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Steve Unruh, Valerie Gracious, Phideaux Xavier: 71319 - Live At Monforti Manor

Having performed together for a song during an after show set at Progstock in 2016, Steve Unruh and Phideaux slowly but surely hatched a plot to repeat the event across a full evening. Split into two sets where each musician would showcase music from their own catalogue, it was decided to bring Phideaux collaborator Valerie Gracious onboard to contribute to both parts.

It’s Steve Unruh who opens the exclusive set in Chicago where a small audience were invited to partake in this one off event, the multi-instrumental one-man band taking those in attendance through a selection of progressive, art-rock which at times also slips into spoken word performance. A truly enigmatic musician, it’s sometimes difficult to take in that the numerous instruments and effects that come and go during the likes of “Twilight In India” are all being performed and controlled simultaneously by Unruh himself. By the time that we reach the near nineteen minute “Two Little Awakenings” Phideuax can be found helping out on bass with Gracious adding her vocal weight. Impressive though the earlier material is, this for me is where things come alive, with “Luxury Denial” and its layered vocals also hugely engaging.

Set two finds Phideaux taking the lead, the quirkier nature of what has come before shelved for a more traditional, if stripped back, progressive approach. “The Error Lives” on is a pensive opener, the Kate Bush like vocals from Gracious a wonderful counterpoint for bursts of violin and piano. If Phideaux’s onstage explanation is to be believed, the next track, “The Sleepers Wake” was only worked up between the three musicians during the mid-set break, and if true, that’s quite some achievement, with not a glitch to be found. And that is something that can be said for all of the second half of this show, whether it be through the considered “Darkness At Noon”, brooding “You And Me Against A World Of Pain”, or the set closing “Infinite Supply”.

On a personal level, I find the Phideaux disc of this set to be much easier to get under the skin of and much more rewarding on repeat visits, but followers of Steve Unruh will doubtless find much to excite them on disc one. That said, considering the glorious sounds coming from these three musicians, even the less immediate moments are impressive on this intriguing live document.

Track Listing
Steve Unruh's Set
1. Learn To Love Rain
2. Twilight In India
3. Violin Raga (on Song To The Sky) / Focus
4. Something In Heaven Bleeds 5. The Lawn Chair Song (with improvisation)
6. Two Little Awakenings
7. Luxury Denial

Phideaux's Set
1. The Error Lives On
2. Candybrain / The Sleepers Wake
3. Darkness At Noon
4. One Star
5. Inspecting The Spoils
6. You And Me Against A World Of Pain
7. A Curse Of Miracles
8. The Doctrine Of Eternal Ice (two)
9. Infinite Supply

Added: April 30th 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Steve Unruh @ bandcamp
Hits: 653
Language: english

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