Yes’ already long and sometimes sordid history, I bought a 45 of Owner of a Lonely Heart. 90125 was subsequently one of the first tapes I bought, and the CD soon followed. This album not only defined Yes for me – it laid the first stone in a path that later led me to Rush and progressive rock in general. Even today, it is, without question, my favorite Yes album.

As crucial as it has been to Yes history, 90125 was almost the Yes that never was.  Drama, its predecessor, was controversial for installing Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes into two very well-established roles within the band, but it retained a certain a sense of artistic continuity within Yes’ already established parameters. 90125 saw the return of several classic members, including Jon Anderson on vocals, but from a stylistic point of view it was a more radical departure. It retrospect, however, it was a stroke of genius to continue under the Yes name.

When considering 90125, it is impossible to ignore the importance of Trevor Rabin. From the standpoint of guitar style, replacing Howe with Rabin might not have been too much different than replacing Bill Bruford with Alan White in the mid 70s. Rabin was also an outstanding vocalist, though, and his writing contributions created the framework for a much different Yes.  The atmospheric fantasy that the band was known for in the 70s gave way to powerful, textured songwriting in their 80s iteration.

But like all of Yes’ best work, 90125 was generated in a collaborative environment. Rabin’s material was significantly rearranged and rewritten by the band’s members and their invisible “sixth” member, producer Trevor Horn. History will show that Yes is most successful with a strong producer, and Horn, continuing his relationship with the band from the Drama period, was as invaluable to 90125 as Eddie Offord was to Close to the Edge or Fragile. I have often felt that it was unfortunate that he was not more regular in this role as the band continued with Rabin.

To bemoan stability in Yes’ creative pool, however, is foolhardy.  It is far more engaging to look at the conceptual threads that hold their oeuvre together in the face of perpetual change.  Although the stylistic shift on 90125 is impossible to ignore, the input of the continuing and veteran membership granted the album a degree of continuity. I think Drama hinted that Yes’ parameters had grown past a dependency on Jon Anderson, but his contributions on 90125, which I think are the most powerful of his career, were crucial to the album's success.

For Yes fans whose associations with the band began in the 70s, continuity in and through this period may be difficult to see or accept. As an 80s fan that looked back through Yes’ catalog, I certainly saw the differences, but I also actively sought out the similarities. I will still argue that 90125 was, and continues to be, a masterpiece in Yes’ catalog that examined new horizons in progressive rock as the 80s began to get underway. In terms of content, arrangement, and performance, it represented a new kind of prog that did not rely on extended song lengths, but on pushing the possibilities of complexity within accessibility.

Listening for “backwards-compatibility” in this retroactive way has, I think, informed my conception of what Yes is, even to this day. I find their continuity fascinating, which is why I don’t fully understand the conservative faction of Yes’ fanbase that harbor so much resistance and, in some cases, anger over Billy Sherwood’s recent installation as bassist. Clearly, the circumstances surrounding this passing of the torch are grave and clouded by emotional reaction. Squire is irreplaceable, but I think that his absence does not preclude the emergence of a new lineup that can carry on the Yes name.

From a certain perspective, however, it is a little weird. Fans that invested in the band in the early 70s probably see little resemblance between “their” Yes and the current lineup. "My” Yes only has one member in common with the group that now bears the name, drummer Alan White.  I have been saying for over a year, however, that their fluid membership uniquely positions Yes to continue past the involvement of its originating members. Not just in terms of performance as a repertory ensemble or "ghost band," either.  I think that within Sherwood and Davison lie the creative potential for this current lineup to sincerely contribute to the current state of progressive rock while still keeping a firm root in its history.  Judging by 90125, that would be a distinctively Yes-like feat.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Superhero Theme Project: Red Tornado and Plastic Man

When last we left the Superhero Theme Project several months ago, things seemed to be winding down. At the time, the Little One was still invested, but there was a definitely the sense that she was losing interest. After the nearly devastating success of the Venom theme, it seemed that she was a little burned out on the playlist. Understandable, since she had been listening to it almost every day for nearly a year a half. To a degree, I was too, and I was starting to run out of material. I wanted to keep high standards, but I admittedly worked harder than intended to dig up the last few themes that I added to the playlist.

I was also disappointed that there was not more traditional repertoire making its way onto the list. A lot of it just seemed too “classical” when sidled up aside more contemporary TV and movie themes, and I felt like I was kind of stylistically repeating myself in this realm. It’s not that I was ignoring chamber music, though. For example, I came across Borodin’s Prince Igor theme in my research and it seemed to be bombastic enough to work if the right hero came up.

At the time, we were still riding out the Batman: Brave and the Bold series, which, coupled with the Super-Pets Encyclopedia, provided a constant stream of characters. When Prince Igor had my attention, she was very interested in the Red Tornado. I was not entirely convinced that the style of the piece fit the character. Objectively, the Red Tornado is an android, and from that perspective, the operatic pretentiousness of Prince Igor does not layer well with the character. The character’s history will show, however, that his robotic body is the host to a “wind elemental,” which might align with Prince Igor’s swirling pomposity. With reservations, I pulled the trigger in the hopes that some new music might reinvigorate her interest.

To this day, I am still a little mixed on this one. The final entry on the playlist, however, ended up being one of my favorites. The Brave and the Bold also got her interested in Plastic Man. This character is relatively marginal in the DC universe, but kids of my generation might remember that he had a brief stint in the 70s Saturday morning cartoon universe. I loved this show back then, so I had a unique investment. I wanted to do him justice, but also make him distinct from the other tracks in the playlist.

I was listening to some George Gershwin back when I was investigating the possibilities for Catwoman’s theme. I was drawn to sections of Rhapsody in Blue that seemed appropriate, but my no-editing policy excluded this 15 minute opus. Looking for alternatives, I discovered Promenade (Walking the Dog). This piece had a running time that fit playlist parameters, but it simply did not fit Catwoman. Due to the old cartoon series, however, my impression of Plastic Man is a little silly. Promenade (Walking the Dog) had a comedic feel that seemed right. Additionally, it was a huge contrast to my other Superhero themes, but was still clearly orchestral in scope. As reticent as I was with the Red Tornado, I thought that this song as Plastic Man’s theme would be my final stroke of genius.

I uploaded these tracks to the playlist, and they were relatively well-received. In an attempt to keep her listening, however, I took another step that seemed to put a decisive end to the Superhero Theme Project.

I uploaded Let it Go to my phone.

I couldn’t get around it. She was exposed to the song through her cousins and peers and, more importantly, she was trying to learn to sing it correctly. This latter development was too important to ignore. In the end, the lure of lyrics and peer pressure was too great.

Once this hit the air, there was zero interest in the Superhero playlist. By her request, I also added a couple of other Disney and pop music hits that, for reasons of dignity, we won’t go into here. The important point is that she seemed to be developing her own tastes, and there was no reason to continue cramming my narrative down her throat. For several months, she would sporadically request to “Listen to Superheroes,” but generally there was very little interest. I thought that I had gotten all that I was going to out of the project. I deemed it successful and, more selfishly, loads of nerdish fun. End of story.

However, just now, as I am writing this nearly six months later, she caught me whistling Promenade (Walking the Dog) and decisively asked “Are you singing Plastic Man?”

This reflects a recently renewed interest in the Superhero Playlist.  She requests it about once every two weeks and listens to the entire thing intently.  Additionally, now that she is nearing four, our attendant discussions are starting to reveal the way in which the seeds that this project planted are starting to take root. This will, along with a few additions to the playlist, undoubtedly be the topic of future posts. For now, consider yourself caught up.

Jump back a few months click HERE.
To see where it all started go HERE.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

How Fragile the Fish: First Steps into Broader Horizons

When the word came of Squire’s leukemia diagnosis, I envisioned that we would have him longer than we did. At the very worst, I thought that his recovery would sideline him for live shows and he would carry on as Yes’ musical director, much like Brian Wilson did for the Beach Boys when his mental health proved too fragile for live performances. Too soon, though, we lost him.

Clearly, I am a Yes fan, but Squire was, and is, a significant influence on my personal musicianship. Squire was the first bassist that I began to explore outside of my rapidly expanding Rush catalog. Once I was able to create what I thought was a reasonable facsimile of Moving Pictures, I felt quite unstoppable. My self-directed research led me to Yes, who I had already connected with through 90125. In the name of delving deeper into progressive rock, which was my newly-adopted genre of choice, I decided to start working my way through their catalog as well. The first step was Fragile.

Fragile was touted as a landmark album, but it ended up being the one in which Chris Squire put me in my place. On 91025, Squire’s bass playing was relatively constrained in deference to Trevor Rabin’s concise compositional approach. Fragile was a different matter entirely. I got lucky on one count: Roundabout was in the same key as Tom Sawyer, so, despite being steadfastly opposed to using a pick (because, you know, Geddy didn’t), I was able to come with a recognizable version of this iconic track.

That was where it stopped. My relatively immature ear and self-developed technique simply could not process the brisk fluidity of Long Distance Runaround. It moved too fast, and the form of the song was too erratic, for me to zero in on all of the details of that bassline. I never really got it. By the time I started to tackle Heart of the Sunrise, I knew that I was in over my head.

In addition to the breakneck speed and ferocity of the song’s opening riffs, Squire’s melodic approach throughout the piece felt freely improvised, and was difficult to pin down. With better transcription skills, I might have fared better against these monstrously complex tunes, but I simply did not have them back then. I eventually cut my losses and gave up.

Regardless, the damage was done. Fragile made me a dedicated Yes fan, and I subsequently began working my way through the catalog. Since then, however, it has not left the shelf much, mainly due to my recollections of the irregular track listing. Fragile boasts four full-group compositions that are arguably some of the best progressive rock tunes ever created. It also includes five “solo” contributions, one from each member of the band. While none of these tracks are particularly bad, I remember feeling a little let down by them, especially when set in contrast to the defiant intensity of the group work.

In revisiting the album upon the announcement of Squire’s passing, however, my perception of Fragile as a holistic statement has changed. Seen as a whole, Fragile plays out like a mansion with many rooms and hallways for the listener to explore. By all accounts, featuring Yes’ individual members in this way arose somewhat out of necessity, but it ended up being a bold statement about progressive music that, regrettably, many contemporary progressive artists ignore.

Progressive rock is most effective when the voices of individual players are allowed to shine through the material.  Fragile featured what was arguably the most virtuosic lineup of Yes, with five distinctive musicians.  The active contributions of each person were absolutely necessary for Fragile to make a coherent statement, which it does.  Squire would employ this mission statement repeatedly during the band's long, continuing career by bringing new voices into the group to keep it alive.

Squire’s contribution on Fragile is The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus). It is an orchestral, multi-track statement in which Squire explored the edges of the bass’s timbral potential. It was not really a bass song that a singular late 80s garage musician on a shoestring budget could learn and perform without the aid of delays, loops, and effects.  It is, however, a powerful example of the kind of broad musical virtuosity that Squire continued to seek throughout the rest of his career.

And so it came to pass that Chris Squire became known as "The Fish" to his fans (not to be confused with Fish, or Phish, for that matter).  He wore this moniker proudly enough to employ it in the title of his singular solo album Fish Out of Water.  Although I think that this album may be the clearest statement of Squire’s distinctive songwriting and performance skills, I won’t revisit it here.  I have posted about this fantastic album elsewhere, and in the big scheme of things, Fragile had a much more profound impact on me. By the time I discovered Fish Out of Water, I had already decided that Squire was in a league of his own. His presence on Fragile shone a very bright light on the limitations of my own musicianship while also pointing towards its horizons. He will be sorely missed, not just by me, but by a vast ocean of fans with discerning ears and open minds.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Yes and The Ladder's Next Rung

Before I launch into the reasoning behind my support of Billy Sherwood playing bass for Yes on their upcoming dual-headline tour with Toto, please don’t misunderstand my intent. I am in no way trying to eclipse Chris Squire or make light of his recent leukemia diagnosis.  He is a historically significant rock bassist, and I have never lost belief in his vision as Yes’ musical director.  I am genuinely concerned for him and wish him the best in his recovery. By naming Sherwood as his stand-in on the tour, however, it is quite safe to assume that Squire believes the show must go on.

This isn't terribly surprising, because this mindset has circumscribed the band since their inception. Musicians have come and gone, but the band has forged ahead. The interwoven contributions of Yes’ various members have enough common threads for an essential “Yes-ness” to emerge that is easy to hear, but tricky to exactly pin down. For example, like many Yes fans, I see last year’s Heaven and Earth as a flawed but ultimately successful work because it evokes this indescribable “Yes-ness,” due in no small part to current lead singer Jon Davison’s persuasive conviction for Yes music.

Propelled by the theory that Yes’ music transcends any specific membership, I have spent an embarrassingly inordinate amount of time daydreaming about who could carry on the Yes name for another ten or fifteen years in the event that the band’s original members were to retire and pass the band on. I have posted a couple of times on this subject, and I still stand by February’s dream-team lineup.

This seemed like the meandering fantasies of a prog-rock nerd at the time, but Squire’s inclusion of Sherwood on this tour as his stand-in sets an interesting precedent. As I said last summer, he is the only artist who could realistically come close to stepping into Squire’s impossibly big shoes. His history with Squire and Yes make him the singular musician that diehard, open-minded fans would allow on stage (which are probably the majority of Yes' audience at this point, anyhow).

I have virtually zero investment in Toto, but I am seriously thinking about traveling to see what Yes looks like with Sherwood on bass. I feel quite sure that, with their limited performance time, Yes will be “playing the hits” once again. In an ideal world, however, their setlist would include some of the excellent music that Sherwood contributed during his time in the band, particularly from The Ladder.

Sherwood had been an official member of Yes for several years when this album was released in 1999. Although the band has had many good releases since, The Ladder stands, in my opinion, as the last really great Yes album. After nearly two decades of exploring various incarnations with sputtering success, this album represented something that the band had been searching for since 1988: a coherent compromise between their exploratory 70s work and the accessibility that they enjoyed in the 80s.  It was convincing enough back then to turn on some of my high school aged students on to Yes music on its own merit, rather than the merit of the band's long history.

Historically, the band has done their best work with a producer that takes an active role, so I think that it is fair to give some of the credit to producer Bruce Fairburn. Like Nick Raskulinecz did for Rush almost a decade later, he brought the objective ears of a longtime Yes fan to the recordings and encouraged the band to look at their own long history as a source of inspiration.

With his oversight, there was a sense that The Ladder recaptured the collaborative atmosphere that generated Yes’ best material. This allowed for the creative inclusion of keyboardist Igor Khoroshev, who managed to channel the best of Wakeman’s characteristics without cloning him outright. Although Sherwood’s performance contributions are much more subtle, his compositional fingerprints are all over The Ladder in terms of songwriting and arrangement.

It would be inspiring to see Yes include a couple of tracks from The Ladder on this tour to acknowledge Sherwood’s presence, but the band just doesn’t work that way these days.  Given the opportunity, they gravitate towards playing full versions of their past music even when they have new material to feature.  There are already rumors of Fragile and Drama features in 2016.  I will gladly accept seeing Davison and Sherwood together onstage, however, in the hopes that they generate some chemistry. With Davison’s melodic strength and Sherwood’s penchant for Yes-like compositions, I hypothesize that these two could one day form the creative core of a totally next-gen Yes.

There will be some who have the opinion that this sort of theoretical play is disrespectful to Squire, and you are entitled to that opinion. I feel, however, that it is the grandest compliment imaginable. To realistically propose that Yes’ music can convincingly transcend the confines of its originators and live on is a testament to Squire’s life work. If it were to happen, it would put Yes's music in the same league as legendary musicians like Count Basie, whose band continues to tour and record even today, nearly thirty years after his passing. No small company.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Secret Chiefs 3 and The Path to "Perichoresis"

As the designated driver on our regularly scheduled hill country wine tours, I retain some modicum of control over the car stereo. Usually, I bring a carefully curated collection of albums, but on one particular trip last Spring, due to lack of planning, I hurriedly grabbed a handful of CDs from my dashboard. After Brendan Benson and Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger had worn out their welcome, I surreptitiously slipped the Secret Chiefs 3 into the CD player. I knew I might be taking a chance on this one, but surprisingly, Book M went over pretty well. The more conservative listeners in the car were in good enough spirits to allow my indulgence without too much criticism. My buddy The Best Man, however, being a fan of the infamously eclectic Mr. Bungle, ended up really liking Book M. A few months later, he let me know that the Secret Chiefs 3 were about to play in Austin. Without hesitation, we packed it up on a school night to go check them out.

We got there early enough to see both opening bands, the first of which was Atomic Ape. Their high-density, exotic style clearly owed quite a bit to the Secret Chiefs 3. I put their album on my list as a compositional reference for Ethnos. The second band was Il Sogno del Marinaio, led by Mike Watt. I saw another Mike Watt project several years ago when he brought LITE on tour throughout the US and they played a free show at SXSW. Judging by the enthusiasm of the audience at both shows, a lot of people seem to like Mike Watt, but, like the last time I saw him, I wasn’t entirely convinced.

As these bands were playing, I discovered that this somewhat low-profile tour was organized in part to support Perichoresis, a new Secret Chiefs 3 recording. I decided that this was to be the take-away item for the show. Towards the end of Il Sogno del Marinaio’s set, we made our way back to find that Trey Spruance himself was manning the swag booth. We were, admittedly, a little starstruck. He greeted us kindly with his eyes, but was unable to exit a conversation he was having with an inebriated fan. The club was very, very loud, so I gestured that I wanted to pick up the new recording. Although Spruance’s body language indicated his desire to do otherwise, he continued to pay patient attention to this enthusiastic fan as he attended to us.

Spruance pointed to a note card by the new CD, which, according to the brief description, was a “folk album” that boasted many “ratio-based time signatures.” It was prominently credited to Ishraqiyun, a sub-group of the Secret Chiefs 3 collective that specializes in ethnic influence.

Undoubtedly, Perichoresis features the same cross-cultural instrumentation and exotic modality that I have come to associate with the Secret Chiefs 3. In some ways, however, pushes the envelope even further, especially in terms of rhythm. It is often clear that there is an intuitive pattern that undergirds its sometimes repetitive structures. The rhythmic complexity of these patterns, however, continually confounds predictability and, by extension, any perception of redundancy.

As a result, Perichoresis is a jarring tapestry of angular, lurching riffs that are simultaneously meditative and disorienting. For this reason, I would be a little more hesitant to slip this one in the player with a van full of people unfamiliar with what the Secret Chiefs 3 are up to. Despite this somewhat challenging exterior, however, there are no wrong notes. There are no missed rhythms. Everything that happens is intended as it sounds, both on Perichoresis and in the Secret Chiefs 3 live show.

Spruance soon disappeared from the merchandise booth only to reappear on stage in the requisite cloak. Having broken his ankle earlier on tour, he performed from a chair, but this did relatively little to dampen the performance. The show was completely mesmerizing. It was, in fact, a musical assault, not just in terms of volume or intensity, but also in terms of concept. Both the Best Man and I were, and still are, at a loss for words when it comes to describing exactly what happened on stage that evening, but we both agree it was a phenomenal experience.