Roger Miller
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No Man Is Hurting Me (1986), 7/10
The Big Industry (1987), 6.5/10
Oh Guitars (1988), 6/10
Win Instantly (1989), 6/10
Damage The Enemy (1989), 6/10
Whamon Express, 5/10
Xylyl, 5/10
How The West Was Won , 5/10
Elemental Guitar , 5/10
Unfold, 4/10
The Benevolent Disruptive Ray , 5/10
Binary System: Live At The Idea Room , 5/10
Binary System: From the Epicenter , 6/10
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(Translated from my original Italian text by Martina Caon)

Roger Miller's career is one of the most adventurous in rock history. He began with Sproton Layer, a Boston band who played psychedelic, Pink-Floyd-like music (and which had their first album With Magnetic Fields Disrupted released by New Alliance in 1992). Miller became then the guitarist of Mission Of Burma, the legendary punk band also from Boston. Afterwards, together with Erik Lindgren, Miller founded the Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic. By the time that experience too came to an end, Miller had revealed himself to be a virtuoso of the piano, which was soon to be his only instrument.

His first solo album, No Man Is Hurting Me (Ace Of Hearts, 1986), is a balanced mix of eccentric gag ballads in the manner of early Brian Eno or of the most extravagant Todd Rundgren (i.e. the disco-pop fanfare of King Of The Road and the distorted, ear-splitting heavy-metal of Red Ants), and post-modern suite compositions, where Miller creates a new kind of instrumental rock. He's at his best in the sonatas for overdub keyboards, like Echo Piece, Sketch For Night Music , and above all in the grand finale of Explorer, while in Zoomusical Habitats he goes "flippertronic" at pleasure, merging tribalistic atmospheres and dissonances.

Miller's classical ambitions are more evident in The Big Industry (Ace Of Hearts, 1987), a maximum electric piano album (where maximum stands for prepared). It contains blurring, industrial mini-symphonies (above all The Age Of Reason and the title-track) and surreal, crazy lieder (Portrait Of A Mechanical Dog) The ballad Groping Hands, based on a weak metallurgic poli-rhythm, is emblematic.

Guitars (Forced Exposure, 1988) is a collection of some of the artist's guitar tours de force (Miller prepared, played and mixed all the instruments in his basement), just as a sample (the most high-sounding tracks are We Grind Open, Chinatown Samba, The Cosmic Battle and Kalgastak).

Win Instantly (SST, 1989) blends songs for maximum electric piano with maniac guitar excursions, but since Miller returns to sing, with this album he renegades the instrumental form, which fitted his experiments at best.

The most popular side of Miller's art is revealed in Damage The Enemy (New Alliance, 1989), a mix of tracks produced in studio, where the percussion consists of electronically elaborated noises of various objects (petrol tanks, cutters, food-mixers, vacuum cleaners and so on), and improvisations on rhythmic sessions. Despite its limits on the whole, this album still presents some first-manner, strong ballads like those of the psychedelic period (States, Into The Ocean, Rocket), and some electro-rhythmic, maelstrom tracks (Hey, Giants Head Coat, The Lion Got His), which would not sound bad alongside Eno's first compositions. In this album Miller uses the pseudonym No Man.

The circle was closed by Whamon Express (SST, 1990), a new rock album after ten years, where Miller hands out riff and perfect melodies (Oppression, Heaven Street, Floated), still inspired by the garage culture.

Meanwhile, Miller also devotes himself to a more learned production, like in Xylyl (New Alliance, 1991), a suite composition for guitar, trumpet, viola, electric violin, percussion and electronic keyboard), and the soundtrack A Woman In Half (for piano and tapes), works which do him great credit as avant-garde composer.

How The West Was Won (SST, 1992) presents just the same sound Miller had in mind since Mission: his guitar is ear-splitting, cacophonic but also melodic (Cartoon Cartoon, It's Just A Day).

The return to the singing leads to Elemental Guitar (SST, 1995), where Miller plays a drum machine along. The result, despite his obvious talent as guitarist, is disappointing: the compositions are abstruse, chained to obscure conceptualisations and pitiful arrangements.


(Original text by Piero Scaruffi) (Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Unfold

Miller finally returned to the piano with The Benevolent Disruptive Ray (SST, 1996), a humble collection of brief, somber pieces.

Binary System is Roger Miller (on piano) and drummer Larry Dersch, who debuted with the Live At The Idea Room (SST, 1997). From the Epicenter (Atavistic, 1999) is their second album, another demented excursus through minimalism, jazz, ethnic, classical music.

In 1999 Miller joined the Alloy Orchestra.

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