Music Reviews

Artist: Greg Fox
Title: The Gradual Progression
Format: CD & Vinyl
The press release for “The Gradual Progression” makes some spectacular claims that the music can “activate spiritual states through physical means” as we hear percussionist Greg Fox “externalizing his polyrhythmic virtuosity into non-physical realms”.

Prosaically, what it is in practice is a 32-minute mini-album of heavyweight, percussion-driven bit of avantgarde post-jazz, where the drumming is the centerpiece, with guest appearances from instrumentation ranging from synth vibes, improvised-style vocal ahhhh sounds, warm saxophones and bass plucks.

After the opening title track seems to put us in relatively familiar-sounding jazz territory, second track “Earth Center Processing Stream” brings with it slightly more prominent electronica elements that wouldn’t sound out of place on Warp or Planet Mu. “By Virtue Of Emptiness” with its long drawn-out sax notes is among the more melancholy moments.

“Catching An L” is an anachronism, a shorter and much steadier piece built around a funky, 70’s flavoured bass groove with some energetic twinkling production touches that really work. It’s bookended by some unusual and quirky soundscaping that could perhaps have been explored more extensively.

After the manic and slightly playful “My House Of Equalizing Predecessors” ends with what feels like an album wrap-up, final track “OPB” feels a little unnecessary, as though it feels obligated to push the run time above 30 minutes to qualify as an album.

The album also uses a couple of unusual software approaches- Sensory Percussion by Tlacael Esparza, and unnamed software that translates output signals from biological sources into virtual instruments (though it’s unclear from the flowery press release whether the latter was only used on Fox’s previous album and not on this one). It’s difficult to ascribe any of the sounds you hear to being direct results of these unusual generative approaches, but as with a lot of freeform jazz, there’s an organically loose rhythmical feeling underpinning it which may, in this case, have been at least in part generated directly from the body to the instrument, bypassing the brain.

It can’t live up to the pretensions of the accompanying press release- it’s doubtful any piece of audio ever could- but as a tightly-formed and unusual piece of post-jazz that drummers favouring complex patterns could pore over for many hours, it certainly has its merits.

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