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Friday, January 22, 2010

Adrian Belew: E


1) A; 2) A2; 3) A3; 4) B; 5) B2; 6) B3; 7) C; 8) D; 9) D2; 10) E; 11) E2.

The contents of the first official studio release by the Adrian Belew Power Trio — Adrian & The Slicks — are easily guessed by anyone who has combined an acquaintance with the general Crim­sonian attitude with a quick glance at the «songs»' titles, or at the modern geometrical design of the album cover.

Namely, it is a rigid exercise in math-rock: complex, angular riffs played over complex, angular bass runs, leaning on complex, angular drum patterns. Technically, this is a very impressive show, particularly for the Slicks, who have it far more rough and demanding here than they had on the live album, where, after all, the emphasis was on Adrian's more accessible side. Of course, as official «disciples» of a new generation, they lack the freshness and inventiveness of such former rhythm section giants as Bruford and Levin, but it seems they do not only match the dexterity, but also understand the spirit. Basically, Adrian puts them to the test, and they pass it with flying colors — delight!

On the other hand, it is hard to get rid of the feeling that this is exactly what it is: a test for Be­lew's fresh rhythm section. The music itself has been radiating weirdness for so long — thirty years now — that the novelty has worn off; and how could it not have been, when most of these riffs and themes keep reminding me of Adrian's previous exploits? Making matters worse, E is frustratingly non-diverse (in fact, it helps if you just think about it as one continuous suite rather than a set of different compositions — which, to be honest, is more or less the way Belew adver­tised it): most of the parts are centered around looping arpeggios and meticulous scale runs, with my best impression of it summarized as «continuously climbing the many sides of a rotating polygon» — with no end in sight.

In E's defense, I will say that it could have made a great soundtrack to some pretentious art-house movie (preferably, with a crazy, but visionary mathematical genius as the protagonist, and The Pink Panther as an indirect influence); also, I will say that it is far more listenable than some of King Crimson's exercises in terraforming dissonance. But there is also something very sad and dis­ap­pointing about the whole concept of «predictable weirdness». In the end, I can only recom­mend it for Belew diehards — or for old fogeys who think of the newer generations as a well-trained, strictly disciplined army of lazy good-for-nothings. In the latter respect, E is pleasantly instructive.

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