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The Man Who Sold Himself is the third collaboration between Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison and touch guitarist/singer-songwriter 05Ric, and it’s a remarkable showcase for the talents of both men. Harrison has the feel of a jazz musician and the power of a rocker – it’s no surprise he’s gotten so many comparisons to Neil Peart of Rush, but he definitely has his own style. 05Ric balances atmospheric guitar sounds, rubbery bass lines and a dramatic baritone, like Bill Frisell, Mick Karn and Scott Walker occupying the same body.
The formula is pretty simple – Harrison provides grooves over which 05Ric layers his playing and singing. But that simplicity is deceptive. Harrison plays around the beat and rarely stays in easy time signatures, creating a constantly shifting landscape that still manages to be locked onto a steady pulse. Perhaps spurred on by his partner’s unconventional work, 05Ric avoids easy melodies and obvious hooks, choosing instead to flow over and around the drumming, like a stream over rocks. It’s an off-putting sound, at least initially, but repeated exposure makes “Awake,” “Own” and “Prize” (which guest-stars pianist Gary Sanctuary) not just interesting, but compelling. The Man Who Sold Himself is challenging music, no question, but that challenge is worth meeting.
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