Zither player Core Redonnett and drummer Yuri Zbitnoff have teamed up in the instrumental band project Skysaw. Their self-titled debut album is very much in the progressive Jazz Rock vein, yet with a contemporary twist.
Whoever thought spaced-out Fusion and Experimental Rock were a bit old hat, might as well listen to Skysaw and probably find out it's not that bad after all. Surely, the days of Sun Ra and Captain Beefheart, then regarded as radical artists, have long passed, and their oeuvre has earned them a well-deserved place in music history. However, their legacy can be found in a whole lot of challenging contemporary music.
One of the bands that heavily rely on odd meters, weird arrangements, extensive solo parts, and instrumental artistry is Skysaw, a Boston project that combines the talents of string virtuoso Core Redonnett and drummer/percussionist Yuri Zbitnoff. Core is most famously part of the Boston branch of the Blue Man Group, whose musical part he enhances by playing guitar as well as a custom-built electric zither. Yuri on the other hand is involved in a couple of band projects with funny names like Caduceus or Mission Creep, and has already collaborated with Core in Progressive Rock band Xixxo.
Skysaw's cover artwork shows a certain fascination for the forces of nature, with a tornado sweeping a bleak deserted landscape, and a battery of lightnings flashing the sky. Indeed, the first track "The Garden of Forking Paths" hits the listener like a tornado at 200 miles per hour. Distorted guitar riffs and brisk rhythm parts forge a solid platform for Core's frantic solo work. A calmer middle part follows, before the energy level slowly rises again, only to give way to a gentle fade out towards the end.
"Infinite Dave" is an altogether far more laid-back tune, it even incorporates elements of Folk music and pretty melancholic melodies, obviously played on the electric zither, whereby the instrument almost sounds like wrecked bagpipes or a tortured violin. The distorted guitar and a synthesized bass line occasionally bring in some unrest and slowly build on the underlying arrangement.
Surprise is ahead when "Samurai" heads off with tribal drumming and a slightly dissonant zither melody, before a mighty bass line and drifting soundscapes create a hypnotizing mood with an almost Eastern flavour. The Rock guitar riff that kicks in later seems a bit odd, but once the song has finished, it suddenly all makes sense in the review, as the tune slowly comes back to its melodic core theme. Finally, "Misshapen Masses" progresses into a weird and dissonant piece and brings the album to an end.
With a playing time of almost 71 minutes for just four songs, it's pretty obvious that this is not instantly consumable music. The mostly improvised pieces slowly grow on the listener, as he shifts through a musical landscape beyond time and space. No doubt the songs are expertly crafted, but they feel a bit lengthy at times. Skysaw's music clearly benefits from the unusual timbre of Core's zither, which lends the tunes a fresh contemporary twist, as does the occasional appearance of electronic sounds. The guitar solos however become tiresome after a while.
Astonishingly, the Experimental Rock genre has withstood the test of time and the Punk revolution of the 1970ies. It's definitely not at the height of fashion today, especially so as most listeners' attention span is becoming shorter and shorter. So, at the end of the day, Skysaw have created a seductive and highbrow album for those indulging in endless improvisations and sophisticated rhythms, yet it's certainly not to everybody's taste, so prelistening is essential.
The forces of nature that be