Greg Segal - "An Awareness Of Frameworks" (Phantom Airship Records 2004, PAle 10)
Greg Segal - "The Eye That Shines In Darkness" (Phantom Airship Records 2004, PAle 11)
Greg Segal - "Standard" (Phantom Airship Records 2004, PAle 12)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: April 2004
Greg Segal was brimming with the creative spirit in 2003. So much so that his desire to record a new solo CD resulted in enough material for 12 new CD's. So given the flexibility that his PAle series offers he decided to release one a month throughout 2004. Here's the rundown on the January-March releases...
An Awareness Of Frameworks is the January release and consists of 23 tracks, most of which range from less than a minute to 2 minutes, but also include a couple of lengthier works. Utilizing electric guitars (6-string, 7-string, fretless), bass, acoustic and electric drums and percussion, recorders, bowed device, vocals and effects, the CD is like a collection of little ideas and musical considerations, all of which demonstrate Greg's long experience with adventurous rock music, drawing on his skills with sound manipulation and efx, and combining those with ambience and traditional instrument sounds. But as the veteran Segal fan might imagine there's LOTS happening here. We've got a variety of rock guitar workouts, oodles of fun efx, all manner of spaced out soundscapes and atmospherics, loads of percussion sounds and styles, and much much more.
"Black Cavern River" is one of the tracks that takes a few minutes to develop. It does an excellent job of haunting soundscape creation and includes cool layers of deep dark droning waves over which spacey guitar notes play an ethereal melody. But there's a bit of a King Crimson-ish edge to the music too, which combined with all the ambience makes for a cool tune that steps way outside the box. "Spontaneous Knowledge" is a nearly 10 minute avant-progressive rock piece that begins with a dark thudding march and from there transitions through multiple segments that are less thematic changes then they are an exploration of atmosphere and efx. Rhythmic patterns are constantly on the move, working in tandem with the soundscapes, efx and traditional instruments to create a continually shifting glom of musical ideas that flow very nicely from one to the next. We've got bits of Ash Ra Tempel, classic Segal styled rock, and gazillions more.
"The Great Theta Drive" is the closing track and a 25 minute epic. It opens as an old time heavy power-prog rock piece, but quickly descends into atmospheric territory, with bits of the King Crimson style we heard on "Black Cavern River", but also freakier elements that bring to mind Hawkwind's Space Ritual, David Torn's atmospheric jazz experiments, and a melting pot of ethnic and avant-garde influences. And like Spontaneous Knowledge", the music is continually evolving, taking on a life of it's own as it explores the cosmos, mutating and morphing. Things get very quiet at times, though even then a close listen reveals a busy complexity of outer space sound and efx creation. The percussion rarely lets up, keeping it all pretty firmly rock based throughout. Lots of harrowingly intense moments too. And right at the end Greg brings things to a close by returning to the power rock that opened the track. Absolutely outstanding and high on my list of all time Segal favorites. Overall, An Awareness Of Frameworks is a varied collection that will appeal to fans of Greg's exploratory In Search Of The Fantastic CD, as well as the many different rock structures heard on his early solo releases.
The Eye That Shines In Darkness is February's release and consists of sounds performed and arranged by Greg using bowed device and effects, the bowed device being a guitar that was originally purchased over 20 years ago for $49 from JC Pennys (CLICK HERE for a picture and history of this instrument). The space meter is running high but Greg is much deeper in avant-garde sound-art territory on this album, the music variously bringing to mind the work of Mika Rintala, Hal McGee, Klaus Schulze and The Residents.
Do you like slowly developing orchestral space ambience and drones? Well look no further than the 12 minute "The Seventh Moon", with its quietly swirling space waves and foreboding cosmic string section. Very haunting and with an image inducing cinematic quality. Among the more experimental tracks is "Mine", which combines layers of varied bowed manipulations with bleeping electronics. Yet despite being in more abstract realms, the sense of thematic development is much in evidence and I easily imagined this as being the updated soundtrack to a Fritz Lang or some similar silent film. "Life In The Condemned Apartments" is like a cross between "The Seventh Moon" and "Mine", and would be good music for something like the frightening claustrophobic feel of the first Alien film.
"The Alternate City" is a little different, following in the footsteps of the rest of the set but also including the kind of avant-garde free-improv guitar stylings that would be at home on Bret Hart's Duets series (Greg has collaborated with Bret on two of these to date). And at over 13 minutes it has plenty of time to stretch out and explore, being an interesting blend of somber orchestral ambient moods and efx. Ditto for "Transient pt. 2", though it has some spacier moments. The title track is spread across the CD in 10 parts, but it's parts 6-10 strung together that I particularly enjoyed, being excellent examples of mind-expanding ambient space. The Eye That Shines In Darkness is yet another impressive effort, and one that will appeal to electronic music fans who would like something different for a change, those who enjoy avant-garde sound-art spacescapes, and lovers of ambient space music.
Standard is the March release and consists of instrumentation similar to that used on An Awareness Of Frameworks, though Standard is more purely rock based and explores more prog rock oriented stylings. Tracks like "The Identity Catalog" and "Robopath's Night Out" have a raw rocking edge to them while simultaneously incorporating sounds and efx that add interest and oomph. "Standard" parts 1 - 3 are nifty proggy guitar driven rock instrumentals, with part 1 bearing a distinct Dave Gilmour guitar sound. We're treated to more of that ominous King Crimson rock style on "Neal Smith's Invisible Trike" part 1, with part 2 being equally intense but in a tribal sonic space realm. "Robot Colosseum" is like a spacey avant-electronic ode to the late great Snakefinger (if you can imagine that).
But the album also includes some spacey soundscapes and electronic sounding pieces, like the singing atmospherics of "Dreams Will Tell", and the Manual Göttsching feel of "Inner Ways" and "Human In Sleep". "Solid State Life" has a playful robotic electronic "sort of" melody, backed by a grinding, pulsating noise wave, along with various mechanical sounds. An odd but interesting combination.
In summary, Greg is clearly offering fans a sufficient amount of variety and excitement to keep them coming back for more each month. And the months are going by quickly. The April release has already arrived. Stay tuned next month for the skinny on that one and the new Jugalbandi release.
For more information you can visit the Greg Segal web site at: http://www.gregsegal.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Phantom Airship Records; PO Box 82525; Portland, OR 97282-0525.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz