Friday, February 22, 2013

add 0071

If you're curious about the career of legendary British prog rockers Van der Graaf Generator and are looking for a gateway album to enter the band's rarified realm, don't pick this one. As the title archly implies, Alt has little in common with anything else in Van der Graaf's extensive discography. For one thing, it's the only all-instrumental album in the catalog of a band famous for frontman Peter Hammill's voice and lyrics, and even the instrumental sections of previous Van der Graaf albums are distant kin at best. If, however, you are a hardcore fan who wants to follow the band's mercurial muse into uncharted territory, then you occupy the micro-niche of open-minded VDGG enthusiasts for whom Alt was intended. After re-forming in 2005, Van der Graaf turned out three albums that seemed to be the next natural step from where they'd left off in the ‘70s, but following those with Alt is clearly a warning not to take the group's direction for granted. While Van der Graaf's compositional métier has always been a particularly intense band of prog, tightly structured and full of complex, carefully executed twists and turns, Alt is a much less linear affair. Apparently, most of the pieces came out of group improv sessions that were artfully tweaked afterwards. The inside photo of all three bandmembers bent purposefully over a computer suggests what the latter half of the process was like. Alt is filled with abstract sound paintings -- shadowy, evanescent affairs where keyboards and percussion slither in and out of the foreground like scurrilous rumors. If you took the hazy reflection of the dark moods mined in many Van der Graaf songs and manipulated that image into an entirely new context, you'd have something like the tracks on Alt, snapshots of a band that obviously abhors standing still.

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