Animusic [USA]
Updated 7/23/06

Animusic (04)
Animusic 2 (05)
Animusic 2

When I was at NEARFest 2006, I was waiting in line to get an autograph from Michael Manring. In the same room was a guy with a portable DVD player, playing Animusic 2. I had already seen it, so I asked him the question I asked myself when I had first seen the DVD: "Why isn't this progressive?". He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders, but a nearby patron gave me the best answer I've heard: "Because chicks dig it". Manring had just made the same joke during his performance, explaining why he played an experimental bass. The quip got a laugh both times.

But seriously, Animusic 2 may not be "prog" in the sense that GEPR readers would usually mean, though it does contain a very ELP-like rendition of an abridged "Pictures at an Exhibition". But this is music that should appeal to most prog rockers. It's electronic music, though melodic and heavy on the rhythms. But the most fascinating part is the "virtual instruments", CGI representations of the most outlandish possible instruments that should make anyone who ever salivated over Emerson's huge modular Moog drool an ocean for these axes! Imagine an instrument that takes up a whole room, with robotic arms hitting drum kits and marimba bars, solenoid-operated hammers hitting a huge array of strings, and light-emitting organ pipes and trumpets creating a huge, symphonic sound. Or a wooden "acoustic" instrument with multiple rows of strings being fretted and plucked by robotic actuators. They look both mechanical and organic, like a Roger Dean painting, but it's all CGI. It's hard to do this any justice with words, but it's absolutely mesmerizing to watch. You can actually see each note being "produced" by one of the strings being plucked, or vibrato and pitch bends being added by the robot fingers on the fret board, or by flying silver balls hitting strings, bars and percussion instruments. These are not simply fanciful machines that don't make any sense ... you get the impression that such gadgets are actually producing the sounds you're hearing. You've got to see it and simultaneously hear it to believe it! If it matters to you, Jon Anderson counts himself among the video's fans.

Words fail when describing this. But unless you're against synthesized music or Blue Man Group type heavy rhythmics, I would suggest you get Animusic 2 as soon as possible, and play it on the highest-rez TV screen you can find ... even if it's at a friend's house. You can always say it's a great test vehicle for his home theater system ... which is where I first saw the DVD, in a high-end video store, demo'ing their high-definition TV's and audio systems. Trust me, it's worth the effort to find a good "theater" to play this in. And then you can write and tell me it's not prog if you want ... but I'll bet you enjoyed it anyway! Don't forget to check out the special features, which are alternate video versions of each song ... some of them are even better than the main versions, especially for those interested in how these "instruments" are "played". I haven't heard the first Animusic, but I liked 2 so much, I'll be on the lookout for it. -- Fred Trafton

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