REVIEWS (in English)
"no less than 45 minutes of mind-blowing, exceptionally exciting, simply brilliant music on this album." - progressor.net [FULL REVIEW]
"Far Corner’s second CD “Endangered” is a small miracle, ..." - prog-nose.org [FULL REVIEW]
"Cited with possessing a “chamber/classical-rock” stylistic slant, ..." - jazzreview.com [FULL REVIEW]
"... Far Corner adds a more aggressive edge to their playing ..." - reviews.prognaut.com [FULL REVIEW]
"Described as an American chamber rock ensemble playing exquisitely composed, classically inspired instrumental music ..." - Acid Dragon Magazine [FULL REVIEW]
"Far Corner’s self-titled 2004 debut demonstrated that the most wondrous music can come from the most unlikely of places, and Endangered takes things a step further." - allaboutjazz.com [FULL REVIEW]
"...Milwaukee’s instrumental quartet Far Corner. Culling influences from both Stravinsky and King Crimson..." - shepherd-express.com [FULL REVIEW]
"An eclectic lineup with a knack for diverse instrumentation... " - Shepherd Express (2/14/07) [FULL REVIEW]
Classical chamber music and avant-garde progressive rock—two genres residing at modern music’s outer edges—collide on Endangered, the second CD from Milwaukee’s instrumental quartet Far Corner. Culling influences from both Stravinsky and King Crimson, band members (including multi-instrumentalist Dan Maske and internationally renowned bassist William Kopecky) invert the roles of keyboards, cello, bass and drums to create an adventurous fusion of improvised and scored material in which not everything is as it seems.
The result is six wildly disparate songs spread over 55 minutes. From the foreboding minimalism of “Inhuman” to the live-in-the-studio creepiness of “Do You Think I’m Spooky?” to the 20-minute title track (filled with more musical ideas than most bands convey across an entire album), Endangered is a compellingly challenging listen. The improvised “Claws” is even built around a series of scratching and scraping noises. The metallic “Creature Council” emerges as the album’s most visual and aggressive track, while “Not From Around Here” stands out because of its warm acoustic-jazz accessibility. Far Corner’s brand of chamber rock may not have broad appeal, but it’s a sweet and thick sonic elixir for listeners looking to venture into music’s deep, dark and far corners.
- Michael Popke
From Shepherd Express (2/14/07):
An eclectic lineup with a knack for diverse instrumentation makes up Milwaukee's Far Corner. Hard to define, the band takes elements of classical, rock, and jazz to create music that resides on the fringes of fusion. Cello, bass, keys, and percussion combine in a way that is sometimes Stravinsky, sometimes Frank Zappa. Keyboardist Dan Maske and bassist William Kopecky are all over the musical map, while percussionist Craig Walkner keeps the sound tied together. Cellist Angela Schmidt is the "icing on the cake," weaving between classical lines and an approach that sometimes enters the realm of heavy metal. Don't miss this opportunity to catch one of Milwaukee's most unique acts this Friday when they celebrate the release of their new CD Endangered on Cuneiform Records.
- Brian Barney
Despite efforts to change its reputation in recent years, Milwaukee, Wisconsin still seems like an odd place to find a forward-thinking group that puts the “progressive” in progressive rock. Far Corner’s self-titled 2004 debut demonstrated that the most wondrous music can come from the most unlikely of places, and Endangered takes things a step further. Fans of Univers Zero (whose 2006 Cunieform release Live found its way onto many progressive top 10 lists for the year) will find much to like about Endangered although Far Corner can, at times, demonstrate a far more aggressive rock stance than the longstanding Belgian Rock-in-Opposition group.
The focus of this oddly configured group (keyboards, bass, drums, cello) remains dark-hued and, at times, ominous composition that references 20th Century classical music and ‘70s progressive groups including King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer in equal parts. The group’s first album consisted entirely of material by keyboardist Dan Maske, but Endangered’s title track takes an innovative and creative approach to collective composition. Much like a story round, where one person begins a tale and passes it on to the next person to enhance, augment and further develop, this twenty-minute piece evolves as each member of the quartet takes what came before and moves it forward.
The base textures of the group remain the same. Maske’s emphasis is on organ first, piano second and synthesizers a distant third. Cellist Angela Schmidt demonstrates the ability to be lyrical and delicate one moment, harsh and metallic the next as she adds distortion to her instrument. Uber-bassist William Kopecky assumes the dual role of rhythm section anchor and contrapuntal melodist, while drummer Craig Walkner is equally pluralistic as assertive propeller and textural colorist. Here, however, the group expands its sonic palette, with Maske adding trumpet and melodica to the mix alongside Kopecky’s spring drum and Schmidt’s violin and bamboo flute.
Improvisation also remains a fundamental component, despite Far Corner’s largely composed repertoire. It may alternate between regular and irregular meters, but the acoustic-driven “Not From Around Here” actually swings, featuring a lithe and passionate solo from guest violinist Jerry Loughney and an equally impressive turn by Kopecky. “Claws,” on the other hand, feels more like collective free improv despite Maske's compositional credit.
As undeniably talented Far Corner is, it remains clearly committed to the demands of the music, with none of the showboating or excessive self-indulgence that sometimes gives progressive rock a bad name. Endangered is an even better record than Far Corner by a group that is becoming more comfortable, cohesive and experimental while losing none of its edgy appeal
- John Kelman
From Acic Dragon Magazine:
Described as an American chamber rock ensemble playing exquisitely composed, classically inspired instrumental music that ‘bridges the post-classical and the prog worlds with a muscular and aggressive rock-based stance’, these words are not mere pretension as Far Corner genuinely do discharge this remit and lay down the benchmark for a genre defying music populating a musical planet already touched by the likes of Belgium’s Present (Listen to the ‘stomp’ piano/harpsichord as it lays down a base for William Kopecky’s fretless and fretted bass and spring drum, Dan Maske’s organ calls and ascending chords and Angela Schmidt’s cellos on ‘Do You Think I’m Spooky?’- who says there’s no humour in music?). The touch paper to the first two pieces I guess was lit by Stravinsky with ‘In Human’ featuring e-bow and fingered bass solos building to a crescendo into ‘Spooky’. ‘Creature Council’ has a self confessed nod to ‘metal heads’ in the group such as cellist/violinist Schmidt and has some dark, heavy yet curiously uplifting rock organ chords and runs from Dan Maske (the author of the recently published ‘Progressive Rock Keyboard’) who goes into Keith Emerson mode with some rumbling, grumbling organ and mesmerising solo passages. Maske’s piano arpeggios and runa and Schmidt’s cello also have significant roles to play in an accomplished 10 minutes of music.
Revealing the experimental nature of their music the amazing ‘Claws’ is a piece of musique concrete produced by scratching everyday objects that works surprisingly well and is a perfect foil for the jazziest piece on the album ‘Not From Around Here’ (hence the title!). This is 9 minutes of quartet playing with piano/cello/bass and Craig Walkner on the drumset with a violin solo from guest Jerry Loughney and some clever and memorable themes showing the strength and accessibility of the compositions despite the challenging nature of the music- perfect for TV and film but much more than that- this music deserves to be listened to as a coherent entity!
All music so far has been composed by Maske but the final track (‘Endangered’) is a 19:50 mercurial, experimental piece starting with Maske’s keyboard and trumpet parts to which percussion was added with Kopecky’s bass/spring drum added later then finally, Schmidt’s cello, violin and bamboo flute. The result is there for all to hear. The interplay between fuzzed cello and organ is a particular joy! The quiet, haunting passage introduced by bamboo flute with some eerie organ chords (reminded me of Hugh Banton of VDGG) and violin building to the trumpet solo about 13 minutes in are perfectly complimented by bass and percussion (particularly striking) producing a corporate sound bordering on the telepathic. One is given the impression of being lost in a deep, dark alien jungle which is perhaps the point.
Endangered is simply stunning. If you want to invest in something a bit different this year, something that takes risks yet has enough good music and playing on it to engage even the most world weary of listeners, then look no further than Far Corner’s triumphal second album.
- Phil Jackson
I had the pleasure to review Far Corner’s self-titled 2004 debut and found it to be a very good release. I wondered if the band could top it, well they did and then some on Endangered. Each time I listen to the CD, I’m reminded of the band Univers Zero, especially their first two albums. Now the difference is, to my ears, is that Far Corner adds a more aggressive edge to their playing but not as much as say, the band Present (for those unaware, this band is related to Univers Zero). I’d say Far Corner's music sounds somewhere in the middle of these two amazing bands. In fact I’d group these three together when explaining the RIO/ Chamber rock genre to others.
Not a cop-out but this is another of those releases that needs to talked about as a whole and not the individual pieces. One reason is the first track, “Inhuman” segues so perfectly into “Do You Think I’m Spooky?“. I would say besides those two that the epic title track is my personal favorites of the album.
Far Corner is one of the very few progressive sounding bands today that don’t rely on excessive self-indulgence to make their musical point. I would say Endangered is the next step up in the band’s evolution and I feel the best is yet to come. In the meantime, Endangered is one of the best releases so far in 2007 and if you’re a fan of Univers Zero, present or any of the other RIO styled bands, this release is highly recommended to you.
- Ron Fuchs on April 29th, 2007
In the ‘good old days of prog’ there were progressive musicians who could everything they touched, mutate into gold. Take for instance drummer extraordinaire Bill Bruford, who always did interesting things with Yes, King Crimson, UK, Genesis and his own fusion bands Bruford and Earthworks. It is a separate category; many are called, but only a few are chosen. Luckily the newest generation of prog musicians has its wizards too. Like American bassist William Kopecky, famous for his unique and expressive playing. That Parallel Mind’s debut in 2005 proved to be a more than succeeded album, was perhaps not only his merit, but still. I still put this CD into my player because of the wonderful bass lines. In Wisconsin-based Far Corner, Kopecky is of great value as well. This quartet, operating in a far corner of the musical universe, brings us top-notch instrumental chamber and classical rock that - from afar - reminds us of mid-seventies King Crimson and Univers Zero. But it’s definitely not a copycat. Classically trained composer and keyboardist Dan Maske fuses rock with Stravinsky and Bartok, and with jazz and zeuhl.
Far Corner’s second CD “Endangered” is a small miracle, because although complex and of instrumental virtuosity, it still is accessible music. The menacing, quasi improvised soundscapes are the least accessible, but the album’s backbone are the four adventurous compositions. The basic sound is layed down by multiple percussion, cello, fretted and fretless bass and a variety of keys. The cello is sometimes electrified, which adds to the sonic heaviness; the instrument then sounds like a guitar riffing! Compared to the debut, the colour palette is expanded with violin, melodica and trumpet, providing surprising moments especially in the twenty-minute title track. The CD’s title refers not only to the planet’s endangered species, but to adventurous music of artistic integrity. With Far Corner, our sector has gained yet another warm-hearted advocate.
- Christoph on April 22nd, 2007
Cited with possessing a “chamber/classical-rock” stylistic slant, this Wisconsin-based unit interlaces an austere element with a sassy, bold and thrusting modus operandi. Consisting of lucid and spacey keyboard treatments, the unorthodox; prog-rock meets chamber instrumentation looms as a common denominator here. Among other concepts and applications, the band delves into military-march processions, teeming with booming bass patterns and ‘70s type progressive-rock oriented enactments. And with cellist/violinist Angela Schmidt’s use of bamboo flute and her companions’ various percussive methodologies, traces of world music are fused into the grand scheme of matters.
On “Creature Council,” Dan Maske’s weighty fuzz-toned organ helps steer the quartet through tricky time signatures and an altogether, vast musical plane. In other regions of sound, you’ll hear warbling EFX and daintily rendered melodica choruses amid gobs of movements and textures. The band surges forward with evolving motifs that occasionally venture into cosmic-meltdown status, where themes are reformulated and in some instances, parallel famed classical composer Bela Bartok’s complex string quartet movements. No doubt, this unit treads within heady musical terrain, but where others of this ilk may tend to sound superfluous or overly didactic; these folks enact a seamless interrelation between two disparate genres. In essence, they pronounce a rather meteoric group-centric vibe that more often than not, provides stimuli for one’s psyche, to complement some good old shock therapy.
- Glenn Astarita
Prolusion. FAR CORNER is a quartet from the American state of Wisconsin, formed by classically trained pianist and trumpet player Dan Maske in 2003. A follow-up to their eponymous debut album from 2004, Endangered is my first encounter with their work.
Analysis. It is difficult to know how to describe Far Corner, because there is really no one like them, so please, readers, don't take too seriously any points of comparison you might meet in this review. Endangered comprises six instrumental tracks ranging roughly from four to twenty minutes, and it is only the shortest two, Inhuman and Claws, that are incompatible with my understanding of a musical masterwork, though it's a matter of taste in the end. There is one strong, intelligent, fully structured movement to be found on the former, but otherwise the group is in both cases usually occupied with eliciting various strange effects from their instruments and pedals, creating dark soundscapes that may bring to mind the name of their label mates Guapo. The primary songwriter is Dan Maske whose keyboard equipment includes organ, piano, harpsichord and synthesizers (listed in the line of descent according to their weight in the album's soloing department), and whose other compositions, while basking in stylistic diversity, are emotionally for the most part still dark, although not as gloomy as those in early Univers Zero or Present. Taken overall, the remaining four pieces, Do You Think I'm Spooky?, Creature Council, Not From Around Here and the title track, all manifest they have enough common ground between them to be subsumed under a single definition, although the subsequent investigation of each particular case is inevitable. My vision of the album's prevalent musical picture is as follows: this is a unique amalgamation of several, often seemingly incompatible directions where, yet, all the ingredients harmoniously coexist with each other. To be more precise, it would be a complex conglomeration which places Neoclassical music alongside Chamber Rock and classic Symphonic Progressive, all these three genres in their pure form and quasi Jazz-Fusion, plus rather solid metal injections and RIO-like moves, the latter being instantly recognizable despite the absence of clearly schizoid freaks of the genre:-) there. In other words, the band is not afraid of dissonance, and they use it resourcefully each time they find it to be necessary - now to darken or even eliminate the frontiers between the styles they use, now just to heighten the tension of events. The main provider of metal intonations, Angela Schmidt, from time to time hooks up her electric violoncello to the Distortion box, very convincingly imitating aggressive guitar riffs. Indeed, the quantity of fresh ideas in Far Corner's bag seems to be endless, and the flight of their fantasy at times exceeds all bounds - meaning in a positive sense for sure. The pieces where the genre components much more often merge into a single whole than alternate with each other include Do You Think I'm Spooky and Not From Around Here, whilst Creature Council and the title track are both the other way round, the first three being all notable for their highly dynamic thematic development. There are plenty of arrangements strictly in the classic progressive rock mode(s) to be found on Creature Council: those both mainly symphonic and organ-driven evoke ELP, while the heavier and, at once, more angular ones King Crimson. Angela's riffs at times remind me of a growling monster that finds itself being surrounded by lighter entities whirling in a beautiful dance, everlastingly changing its outline - until one of these begins aggressively snarling at it which happens when Dan cuts in the distortion mode on his organ, too. Do You Think I'm Spooky is just one of the many examples of how masterfully the band slackens and/or accelerates their pace, now steadily forcing intensity, moving higher and higher, now suddenly falling into a kind of vault teemed with ghostly creatures. The one track relatively light in mood, Not From Around Here, often has a distinct jazz-rock feel to it, the central violin solo being reminiscent of the work of Jean-Luc Ponty. The tremendously long title number features almost all the instruments credited, meaning also trumpet, bamboo flute and spring drum (whilst melodica is present only on Claws). That being said, it's a container of all the styles and forms available on the recording. The attentive reader certainly doesn't need any additional explanation on the matter, as everything has already been said or at least implied. Finally it must be noted that while it's Dan Maske who composed all the tracks (at least fundamentally), none of his partners play from scores, each usually having enough room to demonstrate his/her improvisational skill.
Conclusion. Neo heads, beware! Adventurers (especially those for whom the names of Stravinsky or Bartok aren't mere empty words), attention, eyes right! Here comes the mighty Far Corner whose Endangered CD might become a cornerstone creation in the future development of any style with Neoclassical music in its basis. There are no less than 45 minutes of mind-blowing, exceptionally exciting, simply brilliant music on this album, as the four long tracks are all true pieces of art. All in all, this is a dish that any profound music lover will relish whenever he/she desires to taste it again.
- VM: April 19, 2007