Thursday, January 23, 2003


Album: 'Emergent'
Artists: Gordian Knot
CD: January 2003
Catalogue: Sensory SR3016 (Laser's Edge)
No of discs: 1

Inevitably it is the presence of Bill Bruford (dr) and Steve Hackett (gtr) that will attract most immediate attention in the market place for the new Gordian Knot album, 'Emergent'. But however more-than-purely-utilitarian their role in this project is, its fundament and wisdom is clearly Sean Malone. His bass, Chapman Stick, guitar, keys, Ebow, and loops provide the sinuous, evolutionary soundscape upon which the rest of the instrumental texture is laid.

The opening 'Arisis' and the extended (live) 'Grace', featuring some dexterous wizardry on Echoplex, narrate one element of the Knot story. The ferocious metallic rhythms and buzz guitar interludes in 'Muttersprache' and 'A Shaman's Whisper' provide its visceral counterpoint. At times these tracks threaten to veer off into the breakneck metallic riffing of a Liquid Tension Experiment, but there is something darker, more refined and much more harmonically malleable about Gordian Knot. Besides, Bruford's slit drum is there to maintain a sense of proportion when it is needed, and on 'Fischer's Gambit' Jim Matheos cleanses the aural palette with some delicate nylon and steel-string guitar passages.

'Grace' is most definitely the cornerstone: a lengthy, moodily beautiful slice of bass and electronica. After this high point the tenor changes. The achievement of what Woody Allen might call 'total heaviosity' on 'Some Brighter Thing' (which contains a number of points of mitigation, as its title suggests) and a delightfully skittish but not-at-all-frivolous Bruford/Malone duet on 'The Brook, The Ocean' follow on. Herein is a playfully ironic reference to Chris Squire's bass solo on Yes's 'Heart Of The Sunrise' (followed by a mesmerising flood of touch-bass) and various simulacra of the Bruford band circa 'One Of A Kind'.

The closing track, 'Singing Deep Mountain' is the most lyrical on the album. It seems to bring together the harmonic, rhythmic and textural riches that have preceded it, before floating off on the ether of Malone's stick and Ebow. The album is only 49 minutes long, but it is carefully wrought and paces itself well. A definite plus for quality over quantity. Jason Gobel matches Hackett for inventiveness on guitar, Sean Reinert lends V-drums to three tracks, and there are brief additional contributions from Paul Masvidal (guitar on 'A Shaman's Whisper') and Sonia Lynn (scat vocal on 'Singing Deep Mountain').

'Emergent' is pleasingly hard to pigeonhole. Its roots are clearly in instrumental fusion, but with nods to post-rock, electronica and other more global sounds. There is the spirit of jazz afoot – presumably Bruford’s reason for doing the sessions - and mini-homages to Jaco Pastorious aplenty. At times we may even be in the presence of a prog-metal that could dare to speak its name. The painstaking detailing of the solos inside the attractive sleeve art (Jim Batcho deserves a mention for capturing the essence of the project visually) may border on self-parody; but the musical dexterity of this Gordian Knot outing more than justifies the three years it apparently took to emerge. Thanks to Henry Potts for letting me hear it. I shall also seek out the eponymous first album (with John Myung, Reinert, and Trey Gunn of King Crimson fame) and Malone's 'Cortlandt' (featuring Reinert, Gunn and Reeves Gabrels) also on Laser.

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