26 November 2019: Stick Men with David Cross, Live in San Jose, Costa Rica

Tonight we'll play an entire show from 2018, recorded in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Stick Men — touch guitarist Markus Reuter, bassist/Stick player Tony Levin and percussionist Pat Mastelotto — have been expanding the frontiers of progressive music since 2007.  With a repertoire that encompasses Levin & Mastelotto’s legacy in King Crimson, Reuter’s innovative soundscapes and searing improvisations, 4 studio albums as a group and even Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird, they are the real deal, whether as a self-contained unit or joined by other groundbreaking musicians.  I heard them live in 2011 when they toured with The Adrian Belew Power Trio, both performing their own music and joining Belew’s band for an awe-inspiring set of Crimson classics.
In August and September 2018, Stick Men teamed with violinist David Cross (best known for his contributions to King Crimson from 1972 to 1974), touring ten countries in Latin America.  The results are documented on the new Panamerica, due for release in September.  Expanding on previous live Stick Men releases Midori (recorded with Cross in Japan) and Roppongi  (recorded with saxophonist Mel Collins), the set will include:
  •   A complete show recorded live in Costa Rica
  • “Pan America Specials” recorded live in Argentina and Brazil
  • “Pan America Suites” recorded live in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay
  • “Fire Starters”, a continuous mix of selected Cross/Reuter show opening pieces
Go here for all the details!
— Rick Krueger

Disc III – Full Show, Part 1 (Costa Rica)

3-1 Opening Improv
3-2 Hide The Trees
3-3 Cusp
3-4 The Talking Drum
3-5 Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part II
3-6 Crack In The Sky
3-7 David’s Improv
3-8 Schattenhaft
3-9 Sartori In Tangier
3-10 Swimming In T

Disc IV – Full Show, Part 2 (Costa Rica)

4-1 Plutonium
4-2 Red
4-3 Mantra
4-4 Prog Noir
4-5 Shades Of Starless
4-6 Level 5
4-7 OPEN

Scott Medina writes:

As they cross the globe celebrating their 50th Anniversary, the mighty King Crimson continue to leave their mark on progressive rock in more ways than one, not the least being the many offshoot ProjeKcts and other ensembles that have been spawned in their wake. Such is the pedigree and devotion of the musicians involved that even when Robert Fripp himself isn’t in a particular grouping, the aura of his influence is still felt yet again. Cue the music of… Stick Men.
Although Stick Men is primarily the trio of Markus Reuter and Crimson alumni Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto, they truly come into their own when joined by special guest David Cross on violin and keyboards. With three different decades represented from Crimson’s history – Cross starting in the 70s, Levin in the 80s and Mastelotto in the 90s – there is more than enough credibility to include a healthy dose of material from that band in the Stick Men set-list. Equally important as any specific songs “covered” in the set is the ethos of the musicians’ approach, which is heavily rooted in improvisation. And this is why a 5-disc set recounting the band’s travels across Central and South America may be of interest to their more devoted fans, though not an ideal starting point for a newcomer. “PanAmerica”’s main full show, which comprises Discs 3 & 4, has many of the same selections as their previous 2015 release “Midori – Live in Tokyo” which also featured Cross with the band. But as many Crimson aficionados will attest – given the endless supply of multi-disc live boxed sets continuously emerging from that band’s history – more is never enough, as there are innumerable nuances and variations on display in each song and improvisation as they are played night after night. In this case, not only has an excellent full show been captured live in Costa Rica, but the remaining 3 discs offer a deep dive into the improvisational nature of the band, culled from shows in several different countries.
Let’s start with the complete show first. The mix is considerably different from the “Midori” release, which will give completists a new vantage point from the get-go. After the traditional beginning with an “Improv”, the band launch into two of their fine original pieces “Hide the Trees” and “Cusp”, both of which establish the strength of Cross’ inclusion to the band. As a trio, Stick Men produce a dizzying amount of sounds: Mastelotto’s wide-reaching attack on his extensive percussive kit, Levin’s stick playing serving the role of a bassist and guitarist simultaneously, and Reuter’s Touch guitars and other effects soaring high overhead. Adding Cross into the mix is a secret weapon which enables them to more fully traverse the thrilling terrain of “Red”, “The Talking Drum” and “Larks Tongues in Aspic II”, and of course brings additional color to their improvisational nature. It feels like a natural fit, and the members themselves aren’t shy about praising one another. It’s endearing to hear Cross call Stick Men “The best rock band in the world!”
While much of the material is instrumental, a few pieces feature spoken word or sung vocals, offering a nice contrast. One of the most successful of these is “Crack in the Sky” which features Tony Levin’s smoky spoken vocals over an atmospheric groove, not unlike Robbie Robertson’s “Somewhere down the Crazy River” on which Levin also played bass. Reuter gets to have fun with his spoken section on the quirky “Plutonium”, and of course who wouldn’t love the genre’s theme song “Prog Noir”, sung by Levin? With blistering versions of Crimson’s “Level Five”, original pieces “Schattenhaft” and “Mantra” and much more, there’s plenty of material to keep Stick fans happy, as well as a generous dose of between-song banter and stories. You can even learn how to properly count-out “Mantra”’s time signatures, a much more daunting proposition than “We Will Rock You”.
“Panamerica” Box Set Artwork
The real depth of this box set reveals itself in the other 3 discs, all of which are largely improvised. Disc 1 plays with extended and shorter versions of improv-based songs that are present in their regular concert set on Discs 3 & 4. For example, “Swimming in T” has a longer version on Disc 1 in addition to two shorter “Swimming Improvs” as well; the “Opening Improv” on Disc 1 is 12 minutes longer than the full-concert version on Disc 3, and we get two versions of the track “Open” as well as “Shades of Starless” which is a meditation on the Crimson classic. Disc 5 immerses the listener into soundscapes: relatively shorter ambient pieces which are heavy on the synth and without percussive accompaniment. These actually were sourced from using only the isolated improvised parts of Markus and David. The songs have been edited to run into each other without any audience applause, so the result feels like one continuous studio recording for the entire disc. Finally, Disc 2 features 4 longer “Suites” with each track being sourced from 3 separate pieces and then titled for the region in which they were played. These are the most interactive and engaging improvs of the lot, with some delightful percussion from Mastelotto, Levin’s stick holding down the lower end while Cross and Reuter unleash frenzied playing over top on “Montevideo Suite”.
The box set itself is beautifully packaged, featuring artwork by Hajo Müller with slip case, individual jackets for the CDs plus a 24-page booklet with exclusive tour photographs by Tony Levin. The music of Stick Men is not for everyone, and being that this 5-disc set focuses so much on improvisation it is likely that a newcomer would be overwhelmed. But for the faithful, this approach offers an immersive exploration into the development of the band over the length of the tour. And let us not forget that experimentation such as this is surely one aspect of what “progressive” music is all about.
Released by: Iapetus / MoonJune Records
Released Date: November 8th, 2019
Genre: Progressive Rock


  • Tony Levin / Chapman Stick, Voice
  • Pat Mastelotto / Acoustic Drums, Electronic Drums, Percussion
  • Markus Reuter / Touch Guitar, Electronics Soundscapes, Keyboards
  • David Cross / Electric Violin, Keyboards

05 November 2019: Mostly Autumn / Bernhard Wostheinrich

This week FreeForm returns to its progressive rock roots by featuring Mostly Autumn's  2019 release White Rainbow.
According to The Prog Mind:
Sometimes, albums just appear out of thin air.  That’s what it felt like for the new Mostly Autumn record.  I see now that Prog Magazine shared the information, and the band did, too, but for some reason Facebook decided to omit it from my timeline, so the album seemingly came out of nowhere for me.  In fact, the limited edition was mailed out to fans around Christmas, so some people have had it for a couple months already.  In the end, the band seems to consider this a 2019 release, and I believe the release date was officially the 1st of March.
Mostly Autumn hails from the UK and has been at the game since 1995.  The band currently consists of Olivia Sparnenn on vocals, Bryan Josh on guitars and vocals, Chris Johnson on guitars, Iain Jennings on keyboards, Angela Gordon on flute and keys, Andy Smith on bass, and Alex Cromarty on drums.  A couple things to note: This is Olivia’s fifth album with the band since the original singer left in 2010.  This is also only the second album without original rhythm guitarist Liam Davison after his death in 2017.
Mostly Autumn has been around so long that I feel as if progressive folk rock is literally defined by them in some ways.  Their music is definitely progressive rock, but they focus on soaring vocal melodies, momentous guitar solos, hefty folk portions, and organic atmospheric accents that elevate the whole experience.  Hearing one of their albums will truly transport you to dark forests, starry night skies, and inner turmoil.  So, this band is more like Renaissance than like the typical prog legends of yesteryear.
“White Rainbow” feels far more textured than any of their past albums.  The music come across as effervescent, mysterious, and nostalgic.  You will again hear weighty portions of folk and Celtic music, but progressive rock shines through in several important moments, such as the 19 minute long title track.  It’s truly a haunting experience from beginning to end, and that is exactly what I want from a Mostly Autumn record.
This is one of those albums that just has so many “heavy hitter” songs.  It seems like every song on it is well-written, well-structured, and a pure joy to behold.  For instance, “Procession” and “Viking Funeral” begin the album.  “Procession” is beautiful Celtic music intro, and you’d think that “Viking Funeral” would follow this ethnic suit, but it actually has more of an electronic overlay to it that gives it both modern and an ancient feelings.  The combination is outstanding.  The song actually revisits some melodies from my favorite Mostly Autumn album, “The Ghost Moon Orchestra”, and the baritone vocal harmonies near the end are perfect.
Once you move passed such an amazing couple of tracks, you almost expect a filler song.  However, what we get is “Burn”, the first track with Olivia on lead vocals.  It is a brightly shining star in the exquisite darkness of this album with huge melodies and this overwhelming sense of longing.  “Run for the Sun” follows and offers a similarly brilliant performance, specifically with an epic and emotional guitar solo.  And so the album continues with strong track after beautiful track.  It may be the band’s most consistent album to date.
Some of my other favorites are just as strong.  “Western Skies” starts out as a soaring ballad, but transitions into an orchestral gallop of huge proportions.  The title track itself, though, is a work of pure brilliance, and in some ways outshines everything else.  It is an epic only in the sense that is almost 20 minutes long: The way it plays, however, is as a collection of dark transitions that pass through melodic highs to riffing lows.  Rather than being an over the top expression of the Mostly Autumn sound, it is more subdued and subtle.  It feels introspective and grounded, and I absolutely love that: This restraint applies even for the crescendo near the end, which maintains its mature tone.
Overall, “White Rainbow” is a 78 minute album that doesn’t feel anywhere near that long.  It spirits you away to dark nights and distant feelings, but still feels organic, human, and grounded.  That is not an easy balance to maintain, but the band pulls it off with flying colors.  If you are fan of progressive rock with folk tendencies, like so many newer bands, it is time to visit the band that I consider to be the modern mother of them all.

In the second half of tonight's show, we'll be playing Live at Electrozone Festival 2018, Part 1 from Bernhard Wostheinrich's 2018 release, Live in Ithaca.   This release is available at a pay what you want download at Wostheinrich's Bandcamp page - click on the title for the link.  There are several other titles also available as pay what you want at this link.
Materiaal Series, Part XXI

Recorded at ElectroZone festival, Risley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, on October 14, 2018.

Composed, programmed, and recorded in real-time by a crazy mind and his laptop. No prepared sequences, patterns, or melodies used.

This was the closing performance at the Big EZ Festival; the first ElectroZone multi-day event at Risley Hall on the Cornell campus.

The ElectroZone's goal is to create an electromusic community that celebrates inclusion, collaboration, empowerment, and performance innovation.

"We were so fortunate to have Bernhard perform at our festival. He was our headliner and final performer. Crouched on mats on that dark the stage he was like a figure from a fairy tale, Bernhard’s music transported us to the shared place of our imagination and artistry. He was the perfect summary of all that we were trying to do with the festival. His music was not a conclusion to the event, but an inspirational mandate to go out and create. I am honored to know Bernhard and I wish all you listening the same privilege" - Elijah Joseph Weber-Han



released October 11, 2019

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Keyboards and virtual synthesizers, Minimoog ModelD (reissue), Live-Sequencing

Editing, mixing and mastering: Markus Reuter
Cover drawing: Christine Kriegerowski

Special thanks to Elijah Joseph Weber-Han, Mike Hunter and George "G$" Bley