Jasun Martz — The Pillory - The Battle
(Under the Asphalt UTA 061853, 2006, 2CD)
by Jeff Melton, 2005-09-01:
Ex-Zappa sideman and painter Jasun Martz is also a semi-classical electro-acoustic composer who has been operating under your popular music radar for sometime. His initial recording, The Pillory, received critical acclaim and is recognized as a seminal symphonic work that defies straightforward classification. Elements of this seven-part two CD set cross a wide range of styles accentuating assimilation of Mellotron string samples merged with orchestral arrangements. Martz himself is an instrumentalist and handles most electric instrumentation himself except for help from a few notables such as Mark Shreeve. What is clear after a few passes is that the creator’s mindset is committed to smooth transitions between disparate musical styles. When it all works best is on parts three and five, where the instrumentation and performance come together. Part three relies heavily on a primitive percussion cadenza to build tension into a hard rocking passage driven by riffing guitars and Michelle Frioli’s gypsy violin. Part five opens with a Vidna Obmana like idea that transitions into a powerful gothic theme stated on pipe organ. Other sections such as part four are less successful possibly due to the inclusion of free improvisation after a heavy obsessive theme that doesn’t fully resolve. The closing part seven takes up the entire second disc and is a 74 minute amalgamation that leaves the listener exhausted after traversing a long road. Overall Martz stature in the electro-acoustic genre is further solidified though as a major composer and artist.
by Sean McFee, 2005-09-01:
This 2-CD set is supposed to be a sequel to Martz’s original Pillory album, which I have not heard (anyone want to send me a copy?). This ambitious undertaking, split into the CDs “The Pillory” and “The Battle”, utterly stretches Martz’s abilities as a composer and arranger. Combining elements of ambient, electronic, avant-garde, and even a little progressive rock, “The Pillory” is a difficult listening experience if taken sequentially, sprawling and struggling under its own weight. The breaking apart of the seventy minutes of music into six tracks helps in its digestion. It works better as ambient music, with the dynamic contrasts forcing the music in and out of the listener’s active mode. The album involves submissions of music by fans from around the world, writing parts for unusual instrumentation and avoiding obvious melodies, subsequently arranged by Martz. This technique appears to be used more on “The Battle,” a single huge track making up disc two. That he is able to get anything musical out of this is to his credit, and the trade-offs of this approach are self-evident; unity for chance, cohesion for a stab at genius. The results are mostly incidental, even inchoate, with Martz’s main success being in the creation of a sonic otherworld reminiscent of Magical Power Mako meets Steve Roach. Clearly not for everyone, The Pillory / The Battle is best undertaken by a listener open to challenging their ideas about music, or eager to pull the secrets out of the seeming chaos.
by Peter Thelen, 2005-09-01:
Some 28 years ago Martz released his first epic, The Pillory, to great critical acclaim, with its massed Mellotrons and dreamy atmospherics, and then he drifted off the screen for all this time. Now it’s time for Martz’ second brush with acclaim, as the second part, The Pillory / The Battle, is finally here. As before, this is music squarely in the electro-acoustic vein, involving well over a hundred instrumentalists and vocalists to achieve a result that flows between the poles of minimalist ambient, avant-garde, rock, and heavy symphonic with occasional flare-ups that reach intense levels of energy. The seven tracks that span two discs are simple titled “Battle 1,” “Battle 2,” etc. and the former kicks off disc one with a sidelong brooding dark symphonic opus with choirs and a series of floating dreamlike sequences. The second battle introduces a more grandiose melodic statement and uses all of the orchestra – this is more along the lines of modern classical music, with the introduction of many vivid themes and developments. Next up is a tribal rock jam in odd meter with electric guitars, bass and drums, crowned with some intense violin soloing, which leads directly into the chaos of “Battle 4,” which could best be described as a short avant-garde exercise dominated by random metal percussive events. Onward to the next battle, where heavy pipe organ musings create a dense wall of shimmering chords, before the disc closes with a nine minutes of ambient drift. “Battle 7”, which occupies all of disc 2, is an extended ambient drone peppered with industrial elements – if you last through the big symphonic build-up at the very end with your eyes open, then you’ve probably consumed too much caffeine. In all, this is some exceptional music that covers a lot of ground, maybe too much ground, but patience will reward.
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