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Comments and critiques on "Ultimate Backward" and "Life or Dessert?"...

Gravity Tree: Ultimate Backward

Exposé Magazine

Gravity Tree is one of the more interesting progressive bands around, a duo who covers all the instruments of a four piece band, plus vocals; and they do this live too. Guitarist Linc plays a combo-guitar that has both bass and guitar strings, and separate pickups for each, allowing him to play both parts simultaneously. Drummer Alan Nu handles a keyboard with his right hand and drums with the others, as well as using various drum controlled triggers. The result is an amazing full band sound from just two players. Both provide the vocals. Some readers may remember "Aim to Please," their contribution to the Bay Prog Sampler disc that was included with issue #24; in fact that song has gone through further refinement in the years since and appears here on this, their second album, along with nine other original compositions. Their material bears a stamp of currency, yet also features the conceptual ideals of classic progressive rock. Their influences likely include Zappa, Happy The Man, Van der Graaf, and Gentle Giant, which they assimilate well as they explore new musical territory; most of the songs are long and labyrinthine, and rarely settle down into a pattern for very long. In that respect, I am reminded of another current band, The Underground Railroad. Familiarity with Ultimate Backward will require a few repeated plays, but over the haul the listener will be rewarded. This is a solid second effort.

USA Progressive Music

score: 9.8/10

"No Rest Part III starts off the album with some beautiful liquid keyboard sounds exploding into an interesting guitar section which glides into the vocals effortlessly...Interesting and well sung vocals, too.

"Wind is a subtle acoustic guitar piece with some interesting and unusual sounds.

"Aim to Please is more vocally driven but again the most impressive thing is the production. The guitars and keyboards work together so well with some great playing and a wild guitar solo borders on disturbing at times but the release into the keyboard/vocal outro releaves the tension.

"Interference starts off very cleverly with some weird sound effects working well with the "squashed" vocal sound and baritone guitar. The main song then gets going and it is probably the most instant so far. It's hard to pinpoint their influences and this is a good thing as they don't sound too much like anyone in particular especially with their use of sounds and production.

"Conversing with the Dead is a fantastic Prog classic. Uptempo just when the album needed a lift, with some heavy sounding guitar interspersed with an almost Talking Heads approach to the vocals. This is really unexpected but works really well.

"In starts with a beautiful string intro leading into a trance riff which is track 7 Can and a strange vocal then takes you into a new area, almost Funk/ Prog but much more interesting. The rhythm element really works well again and I'm of the opinion that this band does this type of song much better than the complex chord progression stuff. Great ending, too.

"Wait starts with a wonderful keyboard section with Vibraphone riff over a Hammond and synth section. The two then combine to produce a lovely piece which fades out much too soon. What a shame! I was really getting into that!

"Go Away. Odd one this is. Very downbeat, not sure if I like it, but the guitar solo saves the track for me. Lovely.

"Motion Sickness is very clever indeed. A kind of sleasy beat with a nauseous vocal sound which then explodes into a fantastic solo piece and a great epic sounding outro.

"This is a very thought provoking album by a duo who definitely punches a hole through the more established forms of Prog and creates their own sound."

Ultimate Backward

Michael Popke for Sea of Tranquility

"No band other than a progressive-rock outfit would be so bold as to open its second CD with a song called No Rest Part III. So, lo and behold, here we have Ultimate Backward, the sophomore release from the very proggy Gravity Tree. (Incidentally, the band included a song called No Rest on its debut, Life or Dessert?, but I can’t find a trace of No Rest Part II).

"Anyway, this San Francisco-based duo — yes, a duo — cites influences as diverse as Genesis and Henry Kaiser, Franz Liszt and Joe Walsh, and Laurie Anderson and the Beatles. Throw in some Arena, Frank Zappa, King Crimson and post-Neal Morse Spock’s Beard, and you’re halfway there. This is dense, majestic stuff that often overpowers quiet vocals by multi-instrumentalists Linc and Alan Nu. Many of the songs feature one-word titles (odd for a prog band and a tactic more commonly used by contemporary rockers and emo-whiners). Yet the most modern song here is also the one with the longest title: Consider Conversing With the Dead Gravity Tree’s foray into progressive punk — albeit with a retro, British new-wave vibe and an acoustic-guitar break. It’s one of the coolest tracks on a record that also features studio versions of live Gravity Tree favorites, including Can (also known as The Funk Tune), Go Away, Motion Sickness and the band’s brief live intro piece In.

"Unfortunately, a quiet and inconsistent mix hinders the ability to fully enjoy Ultimate Backward. But if you’re seeking modern, indie prog with traditional influences (and are tired of listening to — or even bored by — Glass Hammer), you might want to set your ears underneath Gravity Tree and wait for something special to fall."

Gravity Tree: Life or Dessert?

Wondrous Stories, The Journal of the Classic Rock Society, issue 100

"In essence, Gravity Tree are Linc (vocals and all guitars) plus Alan Nu (percussion, drums, synths etc). The minute or so of the track Tender Shoot has a wonderful lead bass which along with percussion and guitar servers up starters. That bass plays a prominent part throughout, whether behind the music as rhythm or leading, where the voice of Linc has a sniff of Roger Chapman about it, minus much of the grit. It's generally strong stuff, not heavy, but certainly progressive rock '70's style with a guitar rather than keyboard lead.

"The conventional threads together with the more unconventional and alternative as the excellent Minnies Tree precedes the eerie percussive Harmonic Indulgence - very much something Zappa would be proud of.

"Not for anyone of a nervous disposition, this is the rock of intense thinkers, driven by intense rhythms. If I was pushed on a comparison I would go for fellow North American's Mastermind, with a serving of Rush too!"

Life or Dessert?

"Gravity Tree's music is full of angular rhythms with somewhat quirky vocals … at times, though, I think of Spock's Beard around the time of Beware Of Darkness. But even that isn't really an apt comparison. They've been compared to King Crimson as well, but I'm not quite sure I agree. Avant-garde is how I would describe Everything. People Don't Know has a driving beat with guitars just on this side of harsh - some great leads, juicy bass, and a classic rock like groove - even the production has that heavy, 70s sound.

"Gravity Tree consists of Alan Nu on drums, percussion, vocals, synths, and whistle (and corrugated hose … it says), and Lincoln "Linc" D'Amario on vocals and a variety of guitars. The same line up live, as well. But, in hearing this, you'd swear there must have been a full band there - which in these days of studio magic seems odd to say. But then I think of Phil Collins' Both Sides, which could have used a variety of musicians, and you realize that the magic is in making two guys sound like 5 or 6.

"There are some big moments here, big anthemic moments with Rush like overtones (modern Rush versus classic Rush) on No Rest. And there are moments when I think of Talking Heads on Minnies Tree and on Life or Dessert?. Also, on the former, I first thought of Oingo Boingo crossed with King Crimson, but it might more apt to say Danny Elfman fronting Crimson. At the very least, this is perhaps the most "accessible" track on the album, full of darkly churning bass, angry guitar, and driving percussion.

"Life or Dessert? closes with the instrumental Threes Too which is layer after layer of shimmering guitar over undulating bass. The lyrics are mostly observations about life and the human condition - not necessarily making bold or prophetic statements about it, but more like ... impressionistic paintings, paintings that ask questions some with a spiritual undertone - more a cynic's view of things; of one who has looked about the world and wonders just what we think we are doing.

"Philosophies aside, this may take a couple of listens to get into. There are some tracks that aren't as effective as others, but on the whole it's worth the effort."

(ProgressiveWorld gives Life or Dessert? four stars out of five)

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