There's a certain wry justness to a group that began life as a Zappa tribute band ending up as a highly potent avant-jazz-progrock ensemble. I mean, think about it for a moment: everyone under the sun in the rock world has been tributized, often more than once in CD and LP gatherums and elsewhere, yet Frank Zappa, who was as prolific as just about anyone and far more influential than most, has never come under the aegis of such an honor except through the Zappa family itself or The Wrong Object. I would've thought Mojo magazine or a similar venue, maybe it's own Prog sub-title, woulda jumped on the opportunity in one of their great anthologies offered free with the magazine, but no, h'ain't happened yet, Jedediah. The problem, y'see, is that one has to be a rather exemplary player to tackle The Zap's materials, and, despite all the marvelous bands extent in the burgeoning music scene as later generations tune up and get down, the percentage that trots the chops and carries the load is not terribly high. Take the reverse as a hashtag to what's happening in After the Exhibition.
What the group does is consolidate Canterbury, fusion, prog, and those modes' antecedents—classical, neoclassical, old school avant-garde, jazz, etc.—into a heady braintrip brimming with odd scenes, skewed academic japery, burning spirits, baroque sentimentality, and, of course, pure creativity. Yantra, for instance, is Canterbury-centered yet gleefully rips through its own self-appointed perimeters as Frank Nuts enters in Crimsonian thunder before going all Egg on us (and, yes, even a bit of Khan…sigh!), with a trifle of Atomic Rooster lurking at the fringes. A saxophone ambles in somewhere between Bloomdido Bad de Grass and Klaus Doldinger, before giving way to Zappa-esque structures and mannered madness. Jungle Cow, Pts. I - III spaces out a la a Radio Massacre Int'nat'l. roving the savannah, eerie and portentous, zebras operating short-wave radios, lions tweaking lunar landing modules.
It goes without saying that this is a top-notch production in all respects, from engineering staples to cerebral crenellations, and Wrong Object is certainly one of the bands keeping the high-water mark of intelligence in music alive. In case it hadn't occurred to you, dear reader, progrock in its finer moments is actually the true next step in neoclassical music, and efforts like After the Exhibition prove that in spades. Like Univers Zero and other ne plus ultras, these lads are not common mortals and actually find their compeers, as odd as it may at first sound, in Messiaen, Takemitsu, Cage, Glass, and other stellar modernists. It's not the similarity of sound that matters at all but rather the level of invention, insight, and out-and-out creativity. I suspect this won't be understood in ivied halls until the electric guitar, synthesizer, and other "new" instruments are finally accepted by professors, doyens, and greybeards, but you here have the chance to jump the gun and wallow in pure unalloyed Art before the golems finally awaken and mutter whatever belated paeans they'll come to cobble.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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