Van der Graaf Generator formed in Manchester in 1967 and Do not Disturb is the band's 13th album, or their third album since their reinvention as a three-piece ten years ago. Quintessential progressive rock, so brace yourself for time-warp.
The enduring, now venerable outfit, were once a five-piece, but now are down to the longest-serving trio of the band, to wit, founding members Peter Hamill (guitar, piano, vocals), Hugh Bantan (organ/bass) and Guy Evans on percussion. Aloft opens proceedings on this new album with soft electric chords over light cymbals, and of Hamill's theatrical, somewhat weathered English tones.
In the best Prog tradition, there is a key change in Aloft. When one of those well-behaved prog guitar solos tip-toes in, you feel you could be listening to another English band from the period, the Groundhogs who operated on the same band frequency. The Groundhogs enjoyed similar standing in the early Seventies, but neither band had the popular cache of Floyd, Genesis or Yes. Veering between the rustic sensibility and the quiet dementia that mark many a prog track, Aloft, like many of the following tracks, is more a mini-suite than a single track, with its sequences of varying moods.
There is sometimes on the album a languorous air of Pink Floyd’s haunted pastoralism, or you could imagine Floyd’s keyboards maestro, the late Richard Wright singing one or two of the songs. Alfa Berlina opens with choral voices looped backwards and traffic noises. “I’ve got a lifetimes library of unreliable mementos” begin the lyrics - these guys have lived, and then some. Forever Falling's Gibson guitar groove is reminiscent of Jethro Tull, and, like many of the others tracks, it suddenly shifts tempo about a minute in. How on earth did they rehearse these things? One gathers a lot of earnest work went into the creation of this record.
(Oh No I Must Have Said) Yes is so prog it kind of parodies the genre itself, but then it gets kind of jazz fusion towards the close. There is something fey and pretty about Brought to Book, with, once again Richard Wright’s spirit somehow wafting about, as it seems to also on the final, wisftul track, Go. An Interesting vein of songs, an album with a strangely compelling trajectory.