Exposé Online banner

Stick Men — Absalom
(7d Media 7D1314, 2011, CD)

Stick Men — Soup
(Stick Man Records SMN2309, 2010, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2013-05-15

Absalom Cover artSoup Cover art

It's been a number of years since the Tony Levin Band was active, though of course Mr. Levin himself has been busy, with a couple of solo albums and frequent work as bassist-for-hire. Stick Men is his current going concern, and these two CDs comprise two slightly different configurations. Soup places Levin with fellow King Crimson alum Pat Mastelotto on drums and new guy Michael Bernier as a second Chapman Stick player (hence the name). The music does share some qualities with the 90s incarnation of Crimson, with lots of tricky rhythmic patterns, virtuosic passages casually tossed off, and crunchy dissonance. And Levin's vocal tunes even have a playful quality like some of Adrian Belew's exhibited. Given the limited instrumentation, they manage an incredible variety of tones and colors, from the kind of bright percussive sound the Stick is known for to any number of heavily distorted and modified tones resulting from either effects devices or unconventional techniques like bowing the strings. There's also a wide variety of moods and tempos, keeping proceedings from falling into any ruts. With two guys playing the same instrument, there are times when it's hard to tell who's doing what, though some of the bass lines have that famous Levin sound to them. (I'll avoid possible embarrassment by not calling out any titles.) Every track is a winner, with the three-part "Hands" suite being a favorite. They provide a nod to the history of progressive rock by doing an impressive arrangement of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." The tight coordination is peppered with little moments of chaos to keep things interesting.

Absalom comes a year later, and now Levin and Mastelotto are joined by Markus Reuter, who plays touch guitars of his own design rather than Chapman's Stick. The overal style is quite similar, with much impressive playing that avoids being showoffy. If I think of some of the qualities I enjoy most in music, Stick Men hit (or tap) a lot of them just right: killer riffs — check, complex arrangements — check, catchy melodies — check, odd meters — check, wide variety of tone colors — check, balance of arrangement and improvisation — check. It's like they looked into my head and designed their music to lure me in. I willingly give in, Stick Men. One thing about a lot of complex music is that it doesn't groove — things change so much that the rhythmic momentum doesn't fall into the kind of patterns that are so nice to hear. Stick Men's music may be complex, but it sure as hell grooves.


Filed under: New releases, 2011 releases, 2010 releases

Related artist(s): Tony Levin, Michael Bernier, Pat Mastelotto, Markus Reuter, Stick Men

More info
http://www.papabear.com
http://www.7dmedia.com

Latest news

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

East of Eden - Graffito – Hot on the heels of Eclectic’s reissue of East of Eden’s first two LPs comes a brand new recording from the founding lead voices of the band: saxophonist Ron Caines and violinist Dave Arbus....  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues