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"...an intriguing new group that manages to combine styles that bring to mind early Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Univers Zero and Present..." - allaboutjazz.com[FULL REVIEW]
"Even listeners who aren't typically drawn to instrumental albums may be enlightened by a visit to this Far Corner. Recommended without hesitation. " - Seaoftranquility.org (1 of 2).[FULL REVIEW]
"...every song is an oyster containing a pearl. It has been a while since a band labelled '' progressive'' has really captured my imagination the way Far Corner has." - Yves DubZ, Seaoftranquility.org (2 of 2).[FULL REVIEW]
"...creates one of the most progressive sounds available in music today... This is the epitome of originality in music. It is dark. It is robust. It is full of flavor." - Dr. Music[FULL REVIEW]
"This is not only a very accomplished recording - it's a very entertaining one." - Bill Tilland, allmusic.com.[FULL REVIEW]
" Divergent tonal contrasts combined with precision oriented time changes and piercing solo spots translate into an entertaining program, brimming with a no-nonsense like game plan." - jazzreview.com [FULL REVIEW]
" interesting style, it's vivaciousness and the well-balanced mixture of compositions and improvised music. Certainly highly recommended!" - Progarchives.com [FULL REVIEW]
" The music undergoes a breathtaking series of largely improvised metamorphoses that set Far Corner apart from the prog-rock pack. " - Scaruffi.com [FULL REVIEW]
Sometimes the strangest things happen in the strangest places. If you were to say that a new chamber rock outfit, comfortably blending a classical music approach with a more aggressive rock stance, had come out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you might be laughed out of the room. Nothing against Milwaukee, it's just that when one thinks of musical progression, one thinks more of established centres like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco. But the truth is that music is where you make it, and if Milwaukee is the setting for an intriguing new group that manages to combine styles that bring to mind early Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Univers Zero and Present, then the response is: why not? Far Corner the album, and Far Corner the band, are the brainchild of keyboardist Dan Maske, a player who, by favouring grand piano first, Hammond organ second, and synthesizers a distant third, brings to mind early Keith Emerson, but with a less caricaturist personality. While Emerson bombastically stole from popular classics and "rocked them up," Maske uses an obviously broad knowledge in contemporary classical music to create his own compositions, which teem with complex time changes, frequent shifts in feel, and dynamics that range from the gentle yet dramatic opening to "The Turning" to the pseudo-metal introduction of "Silly Whim," where cellist Angela Schmidt uses a fuzz box to substitute for the thrashing electric guitar we all know should be there but isn't. Rounding out the quartet are percussionist Craig Walkner, a fine drummer who navigates odd metres and rapid changes with aplomb, and bassist William Kopecky, who is an absolute find on fretless electric bass. Kopecky, who is well-known in progressive rock circles, playing with groups including the Par Lindh Project, Tempest and Parallel Mind, is able to anchor the band when necessary, but is just as likely to be called upon to dominate a piece, acting as its melodic centre. While the majority of the album is focused on Maske's complex yet always engaging writing, Far Corner is more than just a band of highly skilled performers of detailed composition. Centred around basic structures, the 17-minute, three-part "Something Out There" suite demonstrates that the group is equally capable of collective improvisation, a facet that is also a part of their live performance. From abstract, open-ended passages to more direct rhythmic motifs, the group may favour structured form but they also show themselves to have the subtlety and intuition to interact and speak with a single voice in a freer setting. What separates Far Corner from some of its progenitors is its apparent lack of ego. While this work is as challenging as it comes, there doesn't seem to be any of the "look at me" kind of ego-stroking that so many of the early progressive groups seemed to be about. Far Corner seems more about dedication to the writing, and to creating a vibe that says more by implication than by overt display.
- John Kelman
From Seaoftranquility.com (1 of 2):
Far Corner: Far CornerFar Corner cold not be a more apropos name for this instrumental quartet from Milwaukee that employs a limited arsenal of instruments to make provocative and moody soundscapes. Seemingly originating from the deepest recesses (a far corner, if you will) of the human mind, the 10 compositions on Far Corner's self-titled debut come across as strangely familiar yet uncomfortably mysterious, almost forbidden. A big sound is created using a small palette of instrumental colors - fretless and "fretful" electric bass, grand piano, Hammond organ, synthesizers, acoustic and electric cellos and percussion - lending a chamber-orchestra dimension to Far Corner's music. Think Presence rewriting a Stravinsky composition in blood. While most of Far Corner's experimental compositions are written by keyboard player Dan Maske, the band also excels at improvisation and has excellent knowledge of their respective instruments' capabilities. There are moments in the paradoxically titled opening track, "Silly Whim," that sound like they belong in the score to a horror film, while the improvised minimalist approach to the 17-minute three-part "Something Out There" still manages to leave deep sonic scars. By contrast, 'The Turning" adds delicate jazz flourishes to an upbeat tempo for a surprisingly chipper presentation. Despite Far Corner's inherent dark tendencies and dexterous musicians, the presence of masterful bassist William Kopecky - one-third of the bizarre yet fascinating prog-metal power trio Kopecky - gives this CD additional depth and tone. Even listeners who aren't typically drawn to instrumental albums may be enlightened by a visit to this Far Corner. Recommended without hesitation.
- Michael Popke
From Seaoftranquility.com (2 of 2):
Far Corner: Far Corner
Right from the opening notes of Silly Whim we''re plunged into the avant-rock/chamber sound of Far Corner. Gobs of acoustic keys and exploratory bass lines are punctuated by majestic cello passages, as the band blurs the lines seperating modern classical music, progressive rock, and avant-jazz. The music also hints at the newer RIO-influenced sound which is prevalent on most Cuneiform releases. The tracks always seem to be moving into new, unchartered territories, and never stagnate in any type of sameness. Although Far Corner appears to be the brainchild of keyboardist Dan Maske (who penned all tracks and produced the disc), this is not merely a vehicle for his obvious talents on keys. Each song is crafted in a classical music tradition. Each band member is prevalent in the overall result of each number. Although there isn't a bad track on the disc, the jazz fan in me must give particularly high marks to the 3-part Something Out There. It builds from an ominous, improvised, almost inauspicious beginning in part I to a superb keyboard/bass exchange courtesy of Mr Maske and bassist William Kopecky, accentuated by some at times frenetic electric cello by Angela Schmidt in part II. This carries the track into a more symphonic progressive realm. Part III showcases Dan on the grand piano in a minimalistic, yet effective, closing suite. I could eternalize in dissecting every track on the disc (like the 16:24 closing Fiction which runs the full spectrum of the band''s repertoire with conviction and panache), or I could just proclaim that every song is an oyster containing a pearl. It has been a while since a band labelled '' progressive'' has really captured my imagination the way Far Corner has. It has seemed to me as though this type of original, inspired playing has been coming mostly from the avant-jazz realm of late. Too late for Nearfest 2005 but these guys must be considered for the 2006 edition. I must back my colleague Mike here and give this disc full marks. Highest recommendation.
- Yves DubZ, SoT
From Dr. Music - DrMusic.new-sounds.com:
CUNEIFORM RECORDS' FAR CORNER DEFINES ORIGINALITY
Dark....rich....robust....full of flavor. No, I'm not going to review Starbucks latest French Roast coffee blend, I'm talking about Cuneiform Records' release of Far Corner's self-titled debut. This is a record that you've never heard before. A stark experimentation in originality. Billing themselves as a chamber rock ensemble,
Far Corner live up to that description and then some. This is a quartet that uses only a cello and keyboard, with a bass/drums rhythm section, to create their unique sound. With three members of the quartet being classically trained musicians with degrees from the University Of Wisconsin-Madison, there is a strong classical vibe throughout the record. Internationally renowned bassist William Kopecky, having worked with rock outfits such as The Flyin' Ryan Brothers and guitar wiz Michael Angelo, gives this release the cohesive rock/jazz sound that keeps the band accessible to the average listener. With the sly funk of his fretless pieces accenting the classical dark cello arrangements played by cellist Angela Schmidt, Kopecky gives the Stravinsky/Bartok influenced compositions an injection of Jeff Beck/Mahavishnu Orchestra jazz rock. The mixture is unique, and utterly original. Drummer Craig Walkner is extraordinary in his precision. Playing elaborate drum beats and intricate cymbal patterns, he is the perfect partner to Kopecky's bass. With cellist Angela Schmidt providing layer upon layer of direful, apocalyptic strokes of her instrument, this really is an amazing collaboration. Keyboardist Dan Maske, who has a Ph. D in Music Composition from the University Of Wisconsin-Madison, is brilliant with both composing and playing here. The melding of jazz and classical piano and organ arrangements, in the ocean of symphonic sound that he has written for his bandmates, creates one of the most progressive sounds available in music today. His playing could be described as Bob James shakes hands with Bach, or Bruce Hornsby gets attacked by Mozart. This type of jazz/classical playing has a sort of tension and immediacy to it in this context. The manner in which Maske composes lends itself to a live, or eclectic improvisational style. When I asked the bandleader if he had a specific formula when composing - like initial writing on piano, with rhythm section then added, and cello pieces as topping - he stated, "No one instrument is composed first. The instruments are all written for pretty much simultaneously, as a whole. However, a tune may be based on a theme or motive that I come up with on a particular instrument such as 'Outside', which was stemmed from a bass theme. 'Going Somewhere' was based on the percussion, etc. Even though I'm the keyboard player, I prefer to step back and write for the ensemble as a whole, as if I'm just the composer andwon't be playing the music myself." I believe, in sports, this is called "being a team player". The idea of composing all of these parts simultaneously seems unimaginable to this writer. With the complexity of these arrangements, it takes a genius mind to have each of them successfully converge and coagulate the way they do. It seems Maske is that genius mind. When I first put the disc into my player, the first track that played was called "Silly Whim". The title brought thoughts of rock stalwarts Rush, and the lyrics of their epic "2112" song, from the record of the same name. I thought maybe Maske is, or was, a Rush fan - and maybe the song would resemble Rush in some strange way. Nope. Maske spoke to me about the origins of "Silly Whim": "I was pretty much finished composing the music for the CD when, as I was playing drums one day, came up with three contrasting beats that seemed to work well together. I combined them and then wrote music for the other instruments to these drum beats and came up with the tune. The whole thing was kind of unplanned, and I think I basically wrote the whole tune in one day." He went on to say, "This was a big difference compared to the other tunes which usually took weeks or months of composing, thus, it was a 'silly whim' of a tune. He also said he was aware of the Rush track, and interestingly added, "I actually thought years ago that if I ever started a heavy metal band, I'd call it SILLY WHIM. " Hmmm, ....interesting. As I continued on through this comprehensive, multifarious record, I came upon a track called "Something Out There". This track stood apart from the rest because of its' natural urgency, and its' separation into three parts (appropriately titled I, II and III). The spirit of this track strangely reminded me of the classic horror film, Night Of The Living Dead". With the first part (I) staying somewhat serene, the second part (II) being frantic and scatterbrained, and the third and final part (III) having a "dust settles" feel to it - this track plays out much like a film score. As it happens, this is the flow of "Night Of The Living Dead"; with the characters barricaded in a house with "something (zombies) out there" in the middle of the film. I asked bassist William Kopecky if there was an
intentional theme to the track when it was written. "'Something Out There' wasn't 'written' so much as 'spontaneously composed' live in the studio", he said. He continued to explain the unique technique in which the track was assembled: " If memory serves, we totally improvised the 3rd movement first, without a clue as to what we were doing, although we did have a series of notes--not a conventional scale by any means--from which we could pick and choose what we were going to play. We played for about 10 minutes, but the computer crashed after only three or four! (Dan Maske) took the fragment home and decided to create a very loose framework for the track, consisting of three parts: parts 1 and 3 being like bookends in their airy, haunted atmosphere, while part 2 is a more lively movement with a fiery organ solo and wild drumming. So it does have a kind of storyline feel, I suppose, but that wasn't intentional at its inception." He thankfully went on to say that h0e "could totally see the piece working in the context of ('Night Of The Living Dead')", which helped in my decision to not seek mental help for my bizarre thoughts on the song. I did begin wondering how Far Corner might reach titles for these diverse compositions. Maske states, "Most of the titles were chosen while I was in the middle of writing a tune. A couple may have been thought up just after a tune was finished. I did have CDart imagery in mind (cold & remote wilderness) when writing the tunes, and therefore the track titles can all find some representation on the CD cover.
'Silly Whim' may be an exception." Hmmm, ....interesting. Yes, this is a record you've never heard before. This is the epitome of originality in music. It is dark. It is robust. It is full of flavor. It may not be Starbucks French Roast, but Far Corner's blend of talent and originality is certainly my cup of tea.
This eponymous debut from the Far Corner quartet is at first glance a surprising mature musical document, but three of the four members (keyboardist and chief composer Dan Maske, cellist Angela Schmidt and percussionist Craig Walkner) have music degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and have clearly logged in some serious practice, rehearsal and performance time. The fourth member, bassist William Kopecky, has more than paid his dues in numerous prog rock bands and he displays impressive facility on his instrument. (He can also rock really hard, and provides a useful ground for the more ethereal tendencies of his academic colleagues.) The French Goth rock band Univers Zero is a clear source of Far Corner's inspiration - the inside cover of the CD has the band dressed in black, two members wearing shades, posed in front of some sort of crumbling concrete "ruin," (an obvious gesture toward the group shot on Univers Zero's infamous 1979 recording, Heresie). But whereas Univers Zero is primarily dark and relentless, Far Corner is that and then some - arguably demonstrating more sophisticated compositional skills and perhaps greater command of their instruments than the original Univers Zero aggregation. Bass and drums frequently lock together for the signature bottom-heavy fusion sound known as "zheul" to old Magma and Univers Zero fans, while Schmidt's amplified cello alternately scrapes and stutters or sometimes further anchors the bottom end. Maske's minor key Hammond organ, especially, can lend just the right amount of gloomy cathedral ambience, and Kopecky soars on some tracks with a moaning slap-bass ("fretless & fretful," as he puts it) that is often downright funky. And he can really make his bass sing, elevating it periodically to the status of a lead instrument. One of the pitfalls of the Goth prog genre, as its detractors often observe, is that the jabbing, intricate ensemble work and the restless chromatic wandering from key signature to key signature has a built-in tendency toward abstraction, turning Goth rock into Math rock and eventually challenging the listener's endurance. But Far Corner alters the formula in a number of effective ways, first inserting a three-part free improvisation, "Something Out There", into the program and then later tweaking the ensemble mix with a dominant piano role on "The Turning", and on the long closing track &Fiction" moving away from the tight ensemble work and0 breaking out the individual instruments to a greater extent. The first and third sections of "Something Out There" are spiky and atmospheric, but the middle section is riff-based, and it features some spirited, rockish interplay between Walkner's percussion and Maske's solid Hammond groove. This is not only a very accomplished recording - it's a very entertaining one.
- Bill Tilland
Emanating out of Wisconsin, this quartet radiates its muse via the respective instrumentalists' classical and rock backgrounds. Think of modern rock units such as the Belgian outfit "Univers Zero," along with some "King Crimson," style, heavy-handed licks. Overall, the group succeeds at carving out a well-balanced, hybrid mix of classically drenched progressive rock, featuring electric cellos, synths, e-basses, and percussion. Divergent tonal contrasts combined with precision oriented time changes and piercing solo spots translate into an entertaining program, brimming with a no-nonsense like game plan.
FAR CORNER Far Corner
Review by diddy @ 12:45:07 PM EST, 1/5/2005
— Stravinsky and Bartok as well as several prog bands from the 70'... The main influences of this new quartett from Milwaukee (Wisconsin) sound supremely promising. Well, on the one hand it seems to be surprising that a young band wants to create a mixture of contemporary chamber music and rock, but on the other hand you have to admit, that several bands showed how awesome this kind of music could be; Present and Univers Zero, just to name two of them. These two bands are also the ones with the stongest resemblances to FAR CORNER. But the heavy metal like cello, the jazzy piano and the roaring hammond impart their music a very personal touch...and suddenly it seems as if the music has no similarities to anyone at all. So Univers Zero and Present are just a kind of benchmark, nothing really assimilable.
FAR CORNER's self titled debut album exceeds the aforementioned expectations with it's interesting style, it's vivaciousness and the well-balanced mixture of compositions and improvised music. Humming bass, sophisticated drumming, jazzy and complex keyboards, mostly piano and measured cello which prevalently degenerates into boisterous and distorted kind of shredding. Maybe somehow comparable to the cello known from Höyry-Kone or Alamaailman Vasarat (two awesome bands btw). All songs seem to be highlights just because they are nearly of the same quality. Nevertheless, I have my favorites which include the opening track "Silly Whim" (download the sample), the quite heavy "With one swipe of it's mighty paw", the very jazzy "The turning" and the closing longtrack "Fiction". The reason for giving 4 Stars instead of 5 is following: Even though all tracks are highlights and not one song falls short, I have to admit that the album on the whole, during more than 70 minutes, can sometimes be described as lengthy. A little more alternation and FAR CORNER's debut would have been a true masterpiece.
I can just repeat my words from the bio, If you like zheul, so called chamber rock with jazzy piano and don't mind a sometimes quite heavy, distorted cello you should check out FAR CORNER immediately. But you should also check them out if you like to listen to modern music with a crazy touch and interesting mixture of styles. Certainly highly recommended!
Wisconsin's instrumental quartet Far Corner, led by keyboardist and composer Dan Maske with Angela Schmidt on cello, William Kopecky on bass and Craig Walkner on drums (no guitar) debuted with Far Corner (Cuneiform, 2004). Silly Whim is the overture, with its energetic fusion of jazz, rock and classical music that evokes Colosseum at their best. After Going Somewhere, that sounds like an excerpt from a Stravinsky ballet, the three-part suite Something Out There displays the best the quartet has to offer, particularly in the effervescent second movement (another return to Colosseum, but also to Nice). Most of the fun lies in appreciating the technique of the players. The cell-keyboards interaction shines in With One Swipe of its Mighty Paw, propelled by a dance-like bass riff. A classy jazz keyboard workout highlights the syncopated The Turning. The closing 16-minute Fiction is both amusing as a piece of almost cinematic music and mesmerizing as a demonstration of instrumental subtlety. The music undergoes a breathtaking series of largely improvised metamorphoses that set Far Corner apart from the prog-rock pack.
- Piero Scaruffi