January 29, 2023
“STYLISTIC PRIMORDIAL CHAOS”
RATING: 11 out of 15
There’s a lot of information raining down on us. Years ago, the multi-instrumentalist told me that he was working on something that unites musicians from big acts like Yes, King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. The years went by and somehow I lost sight of that. Now "Puzzlebox" is an album that features colleagues like David Jackson (ex-VdGG), David Cross (ex-King Crimson) and also the late Peter Banks (Yes, 'Kicking The Wasp's Nest'). But that's not all. With almost a dozen colleagues, including Colin Carter (Flash), Dick Griffin, Marilyn Crispell and Mike Hough (Flash), a small "Who’s Who" of jazz and progressive rock is represented here.
Thus, Clint Bahr can draw from the entirety and present an album that reflects the spirit of optimism of the early seventies, whereby the stylistic primordial chaos also indicates the caliber of those involved here. Between heavy Crimson prog ('Fall From Grace', 'New Design'), improvised free jazz ('Plate', 'As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat') and world music ('Tabula Rasa'), the collective rushes back and forth, whereby ultimately everything can be summarized under the term progressive rock (in the actual, pure sense). Whether the early death of Peter Banks, of whom the majority of his band Flash is represented here, had something to do with the fact that the band project then became "only" a solo album, would still have to be clarified. It would have been exciting in this constellation. Meanwhile, “Puzzlebox,” true to its title, is to be pieced together by the listener to create something great.
January 31, 2023
Baby Blaue Seitan
“DIVERSE SONIC TREASURE TROVE”
An album whose perception depends entirely on the expectation with which one approaches it. Sympho-proggers and lovers of harmonic sounds should be more than grateful. But if you are armed with a certain free spirit and musical adventure and have a certain fondness for the "freer" moments of King Crimson, for example, you can look forward to an album for a few hours.
The variety of sounds and the expression of each individual instrument is exciting - both so pronounced that no piece even remotely resembles the other. Also occasionally interspersed vocals, which make an effort to create a melody and actually remind me of the unwieldy David Bowie, don't give the album anything that could be described as "catchy." Siggy already mentions it in his review - Clint Bahr and his sprawling staff stand may well be based on King Crimson and the Canterbury pioneers and that drives wild sound blooms.
Admittedly - on some evenings this disc would leave me rather at a loss, possibly quickly taking me to the limits of my musical resilience. But on other nights, when you feel like listening to something completely different than usual and getting involved, Puzzlebox is definitely an exciting experiment. The fact that Bahr was able to get names like David Cross (ex-King Crimson) or David Jackson (ex-Van der Graaf Generator) for this should speak volumes, especially because these two on the violin and various wind instruments show that they are good at Crimson and Van der Graaf had by no means already explored all tonal boundaries. And they have numerous comrades-in-arms on trumpet, clarinet, piano and percussion who want to do the same.
I can think of many contemporaries who, with a track like As Timpani Melt In The Greek Heat, would anxiously ask when the band will finally have tuned their instruments to the end and whether the music will start soon when the cat is no longer at the piano keyboard running. Well, music is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the state of mind of the protagonists or listeners, and such chamber music experiments can be a real test of patience as well as a diverse sonic treasure trove.
Describing Puzzlebox - I've tried to some extent. Rating this album is impossible for me. But it is also unnecessary, because it is exciting and demanding and is also wonderfully spatially recorded, so a real treat for hi-fi fans. You just have to trust yourself!
January 30, 2023
“DARK, DRAMATIC & OMINOUS JOURNEYS”
Clint Bahr: Puzzlebox (2022) - mini-review
Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages
RATING: 12 out of 15
INIMITATBLE CRASHING MONSTER BASS, NOISY PSYCHDELIC AVANT-PUNK PROG & JAZZY PROGRESSIVE
US artist Clint Bahr released the album "Puzzlebox" back in the spring of 2022, and progressive rock is probably the best manner in which to define this album. This is a production that cover a lot of ground, and the opening and concluding Eastern psychedelic drones aren't the only creations here that are strikingly different from the material found elsewhere. In between minimalist and more dramatic excursions into a more free form jazz landscape we also get a good handful of dark, dramatic and ominous journeys into some distinct avant-oriented territories, with as well as without elements pulled in from the jazz universe. Gentler atmospheric laden constructions and dramatic aggressive material exist side by side here, as do melodies and harmonies with noise and chaotic surges. A production that should be satisfying for those who treasure an eclectic album experience explored within a more distinct avant-oriented framework.
Baby Blaue Seitan
“STRENUOUS SOPHISTICATED ALBUM”
RATING: 12 out of 15
INIMITATBLE CRASHING MONSTER BASS, NOISY PSYCHDELIC AVANT-PUNK PROG & JAZZY PROGRESSIVE
It's always amazing what kind of musical sweethearts you can discover. The project leader of the present "Puzzlebox" (the title of the album) is the bass player and singer (and actually also multi-instrumentalist) Clint Bahr, who appeared very positively on our website in 2003 as a member of the unusual trio TriPod.
Although 16 musicians were involved in "Puzzlebox", Clint Bahr was able to use three to five of them with such instinctive confidence in the respective piece that I constantly have the impression of listening to a small and very unerring avant-prog line-up.
Guests include David Cross (ex-King Crimson), David Jackson (ex-Van der Graaf Generator), Mike Hough (ex-Flash), Colin Carter (ex-Flash) and Peter Banks (ex-Yes, ex-Flash). Banks hasn't actually been with us since 2013. Apparently, there is at least one guitar solo of his still dormant in the archives, which was used belatedly for "Kicking the Wasp's Nest".
There's also the flyer's promising statement that "Puzzlebox" aims to revive the spirit of King Crimson's "Lizard", that of Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica" and the Canterbury sound of the '70s. Best of all, my impression is that once you've listened to "Puzzlebox" a few times, the bold statement in the flyer doesn't seem all that absurd.
Pianist Marilyn Crispell was part of an Anthony Braxton combo line-up. The trombonist Dick Griffin played with numerous jazz greats. The free input from the two -- as well as some from David Jackson -- can really convey a bit of the “Lizard's” spirit.
The concept of "Puzzlebox" includes psychedelic world music passages, Clint Bahr's inimitable crashing monster bass, the noisy psychedelic avant-punk prog and the jazzy progressive jams. The latter sometimes seem like trying to take the Canterbury sound or the concept of King Crimson's "Lizard" further in an avant-garde direction. "Shelter" combines chanson and noise rock with the charm of vaudeville. Lifeguard in the Rain might remind you of early David Bowie from the “Hunky Dory” era.
While direct similarities may be limited, especially with Captain Beefheart, Puzzlebox should still appeal to the same audiences who appreciate Captain Beefheart's “Trout Mask Replica” and King Crimson's “Lizard.”
“THE DREAM OF A GREAT ARTIST, MADLY SOPHISTICATED BUT STILL ACCESSIBLE”
Clint Bahr proves his artistic genius - ubiquitous, and a notable multi-instrumentalist - throughout his new 12 track solo album lasting 45’13’’, with 50% improvisation and 50% composition.
Clint BAHR, composer-lyricist, does the vocals, excels at 12/8/4 String Basses with Chapman Stick dexterity, and plays: Acoustic Guitars, Mandolin, Piano, Harmonium, Mellotron, Theremin, Tamboura, Percussion, Moog Taurus Pedals, Megaphone, Kazoo, Slide Whistle, and Toms. After his 2003 album TriPod, here he is again at the peak of prog with PUZZLEBOX, augmented by a collaboration of twelve artists from around the world, a cross-fertilization of instruments and diverse talents, built on improvisations that go beyond erudite.
PUZZLEBOX recalls the Prog-Rock of albums as unchained and extraordinary as LIZARD from KING CRIMSON and TROUT MASK REPLICA by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, with a bit of Canterbury reincarnation. A multi-faceted timeless epic, perfectly arranged and produced, accommodating arrangements reminiscent of UNIVERS ZERO, STOMU YAMASHTA, and MAGMA.
PUZZLEBOX is the dream of a great artist, madly sophisticated but still accessible in its immersive sound mosaic, an intellectual and emotional masterpiece, divinely blurring styles, carefully assembled but at the same time unpredictable, welded into a tight knit, articulate, expert whole.
This cave of treasures with a progressive spirit awaits you with PUZZLEBOX. “Tabula Rasa 1” [2’23’’] opens its inexhaustible vitality with rhythms and melody with the remarkable collaboration of David JACKSON [woodwinds], (VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR) with his charming, free, and cheerful flute, Dan PARKINGTON [sitar and violin], (ANDROMEDA) at sitar adding color with his delicious technique, twirling in the ephemeral stylings of the flute, and the flights of fancy of the viola and violin. Clint Bahr is at the Tambura expanding all the elegance of this high-level ensemble. The flutes of David JACKSON embroider his hypnotic stripes in lace.
“New Design” [5’47’’] is imbued with the refined percussion of Mike HOUGH (FLASH), Drums & Cymbals reminiscent of sounds from Asia, with the added soft song vocals of BAHR’S chameleon-like Richard SINCLAIR, easily complementing ALICE COOPER and Peter HAMMILL jamming together. And with a midsection of Mellotron from the Middle East, Clint BAHR is an enchanting scientist creating a phenomenal surprise that unfolds even as you listen. Jeff SCHILLER [woodwinds] (THE ROOTS) makes an exalted appearance on his rich Baritone Saxophone, tortured, then playful on the Tenor Sax and sardonic on the Clarinet.
The whole evolves towards a marriage of dissonances overflowing with symphonic and lyrical touches. “Plate” [7’52’’], a wonderful improvisation with Marilyn CRISPELL at the Piano (Anthony BRAXTON), Dick GRIFFIN at Trombone (SUN RA), Dan PARKINGTON on Violin, Mike HOUGH on Drums & Cymbals, Clint Bahr on the Chapman Stick, 12-String Bass, and Percussion.
We note two other improvisations like “Plate”: “As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat” [10’48’’] which adds David JACKSON on Woodwinds & FX; and “Triangles, Circles & Squares” [2’13’’] in which David Cross (KING CRIMSON) plays beautiful Violins, and Jeff SCHILLER joins on Bass Clarinet, also evoking CRIMSON from the RED era, in osmosis with the Violin of David CROSS.
These three monumental tableaux succeed in offering brilliant meticulous work, demonstrating to a high degree the agility and spontaneity of free jazz. These three monumental works succeed in offering a brilliant punctilious work, demonstrating agility and spontaneity quite in a situation of free jazz to a high degree. The three disconcerting compositions are played with frankness and passion. The piano finds the tone, and the wind instruments in their idealized interpretation of valor and virtuosity are simply audacious. The accompaniment of the strings is a model of endearing qualities that flatter the ear. Vivid colorful notes played with velocity and precision attacks. A grand unique moment of splendor. These three improvisations are borderline crazy, where Clint Bahr gives himself and his musicians carte blanche. From the country of the rising sun, from the wink of Marilyn CRISPELL to Mike GARSON’s playing during sessions of BOWIE’S ALADDIN SANE, to a massive duel between David JACKSON and Dick GRIFFIN.
The 4th track “Shelter” [3’59’’] is a sweet warm whirlwind with a scent of festivity in daring dialogues with Clint BAHR alternating on vocals, Basses 12/8/4, 8-String Bass FX solo, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonium, Megaphone, Kazoo, Slide Whistle, and Percussion. A fantasy incorporating the sounds of BLACK SABBATH, TELEVISION, and BIGELF, underscored by the fearless interpretation of Billy FICCA (TELEVISION) on Drums & Cymbals, transforms sounds into electrical boxes. Dick GRIFFIN at Trombone is infinitely seductive, inspired with qualities of warmth and flexibility in everything he plays. Exquisite massive riffs pile up in the foreground as if they are trying to photo-bomb.
“Fall From Grace” [4’51’’] is an extravagant fever of fantastic orchestral landscapes pierced by the precise vocals of BAHR and Colin CARTER (FLASH). Billy FICCA on Drums & Cymbals, with Dan PARKINGTON on Violin. A passionate call from the bow of Dan PARKINGTON, with Clint BAHR impressive on Basses 12/8/4, Acoustic Guitar, Mellotron, Theremin, Percussion, and Moog Taurus Pedals.
“Belt& Braces” [1’11’’] features Marilyn CRISPELL on Piano, Dick GRIFFIN on Trombone, Mike HOUGH on Drums & Cymbals, Clint BAHR, on 8-String Bass. Musical movements overlap evoking in turn the album FAIRYPORT by WIGWAM, MAGMA, and Keith TIPPETT.
“Oslo” [1’10’’] where Clint BAHR stirs up a horde of wild notes with his 12-String Bass, E-Bow, Piano, Theremin, and Percussion, over a narration by Stephanie FEYNE (THE DOTES).
“Kicking The Wasp’s Nest” [3’11’’] rocks fiercely under the golden fingers of Peter BANKS (YES, FLASH), as Clint BAHR on vocals, has the good idea to revive his guitar. His hands run furiously over his fret board. His spirit delivers for us a last bravissimo and his spectral solo, displays his aura and an acclamation of the gods. For his part, Jeff SCHILLER sometimes on the Baritone Saxophone and Tenor Saxophone with piercing attacks, carries it away for a journey of return.
“Lifeguard In The Rain” [3’31] is a limpid, celestial, lively melody with cries mixed with those of seagulls, and the ebb of the sea. And Jeff SCHILLER with his exemplary vibrato at the Oboe. The Acoustic Guitar, 8 String Wah Bass, Harmonium, Vocals, and Clint BAHR’s percussion carry us away to a reverie with this ocean of wealth. Then, it's the finale with the bewitching “Tabula Rasa 2” [2’40], meditative piece with David CROSS on violins (KING CRIMSON), Dan PARKINGTON divine on sitar, and Clint BAHR on Tamboura, Moog Taurus Pedals.
Clint Bahr's 12-String hand hits hard in this serious concept album. It is conceivable it will accomplish safely its objectives to success, with a massive and refined orchestration at the same time. Clint BAHR gives the necessary weight to this opus, testifying to his savoir-faire, and whose impact on the public will be considerable, especially taking into account the sublime quality of the sound recording.
PUZZLEBOX is very strongly recommended.
English translation courtesy Bill Moody
Music Street Journal
“ONE OF THE MOST CREATIVE AND INTERESTING THINGS I’VE HEARD”
Clint Bahr has been covered at Music Street Journal previously as part of the group TriPod. This is his new solo album. I think this might be one of the most creative and interesting things I've heard in a while. It bends so many genres, and yet it feels cohesive. There are jazz things, freeform stuff, hard rock, psychedelia, King Crimson like music and lots more. Some of this is more accessible and mainstream than other things, but it's all compelling. This includes the late, great Peter Banks Colin Carter and Mike Hough, who were bandmates of Banks in his post Yes band Flash show up on the album, too. So does violinist/viola player David Cross of King Crimson fame. There are plenty of other guests here, but those are the names that really caught my eye. If you like a real sense of adventure and experimentation in your music, you really need to check this out. I think you will love it. This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022 Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.
Track by Track Review
Tabula Rasa 1
Psychedelic world music elements start this track, and it builds outward in that vein. This is a classy instrumental piece.
World music concepts start this. The track drives out with a bombastic movement from there that makes me think of King Crimson. As it gets to the vocal part of the tune, it gets a little more mainstream rock, but it's still proggy. The number has such a cool combination of sounds with an almost surf-rock riff in place at times, but all delivered with a psychedelia meets Crimson intensity.
Weird jazz, strange Crimsonian wanderings and more are on display on this freaky, but so cool, piece. This instrumental is freeform, avante garde and so cool.
Coming in super-heavy and rocking, this is another that has plenty of King Crimson in the mix. It works to a Cream meets psychedelia vibe for the first vocals. The number works onward by alternating between those things. There is an old-fashioned music section for a short time a couple times on the tune, too. A noisy instrumental break later is on fire. The mix of sounds here is unusual, and yet it works so well. This is actually one of my favorite tunes here.
As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat
Weird experimental music much like early King Crimson brings this in and holds it in a freeform way. This extensive (nearly 11 minutes) instrumental is insane, but also incredibly cool.
Fall From Grace
Metallic and yet prog-based, this is suitably weird and incredibly cool. There is some definite King Crimson in the mix and much more. It is psychedelic and has a rather Alice Cooper like descent into mellower madness mid-track.
Belt & Braces
This short instrumental is a jazz jam that has some really crazed elements.
Triangles Circles And Squares
Coming in tentatively, this turns rather symphonic as first thing beyond that. Then it gets into some rather Crimson-like hard-edged weirdness to continue. This instrumental is another that's fairly short.
Weird sound effects and freakiness serve as the backdrop for a female spoken vocal. This makes me think of Curved Air to some degree. It's another short piece.
Kicking The Wasps Nests
Driving and furious prog rock jamming ensues as this thing gets underway.
Lifeguard In The Rain
Weird atmospherics and effects brings this into being. The cut works out to some balladic approaches to continue. This gets psychedelic and trippy later.
Tabula Rasa 2
This closing instrumental piece is, as you probably guessed, related to the opening number of the set. It serves as a nice bookend.
After about twenty years since TriPod, Clint Bahr, the virtuoso of the bass, re-presents with a new project that combines magmatic improvisations, as in best of the 70s, and prog tracks masterfully arranged. Guests: David Jackson, David Cross and Peter Banks.
“an intellectual and emotional masterpiece.”
CLINT BAHR – Puzzlebox
Begging for its secrets to be given an airing, progressively minded multi-instrumentalist’s treasure chest opens – at last, and it was worth the wait.
If properly engineered, a puzzle box is a compact objet d’art which has moving pieces and delivers gratification upon solving this palpable enigma – and that’s exactly how it goes with Clint Bahr’s solo debut. Almost two decades after TRIPOD released their only album, the American artist has stepped out on his own, although in the company of a few famous friends – former members of VDGG, TELEVISION, FLASH and KING CRIMSON – who have been helping him slide these melodic and rhythmic elements in place for years until the very varied results seemed complete. Up to the listener to wonder at its inner logic and beauty now, the veteran’s long-gestating disc amassed a lot of surprises along the way, revealing new facets of the dozen numbers on display with every new spin – like a series of discoveries concealed in the compartments of original wooden item. Appropriately, these cuts’ sound couldn’t feel warmer than what’s on offer here.
And what can feel more analogue than the raga of “Tabula Rasa” that both opens the album and brings it to a meditative close, with Clint first strumming a tambura alongside Dan Parkington sitar, while David Jackson’s flutes weave mesmeric lines in their tapestry, and then introducing Moog pedals to the effects-laden mix in which the drone is passed to David Cross‘ violin and viola? What’s between these tracks won’t be as highbrow, however, a smattering of improvs never crossing the line of pointless, complacent intricacy and leaning towards lighthearted playfulness instead. Still, whereas two jazz stalwarts, Marilyn Crispell on piano and Dick Griffin on trombone, lead Bahr’s Chapman Stick and percussion astray, to foray into a well-tuned, albeit sometimes angular, adventure and render the brief “Belt & Braces” and the epic “As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat” extremely arresting, the experimental exotica of the sax-smeared “New Design” and sweet swirl of the fairground-smelling “Shelter” ooze delicious heaviosity once hefty riffs surface to come to the fore.
Yet when Mike Hough or Billy Ficca’s drums drive the drift, under Clint’s simple voice and impressive array of many-string basses and ivories, to fantastic frenzy, orchestral panoramas unfold. In this context Colin Carter’s vocals thunder on “Fall From Grace” as a prophetic call from the Scripture over a chthonic groove, the sawing of Parkington’s bow and the ringing of Bahr’s Mellotron and acoustic guitar, and the late Peter Banks’ fingers run frenetically over the frets in “Kicking The Wasp’s Nest” which rocks wildly, before the tremulously translucent “Lifeguard In The Rain” finds the main man deep in a reverie. Actually, “Puzzlebox” is a nerd’s dream: temperately sophisticated but accessible – and immersive only sonic mosaic may be; it’s an intellectual and emotional masterpiece.
“A GREAT CD, BOTH EXPERIMENTAL AND PROGRESSIVE”
Review: Clint Bahr - Puzzle Box (Moonjune Records, 2022) (Progressive Rock/Experimental Jazz)
Clint Bahr - vocals, acoustic guitar, mellotron, Moog, tambura, string guitars, percussion, E-bow strings, harmonium, piano and toms from New York City, America made the CD album "Tripod" in 2003 with the band Tripod and this is followed on March 31, 2022 by his solo CD album "Puzzle Box", which was released through Moonjune Records.
He is assisted by guest musicians: David Jackson - flute (track 1), Dan Parkington - sitar and violin (track 1, 3, 6 and 12 ), Jeff Schiller - clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, baritone and tenor saxophone (track 2, 8, 10 & 11), Mike Hough - drums (track 2, 3, 5 & 7), Marilyn Crispell - piano (track 3, 5 & 8), Dick Griffin - trombone (track 3, 4, 5 & 7 ), Billy Ficca - drums (track 4 and 10), David Jackson - woodwinds and effects (track 5), Colin Carter - vocals (track 6), David Cross - violin (track 8 and 12), Stephanie Feyne - dialogue (track 9) and Peter Banks - lead guitar (track 10).
The 12-track album starts with "Tabula Rasa", in which Clint Bahr performs an oriental-sounding song with a moderate tempo and this is followed by "New Design", a song with a medium tempo, which starts with oriental sounds, has tempo changes and a recurring rhythm and contains experimental jazz influences and "Plate", an experimental jazz song with a medium tempo.
This is followed by "Shelter", a beautiful progressive song with a medium tempo and experimental influences, "As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat", an experimental song with jazz influences and a moderate tempo and "Fall From Grace", a progressive song. song with an average tempo and tempo changes, which gets theatrical influences halfway through.
In "Belt & Braces" Clint Bahr gives me a short free jazz song in an average tempo, in "Triangles, Circles And Squares" I hear a wonderfully experimental piece of music and in "Oslo" he lets me enjoy a great song with narration, which is accompanied by experimental sounds.
Then follows "Kicking The Wasps Nests", a fantastic uptempo progressive rock song with jazz influences and a recurring rhythm, which swings, "Lifeguard In The Rain", a beautiful pop song with a fairly slow tempo and "Tabula Rasa 2", a delightfully slow Eastern sounding song, accompanied by a monotonous dark sound.
"PuzzleBox" by Clint Bahr is a great CD, which sounds both experimental and progressive, making it difficult for me to make a good udgment about this disc, so I would say, listen and judge for yourself. (listen to this album via the bandcamp link below the review)
August 25, 2022
George W. Harris
“ELECTRONICA MIXING WITH AURAL JOURNEYS”
Bahr: Puzzle Box
While not quite a one man band, Clint Bahr plays a wide variety of instruments, including but not limited 12/8/4 string basses, tambura, acoustic guitars, Chapman Stick, E-Bow and even bringing in Voice and Mellotron as he mixes and matches various guests for some clever sonic atmospheres. Indian landscapes area created with Dan Parkington’s sitar and David Jackson’s flute for “Tabula Rasa 1” and “2” while a mix of head banging metal shows up on the hard hitting “Fall From Grace” and “Shelter”. Wondrous space effects and splashy tones are created with a “paintbrush” bass, Marilyn Crispell’s piano and Dick Griffin’s trombone as part of “Plate with Mike Hough digging a deep groove on “Belt and Braces”. Electronica mixing with aural journeys to various lands and islands.
“A MASTERFUL COLLECTION OF ENGAGING AND DIVERSE TUNES”
Clint Bahr — Puzzlebox
My first encounter with Clint Bahr was almost twenty years ago in the lobby at Baja Prog; before their set he was bragging that his trio, TriPod, would be the loudest band that ever played at Baja. Less than halfway through their set I found myself back in the lobby among a group of friends, sporting a headache from the sheer volume and in full agreement with what Mr. Bahr had said. A considerable amount of time has passed since that Baja performance, and in the interim it seems that Bahr has come to the realization that louder is not always better. To be sure, Bahr’s latest Puzzlebox does contain some noisy, heavy rock sounds, but it also contains far more than that, wandering through jazz improv and other explorative sounds with a variety of guest players including David Cross, Colin Carter, Marilyn Crispell, David Jackson, Jeff Schiller, the late Peter Banks (a sure indicator that this album was many years in the making), plus numerous others. For his part, Bahr composed all of the tracks (with the exception of the three improv pieces), wrote the lyrics, sings, and played all manner of basses (4, 8, and 12 string), plus bass pedals, Chapman stick, acoustic guitar, tambura, harmonium, keyboards, Mellotron, percussion, and more. Seems that besides a drum kit, the odd guitar solo, violin, brass and woodwinds, Bahr could have played almost everything here. Drummer Billy Ficca (Television) features on several of the cuts, and Mike Hough (ex-Flash) on others. The set opens and closes with the two-part instrumental “Tabula Rasa” featuring Bahr on tamboura, Dan Parkington on sitar, and David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) on flute (Part 1) and David Cross (King Crimson) on violin on Part 2. Very nice, indeed, with the opener setting the stage for the heavy vocal number “New Design” that follows. Something that sounds like a Fripp-less Crimson – Van der Graaf mash up with a full wind section all played by Schiller. The three improvisations are “Plate,” “As Tympani Melt in the Greek Heat” and “Triangles, Circles and Squares,” the first two featuring Bahr, Hough, Dick Griffin (rombone), and Marilyn Crispell (piano), the second adds David Jackson (winds) for almost eleven minutes, and the third is the trio of Bahr, David Cross (violins), and Schiller on bass clarinet, over and done in a mere two minutes; the three improvs all embrace a free-jazz sound to one degree or another. Other standouts include “Lifeguard in the Rain,” a gentle tune featuring Bahr on vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, and harmonium, with Schiller on oboe, and “Kicking the Wasps Nests,” a brutally heavy rocker featuring Ficca at the kit, Schiller on saxes, a guitar solo by Peter Banks (RIP) and Bahr singing and playing everything else. Puzzlebox is nothing short of a masterful collection of engaging and diverse tunes.
June 14, 2022
Echoes and Dust
“AN ENORMOUS STICK OF DYNAMITE THAT IS READY TO EXPLODE!”
Puzzlebox by Clint Bahr
Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly 20 years since Clint Bahr released his 2003 release, TriPod. They were one of the earliest releases from MoonJune Records after Clint’s band was discovered at New York’s Punk club, CBGB’s in 1998. TriPod was a band that crossed over between punk, RIO, and the Belew-era of Crimson. Now in 2022, Bahr has a new project called Puzzlebox.
Puzzlebox is the latest release from MoonJune. It is Clint’s next adventure combining improvisations and compositional arrangements to the core. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t second guess itself by pushing the envelope as far as Clint can go. And to be allowed to have Peter Banks, David Cross, Billy Ficca, Mike Hough, and David Jackson to name a few, they know they got Clint’s back to bring Puzzlebox to life.
‘As Tympani Melt in The Greek Heart’ is one of the most insane improvisations that Bahr gives his musicians, carte blanche. It goes from the Land of the Rising Sun, Crispell’s nod to Mike Garson’s playing during the Aladdin Sane sessions, and a massive duelling attack between Jackson and Griffin.
You can tell Bahr isn’t just going to make a “Prog-Rock” album, but an album that will give you nightmares for the rest your life. Combining Univers Zero, Stomu Yamashta, and Magma’s arrangements with Vander conducting the whole piece. But it’s ‘New Design’ that bursts through the flood gates.
Bahr transforms his Bass into a cat-and-mouse trap not knowing who will be captured as his vocals becomes this combination between Alice Cooper and Peter Hammill doing a jam session together. It has a steampunk approach that Hough and Schiller create at the turn of the 20th century. But with a middle eastern mellotron midsection, Bahr is like a mad scientist creating a massive shitload of an experiment that is waiting to be unveiled.
‘Shelter’ sees Clint going for a doom turned dystopian fantasy with horrific details. Crossing over the sounds of Black Sabbath, Television, and BigElf’s music, Ficca gets down to business as he brings all these militant turned power housing sounds right into the front of your own living room.
Both ‘Bells & Braces’ and ‘Triangles, Circles, & Squares’ go for the Rock In Opposition movement, Wigwam’s Fairyport-era, Keith Tippett, and Crimson’s Red-era teaming up with the sax sections from Magma as Cross’ violin section, makes their instrument transform into vicious, hungry, snarling beasts with an appetite for human flesh!
But Bahr calls for the spirit of Peter Banks to give one last hurrah for a punky attitude by ‘Kicking the Wasps Nests’. Banks’ ghost-like solo brings attitude and calling to the gods while chiller lays down brutal attacks on his tenor sax to make the journey home.
Now when you think of Puzzlebox, I ain’t talkin’ about Clive Barker’s box from the horror classic Hellraiser, but Bahr’s vision of Puzzlebox is an ear-listening challenge that is ready to burst the door down so hardcore, there’s no escape from it. MoonJune scores another home run with Bahr’s Puzzlebox coming to life.
And it is an enormous stick of dynamite that is ready to explode!
“Whipping up a frenzy that doesn't know bounds or boundaries.”
CLINT BAHR/Puzzlebox: In which we find the prog bass ace rounding up pals from all the prog bands that mattered and whipping up a frenzy that doesn't know bounds or boundaries. Refuting the punks claim that these are dinosaurs with dust on them, who's still standing all these years later? Flights of fancy is where this set begins.
“STRENUOUS SOPHISTICATED ALBUM”
No light fare, which Clint Bahr serves us. On Puzzlebox meet world music, (Free) Jazz, King Crimson and Van der Graaf generator on top of each other. On its strenuous sophisticated album play such prominent guests as, for example Peter Banks (Yes), David Cross (King Crimson) or David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator). If you like it a little bit dissonant and improvised, should risk an ear.
VIOLENT & FIERCE
Chris M. Slawecki – All About Jazz
CLINT BAHR/Puzzlebox: Puzzlebox is precisely that A hard-cover box of musical curios arranged around an 11-minute improvisation ("As Tympani Melt in the Greek Heat") performed not by a band but by a rotating caravan of progressive jazz and rock musicians organized by multi-instrumentalist and composer Clint Bahr. Bahr's collaborators in this curious collection include pianist Marilyn Crispell, violinist David Cross, the late Yes guitarist Peter Banks and other musicians who have performed with artists as far-ranging as Sun Ra and Rahsaan Roland Kirk (trombonist Dick Griffin) and The Roots (woodwind player Jeff Schiller).
Because it presents so many different contributors in so many different formats, Puzzlebox comes off like an anthology boxed set even though it's only one CD. Bookend versions of "Tabula Rasa 1" and "Tabula Rasa 2" open and close with a heady psychedelic mixture of sitar, tambura and flute, a captivating effect that loops its ending back into its beginning.
But after that tranquil opening, Puzzlebox grows more dense, heavy and hard. Bahr plays three different basses (4-, 8-and 12-string) to drive "New Design" into a prog-rock stomp that quickly turns violent and fierce—especially its sputtering bridge, which sounds so angry that it can barely spit out the right notes. Horns singing in eastern/oriental tones simultaneously complement and contrast with its brittle, angry rock stomp. Together, the rhythm and horn charts pull this "New Design" together into a sound that suggests Deep Purple and Jade Warrior, stalwarts at very different ends of the British prog-rock spectrum, jamming together.
Bahr's bass seems barely able to restrain the extended improvisation for piano, violin, trombone and percussion "Plate" as it keeps growing for nearly eight minutes. The trombone seems to play off the relatively straight bass-and-drum shuffle but pianist Crispell seems to have recorded a different tune played in a different time, and then superimposed it (like an upside-down plate) on top. If you've ever wondered what improvisational pianist Cecil Taylor might sound like accompanied by improvisational jazz-rockers like Soft Machine, dig into this "Plate."
The centerpiece improvisation "As Tympani Melt in the Greek Heat" is psychedelic and evocative, more of a painting in sound than a song. Drummer Mike Hough sets up rhythms in which none of the other instruments sound interested; the trombone, woodwind and piano all seem to go their own way. Then in the last minute, the chaotic sound clears and surreally reveals what sounds like the digital dawning of a new day.
Puzzlebox arranges smaller curio pieces ("Belt & Braces," "Oslo" and the improvisation "Triangles, Circles & Squares") like side orders and relishes around these main pieces.
Puzzlebox also celebrates two decades of Clint Bahr's relationship with MoonJune Records founder Leonardo Pavkovic: The self-titled debut of Bahr's protean NYC-based power trio TriPod was the fourth release in MoonJune's fledgling catalog in 2003.
CLINT BAHR PRESENTS WORLDBEAT PROG-ROCK
Clint Bahr’s Puzzlebox (MoonJune Records) is no genre. Composer/Multi-Instrumentalist/Vocalist Bahr has enlisted the aid of 12 world-class musicians to flesh out his Progressive Rock vision that morphs into jazz-fusion, worldbeat, ethno-folk, ambient, classical, soundtrack (for a movie that doesn’t exist) and otherworldly funk. It’s all in the credits of the players where you can get a sense of what might be going on here. Pianist Marilyn Crispell (Pharoah Sanders), violinist David Cross (King Crimson), drummer Billy Ficca (Television), trombonist Dick Griffith (Sun Ra), drummer Mike Hough (Flash), woodwinds men David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) and Jeff Schiller (The Roots) jam with Dan Parkington on sitar and violin. Even licks from the original Yes guitarist, the late Peter Banks, are used. Now just sit back and think what members of all these diverse units could possibly come up with.