John Orsi is a progrocker who bounces between many of the genre's variegated manifestations: trad prog, fusion, ambient, jazz shades, and even, with wife Karen in groups like Overflower, marvelous pop-prog. For this EP, he's gathered the cream of his collaborators (Mike Marando, Manny Silva, Karen, and of course himself) for a new 5-spot of sparkling compositions led off by the Crimson-cum-Yamash'ta Shiver. That track carries a Frippian lead line burning and then flowing into the glassily percussive Mik's Glacier, a vastly more neoclassical take, pointillistic and spacious, utilizing the drum kit in ways that far too many prog players long ago ignored (to their detriment). Here, Orsi mans the keyboards as well, Marando ambientalizing his guitar for shimmering curtains of light and fog around John's lines.
Karen jumps in on She's Here, reprising the crunch-axe of Shiver in single chord repetitions while John pitches up the traps into the cymbals, icing the atmospherics, the entire thing a miniature piece of furniture music. Marando re-enters in a screaming skyflight for Blue Ink for Fountain Pens, feedback punctuating his launch to Mars as Michael Watson guests in a one-shot to kick in frantic garbled vocal emulations through his keyboards, John detuning half the drums to subtly warp the colorations even further. Twirling Guitars and Glad Tambourines slides back down into Yamash'ta territory again, guitar squealing and twittering like a parrot to the gamelonistic crystal architecture.
Riding the Way Back is glorious in its beautifully engineered, highly experimental, and way-off-the-beaten path sonorities, a disc badly needed in its home realm in order to re-invigorate the too oft forsaken inspissation of the traditional with the cutting edge, but it's also frustrating in its brevity, a mere 20 minutes when 2 hours would've been just fine with me. However, because it's one of the finest of Orsi's releases in a long catalog of excellent musics, Way Back is a must-have no matter how you look at it. Hopefully, the disc will inspire brothers and sisters elsewhere in the progressive rock camp to re-think their sometimes slavish devotions to more conventional mindsets and import such much-needed fresh approaches as we hear here.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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