#Musicaparaelencierro. Y gracias a José Ramón seguimos con el festival Van der Graaf Generator, ahora llamado simplemente "Van der Graaf" porque es una reestructuración de la banda que pasamos a explicar en el post. Un disco donde no está el clásico tecladista Banton y donde los saxos y vientos de Jackson aparecen poco y solo como invitado, pero eso les posibilita reinventarse con Hammill en los teclados y con más guitarras y la inclusión del violín (Graham Smith, violinista de String Driven Thing) y el retorno del bajista Nic Potter, lo que posibilitó la incursión de nuevos sonidos. Así seguimos explorando la historia de una de las más grandes bandas de rock de todos los tiempos, en su octavo álbum.
Artista: Van der Graaf
Artista: Van der Graaf
Álbum: The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Un disco que cierra una etapa de una gran banda...
Luego de mil batallas y luchando contra el permanente fracaso, a partir de este momento se les da vuelta la moneda y llega el reconocimiento pero ello no se verá expresado en sus flacos bolsillos, lo que lleva a una crisis y reestructuración. Este disco tiene un sonido diferente, la carencia del gran tecladista (Banton) no fue posible cubrirla ni con el propio Hammill que se hizo cargo de las teclas, sin embargo el disco no es nada malo, la inclusión del violín de Graham posibilitó nuevos rumbos melódicos, y tiene muy buenos momentos.
Fueron los primeros artistas que firmaron para la compañía Charisma Records. La banda alcanzó un considerable éxito en Italia. Las principales características de “VdGG” eran la combinación de la voz dinámica de Peter Hammill y los saxofones tratados electrónicamente de David Jackson, generalmente sobre pistas de diversas clases de teclados. Los discos tendieron a ser de una atmósfera más oscura que otros grupos de música progresiva (un título que compartieron con “KING CRIMSON”, cuyo guitarrista, Robert Fripp, aparece en dos de sus álbumes), aunque los solos de guitarra son una excepción en vez de una regla. Su sonido era bastante elaborado y de gran riqueza musical.Este es un disco de reinvenciones, sin saxo y pocas teclas pero con violín, bajo y más guitarra, donde los VDGG se reinventan a sí mismos, tranto es así que hasta su nombre cambia, quitándole el "Generator" a "Van der Graaf". Para más información tiene el siguiente comentario:
La creación de The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome estuvo marcada por los acontecimientos de 1976 ya que Van Der Graaf Generator se embarcó en su primera gira americana, con un total de seis recitales entre Canadá y EEUU. El resultado fue un fracaso económico a pesar del éxito obtenido. Esto motivó que tanto Banton, en primer lugar, y posteriormente Jackson abandonasen el grupo. Para reconstruir el esqueleto de la banda Hammill y Evans consiguen que regrese el bajista Nic Potter, e incluyen por primera vez un elemento sonoro nuevo, el violín, gracias a la incorporación de Graham Smith, músico procedente del grupo String Driven Thing que ya había participado con anterioridad en el disco Over (una impresionante obra realizada por Peter Hammill en solitario). De esta forma, los ahora llamado Van Der Graaf graban entre los meses de mayo a junio de 1977, con la colaboración en algún tema de Jackson como invitado, y curiosamente por primera vez lo hacen en tres estudios diferentes (Foel, Morgan y Rockfield), lo que sería un álbum menos complejo aunque más cercano al público, con un sonido diferente a sus anteriores trabajos, motivado por el descarte obligado del órgano de Banton y el saxo de Jackson, pero no exento de atractivos gracias al nuevo cariz que implementan las nuevas incorporaciones. Las composiciones largas desaparecen, aunque no se pierden los matices progresivos gracias a las incursiones que realizan sus diversos miembros, destacando un Smith muy inspirado con su violín acústico distorsionado, un Potter muy laborioso con su poderoso bajo y un Hammill más volcado en la guitarra eléctrica que en los teclados. Desafortunadamente los problemas económicos continuaron y el grupo se disolvió al año siguiente.Davol
En lo meramente musical este trabajo consta de nueve canciones cortas, no superando ninguna los 7 minutos, compuestas por Peter Hammill, con unos excelentes arreglos dirigidos por su genuina voz y una conjunción de todos sus músicos muy equilibrada. Las cuatro primeras piezas, correspondiente a la primera parte, The Quiet Zone, están construidas de forma parecida, con un comienzo lento que desemboca en momentos enérgicos, con gran protagonismo vocal de Hamill, excelentes arreglos de batería, y un contundente bajo tamizado por un incansable violín. La diferencia la marca “The Siren Song”, una composición de gran belleza con al añadido de un melancólico piano. Más variada y dinámica le corresponde a la segunda parte,The Pleasure Dome, debido a los contrastes existente en las diversas piezas, como la serena belleza de “The Wave”, la inquietante y psicodélica “Chemical World” o la rítmica y agresiva “The Sphinx in the Face” (la cuál se repite al final, en formato radio, con aspecto rockero, y con los saxos de Jackson sonando de fondo). “Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running)” destaca de forma especial por su brillantez y lírismo, además de los deliciosos sólos sinfónicos que ejecuta Graham.
En la reedición remasterizada del 2005 se incluye 3 bonus tracks que denotan el nuevo rumbo que había tomado el grupo. Estas son: “Door” (tema de estudio que apareció en el disco Vital), “Ship Of Fools” (correspondiente al single “Cat’s Eye” en su cara B) y “The Wave” (una versión demo)
En definitiva, Van Der Graaf supo reinventarse con una novedosa formación logrando un disco más crudo a la par que desgarrador e introspectivo, una lástima que fuese su formación más efímera y se troncase al año siguiente antes de seguir desarrollándose por esa línea.
Un muy buen disco de un VDGG que sorprende al sonar diferente a VDGG, pero incluso hay gente a las que no les gusta el clásico sonido de la banda y que consideran a éste como el mejor disco que han sacado. Ya sabemos, sobre cuestiones de gustos nada está escrito.
En el sonido de VDGG, Banton y Jackson eran BASICOS,y los que dotaban de personalidad a la música de estos genios. Al marcharse ambos nada podía ser mínimamente parecido.Poodellanes
Y es que la concepción y desarrollo sonoro está más cerca de la obra en solitario de Hammill que cualquier otra cosa. De hecho, es la formación que pergeñó el histórico "Over".
Dicho todo esto,es un álbum diferente pero sensacional, con músicas más tersas, más directas. En un principio puede resultar menos variado, más unidireccional, pero escuchas sucesivas lo colocan como un opus con cuerpo y recorrido propio, en el que destaca el violín planeador de Graham Smith, que lleva a los temas en variadas direcciones (gran "Cat´s eye/Yellow fever"), y el nunca bien ponderado bajo de Nic Potter, que los ancla a tierra de manera sensacional.
Un disco que Hammill sigue revisitando en su casi totalidad en sus directos en solitario, con lo que está dicho todo. Y en el que destaca la grandiosa progresión de "Chemical world", aunque todo (salvo la un tanto extravagante "The Sphinx in the face") es sobresaliente, dentro de su notable diferencia con en resto de la obra del Generador.
PD.Me encanta la foto del cuarteto de la contraportada,una de mis imágenes icónicas en la evolución del grupo.
Posteriormente, el grupo se disuelve pero Peter Hammill enfrentará la nueva década con una gran capacidad para modelar su particular lenguaje musical, a través de la electrónica y el particular uso de la voz que sigue siendo inimitable, mientras el sonido de VDGG será redescubierto por las generaciones de músicos post-punk, como los ingleses Cardiacs, entre otros.
Sólo queda que lo escuches, para saber si el nuevo sonido desplegado en este disco te gusta o no...acá no hay recetas secretas, dale algunas escuchas y decides por vos mismo... como en todo en la vida.
Vamos, eso sí, con más comentarios de terceros, esta vez en inglés:
Somehow this combination made sense: a revised band (with Nic Potter returning on bass and the addition of Graham Smith, formerly of String Driven Thing, on violin) with a shortened name, and an album that was named twice, with different cover art for each name. What also made sense was the focus on shorter songs and a change of musical attitude. While Hammill could never entirely shake off his approach to songwriting, he was able to modify it somewhat. Working with the new band, he was able to generate considerably more energy than on World Record. "Lizard Play" and "Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running)" are wonderfully gymnastic songwriting exercises, yet remain engaging by dint of their forcefulness. Written and performed at the top of Hammill's game, this album is a delight.Steven McDonald
Compared to their previous prog output the debut of the new line up with Graham Smith (violin) and Nic Potter (bass) was much more in line with punk and new wave. The songs are relatively short but still very adventurous and quirky. The 2005 remaster adds three bonus tracks (single "Door"/"Ship of fools" and demo version of "The wave") and sounds very good. "rgmb
Highlights: "Lost frame" and "Cat's eye/Yellow fever"!
It can generally be agreed on that the late 1970s weren't as good for progressive music, and particularly for the major progressive bands, as were the early 1970s. The reasons for this will be fairly well-known to those who have studied the genre in any detail: simplified music was becoming profitable again, radio was becoming homogenized, many of the leading artists had stopped really caring, etc. etc.The Christopher Currie
While some of the major groups experienced a decline in artistic quality between 1976 and 1977, however, Van Der Graaf Generator managed to reverse the pattern, and come up with one of the best albums of their career during the year in which punk achieved notoriety in Britain. As against this, they weren't actually Van Der Graaf Generator anymore.
In 1975, VdGG reformed following four years of fragmentation ... sort of. In actually, every member of VdGG had continued appearing on Peter Hammill's solo albums -- the balance of control had clearly shifted more in PH's direction than before, but the lineup was basically the same. With the balance of power having been somewhat re-established, the group first released the amazing Godbluff, then faltered somewhat on subsequent releases. Still Life showed the group still in fairly good form, but World Record was clearly a step down in quality.
The departure of Banton following the World Record album allowed (forced) the group to do a rethink of sorts. This keyboardist had designed his own instruments, and specialized in deep, thick sonics that worked especially well within extended instrumental movements. This served the group extremely well on, say, Pawn Hearts and Godbluff, but had become somewhat of a burden by World Record -- too many of the tracks here were extended without any real purpose, and Banton's playing had become rather less than experimental. With his departure, the group was able to liberate some of their better tendencies with a clearer, more concise sound. Some might argue that QZ/PD is too far removed from the epic suites of VdGG past, but the fact of the matter is that the group wasn't making the best use of such suites in the first place.
Banton's departure wasn't the only personality change between the two albums -- longtime member David Jackson departed the group as well, to be replaced by violinist Graham Smith. The practical result of this switch was rather less cataclysmic, however -- Smith's string adventures occupy much the same dynamic range as Jackson's trademark saxophone lines, and the difference in timbre is enough to keep things interesting for a convinced fan. Bassist Nic Potter was also returned to full "band member" status for this album.
For legal reasons (relating to Banton's absence), the group was compelled to shorten their name to "Van Der Graaf". In most histories and discographies, however, The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome is listed with the other VdGG releases.
The premise behind this album is that the two sides are supposed to represent different artistic motifs -- the first being The Quiet Zone, the second being The Pleasure Dome. In practical terms, however, these distinctions sometimes seem somewhat arbitrary -- it's rather difficult to justify "The Wave" on the Pleasure Dome side and "Habit Of The Broken Heart" in the Quiet Zone, for instance. Regardless, the music is fairly good throughout the work, and the divisions don't hinder the flow of the music.
The album begins with one of the best short songs that Hammill has ever come up with. "Lizard Play" focuses on Hammill's obsession with a distant-yet-clearly-intelligent woman ... which, in and of itself, isn't terribly unusual -- his lyrics here transcend even his normal levels of articulation, however, weaving in references to desert plains (where the lizards play, of course) throughout the course of the number. Musically, it's about as "progressive" as a four-minute pop song can be -- Guy Evans (who must surely be one of the most underrated prog drummers ever) is incredible here, and Potter's heavy bass tones match the music quite well. The violin has something of a fusion element in parts, but integrates with the rest of the music quite well. If some of the track is a bit wordy, it's easily forgiveable. A clear statement that the group had returned to the peak of their skills.
"Habit Of The Broken Heart" also features very good music, but is hindered somewhat by the rather burdensome (and somewhat cliche) lyrical theme -- of Hammill attempting to convince a friend not to "take the veil" after a ruined love affair (Hammill's own role in the situation is never made explicitly clear). The phallic/religious references are somewhat into the range of artistic overkill, despite the occasional clever reference (the Leonard Cohen reference in the opening line -- "Oh, the sisters of blindness ..." -- doesn't quite work as well as it could have either). To its credit, the track does have a good instrumental section, with Hammill imitating Banton's sound proficiently enough -- the bass/violin spotlight is fairly interesting too, and the melody of the track bursts through to fruition fairly well by the end. Not totally successful, this is still fairly good.
Starting with a minimal piano-ballad setting and some clunky lyrics ("as heavy as lead, as dated as carbon"????), "The Siren Song" doesn't make the strongest first impression -- thankfully, though, it improves considerably by the end. The emergence of the entire band into the music mix improves things significantly; in terms of lyrics, moreover, the song remains a "ballad" throughout, but actually tells something of a story rather than falling into the dire cliches normally associated with this term. Hammill's portrayal of obsessive love is fairly chilling in its detail, and the ship-metaphors here as fairly well-integrated (especially towards the end). Musically, the song seems to feature more melodic development than usual (especially on Smith's part).
"Lost Frame" may be the most non-descript track on the album, but is still fairly impressive -- moving from a distorted musical intro to soliloquy, "messiah of isolation" lyrics, the portrayal of obsession reaches something of a logical conclusion here. Musically, this number partakes somewhat in the darker, heavier VdGG of earlier times (with Frippish sonic effects being inserted in the mix at one point), and hence seems a bit less "formed" than the rest of the release. Not the most memorable track on the album, but still good enough.
Side two begins with "The Wave", a beautiful lyrical tracks which probably features the best singing on the album (somewhat similar to "The Comet..." in Hammill's combination of natural and mental phenomena). Musically, the melancholia of the track might perhaps be a tad on the ordinary side at first -- it clearly isn't the focal point of attention, though, so this may be somewhat forgiveable.
"Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever" is another highpoint of the album, featuring a driving lead melody from Smith and disturbing military/mind-control lyrics from Hammill. The music is probably more overtly "progressive" here than on the rest of the release, and both the music and lyrics carry a strong sense of urgency which befits Hammill's natural skills. The Hammill has continued to perform this track live in recent years speaks well of his aesthetic tastes regarding this album.
"The Sphinx In The Face" begins with a vaguely "classic-rock" feel which, given the nature of the lyrics, may be a deliberate effect. The song concerns a 30s-ish figure within the corporate world, still adopting a "business playboy" persona after some time in the field; the first verse concerns the banal details of his life, and his desire to escape to a Dionysian vacation in the near future. Midway through the song, he shifts to pondering over his activities, "confronting the sphinx", as it were, shifting into a general sense of paranoia, isolation, angst, etc. If the midlife crisis motif isn't quite original, it's at least fairly coherently done. The fuzz-tone bass and metronome spotlight may be the most absurd moment of the track, musically -- the classic rock elements seem to disappear by the end, with the more typical progressive ideals reasserting themselves. Evans is as good as always, and the combination of Smith with Jackson at the end is a nice touch. The most memorable aspect of this track, however, is the high-vocal conclusion, which remains even as the music fades out.
"Chemical World", in a sense, continues the trend set with "Two Or Three Spectres" on Nadir's Big Chance, as Hammill considers the position in which his characters have entrapped themselves, generally from more than one vantage point. Singing alternately from the perspectives of tempter, victim and judge, Hammill's references run the gamut from long-term alcoholic cultures, corrupt business practices, and sudden market shifts which abruptly dissolve the protagonist's dream world (could the timing of this track have been more ironic...). Musically, it follows the general VdG arrangement -- good performances throughout, even if the second half drags a bit. This seems an appropriate end statement for the album.
... but, of course, we still have the brief coda of "The Sphinx Returns", a glance towards the past with Jaxon assuming a more prominent role within the mix. This is essentially just the proper conclusion to "The Sphinx In The Face", and has little purpose without it.
This album was the final VdG(G) studio venture -- the band drifted apart following the tour for the album, and Hammill resumed his solo career (with various other group members remaining on as his sidemen) accordingly. Despite occasional reissues and one bonafide reunion, Van Der Graaf Generator have not recorded any albums as such since 1977.
As the group's final legacy, however, The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome must be regarded as one of the most underrated albums of the progressive field. This album would be a decent introduction to both VdGG and Hammill's solo works (though Pawn Hearts would probably work better for those exclusively interested in the former), and is recommended accordingly to progressive fans.
I find it something of an irony that fans of progressive rock tend to be incredibly conservative. So I remember well that when "The Quiet Zone/ The Pleasure Dome" came out in September 1977 it was not well received. Why? Well organist Hugh Banton had left but more seriously fan favourite - David Jackson (Jaxonsax) had also left. Nic Potter returned on bass and Graham Smith from "String Driven Thing" has joined as violin player. OK - an electric violin sounds pretty much like an electric sax but that wasn't the point. Remaining were Guy Evans - who is an incredible drummer and, of course, Peter Hammill - vox, guitar & piano and the main writer. As if to acknowledge the fact that this was a different band , the band became "Van der Graaf" rather than "Van Der Graaf Generator". The main lead instrument on many of the tracks is Nic Potter's bass which means this album sounds very different from its predecessors. Now this is not a punk album by any imagination BUT there are nine tracks here which means shorter song and in places, Hammill's punk alter-ego who so influenced John Lydon - Rikki Nadir reappears - especially on my favourite track "The Sphinx In The Face". Too much change for prog fans - but listening to "The Quiet Zone/ The Pleasure Zone" again after many years, I am reminded that I really liked it when it came out and that it is a very good album. This line-up with cellist Charles Dickie and a returning David Jackson made one further album - the live double " Vital" which isn't but is very good and that was it until 2005. Of course Peter Hammill has carried on a solo career both while Van Der Graaf Generator were in existence and defunct and more about his stuff... later. In the meantime, I suggest that "The Quiet Zone/ The Pleasure Dome" needs something of a re-evaluation.CharlyF1954
This is my favorite VAN DER GRAAF album! Ha! Well, I would say it is also better than any of the VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR albums too.. I just enjoy this more.. I think what Peter Hammill and company do here is a step in the right direction, what with punk happening and all.. (not one of the many groups that just progged it up more!).. Keeping their integrity, but keeping up the intensity too.. Lots of worthy moments here. (Oh and I like Nic Potter's bass playing here)huntersandcollectors
This is VERY different from the last few VDGG albums due to a far different lineup. It tends to feel more like a Hammil solo disc at times. While I do miss the organ/sax interplay, the bands new sound (at least in studio) is still excellent, lots of violin (Graham Smith) and piano as its foundation, driven along by Guy Evan's ferocious drumming and Nic Potter's (returning one last time) thick fuzzy bass lines.Phil McKenna
The real highlights are "Sphynx In The Face", "The Siren Song", "Last Frame", "The Wave and Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running)". Hammil's lyrical imagery is nothing less than top-notch.
A great swan song.
My first encounter with VDGG was a wonderful track "Cats Eye/Yellow Fever" from this album that happened to be a minor hit in the local discoteque where I used to hang around 1980-81. Nobody ever heard of Hammill at the time but a group of young progsters started building a cult of Hammill/VDGG and I shortly joined them. Thereafter they became one of my fav bands ever and only subsequently I had a chance to actually listen to the entire album.Sead S. Fetahagic
Noticeably, this is quite a different line-up, without Banton and Jaxon (altough the latter appears as guest here) but with new member Graham Smith of STRING DRIVEN THING on violin. Music is totally different from their classic sound (they even dropped Generator from the name!) and often approaches the minimalism of Hammill's solo works (acoustic guitar and piano frequently used). However the strong rhythm section of Evans and the returnee Nic Potter on bass gives a firm "rock" and even a "new-wave" feel. Stand-out tracks are the mentioned "hit" "Cats Eye/Yellow Fever" with furious violin solo, the opening "Lizard Play", introspective musings of "Last Frame" and a sort of title track in two parts called "Sphinx". Often neglected by fans, this LP is worth every attention since it showcases potentials of this band to ever-change and progress beyond what is usually expected in music business.
The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome is agreatalbum!What's the problem with short song formats? Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running) shows how wrong is the comment by greenback! Boring? Irritating? Last Frame and The Siren Song really are rare gems. Not in the VDGG production (which is a real treasure)but in the general context of the seventies! The same I have to say for Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, Strawbs and Barclay James Harvest.Andrea Cortese
More or less seriously (though I considered his argument a very convincing one), a friend of mine, true Van der Graaf Generator fan, told me how he cannot find a single album of theirs something below five stars and complete masterliness effect (or,let's say, at least of four stars). Strange and addictive as his personal opinion sounds, it's really not farfetched. To support my prologue is this 1997 album of Van der Graaf, The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome, one of three stars, perhaps three point five stars. The problem with it? None! Except that it isn't a masterpiece or grand resonance material. Van der Graaf are for me extraordinary gentlemen of music. Their discographic line is almost flawless (the official material release is for sure). It's a rather unique thing to experience such a vision and a masterfull act of art, perpetuated so long and so powerfull.This album features the same more than appreciable essence of Van der Graaf Generator, just that it isn't to be measure with the big names of their history. Perhaps a slight loosened act, but as far as quality, appealingness and charisma are concerned, there is absolutely no downfall in this acomplishment. So I can my friend was right about one thing: even in their low points or apparently unrealized graphics, Van der Graaf stay Van der Graaf. That is my strong feeling and unshattering conception (as well). Short sentenced, The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome isn't the greatest thing you'll hear, but it certainly doesn't invite an opposite to character, vigurous mentality, keen interpretation and old-fashioned state in. To many aspects, this is an album in the context of all albums.Ricochet
Symbolically placed in a "second generation" phase of Van der Graaf Generator (symbolically by my standards, for I don't really care at all about these delimitations), the album supports the style. Nothing of Still Life and most certainly not of World Record, but nothing to complain at all. It isn't a compromise, it isn't a missed musical aspect. Shortened as effect, but undamaged as perspective. A light abstract, but one authentic nonetheless. A minimalist satisfaction, but the same unchanged desire to make out of music art (and by now, it's not an attempt of a dream, it's a realized thing). Maybe more "talkative" with a wider auditory, but still enough to put the mind, the soul and the everlasting imagination to a tempered active motion. A very positive three stars position, really (considering that,most of times, such a place means for me an incomplete musical manifest). The music here is one very defined and very stable in structure and in effort. The kind is one not of overevalution and most thrilling sensation; complexity, improvisatorical flavour and the wild pulse are not points of resemblance. Instead comes the beauty of the gesture and the rigurous context. To be even more specific, some piece from The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome are quite definitory. Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever is a masterpiece. The Sphinx In The Face as well. Presumably "The Pleasure Dome" is better than the "Quiet Zone", but why such a difference in a most unitary presentation?
I like it. I enjoy it. I'm fond of it. The music here is good and more than decent. For me, The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome is not a relaps moment, but just another occasion of seeing the minds up to work and up to their names. In a way, recommended. Not much, but enough.
Though I am tempted to give every VdGG album five stars, even I can admit that this one is not perfect. I can't exactly find the right words to say why I find this one slightly inferior to their other works, but for some reason I just prefer the others. Though I miss the organ and sax, i love the violins and Graham Smith does add a lot to the album. The violin is used at times like a lead guitar would be, with wah effects and such. However, because of the absence of the sax, the jazz elements in the music are also gone. On this album, the music is carried by the violin, along with piano. The first four songs here are entitled The Quiet Zone. Of these, standouts for me are the first two, Lizard Play and The Habit of the Broken Heart, both of which feature some excellent violin work. The second half is The Pleasure Dome, which has my favourite track from this album, which is Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever, where multi layered violin adds a classical feel to the music. Vocally, Hammill seems to screech and scream less than usual, which for me is disappointing as I always loved the agony in his voice when he did that. The music tends to be much less intense than their other albums. Like I said, I absolutely adore VdGG and I am tempted to call everything they've done a masterpiece, but here I will resist the urge and only give it four stars. A great album, but less intense and moving then the others from this great band.Sean
One thing I've always found interesting about Van Der Graaf Generator's discography was this album. Before I even heard the record it was appealing to me for a couple reasons. It's the black sheep - it's not seen as anywhere near their best albums and it's considered very strange and... It's not even by Van Der Graaf Generator [VdGG] per se. This is an album by Van Der Graaf [VdG], as Peter Hammil decided to shorten the name since it did not feature the entire normal lineup (even if David Jackson would make guest appearances). While it's very much considered a full-fledged VdGG album it's very clear that they were trying to do something different here.Patricia O'Bee
First and foremost the album is split in two. The two sides named respectively The Quite Zone and The Pleasure Dome are two very different entities - one focused on the lo-key and reflective, the other focused on a kind of inner madness that propels the songs. It's also good to note that while Jackson still makes appearances they're far and few compared to VdGG's normal work. Brought much to the foreground of this album is the string sections and the percussions, likely to cover up for the lesser amount of Sax. This makes for a very different sounding album from the band - and it's a nice change. This one sounds very clean and proper as opposed to their normal madness. The madness is still there, of course, but it's smoothed over. Guitars also have a spot on here, but they're very much in the back ground - not a lead instrument at all as we can expect from the band. The compositions are also shorter here. All of them ranging between 4 and 6 minutes, but that's okay because they're all very solid tunes. In terms of style this one follows close to their previous offering World Record but in a much improved from since this time around they don't sound like a bunch of tired lackluster players but instead a band who wants to keep it lo-key for a while.
As mentioned before, the two sides are very different. The Quiet Zone features the more laid back songs, opening with the catchy Lizard Play with it's infectious rhythm section. This is likely the biggest standout on the first side - it's laid back pacing and sharp delivery makes for a very interesting contrast with the strings which are quite piercing. Other songs such as the melancholic The Habit Of The Broken Heart follow suite with the slow approach which works quite well - the bass becoming the driving force of the song. The Siren Song is a pretty and delicate song that starts to get heavy around the middle while Last Frame shows a bit more of that biting evil side of Hammil that we're used to.
Moving onto the second side is where the album gets really good. But first - take everything you know about the band and throw it out the window. The band that used to make black clouds gather overhead when they played is still here - but they've started to pick up the pace. Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running) is a true blue VdGG masterpiece compressed into a five and a half minute song. Frantic strings make for a very fast song that will very likely catch you off guard the first time around. It's also strange because this is almost a dancable song without becoming unlikeable. Almost a punk song turned prog this is one that has a lot of force and aggression behind it - very cool indeed. The Sphinx In The Face is another tune very much quick and unlike VdGG - catchy and almost pure rock but without the guitar. Chemical World is another very cool song - this one more to the madness of Hammil that we're used to once again, his voice effects making for a very chilling tune.
All in all a very excellent and somewhat overlooked album. Nothing like the band in their classic era but a very worthy addition to any collection be you a fan of the band or not. Quite surprisingly accessible considering the band, in fact. A huge improvement over their previous record and unfortunately their last for a couple of decades. Excellent.
Bizarre doesn't even begin to describe this album. A blend of progressive punk and almost pastoral music with a mean violin, vocal stylings that baffle even the Peter Hammill initiated, quirky, though generally brilliant, lyrics... the list goes on, and the bizarre melding of standard musical elements and a freakishly experimental mindset works overtime. Really, there is no way to describe this album effectively, it'll probably take a while to catch on as a whole, and any preconceptions you have about Van Der Graaf Generator probably do not apply to this album. Consequently, it's a bizarrely essential album: I really enjoy it, I appreciate there are a lot of people (particularly the pretty vocals crowd) who probably won't get it (not a bad thing, just different tastes), and I think it was really pushing the barriers in a way that the other classic prog bands had rather given up on by 1977. Graham Smith and Nick Potter give the album a great deal of attack, Hammill's experiments with all sorts of vocal ideas have jumped off into the deep end in a way that you'll either love or hate, Guy Evans is solid as ever, and the pianos and guitars are used with a lot more confidence and detail than most previous Van Der Graaf Generator efforts. I think it's a masterpiece, sure some others take the opposite opinion. Lizard Play exhibits the rather Van Der Graaf Generatorish (well, in this case, Van Der Graafish) of having some sort of anti-catch value. On the first listen, it made virtually no impact on me, either lyrically or musically, but now, I can call it nothing less than amazing. The first Meurglys III notes lead us into a little, slightly jazzy intro a bit reminiscent of When She Comes, before Hammill's light-hearted, very cleverly harmonised vocals come in, using a full range of high wispy overdubs to counterbalance low, gritty multiple vocals. Evans is fantastic, of course, providing all sorts of rolls in addition to some absolutely beyond-belief unusual hollow and tingly percussion inclusions. Hammill's lyrics are metaphorical, assertive and extremely potent once you actually see the whole picture, and allow for a couple of clever spins which you somehow never quite expect even when you know they're coming up. Potter's thorough, thick basslines provide the real backbone for the piece, as well as a sort of bestial feel to the piece. The Graham Smith violin is characteristically unusual, and includes a couple of rather neat subtleties that provide a little more weight to the acoustic. A song full of weirdness, shamanic rhythms, a general refusal to accept the standard terms of what rock is, and a touch of whimsicality that works really well for Van Der Graaf.Rob
The Habit Of The Broken heart is another somewhat eclectic song, moving from a fairly basic acoustic riff to a subtle bitter bit of reflection to a full on burst of rock to a small vocal coda. The lyrics are a touch less sharp than I'd expect from Hammill, though they still contain a couple of great lines, and a basic message, which is more than a lot of bands manage to do. The lyrical vulnerability of the song relative to the rest of the album is more than outweighed by the superb musical content and the rather odd mood in Hammill's vocal. Guy Evans and Nic Potter provide a weird bass-driven riff for a fair amount of the piece. The dashes of organ fit in quite nicely, as does the lush background viola. A lot of the punk ethos thumping in again, along with a few elements of dissonance and the rather curtailed melodies than characterise much of World Record. The conclusion is nicely done. Not an absolutely perfect piece, but a lot of redeeming features, and a particularly top notch performance from Evans.
Siren Song features the album's finest lyrics, and some of the finest lyrics in rock, and the closest thing to a conventionally pretty vocal on there. The piano is absolutely lovely, and supplemented by a tragic violin, Guy Evans' very emotional and delicate percussion and the unusual Potter distorted bass sound. The mood changes of the song are distinctive, involving and feature a rather more upbeat, folk-inspired violin part, as well as an example of just how mobile Van Der Graaf Generator can make a song. Nic Potter never did a weirder bass part than that in the middle of this song, and it pays off fantastically. Anyway, the best way to describe this one is with a bit of a lyrics quote. It has reduced me to tears on occasion, and not many pieces can do that.
Laughter in the backbone laughter impossibly wise that same laughter that comes every time I flash on that look in your eyes which whispers of a black zone which'll mock all my credos as lies, where all logic is done and time will smash every theory I devise
The six minute Last Frame could well be the highlight of the album for a lot of the more prog-by-the-books listeners. A hollow atmospheric introductory solo on viola (I think) from Graham Smith leads us into the song proper, coupled with a couple of very dark, full jabs on bass and a tinkle of percussion, takes us onto the tragic retrospective vocals, coupled with a savagely bleak and determined set of lyrics. Hammill provides an acoustic (on occasion surprisingly unusual in sound) pretty much throughout the main part of the song, which is quite a nice change, and it fits in neatly both at the higher-tempo sections and the more introspective low-key parts. A sort of freakish guitar or violin solo backed up by a dab of Meurglys III riff takes up prime position in the instrumental mid-part. The song's conclusion is particularly awesome, with a distinctly rocking bass riff mixing itself in with dabs of percussion, classy lyrical bite and a distorted guitar. As always, Evans is a solid drummer, controlling his sound, volume and feel quite precisely and adding a slightly human feel through the drumming. Fantastic stuff.
The Wave is probably the most daringly introspective of the songs on this album, with quirky, and yet quite moving lyrics about the point of analysis and the effect of that on nature or feeling. The lush, but quite delicate, interplay between Hammill's piano and mellotron (it's probably actually a viola, listening to it a bit more closely) and the strings is extremely well-written, and Hammill's vocals are simply amazing in a way that only they can be. The tension is available, and a mixture of grandeur, uncertainty, high and low and whispered vocals, and selective self-harmonies adding a sort of ebbing feel to the piece. The rhythm section is again excellent, with Guy Evans' fitting in his own sort of style quite softly, accomplishing a number of subtle cadences that other drummers often seem nervous to add into soft songs, accomplishing the same sort of rolling line with no intrusion at all. It did take a while to catch onto me, as one would sort of expect a soft song like this to simply head for plain lyrics, but in the end the combination seems simply more and more right. Unusual soft songs are one of my favourite features of the classic 70s prog rock bands, and this fits that description perfectly. Masterful.
If one track can be described as driven, it's probably Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever, this piece rivets itself into the mind, frantically and schizophrenically leaping off its own ideas. Hammill's lyrics and vocals have a wonderfully reeled-off-on-the-spot tint, albeit not a lot of conventional beauty to counterbalance that. The jarring aggression of the vocals is in the vein of Nadir's Big Chance rather than Arrow or La Rossa, relying on an innate menace, speed and rhythm over volume or arrangement, and yet they are actually surprisingly fitting for the song, ramming in uncertainty, panic, menace and rage without pausing for breath... a burst of vocal dubs only heightens the frantic mood. The exhausted final vocal line is a complete contrast to this schizoid personality... one of the best worst vocal performances ever. Graham Smith's violin and viola provides truly berserk emotionality, reeling off a pulsing, tense riff as well as an array of off-the-wall solos, counterbalanced by the utter catharsis of the concluding solo. Nic Potter has never sounded better, with pulsating, demanding, insistent bass-lines complete with mixed-in sort of bass groans, as well as a bass-sound or two I haven't heard used in that way before. Even under that incredible violin solo at the end, he fits in a tasteful, obvious bass sound. The guitar is equally superb, providing a sort of picked-electric sound that lends a lot of character to the piece, as well as some blitz-on-the-ear wails. One of the big standouts of this piece, though, is Guy Evans. His combination of sort of trapping drum sounds, solid, aggressive beats, tasteful leaves, hard, flat rock beats and manically fast, yet comprehensible, fills, which sort of overspill all the parameters of the song, providing a sensation of real vertigo and being off the edge.
Anyway, I've gone into a bit more detail than I usually do on shortish songs for this one, but it was entirely worth it. An incredible song, one that really both pushes the parameters of rock and yet builds on existing traditions. As Peter Hammill would say, the 'exciting stuff'. It's a sample at the moment, so take a listen to it on the appropriate volume. If you don't like it, the album might not be for you (there's a wide range of material covered, and the lyrics, here, are probably not as strong as the rest of the album), but if you do, really, the album might be your thing. It's the song that brought me to going beyond the obligatory four VDGG albums.
The Sphinx In The Face is another oddity, complete with a particularly anarchically arranged set of lyrics, a range of rather clever musical quotes from previous pieces incorporated into the main piece. Opening with a cheerful guitar riff, backed up by the appropriate groove from the bass. A couple of rather reggae-ish moments are juxtaposed with a general pushing-rock-feel, amazing mellotron/viola, as well as possibly the most remarkably moving harmony in rock. The musicianship, as always, is incredible, and though the 'concept' of it all... the unifying theme of disunity, of a search... is a bit hard to grasp at first, once it kicks in, it sinks below the surface, and a range of exclamations that first seem trivial become extremely moving. Also brilliant, though I can imagine that the harmony ending won't hit anyone until you've really wrapped yourself in the album.
Chemical World is another piece of particularly good writing disguised by a bit of general chaos, noise, and lyrics which alternate between whimsical and acidic. Aside from a surprisingly Spanish guitar melody from Hammill, the song's softer moments are highlighted by Graham Smith's fascinating sax/flute-'imitation's on violin. The noisy, distorted-out-of-this-world mid-section is probably the high point of the piece, with an explosive Evans and a number of tense melodies and more 'psychedelic' ideas, which perhaps resemble that rather haunting section of Nine Feet Underground a little. Nic Potter's bass is very effective, again, handling a couple of lead guitarish licks on one occasion. Amazing stuff, and extremely progressive.
The Sphinx Returns concludes the album proper, with a rocked up version of the outro to The Sphinx In The Face, somewhat sealing up all the themes of the album in one range of bizarre musicianship and a fade to indicate that they continue.
Onto the bonus material. The Door is another great piece, with a killer riff. Rocking everywhere, a high-range thumping bass and a couple of hilarious keyboard effects. The demo version of The Wave is actually very moving and effective even without the lyrics, and it places a little more emphasis back on the individual music parts. Potter is probably a bit more effective (think it's that he's a lot more conspicuous with a quieter piano) on this one. Anyway, it illustrates that Van Der Graaf really could do instrumental extremely effectively... almost as incredible unpolished as it is finished. Ship Of Fools truly kicks, with a hammering riff, neat lyrics, and a sort of electric fire that reminds me a bit of a couple of the things 80s Crimson and Tull would go on to do. The vocals are truly off the wall, or off the charts, depending on how you see it, and Hammill gives a great guitar burst or two. I'd probably call it hard rock, more so than any of the Deep Purple and Uriah Heep stuff I've heard.
So, all in all, a collection including pretty much exclusively absolutely fantastic songs (The Habit Of The Broken Heart is a bit weaker, but not much so), which I would consider among Van Der Graaf (Generator)'s list of finest achievements, and that really does mean a lot, coming from me. The album is characterised by subtlety disguised as blatancy, which is a pretty standard VDGG feature, so if you don't get H to He or Godbluff or something like that, you probably won't get this. The lyrics are typically . Nonetheless, vital for fans of Van Der Graaf Generator, aggressive progressive music, later, but still very progressive albums, or quirky, obtuse concepts. A masterpiece of progressive rock, and (and I say this even with Starless And Bible Black, and Brain Salad Surgery close in mind) Guy Evans' performance on this is perhaps my favourite percussion on one album ever.
Rating: Five Stars... seems a bit standard fare for VDGG and my ratings, but that's alright... Favourite Track: Very, very difficult choice. Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever or The Siren Song if I had to pick. (oh, a couple of considerations)... I'm sure some of the times I reference saxalike/flutealike violins it is actually Jaxon, but I think at others they are, in fact, actually violin sounds that correspond to how I'd expect some of the saxes on World Record to sound. I'm not great on violas, so my exact terminology for string instruments may be horrifically wrong. Finally, the cover art, it's amazing, don't you think?
Edit: felt maybe a four was more in order for an album with an obvious weak track.
Quiet Zone is an entirely different VDGG album. As a matter of fact, it is so different that you might actually like it even if you hate all other VDGG output. Of course you also might hate it even more...Karl Bonnek
There are a number of reasons for all that: First of all we find Hammill using an entirely different range of his voice again: cleaner, gloomier, less aggressive and more restrained, much like he would be using on his succeeding solo albums. Then, with half of the band gone, there's no sax nor organ anymore but violin and cello instead. Which obviously brings forth a big change in sound. And last but not least, it has groovier and more recognizable 5 minute songs instead of the usual 10 minute chunks of operatic drama of the preceding albums.
Quite a change indeed but still it's a good album, even though it does not always convince me everytime I listen to it. Maybe the new members in the band needed another year to develop their sound and maybe a second album would have been a real winner. But that was not to happen
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome is the 8th full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Van Der Graaf Generator. The album was originally released under the Van Der Graaf monicker omitting the Generator part of the name though. There´s been quite a few significant lineup changes since World Record (1976) as Hugh Banton ( organ, piano, mellotron, bass pedals) and David Jackson ( Sax and flute) have left the band which probably generated the reason for the name change ( David Jackson guests on the songs The Sphinx in the Face and The Sphinx Returns). Instead former Van Der Graaf Generator bassist Nic Potter returns to the fold and violin player Graham Smith is also added to the lineup. The usual suspects in the lineup are Peter Hammill ( vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Guy Evans ( Drums and percussion).UMUR
The lineup changes have a significant impact on the band´s sound. The usual organ and sax dominated soundscape is now replaced by much more guitar and Graham Smith´s violin and viola playing. In addition to those changes the addition of a "real" bass player really gives the music on this album a very different sound compared to the last couple of releases. The songwriting is generally a bit simpler too or in other words closer to the vers/ chorus formula. The songs never fall into a commercial trap though and even the songs that seem most simple have progressive parts that keeps them intriguing.
The album starts with the great rocking Lizard Play and from the very beginning it´s obvious that the music has changed since World Record. Peter Hammill´s paatos filled vocal style is still the center of attention but especially the violin changes the sound. All songs are high quality compositions but I have favorites like Lizard Play, The Habit of the Broken Heart, Last Frame and of course the wonderfully aggressive Cat's Eye/ Yellow Fever (Running). The 2005 Virgin Records CD remaster features 3 bonus tracks. The folky Door, the instrumental The Wave and the B-side track Ship of Fools from the Cat's Eye single. The CD is mislabeled though which means that it appears on the label that Ship of Fools is a demo song and The Wave is mentioned as the B-side track from the Cat's Eye single. The three bonus tracks are a nice addition to the original album but they are mostly a fan thing.
The musicianship on The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome is outstanding. I´m blown back by the energy and enthusiasm that all four musicians showcase.
The production is fantastic IMO. Powerful and detailed.
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome is not the band´s most progressive release and probably not the best place to start for newcommers, but It´s still an excellent and very unique progressive rock album fully deserving a 4 star rating.
The reconfigured Van Der Graaf - no Generator this time - came about with the exit of Hugh Banton and David Jackson from the band lineup (though Jackson sneakily guests on The Sphinx In The Face here, and would soon rejoin as a full member for the Vital live album). Peter Hammill took this as an opportunity to reconfigure and update the band's sound, incorporating the New Wave influences that he'd toyed with to a certain extent on Nadir's Big Chance and Over, increasing his own use of electric guitar, and bringing in Graham Smith from String- Driven Thing on violin.W. Arthur
The result is a true breath of fresh air, a VdG configuration more than capable of holding its own in the punkish days of 1977 - the seeds of the furiously aggressive Vital album were sown here. Though Hammill would eventually decide to move on as a solo artist, the experiments on this disc would inform his solo work for many of the coming years, and whilst the band's turbulent lineup issues would cause the Van der Graaf name to be mothballed, it's material like this which allowed Hammill to stick to a defiantly experimental course over the New Wave years rather than succumbing to the wave of commercialisation other top-flight prog artists of the era did. Don't come expecting long epics or lots of keyboard and saxophone, but do come expecting tense, nervous energy and wild redefinitions of what prog could be.
Fantastic listening for almost all prog fans, unless you're absolutely not interested in prog bands incorporating punk/New Wave ideas into their musical arsenal.
Definitivamente no es el mejor disco de la banda pero no deja de ser muy bueno, con muchas sorpresas nuevas caras de una, ya por entonces, una vieja banda.
Espero que lo disfruten...
Lista de Temas:
1. Lizard Play
2. The Habit of the Broken Heart
3. The Siren Song
4. Last Frame
5. The Wave
6. Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running)
7. The Sphinx in the Face
8. Chemical World
9. The Sphinx Returns
1. Lizard Play
2. The Habit of the Broken Heart
3. The Siren Song
4. Last Frame
5. The Wave
6. Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running)
7. The Sphinx in the Face
8. Chemical World
9. The Sphinx Returns
- Graham Smith / violin, viola
- Nic Potter / bass
- Peter Hammill / vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Guy Evans / drums, percussion
David Jackson / saxes