Stick Men are a musical trio consisting of former King Crimson bassist and Stick player Tony Levin and drummer Pat Mastelotto, accompanied by touch guitarist Markus Reuter. They have been making albums since 2010 and have an impressive discography to look back on. Two years after their last release, a new album was released towards the end of 2022. The approximately 30-minute EP Tentacles presents the trio's first new material in six years. Between Prog Noir (2016), the last studio CD with new material and Tentacles (2022) there are three more live albums, one with saxophone player Mel Collins, one with violin player David Cross and one with keyboardist Gary Husband.
Instead of presenting well composed pieces with vocals, as on their predecessor, the band have allowed themselves some freedom this time around. They come up with more guitar solos, grooves and short jams. Only on the title track Levin briefly sings the little word Tentacles. Despite the freedom they have on this release, the compositions are mostly based on well thought-out, pre-established structures. This makes it a bit easier to follow. Because sometimes the music takes so much effort for the listener to understand. Most people struggle a bit with this kind of modern progressive rock, fusion, mathrock or whatever you like to label this kind of music.
While listening to this new release you can easily say that Mastelotto's creative drumming, enhanced by electronic effects, and Levin's complex bass parts creates the foundation on which Reuter can create his versatile guitar contributions, his atmospheric soundscapes and his solos. But it would be too much to say that Stick Men are the accompanying rhythm section of a soloist. Because everyone is involved and listens to what the other musicians come up with. They just interact with one another.
To describe the music or compare with other acts is not easy. But it is easy to say that the complex music they come up with can be found on a new King Crimson album by all means.
Therefore lovers of the crimson variety of modern progressive rock should check out Tentacles. Also for fans of fusion and several other genres of the rather unusual progressive rock is advised to check this new Stick Men release.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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