StarsDie.com Review — Gavin Harrison & Ø5Ric’s The Man Who Sold Himself
Listeners familiar with Gavin Harrison via Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, and various other acts recognize his style of rhythmic mastery on the drum kit every time. Even here, in his second venture with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ø5ric — titled, as if in an alternate view of a classic David Bowie number, The Man Who Sold Himself — Harrison’s unique approach to drumming is obvious, and in this context, it leads to equally unique sonic circumstances.
Opening with bizarre blasts of strange time signatures wherein Harrison’s drums are matched with churning basslines in a flurry reminiscent of Meshuggah, “Prize” begins the record dynamically when it soon drops into a quiet section with piano and vocals. We are introduced to Ø5ric in this blissful context, perhaps similar to No-Man from its melancholic nature and Ø5ric’s voice, which seems to combine the aforementioned Bowie with No-Man’s Tim Bowness. The result is an odd-in-an-interesting-way blend of Harrison’s bizarre, angular trickery and Ø5ric’s shimmering vibrato and multi-layered harmonies.
If there could be a complaint about the approach here, it’s simply that the utterly intriguing sense of avant-garde approaches to rhythm and tonal (dis)harmony seemingly occur at the expense of intuitive structure for the listener. Songs begin and end as if Harrison flips the on/off switch, with chorused guitars and keyboards interlocking the spacey bass tone in an ‘80s King Crimson-esque whirlwind in between the switch throes. Parts simply occur and trade off; while I personally don’t lament the lack of recognizable choruses in most of the songs, many will, and the record is similar in this way to the contemporary attitude toward classical and most forms of jazz: where familiar structure is ignored, one reverts to awe for the memory and ability of the players, but often cannot recall a single thing they played.
However, spending some quality time with this record in the right atmosphere has plenty of rewards. The production is splendidly clear, driven by Harrison’s well-defined and honed drum sound; as on their debut album, Circles, Harrison handles the mix with well-trained ears for instrument separation and space. Ø5ric’s vocals are rich and dense, his lyrics sometimes bizarre and cold; unique call-and-response from woodwinds and brass wave hello to the rhythmic turns and distant, gorgeous guitar melodies. “Body Temple” is perhaps the height of the pair’s emotion-driven structural play, with Ø5ric’s strong wail leading the quiet, KC-esque track into Kayo Dot avant garde power-rock territory; it stands out as the most successful experiment and most memorable affair in a fractured, awe-inspiring album.
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