Stick Men’s music have always peaked my interest. Even though I’m not crazy about their music at times, but I do appreciate what they are doing in carrying the styles of what they will do next with challenging compositions and experience between the trio of Markus Reuter’s Touch Guitars and King Crimson members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto. And for me, they do a wonderful job to keep the fans supportive and honoring the Progressive and Experimental music going like a Bullet train going 500 miles per hour.
This year, they have released their forthcoming album entitled, Prog Noir. Stick Men have spent years composing the album and what they would do is get some ideas according to Reutuer, is either as an album or playing them on the road. And it’s out whilst they’re on tour a lot of the time. I’ve heard some of the samples of the album on Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room which has been one of my favorite podcasts since I was in College.
It's been my go-to Podcasts. And whenever I would listen to his Podcasts I know something special that would get my notice and put on my wish list. And Stick Men’s music has grabbed my ears for an amazing yet mind-boggling adventure. The opening title-track sees both Levin and Reuter bring thunderous improvisations of a booming introduction on the Chapman and Touch Guitar lines.
With similarities of David Bowie’s Outside-era in the styles of Hallo Spaceboy, I’m Deranged, and A Small Plot of Land, the music makes you feel as if you are watching mystery/thriller/horror of a serial killer on the loose and then driving into the darkness not knowing when the killer would attack next and it won’t be pleasant and unexpected. Mantra sees Stick Men channeling their Canterbury influences between Egg and early Caravan as one of their guitars sound like the fuzz-tone organs while Plutonium features spoken dialogue on the questions of a planet gone wrong.
Here they checklist the styles of Carl Orff’s O Fortuna, Yes’ Fragile-era, and Tchaikovsky. It is unexpected and jaw-dropping and they are running at the right direction like being in the race to see who will in the finish line with some stop-and-go moments floating in. A Rose in the Sand/Requiem flows melancholically. Both Tony and Markus’s melodies sets some emotional tones throughout the composition as it changes gears.
You can imagine the sun fading away as evening has come to past as the drumrolls in the piece are to say farewell. The trio channel their own Swan-Song styles of Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria. The first 40 seconds of Leonardo, has a mysterious introduction between the Stick and Touch instruments as it changes into this metallic roaring rhythm in the styles of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
And all of a sudden, listening to that, I can imagine both Levin and Reuter dueling it out in the boxing ring with the stick instruments and still having the Midas touch of King Crimson and ending in a deep dark place near the closing section. With Trey’s Confession, it’s for me, in my opinion, an homage to King Crimson member, Trey Gunn. There are bits of the THRAK sessions that comes to mind. And believe me, it works well with the tribute and homage to Gunn’s craftsmanship.
Prog Noir I’ll admit, it’s not an easy album to listen to from start to finish. It took me about four listens to dig into. Sinister, Out-of-the-blue time changes, and peculiar rhythms that will keep you guessing until the very end, Stick Men’s new album is like as I’ve mentioned a film score straight out of a Mystery/Horror film with a strange plot twist. If you love the sounds of King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, and Igor Stravinsky, I recommend Prog Noir.