Greg Segal is seriously making up for lost time after having musically laid low for some years to concentrate on parenthood. In March he released the marvelous A Handful Of Ashes album, I’ve now got the new Beauty Sleep in my greedy little hands, and I see that yet another new set (Skeleton Parade) is available.
Greg continues to get down with his bad Prog self on Beauty Sleep, with three lengthy instrumentals that mix, morph and fuse a variety of styles into something very much his own.
First up is the 22 minute A Reseda Of The Mind which features what seems like a stylistic cast of thousands, including theatrical classical piano melody that at times reminds me of Alain Rochette’s work on the first Present albums, droning synth lines, sci fi synths and Jazz drumming, soon adding orchestral Mellotron keys, and when the jamming fuzz guitar joins in we’ve got one hell of a cauldron of instrumentation and styles as we segue surprisingly seamlessly through Canterbury, darkly intense Gothic themes, Neo Classical/Prog blends, Soft Machine Jazz, spacey atmospherics and more. You’ll be forgiven for rolling your eyes as I realize I’ve just described something that sounds ridiculously all over the map… but it’s not. I’m picking out elements that are genuinely present but Greg, in both composition and performance, has created something that is both complex and accessible, being simultaneously playful and intense, while permitting himself a free-wheeling license to experiment. Like the Frippoid Crimson-ish guitar layered over Jazzy Canterbury inspired passages that lead into a combination of similarly structured compositions and jamming Prog-Psych that recalls Greg’s Cold Sky and Jugalbandi projects. There is a LOT happening here and the fun of it all is that each component is crisply distinguishable, making for a multi-layered and smoothly flowing whole. In short, this is VERY fucking cool!
The 8 minute Beauty Sleep explores a similar path, starting off with ooo-wee-ooo sci fi synths plus cool grooving Jazz bass and piano melody, making for an intriguingly oddball combination of alien and smoky Jazz lounge ingredients. Finally the 15 minute It Ain’t Gonna Work lays down high energy Jazz drumming over which a bevy of wild electronica and spaced out soundscape synths do their sci fi magic. Part of this brought to mind an avant-garde Jazz take on a John Carpenter film soundtrack, though Greg twists and turns through Present/Univers Zero and whimsical classic and spaced out Prog territory, and at one point throws some Eastern flavored Psychedelic themes into the mix. Anything is game. And it works!
In summary, this is gift that keeps on giving music which rewards the attentive listener with additional tasty morsels upon each new spin. Beauty Sleep grabbed me on the first listen but I needed several digestive revisits before I could write about this roller coaster ride in any coherent way. If you like Canterbury and RIO styled Prog and have a taste for Jazz, Beauty Sleep will entertain and challenge you in equal measures. Oh, and if you’re interested, the sleeping beauties on the cover are Itchy and Scratchy from the Oregon Zoo in Portland.
For more information visit the Greg Segal web site at: http://gregsegal.com (There’s LOTS of history and information here)
Stream and download from the Greg Segal Bandcamp site: http://gregsegal.bandcamp.com
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz