Far Corner's 2004 self-titled debut possessed the uncanny ability to captivate listeners who typically aren't drawn to instrumental music. And the Milwaukee-based chamber-rock quartet continues that pursuit with Endangered. This is an arguably even more appealing record on which two genres residing at modern-music's outer edges -- classical chamber music and avant-garde progressive rock -- collide and compound.
Culling influences from both Stravinsky and King Crimson, band members (including multi-instrumentalist Dan Maske and internationally renowned bassist William Kopecky) invert the roles of keyboards, cello, bass and drums to create an adventurous fusion of improvised and scored material in which not everything is as it seems. The result is six wildly disparate songs spread over 55 minutes. Opener "Inhuman," with its foreboding minimalism, sounds like the band is doing little more than warming up, while the live-in-the-studio creepiness of the next track, "Do You Think I'm Spooky?," launches into a quirky groove that defines the musical essence of Far Corner. Elsewhere, the improvised "Claws" is built around a series of scratching and scrapping noises, the metallic "Creature Council" emerges as the album's most visual and aggressive track and "Not From Around Here" stands out because of its warm acoustic-jazz accessibility. And the 20-minute title track is filled with more musical ideas than most bands convey across an entire album.
With international recognition of such eclectic and challenging instrumental outfits as Far Corner and Kopecky, as well as promising progressive-metal bands like Dimension X and Strange Land -- plus the dawn of the new Milwaukee Art Rock Showcase in June 2007 -- could southeastern Wisconsin be turning into a Midwestern progressive-music oasis?
2) Do You Think I'm Spooky?
3) Creature Council
5) Not From Around Here