Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Music Review by Mark S. Tucker
John Orsi is a progrocker who bounces between many of the genre's variegated manifestations: trad prog, fusion, ambient, jazz shades, and even, with wife Karen in groups like Overflower, marvelous pop-prog. For this EP, he's gathered the cream of his collaborators (Mike Marando, Manny Silva, Karen, and of course himself) for a new 5-spot of sparkling compositions led off by the Crimson-cum-Yamash'ta Shiver. That track carries a Frippian lead line burning and then flowing into the glassily percussive Mik's Glacier, a vastly more neoclassical take, pointillistic and spacious, utilizing the drum kit in ways that far too many prog players long ago ignored (to their detriment). Here, Orsi mans the keyboards as well, Marando ambientalizing his guitar for shimmering curtains of light and fog around John's lines.
Karen jumps in on She's Here, reprising the crunch-axe of Shiver in single chord repetitions while John pitches up the traps into the cymbals, icing the atmospherics, the entire thing a miniature piece of furniture music. Marando re-enters in a screaming skyflight for Blue Ink for Fountain Pens, feedback punctuating his launch to Mars as Michael Watson guests in a one-shot to kick in frantic garbled vocal emulations through his keyboards, John detuning half the drums to subtly warp the colorations even further. Twirling Guitars and Glad Tambourines slides back down into Yamash'ta territory again, guitar squealing and twittering like a parrot to the gamelonistic crystal architecture.
Riding the Way Back is glorious in its beautifully engineered, highly experimental, and way-off-the-beaten path sonorities, a disc badly needed in its home realm in order to re-invigorate the too oft forsaken inspissation of the traditional with the cutting edge, but it's also frustrating in its brevity, a mere 20 minutes when 2 hours would've been just fine with me. However, because it's one of the finest of Orsi's releases in a long catalog of excellent musics, Way Back is a must-have no matter how you look at it. Hopefully, the disc will inspire brothers and sisters elsewhere in the progressive rock camp to re-think their sometimes slavish devotions to more conventional mindsets and import such much-needed fresh approaches as we hear here.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Sea of Tranquility
Music Review by Michael Popke
Formed 15 years ago as a duo with John Orsi and Michael Watson, the ethereal instrumental collective Knitting By Twilight has evolved into an ongoing effort with Orsi leading the way. (Watson has since left the group.) The five-song EP Riding the Way Back, which does more with percussion in 19-and-a-half minutes than many instrumental outfits can muster in an hour, culls leftover tracks from the sessions for Knitting by Twlight's most recent album, An Evening Out of Town. Moody and manipulative, the sounds here represent a band in the throes of successful sonic experimentation. "Shiver" opens the EP with a stomping, metallic minor-key romp before settling into a lovely lullaby. From there, portentous percussion steers "Mik's Glacier," fuzzy atonal power chords punctuate the atmospheric "She's Here" and the danceable "Blue Ink for Fountain Pens" exudes a cinematic flair. As for the closing track, "Twirling Guitars and Glad Tambourines" — well, the title says it all.
Based on what's here, Knitting by Twilight's back-catalog is well worth checking out.
DPRP | Dutch Progressive Rock Page
Music Review by Bob Mulvey
Knitting By Twilight may not be a familiar name to DPRP, or in fact progressive listeners in general and although we covered their EP Someone To Break The Silence (2005) very little appears in the progressive press about this band. This may well have to do with the rather eclectic nature of their music, more on this later, but certainly this long running project deserves further coverage. Dating back to 1994 Knitting By Twilight (KBT) have released three previous works with An Evening Out Of Town being the first full length offering. The "band" revolves around percussionist and multi-instrumentalist John Orsi along with Mike Marando (guitars), Karen Orsi (guitars) and Manny Silva (guitars).
You may think with such a gathering of guitarists that this may be an undiscovered California Guitar Trio or perhaps a version of Robert Fripp's The League Of Gentlemen, but you would be mistaken. Because although there may be some references to Bob Fripp's aforementioned works (those with David Sylvian) the work of KBT takes a different course. Primarily as John Osri presumably starts from a percussive basis, adding flavours and textures from the guitars along with liberal, but subtle use of keyboards and sporadic sound effects.
The album kicks of in sterling fashion with Medieval type percussion before subtle strings and a more modern beat are added. There is much going on within the mix and a credit to the production that all of these parts are evident in the mix. Following this strong opener we move into another rhythmically strong piece, Water Pumps From Cloudland. Again strings are utilised to good effect along with a rather grungy bass end. The layers of guitars also work well and the track moves along neatly. Soothing Stars is rather inappropriately named for me as the track isn't particularly soothing and in fact retains a tension throughout via the strings. Again the percussion is strong as it is in the following piece the subtly titled Evelyn's Glen - I'll leave it to you to work out.
Up to this point the album worked well and although the rather haunting Oblivion's Poppied Slope contrasted the previous tracks I found my attention waning. Manny Silva's Ebow worked well within the layered drones, but overall the track just left me feeling this would be more suited if there was a visual element to it. Pictures Of Delight features rising and falling pattern along with light but driving percussion element. The fairly ambient and minimalistic Audrey is the only surviving track from the taster EP Someone To Break The Silence. Although the track has been re-mixed it did little for me, as did the following piece, Bell Weather, with its simple melody played on dissonant chiming bells. The album concludes with Venus For Everyone, which after the rather slow start returns us to the more infectious rhythms from the earlier part of the CD. Well almost finished - still left is the "not so" hidden Untitled track - a fairly catchy riff played on a metal keyed type instrument/sound. Low drones and sporadic percussion accompany. Now we're finished...
The gatefold CD is neatly constructed and nicely sits with the Knitting By Twilight concept and as mentioned earlier the overall album production is good.
Initially I was fairly dismissive of this release as although it is not without its own charm, there was little in the way of immediate melodies or any instrumental soloing to latch on to. However the subtle intricacies of the often complex and layered rhythms, interesting string arrangements and hypnotic guitar textures gradually began to unfold. Although the music grew on me, I cannot see it having mass appeal within the progressive community and with so much "progressive" material emerging at the moment it is difficult to say whether or not An Evening Out Of Town is an album that will having you digging into your wallet for. Interesting in parts if not essential...
I finally finished reviewing An Evening Out Of Town early one sunny morning in July and before preparing to leave for work. Just before I was due to leave the postman arrived with a bundle of albums for DPRP to review and as I had a few minutes to spare I decided to see what had just arrived. In this bundle was Riding The Way Back, the follow up album from Knitting By Twilight. Now this may suggest that KBT are prolific writers, or more likely that yours truly - is not!
Either way in front of me is the latest offering from this US based quartet Knitting By Twilight. The line-up remains the same, which is perhaps not surprising as only a few months have passed since their previous release. So the burning question was, has the music changed? First track Shiver would suggest definitely so. Almost grunge like guitars are driven along by a strong steady rock beat - certainly there was nothing on the previous album to suggest this, with only the percussive ornamentations serving as a reminder. Circa 2:30 minutes in and the music moves to more familiar ground with lighter guitars and a pleasant melody.
Whilst listening to the album I started to read through the liner notes where interestingly John Osri comments:
"This ep is comprised mostly of material that wouldn’t, couldn’t and otherwise didn’t fit onto the previous Knitting By Twilight album, “An Evening Out of Town” for mostly thematic considerations."
Initially Mik's Glacier didn't appear to be something that would have been out of place on An Evening Out Of Town as it is purely percussion. However one minute in and a strong Bonhamesque drum beat carries the challenging strings to the close. In similar fashion She's Here starts with assorted cymbals and percussion, eventually (0:30) broken by a heavily distorted guitar without any rhythmic backing. The pattern is repeated.
Blue Ink For Fountain Pens is an altogether perky up-beat track and the outstanding piece from the EP. A strong rhythmic and melodic structure is provided by the tuned (and de-tuned) percussion. Guest musician Michael Watson provides the keyboards whilst Mike Mirando adds his "blue guitar" - long sustained notes to you and I - which nicely contrast the busier rhythms. Excellent!
Concluding Riding The Way Back is another track that that relies heavily on tuned and structured percussive rhythms, this time accompanied by whammy bar madness from Karen Osri and various sound effects and chanting. The careful mixing saves the day here...
Once again the packaging is well constructed and complimentary to the release.
Considering Riding The Way Back may well have been viewed as "cast offs" from their previous release, I found it to be the better album, mainly as it was more concise and there was certainly more happening in the music. Personally the stronger tracks from both CDs might have made a more easily digestible and therefore stronger single release. But that is a decision for the author rather than the reviewer.
Music Review by Mike Wood
Those expecting the benevolent tones of the slightly psych and drone typical of Knitting By Twilight may find Riding The Way Back. I hope so. For here the Providence band ups the volume, exploring more harsh sounds, but still retaining that mild grace that has fueled their other releases. The guitars bring the noise with melody and bite, while still allowing one to get lost in the songs' atmosphere, a band trademark.
These are tracks that were left off earlier releases, the feeling being that, while they didn't fit projects at the time, they might work as a separate set down the line. The Orsi's (John on drums and keys, Karen on guitar) are joined in the ordered chaos by Manny Silva on bass [and guitar] and Mike Marando, who contributed a bit of acoustic [and electric] guitar touches here and there. "Shiver" and "Mik's Glacier" kick off the record with shimmering guitars, shivering ambient feel, and a slight psych sense of adventure. "She's Here" showcases the depth of idea that surrounded this haunting but majestic tune.
"Blue Ink for Fountain Pens" is a louder, heavier vision... This set ends with "Twirling Guitars and Glad Tambourines," which sounds exactly as you might picture a song with such a title.
In all, Knitting By Twilight show another impressive dimension to their humble, thoughtful catalogue. Riding The Way Back ought to be played loud, but even then it retains the gentle magic for which the band is known.
Vital Weekly | The Netherlands
Music Review by Franz deWard
The persistence of Knitting By Twilight to send their new releases to Vital Weekly is actually quite nice. Their previous CD was called ‘An Evening Out Of Town’ and reviewed fairly recent (Vital Weekly 655), and now they follow it up with ‘Riding The Way Back’, maybe a sort of thematic continuation of traveling? The music by Knitting The Twlilight is still far away from whatever Vital Weekly usually writes about, although there seems to be also a bit of a change in the music. These pieces, so we are told, didn’t fir on the previous album. Things seem to be more rockier than before, with bits of drums banging about, making the proceedings a bit more heavier. That’s one change and the other is that it seems to me that some of these pieces are slightly more improvised in nature. Still quite far away from what is normally playing around here, and still quite alright. For just every now and then.