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BOZZIO LEVIN STEVENS:
Situation Dangerous
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Released July 25, 2000

There is an awe-inspiring yet refreshingly playful chemistry that transpires when these three complex souls get together. Stevens and Bozzio share a love for the hot passionate rhythms of flamenco. Levin and Bozzio can, and do quite often, attack their chosen weapons with a rapid delicacy that exposes a like-mindedness that is deep, abstract and rare within recorded music. And completing the trinity of graphic connections, Levin and Stevens both share a far-flung sense of exploration when it comes to the technological advancements made beyond the traditional restraints of stringed instruments.

All this "stuff", be it intellectual, emotional, strategic or instantly improvised, converge to form Situation Dangerous, the second and very different offering from Bozzio Levin Stevens. Situation Dangerous may take a few (dozen!) plays to digest, but thankfully, even for the novice not used to the shock of exploded boundaries and expanded possibilities, noted favorites will leap instantly to the hook centers of the mind. It is an accessibility that has been achieved somewhat obtusely, the long way around, unintentionally, serendipitously.

Percussion legend Terry Bozzio explains, in response to a question asking how this album might have differed from the effusively received Black Light Syndrome debut. "That's really simple. We had more time. Specifically, Steve had more time with which to bring in and build his ideas, so the whole album has more of a cohesiveness than the first one which is more about jamming and making something happen on the fly. So I think there is more structure which might possibly lead one to think that it is more accessible. There's some beautiful music, there's still a lot of burning playing and everybody is featured really well. There is definitely a style that carries through and has been expanded upon, in the area of some flamenco pieces, as well as the rock-ish and fusiony stuff. The biggest difference is that we had a week to rehearse. It's still very eclectic. There's a wide variety of feels and styles and influences. But instead of there being long periods of 'everything goes' which we had on the first album, it's more mapped-out. It's not as extended or jam-oriented."

Such deliberation is definitely discernible within the joyous grooves of this effortlessly enjoyable collection of exotic flavors, Bozzio, Levin and Stevens able to codify and unify their vast repertoire of ideas into sound sculptures which overlay and underscore distinct moods one by one, while containing an undercurrent of fierce, legendary yet restrained chops.

Yet, how does one explain the record's recurring flamenco theme. Bozzio answers, "Well, Steve just has an affinity for that music and so have I. It's this completely undocumented art form. For me it's a rich, passionate, rhythmically and emotionally dark expression. There's a real macho thing to it and a sense of drama and pathos, all the emotions I relate to in my music. I don't play funny, I don't play happy, I don't play that way. I relate to the darker emotions and reflect those. In a sense it's a compensation and I can be a nice guy in my real life, very approachable (laughs). But in my music it's this other thing that takes over and all the anger and frustration and sadness come through."

But the record kicks off on a resoundingly un-flamenco note. 'Dangerous' is a mad scientist dash of schizoid Crimson that might remind you of another well-known band as well. "Steve had this lick, similar to Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song'. We went after that kind of beat and when we went to the bridge, Steve started playing this thing and I started playing in five across it. Then the half time section is very dark and dangerous."

The acoustic work on Situation Dangerous is positively breathtaking, culminating in a piece called 'Spiral'. "That's one of my favorite harmonic pieces on the record. When Steve started playing that rhythmic thing that he set up on the guitar... harmonically, the way he was working with the finger picking was so amazing to me that I had to sit him down next to me at the piano and say, 'OK, what is it that you are doing here?' And I learned how to play it on the piano so I could take it away with me. It's just a gorgeous piece."

And a favorite drum performance? "There's not a spot on there that I'm not proud of, but I think the highlight for me is probably a piece called 'Tziganne', which is French for gypsy, a flamenco-ish piece. There's a piccolo tom drum solo which is highly melodic and is some of the best piccolo stuff I'd ever recorded. It lets me do something almost on the level of a guitar player on the drums. So that's something I'm very proud of."

Elsewhere a coterie of sounds leaps from undisclosed locales, mostly from Steve's Midi rig, but often from contraptions brought in by the ever-resourceful Levin. "Tony brings an entourage of computer and photographic equipment as well as a great collection of basses. He did have a new axe, an electric cello. And he also has the big brother of that which he plays with a bow or he plucks it. On one of the pieces, 'Endless', he does this melody that is just gorgeous, a perfect fit to the melodic structure. It was just beautiful."

A key unifying factor of the album is its sparkly, crackly live feel, a choice that allowed each component to breathe and burn for the good of the collective. "There's sort of a natural compensation that happens when you play from an orchestrational standpoint. If somebody is playing a bunch of heavy metal power chords, there is only so much you can do that fits. If I'm playing more of a bass drum, tom tom-oriented ostennato kind of thing, then maybe Tony or Steve might play more sparsely or melodically rather than playing busier, low things that might conflict with those frequencies.. I have fifteen toms that I play with and four bass drums and a host of cymbals and stuff. So we went more with an ambient thing where we miked the drums from overhead with a stereo pair and a few under the toms to capture some of that low end."

Ultimately though, each track, no matter what hue, colour, speed, volume or anxiety level, is the product of three legendary music minds converging and imparting the vast musical knowledge this particular and deliberate collective owns. "I look at these things as three distinct personalities and the chemistry of putting these three people in a collaborative situation," reflects Bozzio. "It just turns out that you can't do certain things with Steve or you can't do certain things with Tony that I might do with David Torn or Mick Karn or somebody else. It's like the flavor of a certain spice in a soup, it's going to give you a certain taste. That's how you work and complement each other to make the whole thing happen. But I can tell you my own influences in fusion come from Miles Davis and Weather Report, Mahavishnu, Chick Corea, those were the cream of the crop and I don't think much has gone beyond what those people have done since then. And in rock 'n' roll, I don't think anybody has ever gone past what Jimi Hendrix did, or Zappa had done in his way, blending classical, jazz and rock. And then there are the obvious comparisons to King Crimson and Peter Gabriel when you hear Tony."

"His spectrum of sound is incredible," continues Bozzio. "He's a thoroughly schooled musician from Eastman School Of Music. He's played classical music, string bass, orchestra, he can read, he can write, he's played under Stravinsky and he's done all the big, highest paid session gigs in America. He's probably America's premiere highest paid bass player (laughs). And he's really easy to get along with, incredibly flexible, very professional in his attitude. He's incredibly creative with his scope of sounds and his approach to the instrument. When he plays normal fretted bass he has a very unique style. Maybe he'll use Funk Fingers (an invention of Tony's which are drum sticks which he wears on the fingers of his right hand) and get something different out of it. When he plays fretless, in two notes you know it's him, and he plays a completely unique Stick. There's this contrapuntal polyrhythmic event on one piece where he's got three or four things going on at once. It's this Stick bass part where you can distinctly hear four different parts. There's a low bass part and then there is a high guitar part and then there is some other things in the middle and it's just really amazing that it's all coming out of one guy at one time. It sounds like four things going on at once. One guy playing the whole rhythm track (laughs)."

"Same with Steve and his guitar playing," offers Bozzio on the ever-versatile Stevens. "There is a very distinctive style about the guy in his sounds and his arrangement capabilities, and his way of approaching music. You see the thread from something as simple as the Billy Idol pop stuff to the sophistication of what we're doing now. It has a similar stylistic thread that runs through it all. And his influences, you can hear the Robert Fripp, Pink Floyd, a lot of these interesting English progressive rock bands, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant. Steve really knows a lot about progressive rock, English pop music, and music in general. He knows a lot of styles and he may chose to or not chose to go in those directions at any given time."

An intimidating display of firepower indeed. Yet Situation Dangerous is the product of three minds who are musicmakers first. Despite the volumes of study buried within for the aspiring music theorist, mathematician and/or practitioner, a refreshing level of pure joy leaps from these compositions that is exuberantly Crimson-ian at times, occasionally Dregs-ish, and above all, as Bozzio underscores, inescapably the product of these three prog disciples at this point in time with exactly these things on their minds. If instrumental music has often intimidated you, look and listen no further than Situation Dangerous, a record of soaring songful sound accessible and useful to all denomination of discerning, music-loving humanity.




BOZZIO LEVIN STEVENS
Situation Dangerous

Catalog # : MA-9049-2
Price : $16.98

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Situation Dangerous
AUDIO CLIPS

01 – Dangerous
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02 – Endless
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03 – Crash
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04 – Spiral

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05 – Melt
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06 – Tragic
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07 – Tziganne
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08 – Lost

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