Spoke of Shadows: Spoke of Shadows
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear a Warr guitar is Gordian Knot, the release of Cynic bassist Sean Malone, featuring Trey Gunn (King Crimson) on said guitar. Trey is on the short list of well-known Warr players, however, I recommend we add Mark Cook (Herd of Instinct) to this list. He and Bill Bachman have collaborated as Spoke of Shadows and released a self-titled CD that reminds me of those brilliant Gordian Knot releases.
The music on Spoke of Shadows is instrumental with drums and Warr guitar on almost every track. Mr. Cook also performs bass, guitar, keyboards, and mellotron on the CD. All songs but track one are augmented by other musicians; one of my favorite guests is Bob Fisher (Herd of Instinct) on flute who appears on six of the twelve tracks.
The Warr guitar and the way Mr. Cook plays it adds so many different textures to the music and track one "Dominion" is a great way to open the CD. The song opens with almost eerie, sustained notes that almost sound like a distorted violin. The bass and drums kick in and another layer of Warr appears with a melody. The next flavor is a tapping-style that sounds like Chapman Stick, and to be honest, I can't be sure whether this is two tracks of one guitar or one guitar playing two different parts simultaneously, panned to each ear/speaker. Combine this with the upper register bass-line and we have something that makes your mind's eye bob left and right wondering which instrumental line to follow. Bring back the sustained, distorted tone and (again) add a delay pedal or a second track and the notes whip about like houseflies around a light bulb. The last 50 seconds is all you need to know about Bill Bachman's drum skills: jazz-rock-fusion that holds down a beat and adds many fills but is restrained enough to stay tasteful.
"Images" has a slower tempo but so many excellent attributes: the slick fretless bass, that harmonized guitar part (which screams Gordian Knot), and the flute solo. The only issue is that the track is too short!
Mellotron introduces track three and fretless bass appears with piano accompaniment. At the half-waypoint the Warr guitar comes in with ascending melodies and just when the song becomes nicely jazzy, it ends.
Energy is infused with the speedy "Harbinger" which sounds like Primus doing live-techno. At the two-thirds mark the tempo is slowed down and a flute solo is added; this section acts like a Segway into the next track "Lost One."
The production is crisp, especially when following the drum kit; one can hear the rim shot just as well as a crash cymbal; flute can be heard as well as the bass notes on the Warr.
"Pain Map," like many tracks on the CD, begin in one place and end in another. At the two-thirds point an orchestra section comes in over droning bass notes and takes us to "Persona," another song featuring flute.
"Tilting at Windmills" features double-bass prog-metal rhythms that trade with serene flute sections. Bill Bachman's skills on the drum kit thoroughly shine on this track.
Part of the brilliance of this CD is I don't know whether that's one person playing two parts on the Warr guitar or multiple overdubs but that's not important: 1) how the notes are separated between the ears and 2) the tones used and 3) the syncopation between the guitar an drums – these are factors that keep the mind engaged with the music.
If a fan of instrumental progressive rock you are, then Spoke of Shadows is highly recommended, especially if you are longing for the return of Gordian Knot.
1. Dominion 5:16
2. Images 3:10
3. One Day 2:20
4. Harbinger 3:37
5. Lost One 3:25
6. Pain Map 7:25
7. Persona 3:17
8. Splendid Sisters 3:17
9. Tilting at Windmills 6:11
10. Accord 2:32
11. Dichotomy 3:33
12. Drama of Display 3:58
Added: April 15th 2014
Reviewer: Ryan Good
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
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