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Carnival Detournement

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Album Review

Carnival Detournement is Hamster Theatre's third album and the first to be released on an important record label. It is no surprise that this duo has been picked up by Cuneiform. Of course, co-leader Dave Willey plays bass with labelmate Thinking Plague, but Hamster Theatre fits perfectly into the avant-prog aesthetic the label has helped develop since the early '80s. From the intricate compositions relying as much on complex (or "progressive") rock as on contemporary chamber music down to the silly song titles like "What Makes You Think This Is a Good Place to Bring a Date?" and "Drunken Penguin Tango" (aren't these reminiscent of Forever Einstein titles?), Carnival Detournement is a top-of-the-barrel avant-prog fan's delight. Bob Drake's production is sleek without stripping the music of its authenticity. The album's title says it all: this is music of the carnival, a place where everything — rock, contemporary, folk, Western, Eastern European, serious, ludicrous — can meet and blend together for the fun of it. The result is not a hodgepodge, but rather complex pieces that recall early Motor Totemist Guild, Thinking Plague, Cartoon, Miriodor, and the like, with an extra sense of the bizarre and the misplaced. Leaders Dave Willey (accordion, keyboards, guitars, percussion) and Jon Stubbs (trombone, keyboards, guitars) handle most of the writing and playing, but they are joined by ten additional musicians, including Thinking Plague members Mark Harris and Mike Johnson. "Vermilion Hue Over Lake Lausanne" opens the dance with a reggae number in the style of Frank Zappa (remember the master's 1988 tour?), which suddenly shape-shifts into a furious Plague-like riff. Other highlights include the beautiful accordion/glockenspiel melody of "Jeanne-Marie" and the orgiastic rock number "Bur Di Lie Town So." Very strongly recommended. [Following Carnival Detournement's initial release, Willey and Stubbs expressed misgivings about having tinkered with Bob Drake's master tape, which they claimed had resulted in a "squashing (of) the sonic palette he had created," and in 2009 Cuneiform, in apparent agreement, reissued the CD in a Collectors Edition that restored the album to its originally mastered form.] ~ François Couture, Rovi


Formed: 1993 in Boulder, CO

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Boulder, Colorado-based Hamster Theatre were founded in 1993, emerging from the musical imagination of Dave Willey, an American accordionist/composer skilled in a wide variety of instruments who had lived for a time in Europe and found himself attracted to the music of Lars Hollmer, Nimal, and similar Rock in Opposition-related artists who blend elements of rock, European folk, avant-garde experimentation, and modern composition. Returning to the States, he recorded and released a solo cassette...
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Carnival Detournement, Hamster Theatre
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