Gavin Harrison and 05Ric – Circles (2010)

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There’s an easy target for this band: All the people who listened to any of the past few Porcupine Tree albums and just couldn’t get enough of Gavin Harrison’s drumming. Harrison’s skills are not just that he is so adept at unbelievably complex fills and time signatures but that he makes it sound so simple where most drummers choose to show off. He is the very definition of “grace under pressure.”

While he’s just as given as any drum-great to runs of splashy, percussive fills, they are tasteful and fitting, sometimes even subtle. It seems as if you really have to understand truly great drumming to “get” Harrison. In a world looking for the big, boisterous solo moments, he generally opts not to take those. He’s more of a jazz drummer who works the heavier end of rock but retains and displays his jazz aesthetics. That said, it’s a riff-fest nonetheless, maybe more so than Porcupine Tree releases, in a drum-sense. Harrison’s fans will rejoice just for this alone.

That’s not to minimize anything, either. Harrison is not the sole reason to check out this pairing’s (thus far) two releases, even if it’s the one most likely driving the majority of sales. “Extended range bassist” (think Big Ass Bass) pseudonymed 05Ric generously takes over the parts of both guitar and bass, ably making a trio out of a duo and doing so in a way that gives the band a really unique sound. 05Ric’s unusual instrument and style allows him a little bit of everything — deep, gritty grooves, wailing guitar solos, and that unique percussive texture that only touchstyle playing can add. I can’t think of
anyone who sounds like this: He’s carved out his own instantly recognizable little niche of tone and style.

Instrumentally, the band’s music is fascinating and fun. Vocally, however, 05Ric proves a bit of a challenge with his “tipsy Bowie attends jazz class” tenor. It’s kind of an endearing oddity, however, as with time his voice grows to seem perfectly fitting for the music.

Really, with all that is going on, there’s no other way for vocals to work with the jazz-metal underpinnings. Progressive rock is one of the few places “weird vocals” are still allowed in modern rock, and this is undeniably progressive. Suitably, once the initial reaction to 05Ric has worn off, it’s really quite fun to listen to him duck, bob, and weave his way through the bumpy terrain of the music he and Gavin have created.

You may find yourself marveling anyone could do it at all, actually, often while hearing the songs drifting through your head. Odd as they are, they get lodged in memory. If you’re already open to challenging music, you’ll probably find, like I did, that you don’t mind them there.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Tom Johnson
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