A Third Ear for PANAMERICA

STICK MEN, PANAMERICA: Live in Latin America (MoonJune, 2019)

PERSONNEL

  • TONY LEVIN, Chapman Stick and Vocals
  • MARKUS REUTER, Touch Guitar AU8, Soundscapes, Keyboards, and Vocals
  • PAT MASTELOTTO, Drums and percussion
  • DAVID CROSS, Electric Violin and Keyboards

TRACK LISTING (Live Show)

  1. Opening Improv
  2. Hide the Trees
  3. Cusp
  4. The Talking Drum
  5. Larks Tongues in Aspic, part 2
  6. Crack the Sky
  7. David’s Improv
  8. Schattenhaft
  9. Sartori in Tangier
  10. Swimming in T
  11. Plutonium
  12. Red
  13. Mantra
  14. Prog Noir
  15. Shades of Starless
  16. Level 5
  17. OPEN

There are few better ways for a band to show its musical abilities than live performance. Compositions recorded in the relative safety of the recording studio — where additional takes are possible — are now played in front of an audience without a net, and nowhere to go but forward once the band starts playing.

The members of Stick Men are more than capable of this task, having logged thousands of hours with dozens of bands leading up to their formation. PanAmerica —recorded during their 2018 tour of Mexico, Central and South America — provides more than enough evidence.

This is more than a mere live album. It is a musical manifesto showing off all the band’s capabilities in real time, whether working through deep and complex compositions, creating ambient soundscapes, or just making things up on the fly. Tony Levin, Markus Reuter, and Pat Mastelotto show us how it’s done over the span of FIVE CDs. As an added bonus, the core group is augmented by legendary violinist David Cross, best know for his work in the 70’s King Crimson. Cross brings an additional lead voice creating added depth to what we’re already cavernous proceedings.

PanAmerica gets additional credibility for its unique musical presentation. Rather than start with the familiar, Disc 1 features Stick Men at its improvisational finest, ripping rich and dark holes in the sonic landscape. The pieces are dense and intense as the quartet leaves it all on the stage, seemingly purging themselves of music dying to be released. It’s music of the moment. And that moment is ruthless.

Disc 2 is a collection of suites from performances in Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, and Chile. They bring to the fore the focus and drive that has propelled this band forward since its inception. There is no doubting the band’s chemistry, and this is yet another aspect of the band’s true potential and abilities. Any other band can step on stage, play it’s songs, and exit the stage to great accolades. Stick Men shoe they can do even more.

It doesn’t seem right to think of the first two discs as warm-ups, or opening acts. They are entities unto themselves. And all the elements come together nicely on the next two discs, which are a complete and unedited live show from San Jose, Costa Rica. This is the musical definition of capturing lightning in a bottle. The band is firing on all cylinders, ripping and roaring through their own compositions along with a couple of King Crimson classics. No doubt every listener will wish he could have been there.

Disc 5 is a collection of soundscapes performed by Reuter and Cross. Words like ethereal and atmospheric do not so the performances justice, but they will have to do. And while the spirit of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno are no doubt in the room, Reuter and Cross are an entity unto themselves, brining beauty and desolation in glorious fashion.

One of the reasons for the effectiveness of this set is in the mix, which is nothing short of outstanding. It is rich and detail-oriented. One can only imagine this is what the band members were hearing through their in-ear monitors. Played softly, the music is plenty effective. Raising the volume may disturb the neighbors, but it also presents a genuine “you are THERE” feel to the music. These discs are not necessarily designed to be played in order. Each element is an experience unto itself. Enjoy it however you see fit.

PanAmerica may well be one of the best presented live sets in progressive rock, or any other genre. It is NOT to be missed.

#cirdecsongs

You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

Would you like to have your album reviewed? Contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com

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