Greg Segal - "In Search Of The Fantastic"
(Phantom Airship Records 2002, PARGS02)
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
I can't imagine anyone thinking they've got Greg Segal figured out. From one project to the next, even one solo album to the next, he is continually mining the possibilities of rock music, songs, and sound. On his previous solo album, Always Look On The Dark Side Of Life, Greg compiled a sampling of his very personal songs recorded from the mid-'80's to early ‘90's. But with In Search Of The Fantastic, he lets us into a world of serious guitar and percussion exploration. Ambience and effects are the order of the day, but there's way too much variety here for simple descriptions. Check out the list of featured instruments from the CD liner notes:
"Bowed device; 12-string acoustic/7-string electric/6-string fretted and fretless electric guitars; Appalachian dulcimer; snare drum, floor tom, cymbal; African slit drum; toy xylophone, tambourine and assorted found percussion; vocals; and more effects than should be reasonably allowed by law."
And he ain't kiddin either with the effects. After opening with a recitation of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Alone", Greg takes the listener on a journey of blazing sonic trails and multi-colored aural landscapes. Listening to this CD I was continually bowled over by the fact that Greg didn't use keyboards in recording the music. Manuel Göttsching's guitar experiments are the closest analogy to what Greg is doing here, though more in terms of style and structure then the music actually sounding like Ash Ra Tempel (though it does sometimes).
There are 20 tracks on the CD and among the highlights is "Looking For Paradise", which brought to mind a slow dark chamber drone symphony. It really sounds like Greg has multiple cellos and violins, though in reality we know he has cloned himself several times and is giving a new music concert performance. It consists of slowly developing patterns and textures as Greg produces drones and scratches by what sounds like mostly bowed techniques. In addition to the obvious string sounds there is also a prominent ambient effect that gives the music a powerful atmospheric quality. And in the last 2 minutes of this 8 minute track he throws in a twist by introducing a brief Bluesy acoustic guitar bit followed by a rapid but smooth run up the electric guitar fretboard. "Nad" is a short track that continues the theme on Paradise but it's a meditative piece with what sounds like a didgeridoo droning throughout. And "Returns" features searing space guitar licks and rich cosmic landscapes against what sound like looped patterns.
The Ash Ra stylings are most apparent on "What Once Was Is" and "Wednesday, 10 P.M.". The former consists of continually shifting cosmic guitar patterns, some of which bring to mind Manuel Göttsching's work, but also some prog rock sounding segments too. There's a strong "how the hell does he do it" element as I kept telling myself that he's got to be using keyboards. Dig those effects. And "Wednesday, 10 P.M." is my hands down favorite track on the disc. It's a nearly 12 minute excursion that opens with screaming siren-like space guitar notes and a low pitched rising and falling ambient wave. The siren effect soon evolves into wailing space howls and moans, and the ambient waves became so low that they were vibrating in my head and chest. Greg then launches into an Ash Ra Tempel styled cosmic guitar workout that is sure to satisfy fans who have long wished for Manuel to release Inventions For Electric Guitar Part II. Headphones REQUIRED!
"Sahara, 1909" is another strong track. Intense percussion thunders against a storm level wind, howling and whining effects, and dark atmospherics. Later in the tune there's a brief interlude where Greg shifts gears completely playing a semi-dissonant segment with some strange carnival sounds, before returning to the main theme to close the track. "The India-Appalachia Railway" is another one of my favorites that goes into somewhat different territory. Here we have Greg in full orchestra mode, blending his atmospherics and spacey and droning chamber music stylings with repetitive multi-layered stringed instrument and percussion patterns, each working cooperatively with the other to slowly build a complex and varied sonic whole. One of the standout tracks on the CD. Even more different is "The Bad Ass Ride". Lessee... I'll call it Stoner Surf Rock. A thudding stoned bass provides a drugged rhythmic edge for what otherwise sounds like a warped Beach Blanket Bingo tune. Finally, "Madstone" is like an old time traditional acoustic folk guitar style. Cajun perhaps? What's interesting is that Greg returns to this same sound and theme on three more tracks throughout the CD.
In summary... LOTS happening here folks. If you haven't heard Greg Segal's music, either solo or with Paper Bag or Jugalbandi, then this new one is THE place to start for Aural Innovations readers. Check out an artist who has been on the scene and continues to grow and develop after many years.
For more information you can visit Greg Segal's web site at: http://www.gregsegal.com/.
Read the reviews of Greg's Jugalbandi project and previous solo CD along with an in-depth interview in AI #18 at: http://www.aural-innovations.com/issues/issue18/gsegal01.html.
Contact via snail mail c/o Greg Segal; PO Box 82525; Portland, OR 97282-0525.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz