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Eclectic Earwig Reviews

Album: Rights Of Passage
Artist: Talamasca
Label: Mellow Records. � 1991 - 1992 Get Dressed! Music

Talamasca was a Seattle based band which released this one demo disk and
disbanded.  They were originally the band Astoria, who recorded  a similar
demo for A&M Records in 1991 before they imploded.  The remaining members
re-recorded the demo for Mellow Records, but included (as the last track)
one original song from the first lineup. Their sound is a mix of diverse
elements: Indigo Girls; the Rembrandts;  Crosby, Stills, Nash; and Joni
Mitchell (from the Mingus period) all fused together with Yes and something
approaching the crunch of Dream Theater to create a highly unusual form of
very melodic and harmonically well thought-out (almost) prog-metal.  The
guitar playing is excellent, and they have a way of singing and playing with
dissonance which makes their sound unique.  I can't think of any other prog
band (besides Ars Nova) with three women on the roster.

Track by Track Analysis:

"Absent" starts as a 'folk-like' piece with nice harmonies and solid bass
and drum accompaniment.  The chorus adds a crunchy, distorted guitar which
changes the entire feel of the piece.

"He's Approaching".  Two voices, two drummers.  No punches pulled by either
side.  It's just crazy enough to work.

"Reality Plague" opens with a very jazz-feel bass line which permeates the
piece.  Dissonant harmonies contrast with harmonious guitar lines.  The
piece end with an extensive guitar solo reminiscent of Neil Young. It starts
out strong, sinks to almost nothing, then returns with a vengeance to close
the piece.

"Spy" is as dark as "Reality Plague".  Use of dissonance, odd meters, and
distortion on one guitar contrasting with an acoustic guitar sound produce
one of the most satisfying pieces on the album, rich in both texture and

"Sharks" makes good use of the saxophone to punctuate the story line.  More
of this scattered about the record would have been a good idea.

"Serious Magic" shows off the band by opening with a flat out high-speed
riff from the bass player, who is joined by everyone as the band proceeds to
revel in the noise that they are making.

"Polarity" opens with a sitar riff from Rae Borough. Joined by minimal
percussion, flute, and quiet bass, they accompany a most harmonically
pleasing duet.

"Safe Places" is the track included from their original lineup.  It is a
story of Armageddon and the prophecies of Nostradamus leading to the
destruction and rebirth of mankind at the millennium.  Typical prog-rock
lyrical fodder, which may or may not grate on you, depending on your
perspective on such epic tales.  It's a well done story of the survival of
man.  Of course, we're still here, but it does not take away from the
enjoyment of the piece.  There is a wonderful acoustic guitar solo halfway
through the song.  This may be the best piece from a strictly musical
standpoint on this album.

I auditioned this one by playing it over and over during a several hour car
trip on businesses.  I found that none of the songs lost any appeal after
repeated listening. Returning home I played the album twice more to write
the review.  This one will hold your interest over the long haul, being a
solid testament to one of those interesting and imaginative *might have
beens* that sadly slipped through the cracks.  Kudos to Mellow Records for
hunting it down and refusing to allow it to languish in the dead pile.

Star rating: 4 out of 5.

Rae Borough
Rae Borough - Guitar and Sitar (Rae is teaching guitar and recording in Washington). Nissan Madsen - Background vocals, sax and recorder. Nancy Kaye - Lead and background vocals. Dave McClelland - Bass and percussion, guitar. Brian Young - Drums and percussion and yells. Produced by Talamasca and Ken Sorensen. The Tunes: 1. Absent [6:46] 2. He's Approaching [2:49] 3. Reality Plague [5:44] 4. Spy [7:05] 5. Sharks [4:08] 6. Serious Magic [4:05] 7. Polarity [4:29] 8. Safe Places [11:46] Gregory M. Amov (GMA) -- If it ain't MIDI, it must be actual live musicians, who'da thunk it? sdavmor@systemstheory.net http://systemstheory.net
Editor's Note: I want to thank Greg for "bridging the gap" and helping his "partner-in-crime" Steven Davies-Morris make this review a reality. Good job!

Truth In Advertisement Balance Virtue Music, vmcd 9601, 1996. Virtue Music 1407-A NW 70th Street Seattle, WA 98117 USA E-mail: markman@blarg.net Truth In Advertisement is the brainchild of Mark Reynolds, ex-drummer for Seattle's defunct proggers Astoria. Balance is a much jazzier, darker and more interesting work than I was expecting. While it is billed as a band project, there are no credits for the band members, so I suspect the band to be Reynolds, ably assisted by a stellar group of guest musicians, most notably . . . . . . . . Rae Borough Rae Borough, former guitarist for Astoria and Talamasca (who released The Rights Of Passage on Mellow Records a few years back). The way the album began, I was expecting it to sound like Swing Out Sister. Instead it jumped right into a track that might have been on Rick Wright's Wet Dream solo album ("The Third Way"). From there the songs move through a Peter Murphy meets Brian Ferry excursion ("Near Death") dealing with an old man's impending exit, that could have fit well on "Roxy Music" or "For Your Pleasure", except for its languid jazz piano, synth and guitar leads. By track three my interest was really piqued. When Rae Borough chimed in on electric sitar, over synthesized bells and a bubbling bass line, I knew that Reynolds and company were really onto something in their pursuit of a fusion of prog, jazz and ethnic world music. "Father's House" is driven on to its climax by fluid electric guitar and subtle horns underpinned by bass work that would have done justice to mid-seventies Camel. From there I was swept away by the albums concept: the idea that life is meant to be lived in pursuit of ideals. The songs suggest hope and a positive spirit even when they appear to focus on dark subjects. Although digital keyboards and synthesized percussion effects are found all over the album, this is a recording that feels at its core like it could have been made during the seventies; perhaps the guitar tones and the drumming have something to do with that. Not all is great though. The weakest link is the thin male vocals, which are by Reynolds. All to often he flattens his notes in a manner that detracts from the message, though it can be effective at times, as on "The Third Way". Still, by most prog standards his voice is quite good, and any quibbles I may have are more than made up for by the strength of the arrangements and the ensemble work during the extended instrumental sections in every piece. Instrumentally the only thing I can honestly say didn't work was Borough's electric solo on "By Nightfall". This track feels very loose, even perhaps mostly improvised. Unlike the molten sax solo and the jazzy bass solo that follow, her solo suggests a drunken Fripp warming up for "A Sailor's Tale". It doesn't work for me, and is a let down compared to her excellent work throughout the rest of the album, including her parts later in the same piece. All things considered Balance is a very satisfying album built around a loose concept. Excellent musicianship coupled with very uncluttered and well-structured arrangements (except perhaps for the title track which seems a bit abrupt in its transitions) make this one of the most delightful finds in some time. I'd love to hear another record by this project of Mark Reynolds. Who might like this? Fans of dark ambient, cool and moody yet loud jazz, and trippy early Floyd space excursions will find much to enjoy. Who might dislike this? Anyone who doesn't have a taste for dark ultra-cool avant-jazz experiments. Anyone who hates the idea of world and ethnic music fused to any other genre. The best songs: "Near Death", "Father's House", "Mechanical Mind Suite", "The Thrill Is In The Searching", "Ponderances On Things Above". The track that best represents the band's style: "Ponderances On Things Above". Star rating: 3 1/2 out of 5. A very solid and imaginative effort. It goes straight into the heavy rotation pile. ~Steven Davies-Morris Personnel: Mark Reynolds -- vocals, drums, percussion, synthesizers, keyboards Rae Borough -- guitars (2-6 and 9), electric sitar (3) Brian Heaney -- guitars (1, 8) Michael Monhart -- tenor saxophone (1, 8) Gina Scollard -- voice (9, 10) C. L. Jenrow -- "diddits" (1) Produced by Mark Reyolds. Engineered by Brad Purkey, assisted by Bob Shook. Songs: 01. The Third Way [3:40] 02. Near Death [6:34] 03. Father's House (instrumental) [5:13] 04. Behold [5:07] 05. Ergonomics Of Virtue (instrumental) [4:48] 06. Mechanical Mind Suite (a) force of habit (b) metatonia (c) clarity obtained (instrumental) [6:23] 07. By Nightfall (instrumental) [7:44] 08. The Thrill Is In The Searching [6:14] 09. Balance [6:50] 10. Ponderances On Things Above [5:34]

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