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EST 3 Record Reviews

Pre-order now! It includes a 17 minute bonus track “Behind the Jokes” . NETFLIX SPECIAL "JUST KEEP LIVIN'?" PREMIERES JAN 3, December They may be the object of a Collection Sidequest which earns you a Bonus Stage or the Infinity +1 Sword, or they may only be there to make % Completion. The title track, especially, takes the sound of techno into a totally unique direction, . What results is a sort of cross-bred "chamber world music", combining . copy, minus the sexual excitement, leaving the track in a vacant state. . Swell available from The Drum Fondu, Provooststraat 35, B Brussels, Belgium] BD.

Sound sources are limited to human voice, electronic drums, and African woodblock percussion, although at times it's hard to believe no synthesis or sampling is involved. The whole CD is one long composition, opening with ambient sounds and vocal drones, becoming gradually more forceful.

Percussion is introduced and propels things onwards to a potent conclusion.

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It creates a very magickal aura and should appeal to a lot of people. Well, it didn't do that for me, but maybe that just says something about my mind. More rhythmic, ritualistic post-industrial stuff.

The cyclic rhythms are regular but slightly elusive, and all the other sound material layered on top is very atmospheric and inviting. It's very carefully put together, as is the sleeve, up to 3rio Art's usual high standard. Side two is silent, so particularly helpful for allowing your subconscious images to flow without any distraction.

The synths are off-key, the voices out of tune, the sound weak and thin, the vocals remind me occasionally of Genesis P. It smells of chlorine. It certainly rejects convention, but it equally certainly doesn't subvert it.

There are a few moments where all this produces something fascinatingly depressive, but sadly they're in the minority. They're using cliched rhythms and trademarks from commercial music! Such rhythms might seem cliched to those who use them, but FLA haven't to date employed such techniques, which goes to show how original their past works have been. Hence the well-worked dance beats of Anguish and Dead Ladder are a welcome alternative to the electro-thrash.

Requiem Dub takes a Renegade Soundwave bassline and combines it with Delerium's gothic chants given a new age tinge. Meanwhile, Intermix haven't forgotten their roots. Clubland friendly and sampler-heavy Intermix should hopefully signal the crossover that's been threatening for some time. This album constantly evokes images of France or Germany, grand and romantic landscapes.

It's too lofty for cynical British tastes, I suppose. From the opening Blue Religion where exhilarating drums drag the epic synths and woodwinds bodily forwards, through several tracks full of expressive French vocals from Dolores Marguerite, to the hushed ambience of Sinistral, the vision is kept up throughout. If it does have one fault, it's all a bit too artificial, too synthetic at times. It took me a few listens to appreciate the music behind the gloss.

The most synthetic track, Syntonic, matching stringy washes of sound to electronic sequencers, is also one of the most surprising, with a huge blast of sound heralding its finale. If you really loathe romantic, soundtrack-style music, you'll never get on well with an album like this, but there's perhaps enough majestic emotion here to win over even the more cynical listener. Part of what looks like a newfound enthusiasm for dance in the label, The Satyr is three tracks of intricately sequenced electronic pulsation, midway between techno dance and Fstyle hardbeat.

Maybe a more energetic version of ClockDVA? Not a classic, but still extremely competent and enjoyable stuff. This is due to the eccentricity of the sounds contained within. For those familiar with Ka-Spel's vocalisations, there's more of the same here.

However the adult ballads and nursery rhymes are this time coupled with a dark, malignant backdrop which should appeal to many "industrialists". Ka-Spel's voice is at the fore in the majority of these pieces, narrating like some anonymous deity from the Land of Oz.

At once reed-thin, dry, then a processed monster, Ka-Spel's trademark is his strange lyrical content. Given the environment on this particular release, Ka-Spel's visions come squirming into reality. But it's hardly "new age", thankfully. It varies from the peculiar abstractions of Dreamstate to the murky ambience of And The Clouds Held Back Their Tears, using electronic sounds of fairly individual character.

Generally, it's a vibrant and colourful music, mixing solid but bizarre sounds with rumbling drones, tinkling chimes and sonorous rhythms. At times, it feels slightly artificial, but mostly it's sufficiently unique to differentiate it from all the other synth artists out there. As a result, electronic music fans should check Keeler out. Nosecandy is extreme electro-thrash, but unlike Frontline Assembly, Larsen does not manage to convince the listener of his anger.

Mohawk is a statement supporting the plight of the true natives of America. The track is a plodding tribute to the Indian - plodding in the sense of slow rhythmic tribal drumming. The final track Black Gold is a competent Ministryesque electronic aural assault. You could do worse It's a disembowelled techno, a music without flesh, a stainless steel skeleton of electronics around an empty dub core.

It's not very danceable, and retains an alien feeling that ensures its originality. Decade Null opens things with dramatic percussion and the sounds of preparation for war. It's an intense, ominous beginning, perhaps one of the best things Laibach have ever done.

There are hints throughout that Laibach have turned their gaze on the economic upheavals in Eastern Europe, or on the psychological upheavals common to all the individuals going through this unpredictable period of history, but there's no real message here: My first reaction to it was disappointment: Musically, however, it's Laibach's greatest victory so far.

Off-the-wall drum machines, synthesised noise-squiggles, effects, weird vocal narration. It feels arbitrary enough to put me off, but for anyone who fancies a blend somewhere between The Residents and the Cabs, this is that, or at least as close as it gets. Oddly enough, there's an avant-jazz feel to it, despite all the space sounds and electronics, and its spartan nature also reminds me of musique concrete at times, like on My Dinner With the Amperes. The title track occupies 21 minutes and one side of this record, and it's well loopy.

Circling, cycling, turning, rotating, twisting, wheeling, swirling fragments of taped acoustic sound sources. Some recognisable, such as occasional voices, most not. The technique is very simple but the result surprisingly persuasive. The repetitive textures prove quite mesmeric, but they're certainly not bland or easy listening. I'll admit to a bias in favour of this kind of music a point of reference is Bruce Gilbert but it's a very enjoyable record.

BoxNewtown, N. With its inept drum machine lines, rumbling bass and fluttering guitar figures, and ponderous, doom-threatening vocals, I would suggest that it is actually all evidence of a fascinating scientific discovery: Nice sample of Kate Bush laughing too.

Way too 'rock' for the E S T editor and his weird pals, but not at all unpleasant. Yeah, it's all here: Plus a few cut-ins of M. Even the odd hint of Blondie in there. I'd feel like I'd fallen through a time-warp if I didn't know so many people are still exactly like this Anyway, if you're a spacerock fan, this is definitely enjoyable stuff.

If you hate Hawkwind, you'll loathe this. If you're somewhere in between, tune in, toke up, try it There Is Only Light buries the sluggish lyric under waves of corrugated guitar noise, while Remain is a torpid mixture of unearthly e-guitar frequencies, pale and murmuring.

Feed the Collapse is controlled vibrating and buzzing and Sever's atmospherics have more in common with the likes of Asmus Tietchens and Nurse With Wound than with the indie scene. A marvel, and soon to be coupled with the 12" Hydra as a CD album, Hydracalm. Look out for it. Instead, the four tracks on this album examine guitarnoise as texture: Thus you get the wailing wall-of-noise harmonies, quiet echoes of electrical storms, and taut, abrasive rhythms.

It's a lot more restrained than I'm told earlier Massaker releases were. The raw, paranoid taste of the electric guitars is carefully controlled - you can hear for yourself what they'd be like if they really let loose, so they simply don't need to. The only real faults are occasional throwbacks to conventional rock, especially some of the drumming, but don't let that put you off. Only Sir Freddie Viadukt could give percussion such a blighted personality.

KK have certainly signed up a character, much of which transpires via Sir Freddie's demonic, childlike enthusiasm for the clogged, dogged groove.

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Voodoo Soul's drum patterns are the blood that gushes within the mind of the deranged Would you like to see some puppies little girl? The thrill of the forbidden. MR Steve Moore The Threshold of Liberty Inner Ear MC These recordings from the early eighties are experiments in musical surrealism, the juxtaposition of seemingly incompatible musical and noise elements to produce something altogether unexpected.

There are recordings of classical music, monks chanting, highly processed vocals, environmental sounds, and what appear to be electronic sounds mixed together in here. The elements are carefully woven in: It's an entrancing, imaginative tape, evidence of considerable talent, and really quite indispensable if you're interested in experimental music. The superb cover art and title suggest doom-laden atmospheric vibes.

Much thought has obviously been invested in this product. Quietus makes me want to weep through suppressed joy - it's that effective. Malaria is a tribute to the dark minds inhabiting this world. Firewalker does what it says. The emotion conveyed by Nagamatzu surprised me, and is what makes Igniting the Corpse such a memorable experience, and consequently such a definite purchase. Lift Off is up-tempo voxless synth-pop, as is Schlaggefahr, but The Sunlight Home is a fairly unimaginative piece instrumental indie-rock.

Not the best introduction to the band, but perfectly OK in its own way. I won't say what it is. Nightmare Lodge have the perfect name to suit their sound: It's the sound of the restless dreamscape, the sleeper tossing and turning as strange and distinctly unfriendly presences invades her unconscious mind. In more down-to-earth terms, it's a dark, surreal, atmospheric noise-music intended to be the exact opposite of easy listening.

Black drones, swirling rhythms, fragmented voices and unholy growls. Buy this, but keep the lights turned on!

A combination of a bad pressing and lots of unfriendly scratches on the vinyl combined forces to spoil things however. So if it sounds interesting, ask Studio Urania to check your copy before sending it off! It takes their cyclic, repetitive, textural atmospheres and stretches them out, strips them down. There are five tracks on the CD which comes with a very nice eight-page art bookletwith the longest achieving 24 minutes of languid, hypnotic bliss.

The techniques aren't any great step on from those used on Stoneface or Invocation of the Beast Gods, with this album using similar looped sounds and echoed effects to build up its ambience, but the music has been much more carefully polished. Put this on and drift away. You probably won't want to come back again. It's not entirely unfair: His main role is to provide ambient Enoesque electronics behind the voices. They sing both traditional chants and their own compositions, and although the album is less pure than the Voix Bulgares releases, this is every bit as beautiful.

I can't review it: I'm not sure how it manages it - all the usual electric guitars and steady drumming are in there. Choppy, rhythmic guitar throb, squealing pig-guitar and no messin' about. But it grinds along with real purpose, lots of energy kept under restraint and all the more menacing as a result. The fact that Nox are coming at their music from a different background from "normal" rock groups is clear in the way that they avoid vocals and concentrate on creating an abrasive, vicious sound texture rather than producing "songs".

This is what gives them a refreshing edge, and I like it. Numb are one of the hardest bands on the scene nowadays, and Bliss is an immense percussive grind pumped along by Don Gordon's angered vocalisations. Endurance, In Absentia and Fundamentalist are all deep-throat, gore-laden, savagely successful works. The fourth track Stiff was previously only available on the Lively Art compilation Numb are the only successors to Skinny Puppy's position as terror merchants of hardbeat.

They have no equals now. Combining academic musique concrete with more conventional abstract electronic music, Cold matches drones and mechanical rhythms to carefully recorded, isolated metallic creakings and clankings. Colder Still drops the more insistent rhythms, and adds in a few voices, leaving the body behind to allow the mind alone to explore its cavernous, empty space.

If you're into abstract music this is a fine example, easily justifying the Nurse's rep, even though it lacks a lot of the spontaneous craziness of their earlier music. The eleven tracks consist mainly of hypnotic tape loop rhythms, coupled to various other fragments of cut-up found voices and odd sounds.

It's an old formula by now, but still effective when done well. Sometimes energetic and sometimes more ambient, Operation Mind Control's textures are clear and engaging reworkings of that early "industrial" sound. Fans of the genre shouldn't hesitate to pick this up. The first is a recording of a young boy from El Salvador, burying his father, killed by the National Guard, and the second is a second recording of Fred Frith's guitar playing.

Ostertag's political commitment is unquestionable, but it's difficult not to have some misgivings about his deconstruction of this young boy's grief. The recordings are chopped up and reassembled, layered and slightly processed.

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It's much better than most sound disassembly, precisely because of the very strong focus produced by the limited raw material. What results is never comfortable entertainment. Ostertag manages to find both great sadness, terrible anger and a pathetic beauty in the sound texture that results. It's frequently powerful and disconcerting listening, but occasionally it's just ineffective improvisation. The best moments come both from those that remain most faithful to source, and those that make it most unrecognisable.

The least original work has come from groups using synthesisers, which inevitably produce a rather bland and stereotypical rang of sounds. The mass marketing of standardised electronic instruments in recent years especially the ubiquitous DX7 has precipitated a tidal wave of mediocrity, facile self indulgence and inconsequential keyboard doodling. The works featured on these two releases instantly confirmed my worst expectations and reinforced my conviction that all instantaneous musical technologies are best consigned to oblivion or dismantled into electronic junk that can be recycled, musically or otherwise.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Several friends to whom I have played these releases have found them to be mildly acceptable as ambient noise. My own leanings are more towards the more anarchic end of the avant-garde musical spectrum. I find it very hard to shrug off the images and greenery of "Robin The Hooded Man" which arose while listening to these medieval, mythologically inspired compositions.

The actual music harp, lute, piano, guitar, zither does work extremely effectively, but Leithana's vocals are a little flat. The track titles might give you an indication of the OES sound: Assisted by Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus, this is a fine album with an original and emotional content.

As ever, Organum shows his interest in metallic timbres by apparently scraping, bashing, drilling and grinding lots of metal, and T. Amidst all the high-pitched shrieking and clattering, it's possible, just, to detect a quiet bass synth line, and the gaps between tracks provide brief respite from the din. It's even possible to differentiate the tracks a little: Part 3 is my favourite, with a backdrop of metallic reverberation. Noise addicts should seek this out without further delay: They sure kept us waiting for this one, but it was well worth hanging on for.

In the past, O Yuki Conjugate's music has tended to drift as much as it moved, but on this new release they've given in to the rhythm. These eight tracks all showcase delicious tribal drumming textures, over which the band add sympathetic keyboard textures and found noises. The closest artist I could compare this wonderful music to would be Jon Hassell, though without his straining trumpet gliding over the top.

Snake Charm weaves tabla rhythms with an ululating voice over a steadily rising keyboard backing. The tension is gentle but slyly insistent, insinuating itself into your subconscious long before you are truly aware of it. Personal favourite track A Darker Belief shimmers and shudders beneath a delightfully dippy tuned drum loop. Other tracks rumble or judder their way into the darkest corners of your mind, summoning forth hidden emotions as magically as any shaman.

Some would insist on labelling, cheapening Peyote with an 'ethnic music' tag, but its primal beauty, its deeply resonating magic, make it a music that deserves more than to be limited by any ghetto category.

I personally felt that Adrian Sherwood's influence on their previous releases, Freihurt fur die Sklaven and Gisela detracted from their unique sound, making them showpieces for Sherwood's obsession with heavy dub beats. Happily for me Sherwood has not been an influencing factor on this release. Although some of the tracks are a good few years old now they still sound as fresh as ever. Kunst und Wahnsin, Remember Me and She's Gotta Be Mine flaunt with commercial success, yet they still manage to retain that uncompromising attitude that typifies the electronic music scene.

This prize enabled Pankow to release Walpurgisnacht, an eighteen minute track, composed and performed for the Florence Dance Festival The CD was initially only available with the D'Ars magazine, but has now been released on 33rpm one-sided vinyl by Minus Habens with an etching on the blank side. Walpurgisnacht is typical of Pankow: The listener will experience numerous surprises throughout the different stages of the track which can be divided into three definite movements.

I bet Pankow's performance at the Florence Dance Festival was an event not to be missed - ballet dancers and hard beat rhythms, what a fascinating crossover! Pankow at their best and most unpredictable.

This timely box set includes a new recording, Domineer; his much-reviewed album, Asesino; and a retrospective compilation. The new material on the first record consists of nine tracks of spartan, mechanical sounds.

Like much of PBK's music, these take the raw noises and process them, loop them and montage them to produce an abstract music. It has as much interest in rhythm, atmosphere, texture and timbre as many other experimental musics, but the source material is the sort of thing most musicians spend their time trying to eliminate. A lot of the noises are sequenced in off-putting ways, or have associations that almost make you flinch eg scratched records.

But, as PBK amply demonstrates, noise is musically interesting in its own right, and it is possible to educate your listening so as to eliminate your normal associations. Asesino is vivid, militant industrial noise, modest and unadorned. Raucous, shredded noise to injure your ears. Paradoxically, I found it easier going than Domineer, as it seems slightly more rhythmically structured. It's certainly denser, texturally. The compilation is varied in quality, but contains a few of PBK's better pieces, including the previously unreleased Process Formation Remix, a restrained and highly rhythmic exploration of several mechanical atmospheres.

The box set as a whole is a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with PBK, or a nice collection for anyone who doesn't already have Asesino or completists who do Unfortunately, some other people take the sound of a faulty vacuum cleaner and make it sound just like a faulty vacuum cleaner.

MC The third in N. Vidna Obmana's side of the cassette acknowledges his usual primary influence, the ambient music of Brian Eno. It's the usual quiet selection of glacial timbres and tones, although here it builds up much more intensity than I've heard before.

PBK's contributions adopt a quieter style than normal, combining layered mechanical loopings with various obscure clatterings and even some astonishingly musical synthesiser lines. Very much a departure from his earlier music, and very effective. The whole thing comes in a bookshelf package including interviews with both musicians.

An excellent piece of work. Sounds were supplied and mixed together by all three artists. You wouldn't really expect the result to be sunlight and daisies, and of course it isn't: There's plenty of scraping, droning, clattering, oscillating, whirring and whooshing, but it's pointless trying to describe abstract music in terms of its components.

Of the three pieces, each is reasonably representative of one of the three artists involved. Three Hemispheres, which brings Merzbow's metal to the fore, is easily the most painful to listen to, while the others are more subtly disturbing.

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The music is put together with tremendous skill; it's terrifyingly atmospheric; and of course it's very highly recommended. It is a peculiar collection of songs, performed almost straight, but - just as you always know the Residents couldn't play anything properly if they tried - the music here is twisted and warped out of shape with every new combination of sounds and creators.

On Signal bubbling bass and percussion fights against jangling guitars and Phew's strident singing in a way that reminds me of mid-period Fall of all people. Dream sees Phew mournfully intoning over a mixture of romantic piano and short-wave radio chatter.

Phew is strangely appealing, exotic and different, and definitely very weird, though in exactly the opposite way you would perhaps think. It isn't really a great lost Can album, but it's certainly a wonderful rediscovered Phew album!

Shot through with malice, it's bludgeoning stamina is something you'll either admire or abhor. For me, it was neither ambitious enough or muscular enough to keep my interest: On the other hand, coming from a more conventional rock perspective this is a pretty creative album.

Five years ago they were a rather uninspiring industrial band who released an album, half of which consisted of an interview with themselves. I thought they were a little full of it then; with this dire sell-out, Tabula Rosa, my views are confirmed. It's a remix album of vapid rave tracks that just don't gel together. They seem to inhabit their own tiny self-indulgent world, ignored by pop fans and industrialists alike. Nought out of ten. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Psyclones are one of those bands whose product differs with each release.

This gathering of their chameleonic nature celebrates this diversity. All the hits are here! Brian Ladd and Julie Frith originally started life as a grunge rock cowabunga band judging by their earlier material: Their present state of being is anybody's guess. What makes them stand out from the ground is their electronic manipulation of voices. Elements of Foetus' maniacal-classical style, early Severed Heads, Husker Du, and even Zoviet France are all evident at different stages in their evolution.

Yes, Psyclones have "the gift of noise", may they bring it to you. A soundtrack waiting for a film or a throwback to 80s New Age? Well, this is the atmospheric face of Nagamatzu, drum machines turned off, and effects boosted up. Very competent, and quite relaxing soundtrack-styled music. Few obvious pointers except Brian Eno on Spiralbecause it's a little bit generic. It's also a bit too nice, I suppose, even bland if you're not in the mood to sink into it.

But well worth hearing if cynicism hasn't killed your taste buds yet. Sadly, Bloodline rarely ventures off into similar areas, but despite its commercial electro-pop nature its a pretty fine release. Standouts include Electro Blues for Bukka White, rippling electronic pulsations set off perfectly against Bukka's sampled voice; two tracks mixing soft techno backing with Toni Halliday's enigmatic and ethereal vocals; and Freeze, the least obvious track on the album, and the only one to continue in Recoil's previous style.

Faith Healer, with vocals by Nitzer Ebb's Douglas McCarthy is a bit tedious on the album, but the single is a different matter: Ultimately, it's only for those with a taste for the commercial, but oh, if only all pop could be this way!

Mostly, you'd be right. Roedelius is one of the more influential artists to come out of the early 70s German electronic music scene, but on releases like this you won't find anything at all adventurous. It's serene, contemplative, gentle and attractive music, but little more.

The best pieces are those that allow the stronger piano timbres to come through, or add keyboards to the mix: That's true of the album generally: It's not the fat, dense sort of noise, it's a thinner variety, the squeals and scrapings jerked out of silence.

It sounds like two or three lunatics let loose in a domestic appliance shop with a toolbox and a tape recorder, poking and scraping the various items for sale.

Some of the sounds are quite piercing: If you don't, keep well back. Kanguru is the soundtrack to a performance staged somewhere in Germany in late Consisting largely of hushed whispers, shouted rantings and the Neubauten-style regimented exclamations of the Sandow choir, set to an atmospheric background of mysterious found voice and textures, this release reminds me of the demonic chanting to be heard in the various Omen films.

Very enjoyable, if a little confusing - it's all in German. It's less enjoyable, not because its harsher but simply because it's not as well put together. There are plenty of memorable moments, including the powerhammer destruction of Say A Little Prayer; some of more polished music and a faked New York phone company ad.

Yes, whimsical sequenced electropop with a Scan accent. A typical single, really. Con, incidentally, was a co-founder of bands like Tangerine Dream and Cluster, although his own music has always been a lot less accessible.

Tolling Toggle presents 18 tracks of abstract electronic music, mixing analogue and digital synthesis, samples and acoustic sounds, creating slightly bizarre, spartan little worlds, where the conventional sound is shoved face-to-face with the musical outsider.

It's mostly too random for my taste, but it also produces some powerful and resonant moments. Weird noise fans should definitely look into it, but it has a lot to recommend it to open-minded listeners generally. Joots Group MC Perhaps too off-the-wall for some jazz-lovers, and possibly too jazzy for the rest of us? Scott Cadenasso writes and sings these ten songs, with instrumentation straightforward guitars, bass, percussion, sax, oboe and some doumbek too. Whatayaget is a relaxed blend of jazz with "world" music: Scott's querulous voice stops it from drifting too far into muso territory, but his songs are lightweight, flimsy affairs, and Whatayamean remains far too inconsequential for me to recommend at all.

Shock Corridor, now en route to Minus Habens, could, I suppose be pigeonholed neatly in some sort of grungy hardbeat genre, but that would be grossly unfair. In a stylistic field plagued by the derivative, unimaginative and just plain incompetent, Shock Corridor are a breath of foul air. Bass-heavy electronic sequences and pounding drum machines create a driving, aggressive sound. The vocals sort of Portion Control meet Skinny Puppy are rough and raucous, like every similar group.

All the tracks have plenty of individuality too. Where this 12" really scores is on its fourth and final track, T1: Well worth getting hold of for this alone.

They match a ClockDVAesque fascination with the neural and electronic networks, the sensuality of the body, and the ecstasy of magick, with a willingness to soil themselves. No restraint here, Sigillum S plunge head first into their inspirations and paint the results large with tones, drones and crashes.

It's a chaotic union of electronic and industrial musics, potent, passionate and rather grotesque. Overall, it's a very enjoyable blend of the tonal and atonal. SW are a recent signing to Belgium's KK Records, and judging by this release, will prove to be a valuable acquisition. Lead singer, Mr Carlzberg, is a dead-ringer for Nitzer Ebb's vocalist; the music is a hybrid combination of hip-hop percussion, newbeat plastic fx and razored guitars.

It took three sittings at very loud volume to appreciate the depth of these songs. Sickness Dance is an incredibly emotional piece, whereas Burn 'em Back Alive is probably too hardcore for most club DJs, yet eminently danceable nevertheless.

You have to get used to this, then you'll be hooked.

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On some of the tracks the vocals sound as determinedly non-musical as ever; the music is a peculiar blend of hardbeat with techno dance, lacking the all-out energy of either. Initially I was very disappointed with it: Nevertheless, despite ostensibly intending to focus more time on Bruford, that wouldn't last long; despite two stellar studio albums and the recent revealing archival find, Rock Goes to CollegeHoldsworth actually only played a short British tour with Bruford, the group, before moving on.

All this may seem like a long lead-up to Holdsworth's true emergence as a leader with I. First, while the open-ended box is nicely designed, with a rare cardboard piece separating the two groups of six albums to ensure a nice, snug fit, and with all twelve releases in generous rather than the so-often tight-fitting gatefold mini-LP sleeves, that generosity of room for the actual discs is such that they fall out far too easily.

An easy and relatively un-price-prohibitive solution would have been to place the CDs in paper or better yet, plastic-lined paper sleeves, as similar box sets by The BeatlesRolling Stones and David Bowie have employed. The high resolution editions are even more impressive: Music for a Non-Existent Movie. In between, there's a host of equally groundbreaking records: From his earliest days, the guitarist was drawn more to horn players and, in particular, Coltrane's "sheets of sound" that emerged most dominantly with the saxophonist's classic quartet of the early-to-mids.

There are those who prefer Holdsworth with a little more bite and punch in his legato tone. His leaps into stratospheric harmonics during his similarly compelling solo on Road Games' opening instrumental, "Three Sheets to the Wind," are similarly head-scratching. It's also no surprise that Holdsworth, in the EP liner, thanks two guitarists who, neither one a slouch, were so supportive to him during his early years after moving to Los Angeles: Eddie Van Halen, who helped secure a contract with Warner Bros.

Gary Husband, living in the UK, has continued to work extensively with Holdsworth as well over the years, both in the studio and in concert, including a stellar Gatineau, Canada show with another longstanding Holdsworth alum, bassist Jimmy Johnson.

In many ways, Road Games was a pivotal point in Holdsworth's career. Had it been released even five years earlier, it might have led to greater commercial success for Holdsworth In fact, were the following I. The opening title track is worth the price of entry alone, with its crunching, harmonized guitars, some of Paul Williams' best vocals on any Holdsworth record and another instantly memorable guitar solo that, again, beautifully blends an unmistakable melodic sensibility with unparalleled virtuosity and a clear sense of construction.

On the other hand, with the way the early '80s were shaping up, it's not hard to understand why, despite his stellar reputation as a guitarist's guitarist and harmonic conceptualist nonpareil, his star on the commercial front was beginning to fall, even as his artistic credibility continued to grow. With the momentum gained through his many associations in the '70s, had he begun his solo career just a few years earlier, it might have built even further upon that momentum and led to greater commercial acceptance to go along with the artistic success that has followed him throughout a career of uniformly superb albums.

Personal tastes may, indeed, vary; not everyone appreciates his wanting to expand his sonic palette with the introduction of his SynthAxe in and its heavy use on Atavachron, Sand and Secrets all featuring tracks that he has continued to play live well into the 21st century ; but Holdsworth was clearly searching for something, and technology was an unequivocal part of realizing the sounds he was hearing.

Others would love to see at least some return to the more biting tone of even mid-period albums like Wardenclyffe Tower, where Holdsworth seemed to have found a perfect balance between the more guitaristic tones he'd innovated earlier in his career with the expansive tonality of his SynthAxe and his desire to move towards a less attack-driven guitar tone.

His solo on that album's opening "5 to 10," for example, is the perfect confluence of these three qualities Elsewhere, his solo on the balladic "Sphere of Innocence" points more towards the complete elimination of attack heard on Hard Hat Area and the records that followed.

Still, there's an exhilarating level of energy and excitement, balanced with a profound attachment to melodies that are as unique as any of his more heavily gymnastic work. There's no denying that, following his work across these twelve albums, there's an evolution in both Holdsworth's sound world and the sophistication of his harmonic and instrumental concepts, even as he went, for the first time, for a more acoustic trio on Sixteen Men of Tain, which featured Dave Carpenter on double bass barring two tracks and drummer Gary Novak in a program that, more than any of his previous efforts focused exclusively on original material, fit firmly within the jazz sphere.

Not that Holdsworth ever relied on any of the standard jazz touchstones: And while he did some touring around that time with Carpenter and Novak, over the years his regular go-to-guys would be drummers Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman; bassist Jimmy Johnson and, occasionally later, Yellowjackets ' Jimmy Haslip; and keyboardists Alan Pasqua and Steve Hunt.