Amoebic Ensemble
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Amoebic Ensemble: Limbic Rage (1995), 6/10
Jonathan Thomas: Welcome to Septimania (2002), 6.5/10
Coachmen: Coachmania (2007) , 6/10
Eyesores: The Quiet Room (2005), 6/10
Eyesores: The Smother Party (2006), 6.5/10
Eyesores: The Blind Spot (2007), 6.5/10
Eyesores: Sister Death (2012), 6.5/10

Formed in the early 1990s in Providence (Rhode Island), Space Heater was an odd ensemble of two bass players and a percussionist, that eventually expanded to a small chamber ensemble and changed name to Amoebic Ensemble. Led by accordionist and composer Alec Redfearn, and featuring trumpet player Shawn Wallace, Jonathan Thomas on cans and kitchenware, Matthew Everett on bouzouki and mandolin, Laura Gulley on violin, Steve Jobe on bassons, Paige Van Antwerp on drums, they recorded Limbic Rage (1995), that contains brief surreal vignettes such as Tertullian Waltz and Waxing Neuralgic , and Amoebiasis (Stupeur et Trompette, 1997), again at the border between progressive-rock and cartoon music.

Jonathan Thomas released Welcome to Septimania (Commodity This, 2002), featuring Rick Brown (Run On), Chris Nelson (The Scene Is Now) and former Amoebic Ensemble members. The album contains divinely cartoonish "kitchenware" novelties such as Don't Worry About Rupture and Bali Hoo, as well as the organ-driven proto-surf music of In Praise Of Crabgrass, the demented fanfare of Here Come The Cool Jerks and the cosmic free-jazz of Visitors 1 Univers 0. The Pianosaurus used to do something similar with toy instruments, but Thomas could turn even your kitchen utensils into an orchestra.

The Coachmen were formed in New York in the early days of the new wave, but took forever to make an album (Sonic Youth's guitarist Thurston Moore was one of the original founders in 1978). Coachmania - The Coachmen on Holiday in Septimania (2007) is the follow-up to Jonathan Thomas' Welcome to Septimania. The 15 fragments run the gamut from the festive county-fair organ theme of Autumn Heather to the epic fuzzed-out French ditty Estampie Terrible, from the subdued (instrumental) folk shuffle of Down Old Church Lane to the relatively lengthy (six minutes) grotesque pow-wow of Bernadette's Vision, from the drunk singalong of Roger Wilco Into the Stratosphere to the noisy psychedelic jam of Ballad of Furious Moe Howard (six minutes) from the chamber music of Vespers Raga to the limping fanfare of Dino Stomp. The Coachmen roam a musical territory that extends from high-brow sophistication to utter chaos.

The Coachmen's guitarist also released American Mercury (Ecstatic Peace, 2006), credited to JD King & The Coachmen.

In the meantime accordionist Alec Redfearn formed the Eyesores, an ensemble that released the six-song EP The Eyesores (1998), May You Dine on Weeds Made Bitter by the Piss of Drunkards (1999), Bent At The Waist (Handsome, 2002), Every Man For Himself and God Against All (Corleone, 2004). The Quiet Room (Cuneiform, 2005) marked a more "serious", high-brow approach, reminiscent of both United States Of America and Tom Waits, and The Smother Party (Northeast India, 2006). The latter even included a 23-minute fantasia, Gutterhelmet Ascending, that begins with much rhythmic bombast and then continues with loud distorted jamming reaching a powerful crescendo a` la Colosseum's Valentyne Suite before ending in a virulent and whirling Slavic dance. The disorderly Valse, with Orion Rigel Dommisse on vocals, the circus singalong Choreboy And A Blowtorch, and the clownish free jazz of Litany were just appetizers. The music had evolved from a cabaret-influenced style to a more abstract, avantgarde, progressive style.

Redfearn's The Blind Spot (Cuneiform, 2007), recorded by a 15-piece Eyesores, achieved an even higher degree of timbral and counterpointal splendor. The first three tracks sounded like an appendix to The Quiet Room: the surreal instrumental overture The Perforated Veil and the eccentric cabaret ditties Queen of the Wires and Myra. However, the seven-song religious cycle I Am The Resurrection and the Light considerably upped the ante with the catchy renaissance-style hymns Blue on White and The Radiator Hymn, both constructed around operatic vocals, minimalist crescendos a` la Michael Nyman and, last but not least, angelic melodies, and with the festive pounding rigmarole of Rising.

Redfearn on accordion, Olivia Geiger on violin, Margie Wienk on bass and cello, Ann Schattle on French horn, Erica Schattle on bassoon, Domenick Panzarella on guitar and Matt McLaren on drums constituted one of the most creative ensembles of prog-rock music.

The Eyesores' Sister Death (Cuneiform, 2012), featuring new vocalist and organist Orion Rigel Dommisse, a songwriter who had debuted solo with What I Want From You Is Sweet (Language of Stone, 2007), emphasized keyboard and accordion, and downplayed Eastern European folk music. The album opens with a pulsing tribal ceremony, the zombie singalong and bluesy instrumental jam Fire Shuffle. The new vocalist (her wordless Middle-eastern vocalizing) and her "acid" organ launch Hashishin, another trancey percussive workout. Her vocals shine again in Exhumed, which features the eerie wedding of a wordless nursery rhyme and a baroque accompaniment. The parade of style includes the cabaret skit Unawake, the funereal waltzing aria The 7 And 6, the a cappella Amplifier Hum, the old-fashioned exotic-gothic instrumental Black Ice, etc. The other instrumentals range from the trivial prog-rock jamming of Scratch to the mad Slavic dancing of Wings Of The Magpie.

The Opposite (Cuneiform, 2018)

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