Tuesday, January 5, 2010

CD of the Day - "Moraine: Manifest Density"

CD of the Day
Moraine: "Manifest Density" (MoonJune) 2009

Rating: **** (4 stars)
To order: http://www.moonjune.com/MJR028.htm
$12 US/Canada (FREE shipping)
$14 Elsewhere (FREE shipping)
(4 panels digipack cover)

1. Save The Yuppie Breedeing Grounds 4:12
2. Ephebus Amoebus 4:55
3. Nacho Sunset 4:29
4. $9 Pay-Per-View Lifetime TV Movie 5:51
5. Manifest Density 3:55
6. Uncle Tang's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 4:01
7. Disillusioned Avatar 5:15
8. Kuru 5:02
9. Revenge Grandmother 5:11
10. Staggerin' 4:41
11. Middlebräu 6:46

DENNIS REA electric guitar; RUTH DAVIDSON cello; ALICIA ALLEN violin; KEVIN MILLARD bass guitar, baliset; JAY JASKOT drums.

Recorded in Seattle, WA, betwen August 12 and 14, 2008.
Produced by Dennis Rea.

Press Release:
You could describe the output of this towering electric string quartet-plus-drums as “heavy chamber music.” With its several writers and full complement of ace instrumentalists, arrayed in striking combination, Moraine achieves a coherent sound while drawing on forms ranging from math-rock to fractured bebop to Chinese folk music to unleashed, plugged-in power jazz, and more.

You have to love a band that lists its influences as Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, Terje Rypdal, John Abercrombie, Oregon, Art Zoyd, Univers Zero, Dr. Nerve, traditional East Asian music, and hurdy-gurdy music. Particularly one that adds plenty of its own to that diverting mix. At the center of the sound are Dennis Rea’s stellar guitar inventions. The much-praised veteran has deployed fierce, elusive imagination to build on decades of engagement with countless musical styles of multiple regions of the globe. He creates a dynamic, lyrical, enigmatic blend of modern jazz, boundary-pushing rock, experimental music, and world musical traditions.

In other contexts – stay tuned for his next MoonJune Records’ release, "Views from Chicheng Precipice" – his output reflects the three years he spent in the two Chinas, where he was among the first wave of Western creative musicians to venture behind the tattered curtain of the devastating Cultural Revolution. (He is the author, in addition, of the fascinating Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China.)

On the band’s debut CD "Manifest Density," Rea enjoys ideal support from all quarters in what is truly a collaborative endeavor of composition and performance: Ruth Davidson’s cello and Alicia Allen’s violin slash and singe with uncanny unity of purpose and design. Bassist Kevin Millard and drummer Jay Jaskot boast drive and thrust ideally suited to the task. All that begins to explain why Moraine has been embraced by audiences ranging from jazz aficionados to metalheads. The band squalls, sears, soars, and lilts over a novel musical terrain.

Artist Profile

Moraine is an omnivorous Seattle-based instrumental quintet led by guitarist Dennis Rea, whose past collaborators include Jeff Greinke (LAND), K. Leimer (Savant), Earthstar, Stackpole, Hector Zazou, Han Bennink, Stuart Dempster, Chinese rock megastar Cui Jian, Klaus Schulze, Amy Denio, Wally Shoup, and Bill Horist, as well as members of King Crimson, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Ministry, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and many of the most important figures in contemporary Chinese music. The group began as a collaboration between Rea and cellist Ruth Davidson and eventually coalesced into the simpatico lineup heard on Manifest Density, featuring violinist Alicia Allen, drummer Jay Jaskot, and bassist/baliset player Kevin Millard. Moraine’s expansive original repertoire spans avant-rock, modern jazz, deconstructed Chinese traditional music, and the unclassifiable. In a typical Moraine performance, haunting melodies cohabit with crushing riffs, lush textures, propulsive swing, and explosive improvisation to create a galvanizing listening experience.

Dennis Rea's adventurous guitar playing blends modern jazz, creative rock, experimental music, and world musical traditions into an approach that is uniquely his own, embracing haunting lyricism, enigmatic textures, agile improvisation, and the raw dynamism of rock. He has performed on three continents at such venues as the WOMAD Festival, Beijing International Jazz Festival, Sichuan-China International TV Festival, Bumbershoot Arts Festival, Columbia Gorge Amphitheater, and Earshot Jazz Festival. Over the years Dennis has led or been a key contributor to numerous innovative groups, including Moraine, Land, Stackpole, Axolotl, Savant, Earthstar, Identity Crisis, Iron Kim Style, and Ting Bu Dong. He has performed or recorded with such prominent creative musicians as European free jazz legend Han Bennink, Chinese rock megastar Cui Jian, acclaimed French composer Hector Zazou, German electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze, trombone virtuoso Stuart Dempster, and jazz mainstay John Clayton, as well as members of King Crimson, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Ministry, and the Sun Ra Arkestra.

He has collaborated with many of the most important figures in contemporary Chinese music and was one of the first Western musicians to record an album for the state-owned China Record Company. His activities have included film, theater, radio, and modern dance, and he has appeared on more than two-dozen recordings to date. He was a finalist for Best Guitarist in the 2005 Seattle Weekly Music Awards, and won a Golden Ear Award for Best Northwest Outside Jazz Group in 2000 as leader of the improvising quartet Stackpole. He is also an accomplished author whose most recent work is the book Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan, a portrait of the emerging Chinese rock and jazz scenes and a chronicle of his musical adventures in the Far East.

Artist's website:


“…with its combination of rock energy, chamber classicism, and sophisticated jazz harmonies, Manifest DeNsity is simply good music—at times, great music—played by an unusually configured collective. Like a square peg and a round hole, Moraine defies reductionist categorization…” - John Kelman, All About Jazz

“…Dark timbres, dense harmonic aggregations, and exotic melodies abound … while the emphasis here is clearly on ensemble playing, Rea’s guitar work continually imbues the proceedings with splashes of color from his global grab bag of stylistic goodies—including liberal dashes of oriental intrigue.” - Barry Cleveland, Guitar Player

"[Moraine] morph the best of various musical worlds here, amid turbulent strings passages, thrusting rhythms, and jubilantly executed melody lines. The band conveys a myriad of emotive attributes via these resonating compositions. ... There’s a lot to sink your mind’s eye into here, but the ensemble equalizes the cerebral factors with hearty melodies and pumping jazz-rock grooves. ... A musical highlight for 2009, regardless of genre or rigid categorizations…" - Glenn Astarita, Jazz Reviews.com

"Even more than the inspired solos it is the exotic melodies and crafty arrangements that make this band special. … quirky, creative & filled with surprising twists and turns, well worth checking out no matter what you are into." — Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, NYC

"The instrumental Rock ensemble Moraine combines a dark palette with unique instrumentation and driving, sprawling architectonic musical structures. … It is one of those CDs that immediately gets your attention from the opening bars of the first cut. … They achieve a continuously compelling group sound that grabs you by the ears and does not let go. …Mr. Rea and company have achieved orbit status. ... This band could pan out to be the biggest Prog thing since Beefheart, Crimson, Gary Lucas and/or the Softs." - Gregory Applegate, Gapplegate Music

(4 stars) "Moraine ... provides instrumental music that is passionate and emotional but complex, challenging, and abstract. ... Moraine's appreciation of world music is definitely one of their strong points; during the course of this 54-minute CD, they incorporate elements of everything from Asian music to Middle Eastern/Arabic music to East European gypsy music - and those world music influences only add to Manifest Density's richness. ... adventurous listeners who have some patience will find that the more they listen to Manifest Density, the more this album reveals its excellence." - Alex Henderson, All Music Guide

"Moraine is really the kind of music that can save progressive music from clichés" - Michel Delville, The Wrong Object

"Incredible jazz chamber rock fusion ... Moraine will intrigue and energize the listener as they obliterate all boundaries. ... people looking for something new and different will enjoy this powerful and intelligent music." - Brad Walseth, JazzChicago.net

"...overall, this is an album destined to be declared an instant classic by listeners & reviewers worldwide! I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & declare it the pick of this year for 'most creative and inspiring musical experience!'" - Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation

“…a masterfully twisted quintet crushing five pounds of prog and symph-metal into a two-pound neoclassicalist bag. … There's not an ounce of ego or gloryhogging anywhere, just the sheer exuberance of playing in ensemble. … Any track here is a sure-fire attention getter.” - Mark S. Tucker, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

"Excellent, original, fresh, personal, experimental ... in short a fantastic disc and absolutely captivating from beginning to end. ... A brilliant CD absolutely recommended for lovers of progressive, Canterbury, experimental, and RIO. ... Highly recommended." - Gustavo Bolasini, El Retorno del Gigante (Argentina)

“The band stands alone as one of the few acts that can put forth a contemporary sound without including vocals; the strings and various ancillary elements pop up through Manifest Density to tell a narrative as rich as any heard this year. … listeners will eagerly be anticipating anything that Moraine may do in the future...” - James McQuiston, Neofutur

(4 stars) “Manifest Density is like a head-on collision between the Mahavishu Orchestra, Univers Zero, King Crimson, Present, and Dr. Nerve. ... Moraine is hard to classify yet impossible to ignore. …for those who are feeling brave and in the mood for some experimental sounds, this will be a ride worth taking over and over again." - Pete Pardo, Sea of Tranquility

“This would be the best fusion jazz record of 2009, except that it’s not quite fusion jazz. Then again, that’s what makes it the best fusion jazz record of 2009! ... Intelligently written, brilliantly executed, with gusto and just enough good sense. ... I can’t find another band to compare them to - and that’s huge. ... Oh, so rich. Bravo.” - Francois Couture, Monsieur Délire

“If you take time to capture the complex compositions, your efforts are rewarded with an absolutely unique sound and music that has, even after the umpteenth hearing, more and more refinement to offer ... One quickly realizes that, despite the fact that this is their debut album, these are no beginners. … Manifest Density is a great work. ... Absolutely recommended!” - Ingo Andruschkewitsch, Musik an Sich (Germany)

(4 stars) “music that seems modern in every way." - Don W. Seven, babysue.com

"…very satisfying on all sorts of artistic and musical levels. … ‘Uncle Tang’s Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ is a Rea composition that I’m sure the late great Frank Zappa would look down on with admiration and perhaps a little puzzlement at a mesmerizingly good band that pulls no punches!” - Acid Dragon (France)

“The band led by guitarist extraordinaire Dennis Rea is a powerhouse of individuals with advanced musical ability and compositional prowess but instead of cramming every nook and cranny with musical schizophrenia, they choose a different path. … There is enough amazing playing here to satisfy even the most ardent fan of titanic technique but with enough melody to give casual listeners something to get their ears around.“ - Rob Hudson, modmove.com

“Manifest Destiny is one of those CDs that captures your attention right from the start of the first section; here is something exciting, different, and innovative that is challenging and complex. Adventurous listeners who possess a little patience will find more and more in this release with every listen. ... Fantastic!” - JazzNet Denmark

“With Manifest Density, the instrumental debut release from Moraine, the band completely destroys the boundaries of several hugely differing genres to create something totally unique. … While lacking a vocalist, Moraine still manages to recreate a voice-like quality where vocals would be most expected. … A very noteworthy ability that Moraine possesses is the skill to relay feelings throughout their music. … Moraine succeeded in literally creating their own unique but refreshing genre of music.” - Sara Cooper, MuzikReviews.com

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