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HERD OF INSTINCT
(2019 - Firepool Records - USA)
With the band's 5th release, they not only expand in standout guest musicians, but the core members stretch out and bring new demeanor, less ambience, and more girth among the 10 compositions. While Herd of Instinct have been solid since inception (co-founded by Mark Cook) and in previous albums explore multiple genres; on 'Incantation' they visit even more new places. On a higher level with added vocals (they have not used vocals since their debut), the end product is a grand result.
Those similar Crimson, Stickmen, Trey Gunn (many of the touch guitar progressive masters) styles are still intact, however this time avant-rock in the RIO chamber world with help from Elaine Falco (Thinking Plague) on vocals (track #2 and #9) will turn heads of both old and new fans. Although not what one would assume Falco to sound like, the medieval atmosphere does chill your bones, and that lush partly sacred shadowy chamber music is outstanding. Another roundabout is 'Myth and Ritual' (track #5) which is dedicated to Scott Walker's experimental orchestral endeavors. It was written shortly after Walker's passing. For this listener, this cut is as incredible and truly the finest moment I have ever heard from the band.
The exceptional line up on this platter is: Mark Cook (also of Spoke of Shadows) - Warr guitar, fretless bass, guitar, keyboards, and string arrangements/ Bill Bachman (also of Spoke of Shadows, Neil Morse) - drums and percussion/ Mike McGary -piano and synth/ Rick Read - Chapman Stick, bass, and keyboards/ and special guests: Elaine Di Falco (Thinking Plague) - vocals and lyrics/ Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree, Ork) - fretless bass and ebow / Gayle Ellett (Djam Karet, Fernwood) – Mellotron, Rhodes, Moog, Hammond, harmonium, guitar, and tambura (he also did the mastering of the album)/ Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson) - Rhodes, Moog, Mellotron, and Hammond/ Stephen Page (Stonebriar String Quartet) - violin/ Craig Shropshire (Impending Bloom) - hand percussion and gong/ and Dave Streett - Warr guitar. This is an out of the ordinary gathering of musicians.
The overall atmosphere is dark and slightly cloudy but with a burst of sunlight and brilliant rays in just the right spots. This album is proof that Herd of Instinct have plenty more to offer the music world. The main composer of the outfit, I asked Mark Cook how he went about writing the material and he replied "I write/arrange most of the music and the band interprets the parts or create their own thing within the music. I'm quite open to everybody's input. I send the guest musicians the pieces and they write their parts without much direction from me. They bring ideas that enhances the music and it's always a surprise to hear what they'll come up with." As all fans can attest, this works wonderfully. From cinematic, post rock, progressive rock, and all the inbetweens the players have tackled, it always feels strong and with purpose. The physical CD package is in perfect relation to the music. They would be hard pressed to find better cover art to represent the recording (front, back and inside), plus the haunting photography is striking.
Bringing all their finest elements to a fire dance, surprising the onlookers with some awesome RIO in the Art Zoyd/Univers Zero approach, and letting go the magic whip on some Fripp/Pinhas/Massacre workouts; HOI skate the light fantastic. 'Torture Garden' (track #10) brings more chamber orchestra in a gem that knocks on the gate of forever classic greatness. The scary thing is, after this album I am certain they can even take it up another notch. More please. RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 11 - 23- 2019
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