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Glaswegians: Quaternary

Glaswegians is a solo instrumental music project by Michael Elder. Quaternaryis the follow up to 2017’s Severance. The album was largely recorded at Michael’s home in Vancouver during the pandemic (surprisingly not in Glasgow, Scotland…).

Michael Elder is some musician. His credits on Quaternary read like an encyclopedia of musical instruments (with almost 50 instruments cited). I’d imagine he has tertiary qualifications in music composition, because Glaswegians music doesn’t sound at all like the work of a naive composer. The arrangements are dense, complex and compelling. I dove headfirst into this album without any previous knowledge of Glaswegians and couldn’t help but be blown away by the scale of the release.

"Pavilion" (16:14) opens the album in head turning fashion. This piece is fantastic. It's brimming with lush melody that is both memorable and emotive. Any track over 15 minutes in length needs to contain plenty of musical ideas to keep it interesting, however this piece seems to pack more ideas into its run time than most. "Pavilion" starts with rhythmical ideas that slowly take on melody lines whilst continuing the rhymical interplay - it’s very clever, and that’s just the start. "Pavilion" is a smorgasbord of moods and styles; Avant garde Jazz, Big Band, instrumental prog rock, lounge music, classical guitar interludes, film-score-style moments ... there’s just so much packed into the piece. I get an almost Andrew Latimer (Camel) vibe during the moments where the electric guitar takes the prominent lead melody. Some of the sections remind me of Herb Alpert’s less-whimsical works (essentially rock music with brass instruments carrying the melody lines). Other times, the jazzy instrumentation is far more complex and modern than anything old Herb ever released. Sections could be re-used for TV show theme tunes with great effect. The outro section is groovy as hell. I’m rambling now, but It’s hard for me to really do "Pavilion" justice. The track is available for streaming on the Glaswegian’s Bandcamp (link below), give it a play through if any of the descriptions and piqued your interest.

The remaining 3 tracks are similar in their wide-ranging influence and the amount of ground they cover. The first half of "Motavia" contains less rock influence than the preceding track and there are moments of minimalist classical music in the middle. "Handedness" is an eccentric piece which has some quirky Zappa, or Gentle Giant style moments, jazzy sambas and an epic rocking outro. "Zugzwang" closes the release in grand style (19:29), with the ending of the track being a particularly optimistic and uplifting way to finish the release.

There isn’t much in my collection of music that is anything like this album. If I was to try and draw a comparison to a well-known work that readers of this page will be familiar with, the album that comes to mind is Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. Perhaps the comparison is centered around both releases being herculean ‘one-man-multi-instrumental’ efforts rather than the works being that similar.

Prog rock bands like Gentle Giant and King Crimson are cited as influences in the press release (and you can certainly hear their influence in the music at times), but Glaswegians isn’t a prog rock band to my ears. Sure, both Gentle Giant and King Crimson incorporated lots of avant-garde elements into their works (as does Glaswegians), but their songs were rock songs. To my ears at least, Michael Elder/Glaswegians is a composer who incorporates elements of prog rock into his avant-garde musical arrangements. It’s a definable difference, and whilst this music is on another scale altogether, it’s a release that open minded fans of prog rock should gravitate to. A highly impressive and enjoyable release.

Track Listing

  1. Pavilion
  2. Motavia
  3. Handedness
  4. Zugzwang

Added: February 9th 2022
Reviewer: Chris Reid
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 609
Language: english

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