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UKZ: Radiation

John Kelman By

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After a 27-year hiatus from band touring and recording, Frank Zappa and Roxy Music alum/UK co-founder Eddie Jobson returns with UKZ and Radiation, a CD-EP to coincide with the group's January 24, 2009 "One City World Tour" New York show. A logical extension/evolution of UK's progressive rock leanings, the highly anticipated UKZ is an all-new line-up of artists known and unknown that demonstrates remarkable chemistry for a group still in its early days. Radiation is a powerful first salvo—20 minutes recalling UK's compositional complexity, but also blending in Power to Believe-era King Crimson's Nuevo Metal and a touch of Nine Inch Nails' industrial saturation. No retro-prog this; UKZ is progressive rock for the new millennium.

British-born keyboardist/violinist Jobson has recruited a remarkable quintet of international talent. American touch guitarist Trey Gunn is best-known for his tenure with King Crimson on albums from THRAK (DGM Live, 1995) to The Power to Believe (DGM Live, 2003), as well Quodia's The Arrow: A Story in Seven Parts (7D Media, 2007). American-born/Belgian citizen Aaron Lippert was originally the vocalist for the sadly underappreciated alt-rockers Expanding Man, while German drummer Marco Minneman has, in addition to a surprisingly large discography under his own name, collaborated with guitarist Mike Keneally, and drummers Chad Wackerman and Terry Bozzio.

In addition to Jobson, UK's other notable star is Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek, whose remarkable [sic] (Abstract Logix, 2006) and Improvision (Abstract Logix, 2007) heralded the arrival of a significant new guitar voice. Machacek has long since transcended early comparisons to Allan Holdsworth, creating his own voice, his own harmonic approach and a far broader sonic palette.

The episodic title track sums up the group's overall approach in just under eight minutes. Lippert's distorted voice drives the thundering, head-banging pulse of the vocal section, as Machaek's metal-edged power chords blend with Minneman's powerful processed kit and Gunn's gutsy bass lines. Half-way through, a lightning-fast guitar/keyboard unison line signals an instrumental section, with Machacek's arpeggiated chords bolstering a virtuosic feature for Minneman, leading into a guitar solo that deftly incorporates smooth, Holdsworthian legato lines with screaming bends and sharper edges. Jobson's violin solo is a processed mix of frightening runs and shrill lyricism, segueing to a vocal reprise, UKZ also making clear that its subject matter is contemporary, covering political unrest here and on the balladic follow-up, "Houston," which features Machacek's harmonized and sustained lines winding around Lippert's purer vocal.

The instrumental "TU-95" suggests, in some ways, how a leaner and cleaner Larks Tongues-era King Crimson might sound run through an evolutionary filter. But equally, Machacek's distorted arpeggios reference Mahavishnu Orchestra but only briefly, before Jobson's violin leads the group to a higher velocity middle section of solos that resolve to an inevitable recapitulation of its initial theme. "Legend" closes Radiation; a miniature guitar solo filled with rich, clean voicings that reaffirm Machacek's status as guitar hero in-the-making.

Brief though it may be, Radiation sets anticipation levels on overdrive for UKZ's first full-length release. Let's hope it won't be too long in the making.

Track Listing: Radiation; Houston; TU-95; Legend.

Personnel: Aaron Lippert: vocals; Trey Gunn: Warr touch guitar; Eddie Jobson: keyboards, violin; Alex Machacek: guitars; Marco Minneman: drums.

Title: Radiation | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Globe Music

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