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House Of Not: The Walkabout Of A Nexter Niode - Part 1 - Off The Path

Off The Path is a fitting name for this CD. No, it doesn't stray very far from the well beaten path of progressive or rock music, but it never quite follows the rules either and the result is a refreshing fun record that you will probably want to play again and again.

Understanding the artists' objectives with this record significantly enhances its listening pleasure, so for the history and geography of House Of Not, this is paraphrased from the band's very impressive press-kit:

The Walkabout is a serial rock odyssey chronicling the journey of wayfaring rock 'n roller, Nexter Niode, through psyche and soul. This series will be a 5-part epic journey into the world of rock 'n roll an initiation into a strange, sensual and radical world of the free spirit. Join Nexter as he wanders further and further from 'Mainstream' into another world an uninhibited universe of music, myth and mirage.

Described as a rock 'n roll orgy of thought, passion and rebellion, the tale is recounted first hand in rock-narrative, through eighteen-year-old Nexter's own music and poetry. Meet Sad Silk, the guru Ol' Phat Fok, Friederich-the-fingerpainter of Freak Street, and visit far away 'Sanctuary' as Nexter wanders from East to West, from Faust to Zen, from padded room to precipice, from innocence to experience.

Or put in simpler terms, this record is part 1 of a 5-part series that tells the story of a kid's somewhat psychedelic journey. Part 2 called Sexus will be released around mid-2005, and will describe how Nexter continues to 'chase the dragon'. Obsession, power, bondage and a world of sensuality await him on the next phase of his trip.

Brian Erikson, described as a 'seeker, poet and recluse', came up with the concept while on retreat in the Himalayas in 2000. He returned to his native Canada, joined up with Lou Roppoli, and the two of them put the project together. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the third person in the band - credited with words and music - is Nexter Niode. The two-man project is deeply enriched by the contributions of 13 guest artists.

For a debut, this is a remarkable body of work. The style of the music ranges from progressive rock through Lou Reed's velvet underground sound to barroom honky tonk. The influences are blues, classic rock, and jazz, and the vocals recall Roger Waters while the excellent but understated guitar work scream David Gilmour. The most prominent instrument is the guitar, electric and acoustic, with piano running a distant second. But there are also bass and drums, as well as mandolin, backing vocalists, layers of elegant keyboards and synthesizers, and for a few moments there's even a didgeridoo. There are heavy sections in which numerous instruments build a glorious wall of sound with wonderful solos from the enormously talented Roppoli, but most songs are characterized by Erikson's rather soft, mid-ranged vocals usually played through just a bit of reverb and held comfortably back in the mix.

"Blood From A Stone" is a 9-minute standout track. It has a very Floydian timbre throughout, and it's easy to lose yourself in the long instrumental sections. "Mainstream comes close to a power ballad, with a strong instrumental passage featuring - as many other songs do - a strong guitar solo. "Ol' Phat Fok" is driven by a saloon-piano and has a lighthearted air and comical lyrics - very much a love-it-or-hate-it affair. "High In The Himalayas" is a wonderful 2-minute acoustic guitar and ambient-keyboards piece that ought to have been longer. Each song is extremely melodic with lyrics that tend toward the esoteric, the musicianship is very strong, and the production quality is outstanding - and the packaging is nicely put together with readable lyrics and background information.

So while Off The Path certainly deviates from the path well trodden, yet it gets you to the same place. It is not new yet it is unusual - and it is a real breath of fresh air.

Highly recommended.

Track listing
1. Force of Nature (4:05)
2. Mainstream (5:23)
3. Footnotes (2:51)
4. Off the Path (2:23)
5. Taj Mahal Daydream (1:38)
6. Sad Silk (2:06)
7. A Mile in Those Shoes (2:00)
8. Sacred Cow (0:43)
9. Ol' Phat Fok (4:25)
10. FreakStreet (4:35)
11. Stranger (6:03)
12. High in the Himalayas (1:50)
13. Blood from a Stone (8:46)
14. Sanctuary (3:40)

Added: February 16th 2005
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: House Of Not's Awesome Multimedia Web Site
Hits: 4218
Language: english

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