|Cheating the Polygraph (cd/dvd–v)|
Gavin Harrison — Cheating the Polygraph (cd/dvd–v)
» CD/DVD–V media book edition featuring surround sound mix.
Location: London, UK (Born: May 28, 1963)
Album release: April 13, 2015
Record Label: Kscope
1. What Happens Now? 7:30
2. Sound Of Muzak/So Called Friend 5:52
3. The Start Of Something Beautiful 4:39
4. Heart Attack In A Layby/The Creator Had A Mastertape/Surfer 5:59
5. The Pills I'm Taking (from Anesthetize) 5:03
6. Hatesong/Halo 8:37
7. Cheating The Polygraph/Mother & Child Divided 5:30
8. Futile 6:05
℗ 2015 Gavin Harrison
» Gavin Harrison — Cheating the Polygraph (cd/dvd–v) Legendary Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison reimagines the band's catalogue in brilliant and surprising ways. Boasting performances from some of the World's best contemporary Jazz players, PT classics such as Heart Attack In A Layby and Hatesong take on new life in striking arrangements by Laurence Cottle (ex Bill Bruford's Earthworks, Alan Parsons Project etc) and co–produced with GH. A labour of love, recorded over a period of five years, 'Cheating The Polygraph' features long–term GH collaborators such as Dave Stewart and Gary Sanctuary and provides an ideal means of appreciating the both the flexibility and timelessness of Porcupine Tree's legacy, as well as the full scope of Gavin Harrison's immense talent.
Gavin Harrison’s ‘Cheating the Polygraph’
» Brand new solo album released Monday, April 13th 2015
» Gavin Harrison, drummer with British Prog innovators Porcupine Tree, currently working with King Crimson, and a musician whose playing and performing résumé includes stints with artists as varied as Iggy Pop, Lewis Taylor, Manfred Mann and Kevin Ayers, is to release a brand new solo album, entitled Cheating The Polygraph on Kscope on Monday, April, 13th 2015 / 14th April — USA & Canada / 17th April — Germany /22nd April — Japan .
» Cheating The Polygraph is an ambitious project which sees the restlessly creative Harrison re–imagine eight songs from the acclaimed Porcupine Tree repertoire, in a set of vivid and vibrant new arrangements that give full, free rein to his enquiring musical mind. Harrison explains the approach thus: “I think every album needs a focus — a master plan — and whilst I thought about writing new tunes for a big band project — I made a version of PT’s Futile (with Laurence Cottle) and it came out really well. It felt like a good plan to follow on with some of my personal favourite PT songs and see if we could make them work. I had a vision that the arrangements would never lean towards a clichéd classic big band sound but always follow a modern contemporary angle. So even if you didn’t know the original tune you could still enjoy it as a modern composition that would work with this instrumentation. I couldn’t be happier with the results. Laurence Cottle’s immense talent as a musician and arranger was mind blowing.”
» The eight tracks which comprise the album were recorded over a five–year period, with Harrison working in conjunction with a crew of some of the finest contemporary musicians, including the gifted saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock and bass player Laurence Cottle. It’s a set that will no doubt excite much controversy; Harrison use of the ‘Big Band’ musical sound stage isn’t some ersatz attempt to make a ‘Swing’ album; it’s closer in execution and arrangement to the innovative works of Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, a layered, richly–textured selection that is both beautifully–recorded and incisively delivered.
» No respecter of arbitrary musical pigeonholing, Harrison doesn’t so much ignore genre confines as smash right through ‘em — Harrison states in his thoughtful liner notes: “It’s very important to me to push the boundaries of music whilst respecting what came before. In the arrangements of these pieces we really get ‘out there’ with some of the harmonies and rhythms, and we vastly extended the edges of the original compositions.” Harrison also drops little musical depth bombs throughout by interpolating shards of melody and musical themes from other Porcupine Tree songs seamlessly into the musical patina of Cheating The Polygraph, which serve to underscore his frontiersman spirit; this is some of the most enthralling, engaging and challenging music you’ll hear in 2015, but there is also wit and charm in abundance here, too.
By Brice Ezell 10 April 2015, Assistant Editor; Score: 8
» Almost all has been quiet on the Porcupine Tree front since 2010. After a grand outing at London’s Royal Albert Hall in October of that year, the English progressive rock four–piece entered a period of hiatus, from which it has yet to come back. Frontman Steven Wilson has stuck to his solo career, putting out albums at a steady one–every–two–years rate since 2011. Bassist Colin Edwin has been involved a wide variety of eclectic projects, including the art–rock outfit Henry Fool and a collaboration with the American guitarist Jon Durant. Richard Barbieri, who manned the keyboards for Porcupine Tree, teamed up with Marillion’s Steve Hogarth for two LPs, Not the Weapon But the Hand and The Arc Light.
» In terms of prog credentials, however, it’s tough to beat the jump drummer Gavin Harrison made following the announcement of the hiatus. Although by 2010 Porcupine Tree was arguably the pre–eminent progressive rock band in the world, Harrison was lucky enough to land a spot playing with a band even higher in the prog echelons: King Crimson. After playing a short touring stint with the group in 2008 as a dual drummer with Pat Mastelotto, Harrison rejoined them in 2014 as part of a three drummer core. (This is prog, after all.) If any modern drummer versed in progressive rock is worthy of picking up the sticks alongside legends like King Crimson, it’s Harrison. Although less technically ostentatious than someone like Mike Portnoy (ex–Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob), his drumming technique is virtuosic and ornate without clubbing the listener over the head with flurries of fills. Watching him describe the intricacies of beats that fascinate him — see this session with Guitar Center — is to get a glimpse into a mind of a drummer that takes every beat into thorough consideration.
» For that reason, Cheating the Polygraph succeeds, in spite of its near cringe–worthy premise. For this eight–track album, Harrison reworks — if not mangles — classic Porcupine Tree songs and rearranges them for the big band format. One would be forgiven for thinking that this idea sounds like an alternate attempt at something like the Vitamin String Quartet’s version of Top 40 albums. While that quartet often does interesting things with the tunes they play, they too often merely play through the songs without actually tinkering with the format in a way that would make their cover versions distinctive. The timbre of a violin or a cello is different to an electric guitar or a synthesizer, but merely altering the timbre, in most cases, isn’t enough to make a song feel new in a string quartet arrangement. What that ultimately amounts to is an alternate take on muzak.
» Fortunately, Harrison knows quite well that it would not do to have a note–for–note rehash of these Porcupine Tree numbers. As such, he substantially reworks each one, to the point that in many sections of these tracks it’s easy to completely forget what’s being played in the first place. At the same time, however, he keeps the best parts of the original tunes in, such that they’re both identifiable yet entirely re–envisioned. “The Sound of Muzak” and “So Called Friend” are mashed together into one, with the core rhythms of each being retained while the saxophones and horns take the music in exciting new directions. In some surprising cases, certain parts of the originals translate even better to the big band setup: the vocal line to “The Start of Something Beautiful” works brilliantly when played by brass instruments, sounding not like an instrument attempting to mimic a voice but rather like notes that were written for the instrument in the first place.
» Harrison’s wise selection of Porcupine Tree tunes further helps this big band experiment from becoming awkward. Most notably, his arrangement of “Hatesong / Halo” actually trumps the Porcupine Tree iterations of those songs, particularly the latter of the two. Here the sonic parallel between Cheating the Polygraph and the music of Frank Zappa becomes most pronounced. The press materials for the record name–drop Zappa’s work with the Mothers of Invention, but it’s actually the later Zappa that these tracks bring to mind, namely the orchestral collection The Yellow Shark (1993). The saxophones on “Halo” evoke the rhythmic dynamism and quirky riffs that Zappa was able to bring to the classical music format. After one spin of Cheating the Polygraph, it’s obvious that Harrison could easily nail the head–spinning tempo and rhythm of The Yellow Shark‘s tour de force of a finale, the delightfully titled “G–Spot Tornado”.
» The transition from progressive rock and metal to avant-swing works well for most of these tunes, with one notable exception. On its Porcupine Tree album version, “Heartattack in a Layby” (from the band’s 2002 breakthrough In Absentia) is a tender, fragile thing, highlighted by Wilson’s mournful vocal and acoustic guitar minor chords. On Cheating the Polygraph, the song becomes the “breather moment” amidst the enticingly perplexing rhythmic explorations that surround it. “Heartattack in a Layby” does work well to some extent as a low–key jazz number — it’s easy to imagine it being played in the late hours of a jazz club — but it’s the one clear case here where rather than being a unique take on the original, it’s instead a lesser representation of it.
» One minor slip–up in a project as audacious as this, however, can be forgiven. There are several ways this could have gone wrong; given that Porcupine Tree’s music is on its own terms quite complex, it would have been easy for Harrison to go into copy and paste mode, keeping the initial arrangements note–for–note with the only significant change being the big band aesthetic. Lucky for us, he’s done something meaningfully inventive with these songs, not for any misplaced nostalgia for the “glory days” of Porcupine Tree, but because he saw in these pieces a chance for reinvention. » In doing so he both reasserts his prowess as a drummer and reminds us all of why his time with Porcupine Tree was so superlative. Simply put, it’s damn near impossible to imagine J.K. Simmons’ tyrannical big band conductor from the 2014 breakout hit Whiplash ever saying to Harrison, “Not my tempo.” :: http://www.popmatters.com/ // Website: http://www.gavharrison.com/ // Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drummergavinharrison
|Cheating the Polygraph (cd/dvd–v)|