Remember when John McLaughlin favored an acoustic axe as his prelude to the Mahavishnu Orchestra?, when Conventum was around?, when prog bands were digging deeply into global sounds to come up with riveting new flavors and sonics? And have you wondered what might occur were, say, Univers Zero to meet Flairck or Shakti, what that collision might yield? Well, wonder no longer 'cause Barmey Ung (electric and acoustic guitars, vocals) and his ensemble (Brandi Berry—violin, Sam Flip electric and acoustic bass, Jeff Fortin—drums) are carrying a complicated and highly arresting prog side tradition forward. Drifting is an astonishing debut release that will have you smiling from ear to ear, said organs riveted to the stereo, mouth agape.
This is definitely world-eclectic progrock with classical leanings, Pacific Rim colorations and inflections (Ung is Cambodian), Far East traditional roots, and amazing compositions deftly blending everything into a result so cohesive that the disc is very close to completely unique. Touches of California Guitar Trio waft through, as well as Penguin Café Orchestra, Between, Ancient Future, and other signatory groups, but the whole is otherwise very difficult to pigeonhole. Ung is the center and nominal stand-out of the group, but the unit itself is tight, highly receptive, and hard on his heels so that what emerges is fully packed, Berry especially co-pronounced.
Like most groups of such intertwining wont, everything is a cross between, and blending of, melody, harmony, and "conversational" exchanges existing beyond the norms of jamming to occupy a higher level of exposition. Kmang-Kmang would make a killer feature in any prog fest, ensorceling audiences to a mode even the most ardent and historied aficionado may well have thought near extinction. Ung's voice, though, which shows up only a couple of times, isn't the most polished, I have to say, but that's made up for when, late in the disc, he ushers an electric axe in to ratchet everything up yet another notch—just when you were acclimating to what was already breathlessly striking. I guarantee you've not heard anything quite like this in a long long while. Hark back to the golden first Long Hello LP and you'll kinda get the idea, along with everything else I've cited, although nothing remains static in Drifting as the neoclassical chamber jazz of Structure in Emotion tumbles all the aforegoing through a wall.
Keep an eye on Barmey Ung, he's going places…and he's taking us with him.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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