This is a review of the standard edition CD. At the link mentioned above, you can find special editions with extras and DVD and even a very expensive book edition. No matter which version you buy, the nine main tracks are immaculate and great in their presentation.
By now, no one in the progressive music world is unfamiliar with the three giants that comprise Stick Men. Founder Tony Levin on Chapman stick, Pat Mastelotto on traps and buttons and Markus Reuter on touch guitars, U8 and electronics. This is a trio that has a huge sound more like a six piece. For me, this is the best release so far. It brings a Crimson sound from where the Discipline/Beat/Three of a Perfect Pair were headed. The opener ‘Nude Ascending Staircase’ is evidence of that. I hear a much richer and broader sound from Mastelotto and not muffled or compressed as he sometimes sounds with Crimson and other former projects. The versatility of all three musicians is in full bloom. The second track ‘On/Off’ is slower in tempo but still explores that Frippiod arpeggiated guitar work. Everything is so silky smooth and although it sounds effortless, that’s due to the decades of experience from the players.
All the music has a sharp edge and much of it has a brisk springy energy that walks past you before you see it coming. ‘Cusp’ is as such with incomparable interplay with bass, percussion, drums, guitar and electronic treatments. If anyone thinks this is ambient music, they’d be woefully wrong. Each composition has directness, total structure and are indeed what the general public would call songs. Track four ‘Hide in the Trees’ is a favorite of mine with a more lush atmosphere and floating tempo which brings to mind David Sylvian, and even steps into a slightly Happy The Man sound, but still retains the Crimson presence. The versatility is pronounced here. And then even further so with ‘Crack in the Sky’ where Levin speaks in the song, so much like Robbie Robertson from his early recordings. Calm, deep, and charismatic, his words ride the waves of soothing music precisely like foam on the waves. Reuter creates a gorgeous celestial skyscape with guitars and treatments. This is another fine example of spoken word being absolutely perfect for the music. In fact, everything on “Deep” is perfect.
I found nothing even remotely weak or misfitted on the nine cuts. Just the opposite, it’s all at the height of Stick Men’s output. ‘Concussion’ (track 7) pounces on you with drums and bass, then fluid guitar, quickly jumping into a jazz motif unlike anything else on the recording. While the bass lines grind, guitar floats, the drums promote the syncopations. As this develops, you end up with very complex measures of change and textures. Amazing stuff! The following cut ‘Sepia’ comes back down to an aquatic feel. The intro is relaxing but then mystery abounds. You’re underwater in the deep blue sea. Stick Men create a glorious suspense, sound track in element, stand out in it’s cozy environment, and mesmerizing in it’s entirety. At the end, a groove is established by Mastelotto and the piece dissolves. What the listener gets on the last track ‘Whale Watch’ is a total masterpiece of progressive music. An all consuming ten minutes plus epic that snowballs into a mass of all out greatness. The giant awakes! Oddly, this last cut is the least like Crimson, and brings in some big changes in both dynamics and styles. From medium tempo to rushing currents, to suspense, to power plunges, and short lost in space layovers. This one is a true journey and one that will thrill.
“Deep” is vast, warm, sizzling, striking, and hands down their best release yet. I found everything amazing in this hybrid fusion of Stick Men’s world. The theme of whale watching is reinvented here as so many other images are created for the interpretation of the audience. As said, this is no where near an ambient project, but does just the opposite in cascading and flowing through many textures and tempos, auras and pictures for the mind.
Very Recommended !
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on July 7th, 2013