Make sure you read that title correctly or you may end up purchasing this heavily progressive title thinking you'd instead stumbled onto Rush Limbaugh's old garage band Goobucket (William Buckley Jr.—yelping, David Horowitz—Jew's harp and electric toothpick, David Frum—amplified polecat, and Rush Hisself—flagellophone). No, this is a masterfully twisted quintet crushing five pounds of prog and symph-metal into a two-pound neoclassicalist bag. Think *Groon* period Crimso, Univers Zero, Bone, David Cross, and Gawd only knows who else - even traces of Beefheart and Mallard in hideously distorted form - and you'll be skimming the surface.
David Rea and his guitar are the central fractures here, but the co-players are every inch his equals (Ruth Davidson—cello, Alicia Allen—violin, Kevin Millard—bass & baliset, Jay Jaskot—drums) in a completely instrumental, fusiony, abstract chops fest and compositionally jazzy avant affair. In fact, quite honestly, Rea, though he's deserving of applause in many many ways, is presently being singled out critically, and Sturgeon's Law 2009 plainly states that 95% of all prog crits are braindead idiots, so I've no doubt even he'd be the first to admit the over-centralization is inapt. Though his leadership is of a Rypdalian flavor, he's just one in five, playing-wise and writing-wise, and his willingness not to dominate imbues this bunch with the verve and intelligence it boasts, completely unfettered. There's not an ounce of ego or gloryhogging anywhere, just the sheer exuberance of playing in ensemble.
However, let's detour anyway, as even I, a prog-head from the word "Go!", had no idea Rea was this involved and historied. The guy has collaborated with Jeff Greinke (a lower-case Vidna Obmana guy), Stuart Dempster, Klaus Schulze, Pearl Jam, REM, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and a healthy percentage of the most important contempo-Chinese music figures. He's a huge proponent of free improv and has conducted the longest running forum for it, the Seattle Improvised Music Festival, a quarter-century gig. He also co-edited the creative music journal The Tentacle and has written a book on up-to-the-minute Chinese and Taiwanese musics, acting as an unofficial arts ambassador for the U.S.
Small wonder, then, that Manifest Density is what it is, a hurtling juggernaut of grace and insanity that re-orients the listener's perceptics and frays his nerves while revving up the temporal lobes and ectoplasm. None of this, thank God, is normal, all of it slippery and elusive while penetrant and entrancing. Even the 'balladic' fare, such as Disillusioned Avatar, is unorthodox, more composed of existential thoughtlines and convolutions than Romantic narrative, Alicia Allen's David Cross / Jerry Goodman violin skewing to the mid-East in a balmy Garuda flight extending over to the Mahavishnu-ey Kuru. Any track here is a sure-fire attention getter, but my suggestion is that you start with Kuru and work out from there. It's the most coherent, but that's not to say it's the best cut. They're all the best cut.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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