Norway's Jono El Grande is something quite different. He's a self-taught musician whose musical creations clearly fall into the Avant-Prog and Canterbury genres. The music owes much to certain periods of Frank Zappa with its use of Vibraphone and sax not to mention Grande's bass monotone vocals stylings. I will tell you at first I wasn't planning on reviewing the album thinking it didn't really fall in line musically with what we do here at the Progressive Rock Files, however the more I listened to the albums six tracks, it's a short thirty-five minutes by the way, the more I was intrigued by the crazy music. While there are plenty of over-the-top musical histrionics, there are equally many times where thematic melody wins the day and songs come out of the craziness and blossom into some extremely engaging tuneful compositions. It's herky-jerky, it's jaunty, it's noisy but most of all its very musical. Everyone is performing at a high level, which is required because playing this type of complex music can't be easy. Much of the album is instrumental but Grande's vocals pop in here and there. I particularly liked his use of dreamy double-tracked vocals in the title track “Melody of a Muddled Mason” [9:17]. It's a slow and plodding piece that bursts into some searing distorted guitar leads at about the four minute mark. But hey at over nine-minutes there are plenty more musical change-ups that radically alter the composition's musical direction. It's not the type of music I listen to regularly,
The Progressive Rock Files (US)
'Bach's Beach'? JONO EL GRANDE, the great chocolate king and neodadaist, has remained the rogue that he is known for with his fevergreens and confusing stimulants. Also in Melody Of A Muddled Mason (RCD2175) he delights again with his psyche delicacies, which are freaky, with loose threads, prepared with guitar, Fender & Farfisa, saxophone, bass, vibraphone and drums, creaky deep vocals and heaped strings picks up the fluff from Zappa, Gentle Giant, Henry Cow & Co. With moody convertible ear plucking, tricky rhythms, witty guitar and keyboardistics, frizzy string arrangements and a labyrinthine style. Bach immediately goes down the stream on Rhodes rapids. Jonos guitar solo at the initially stoned decelerated title track is absolutely kong. But it is the vibraphone that makes for particularly zappaesque echoes. His paternity on 'Abiding Swansong' is too obvious, even if he would not have arranged strings as smoothly as on 'Lament' or the 'Francent Water Promenade'. But to put them on the march like with 'Smother Eve II' with a circus drum & blower, then to take the kick out and bring in the momentum again, that has a kick and if not Zappa's blessing, then I mean it.
Bad Alchemy (DE)
Jono El Grande doesn't take himself seriously. What already suggests the pseudonym choice of the Norwegian advance guard reveals itself without reservation in the music. His ArtProgRock processes composition phrases from classical, jazz and pop and inflates nothingness oversized. The grotesque inflatation has little appeal. Although the complex structure of tracks is formally perfectly arranged, it moves from track to track without developing substance. On top of that, the voice is consistently set too low and operates as toothless as the rest of the instrument battery. An overly clean, character-poor production does the rest. Here Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and King Crimson are forced to sponsor a winking dummy. Pleasantly relaxed and technically almost flawless, but who is helped
Jono el Grande names his main influences Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. Well, to make a long story short: people like to believe that and it's no different on "Melody of a Muddled Mason", the Norwegian's sixth album. With Zappa as the model for his playful arrangements, it is clearly in the first place and, more recently, its 70s sound has also appeared in his music. Epigone? No matter, great and very varied record.