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The Many Prog Personas of Tony Arnold

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Operating under a variety of names, Tony Arnold (based in Athens, Georgia) produces superbly engaging tuneage that takes rockŐnŐroll and gives it a progressive tweak with a slightly dark and bent sensibility. decorative rule

TONY ARNOLD: Ophidian Lullabies (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2007 features 74 minutes of gripping rock music.

With some exceptions, this is an album that explores various types of lyrical tunes. These gripping songs feature a conventional array of instruments: guitar, bass, keys, drums, and vocals.

Listen close and you'll catch Arnold's dark take on topics like romance and purpose. Melancholia is warped with maudlin sentiments, then set to catchy melodies.

The exceptions are the instrumental pieces, which flourish with sparkling beauty. These tracks generally rely on electronics (or keyboards) to achieve their attractive luster.

There's a softness to these songs (a la lullabies), but that gentility is often flavored with a dash of prog spice, seasoning the pieces with an off-center attitude that is quite enchanting. And the tracks tend to muster puissance as they progress, getting snappier and stronger.

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THE PACHINKO ALLAHS: Blood Cult Bake Sale (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2008 features 74 minutes of alternative rock music.

Joining Arnold on this release is Tess Brunet on vocals and autoharp.

An assortment of sultry tuneage utilizing conventional instruments (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and vocals).

Despite the diversity of instruments, it's the guitar that carries the burden of the music's appeal. Arnold coaxes an inventive plethora of sounds from his guitar, from gutsy to delicate to sinuous to snarling.

Hosts of electronics contribute ouches that serve to cement everything into luscious tapestries of alluring tuneage.

The percussion is agile but often understated, providing rhythms that are submerged in the flow.

Horns appear in this music, (albeit probably synthesized) lending a certain regal touch.

A lot of these tunes feature lyrical vocals, but there are still a number of tracks which explore a purely instrumental venue.

The compositions on this release provide an excellent sampling of material from both styles, vocal and instrumental. Once filtered through Arnold's talents, the result is rock music with a vivid progressive inclination.

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MACULAR DEGENERATES: Macular Degenerates (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2009 features 66 minutes of progressive rock music.

Squealing electronics produce constant entertainment, belting out nimble-fingered riffs that snake through a foggy milieu of droning backdrops.

Guitars deliver a strong lead presence, whether it's with lustrous strumming achieving a dreamy charm, or snarling pyrotechnics of a seductive nature. The latter establish dazzling pinnacles of searing appeal. While the former have an entrancing way of complimenting other concurrent instruments with an inventive gentility.

A degree of percussion provides locomotion with snappy rhythms which are artfully blended into the mix so they are not obtrusive but maintain a sprightly presence. There's a nice mix of traditional beats with quirky tempos.

Two of the songs feature lazy vocals, while a third piece's lyrics are processed into rockabily chipmunk crooning.

These compositions manage to combine dreamy qualities with gut-wrenching zeal, delivering strength with a degree of mesmerization. The instrumental pieces are the real winners, infusing attractive melodies with novel flavors of lively elements which tastily cavort in a fluid flow of shimmering sonic vistas. While the overall style of tunes tends to pursue progressive rock, there are a few diversions of entertaining nature, like a few pieces that investigate a relaxed calypso motif.

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MUSAPHONIC: Stereotronic (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2009 features 62 minutes of dramatic music.

Joining multi-instrumentalist Tony Arnold is Simeon Stylites on vocals on one track.

The first track is rich with squealing guitar (sounding very much akin to an electric mandolin in the hands of a rock maestro) and sharp drums. While the former carves out a soaring riff of blinding luster, the rhythms provide crisp propulsion.

Next, the guitar adopts a liquid strum persona in tandem with backing by gutsy guitars. Durable percussion pounds within the sultry mix. Haunted vocals praise the feeling of victory over all obstacles. As the piece progresses, the background guitar bullies its way to the forefront to indulge in some wondrous pyrotechnics.

The third piece displays harp-sounding strings blending with cerebral guitar, soon joined by snarling electric guitar. Then powerhouse drum erupt into play, launching the tune into a rollicking celebration in which the guitar dominates with stratospheric inclinations.

The following track commences with sinuous rhythms and eerie electronics, soon joined by subtle guitar hints and dramatic keyboards. Gradually the guitar and electronics edge into a dominant position. The electronics adopt a shuddery growl, while the keyboards turn shrill and piercing. Quirky bongos join the already complex rhythms. By this point, each instrument struggles for supremacy, yet the result is cohesive as the threads merge into a delightful gestalt of grinding appeal.

Track five pursues a more pensive motif with gentle guitar plucking and serious keyboard drones.

The last piece is an epic composition at 30 minutes long. It begins with a funereal drums countered by a winsome whistling tone. Soon the beats abandon their somber tempos and indulge in animated rhythms of bewitching charisma. Guitar, snarling like an angry beast, emerges from the miasma, accompanied by a selection of auxiliary effects (chitterings and human growls). A spoken voice, pondering anatomical grotesqueries, provides a bridge to the next outburst of tempos. Slippery keyboards enter the fray. The human grumblings continue deep in the background. A sense of nervous tension is building. A series of spoken bits break the flow, followed by additional drums and haunted electronics, all of which strive to evoke a dark milieu. Turbulent drums and intense guitar generate urgent melodies that seethe with bestial ferocity.

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MACULAR DEGENERATES: Backroads to Owltown (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2009 features 79 minutes of homey rock music.

Grinding guitar, sneaky electronics, and spry percussion generate enticing progressive rock tuneage.

The guitar earns the dominant role with its versatility, whether delivering sultry chords of a soothing nature, or belting out searingly memorable riffs rich with intense delight.

The electronics serve as a glue bonding everything together, frequently functioning from a subtle vantage immersed in the mix.

The percussion is vital to these tunes, providing agile locomotion and motivating a sense of pep which fits nicely with the rest of the instrumentation.

A percentage of the songs feature smooth vocals, often examining life in the modern world--but tinged with a bizarre slant, such as a man lamenting that everybody likes his doppelganger more than they like him.

These compositions are generally rock tunes, but once filtered through Arnold's talent they present with an eclectic edge. The melodies are durable and attractive, made even more appealing by their off-center delivery, which elevates them from traditional fare with more inventive structure and a dedication to progressive performance.

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MUSAPHONIC: Yule Wonder (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2009 features 56 minutes of holiday music.

Electronics and percussives (and a variety of additional instruments) are applied to creating tuneage with the Christmas holiday season in mind.

The electronics tend to be sparkling with a twinkly edge (fitting the holiday spirit).

Keyboards drive the majority of the electronics, generating sprightly riffs that alternate between chilled chords and a warm fireplace milieu. The keys exhibit a sparkling flair, the type one associates with holiday fare.

The percussion is bouncy and crisp, not forceful. The rhythms serve to propel without being intrusive and drowning out everything.

A few songs feature vocals.

Generally, these compositions are not cover versions of yuletide favorites. Rather, the majority are original pieces saturated with holiday sensibilities, capturing moods of wintry family gatherings gathered around expansive festive dinner tables or curled up by the fireplace with your loved ones. A few traditional Xmas pieces sneak in, balancing the original compositions.

A novelty item, but perhaps also of interest to those who feel that yuletide nostalgia during the summer.

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MENAGE 'A TWANG: Shadow Box (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This compilation from 2010 features 73 minutes of diverse music.

Menage 'A Twang is: Tony Arnold (on guitar, vocals, bass, keyboards, and percussion) and E.J. Smith (on guitar, vocals, percussion, and tape effects). Donna Butler provides vocals on one track.

While other instruments contribute to this music, guitars are the dominant factor, versatile guitars bridging the gap between prog and rock.

There are keyboards generating slippery undercurrents.

There's bass lurking within the mix.

Percussion provides locomotion in styles matching the all-over-the-place song genres.

There are lyrical vocals, often describing cynical outlooks of life and faith.

But the nucleus of the music is reigned over by a host of guitars and their diverse utterances. Ranging from twang to growl to surf-style to twisted rock-out

These compositions are equally unpredictable. One song might be gritty quasi-industrial grunge, while the next could delve deep into emphatic blues, and then there's a neo-classical piece exploring flamenco stylings, or a track pursuing ragtime with vagrant percussion, on and on (you get the point). The thematic element (besides the dominant guitars) is a progressive approach to each tune's mode.

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GRAY MORTUARY: One (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2010 features 73 minutes of engaging progressive music.

A strange mixture of pseudo-classical pieces and modern electronic rock.

Electronics provide a variety of layers: background textures and spotlight riffs. Squealing sequences are punctuated by guitars of an equally squealing nature. Keyboards delineate undulant flows, nicely supporting more squealing guitars.

Guitars contribute heavily here, often in a strident manner with searing riffs of the type that scorch paint from the walls (but in a pleasurable fashion). While the twang factor is strong, a lot of the riffs demonstrate spacey characteristics.

ThereŐs percussion, lending rhythms of both leisurely and vibrant types.

Synthesized violins are frequently featured, sometimes in solo presentation (in tunes that approximate modern classical venues) and as accompanying instruments.

No vocals here.

These compositions are versatile. Some are quasi-orchestral pieces, moody and stirring. But the majority of tracks fall into the progressive rock genre, delivering gripping melodies of bewitching delight. Some of these latter pieces utilize crisp electronics and delicate percussives with wafting symphonic elements, tempered with pleasant guitar strumming. Others belt out demonstrative riffs with puissant guitar. ThereŐs one track that features a brilliant sampling of dazzling guitar with Eastern percussives.

Highly recommended.

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MUSAPHONICS: Entertaining Monsters (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2010 features 67 minutes of conventional rock music.

Some conventional rockŐnŐroll.

Rock-out guitar delivering riffs of an accessible nature. At times, though, the guitars adopt a progressive edge with nimble-fingered delivery. On several occasions, the guitar adopts an electric mandolin sound with sparkling crunch.

Electronics (mainly keyboards) providing slippery chords, often of an incidental nature, acting in support of the lead guitar.

Percussion (natural and artificial) offering rhythms of a rock nature, locomotion for the songs. The tempos are usually snappy, straightforward.

Basslines of the type found in usual rock tunes.

Vocals, generally of a hushed spoken nature, that sometimes slip into understated crooning.

These compositions explore tuneage quite unlike ArnoldŐs usual fare, delving into more accessible venues.

Most of these songs are short, but the last track is 12 minutes long, and offers a more progressive dose of tuneage, blending abstract mixing with progrock melodies.

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MUSAPHONICS: Nostalgia (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2011 features 72 minutes of quirky music.

Progressive tunes with a wistful edge to them.

The electronics are a mixed bag, featuring textures and quirky effects. Keyboards are the predominant means of usage here, with nimble-fingered melodies slipping throughout the mix, lending peppy embellishment. While a number of the keys pursue inventive cadence, there are instances of straightforward piano.

Guitars provide edgy contributions, often in the form of eccentric riffs. There are conventional rock guitar bits too, in which the notes ring with searing crispness.

Percussion is quite frequent, establishing locomotion for the songs. Sometimes the rhythms are snappy and almost frenetic. At other times, the tempos are solemn, presenting beats rich with somber timbre.

Only a few of the tracks feature vocals.

These compositions are tailored to instill a nostalgic mood (although the days-of-yore evoked may not be from your old calendar). This mood stimulates a yearning for what might have been, producing tuneage from a realm in which progressive rock was a mainstay and not a sidereal genre. Many of the tracks are wonderful instrumental excursions in melodic weirdness.

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TONY ARNOLD: Twangtime! (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2011 offers 73 minutes of twangy prog music.

This compilation features selections from ArnoldŐs first eleven releases, including previously unreleased tracks and alternate cuts.

The here elements are similar to previous releases: twangy and grinding guitarwork, snickety percussion, playful keyboards, and slithery electronics, often coaxed to inject an eerie edge to things.

A worthwhile introduction to ArnoldŐs music. Meanwhile, followers will delight over the bonus material.

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TONY ARNOLD: Nouveau Kitsch (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2011 features 76 minutes of quirky prog tuneage.

This compilation features selections from ArnoldŐs first eleven releases, including previously unreleased tracks and alternate cuts.

Once again, the music sports familiar stylings as heard on earlier releases.

Anothger excellent introduction to ArnoldŐs music, and again aficionados will groove on the extra tunes.

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GRAY MORTUARY: Vulgaria (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2011 offers 79 minutes of art-house music.

Guitars, electronics and percussion generate fluid tuneage of an edgy variety.

The electronics present in versatile modes. Keyboards establish moody passages of melodic tones which empower the music with a liquid drama. These keyboard layers are prevalent throughout the tracks, although their manifestation changes from song to song. At other times, bubbling diodes lend bouncy enhancement.

While the tunes are rich with electronic substance, guitar serves as the lead guidance that excellently captivates the listener with its snarling riffs. The chords glimmer with a luminous quality that leaves a lasting impression, defining melodies that possess a charismatic luster.

Percussion (mostly artificial) provides rhythms of an agile character. Not every track features beats, though, allowing the sans-percussive pieces to flourish in a realm of fluid tension.

While diverse in scope, these compositions tend to explore the darker side of music with dire temperaments and portentous melodies, yet each tune reflects a mischievous sense of irony that transforms the melodies into sprightly doses of sonic enjoyment.

There are two long tracks (averaging 17 minutes a piece), affording Arnold the opportunity to explore these tracks' themes in novel directions with a few shimmering guitar solos.

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MUSAPHONICS: Adventurer's Club (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2011 features 77 minutes of adventurous progressive music.

The album opens with a gritty version of MorriconeŐs theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This version transforms the hauntingly familiar tune itŐs a bouncy tune with growling guitar, agile percussion, and inventive electronic embellishments seeping from niches all over the place.

ArnoldŐs guitarwork is evolving, getting slicker and more adventurous. His normal twang sensibilities are expanding into mandolin-esque territory, with delightful results. The overall riffs are still powerful, ringing with a crisp clarity.

The electronics are similarly becoming more deft, cleverly sneaking undercurrents into the mix. Keyboards remain a constant, delivering slippery chords that slither between the other instruments with serpentine agility.

The percussion remains snappy and nimble, generating peppy locomotion.

A surprise appearance by horns in one track, where the brass lends a jazzy flair to the song.

A few songs feature lyrical vocals.

These compositions alternate between raucous rockish tunes and haunting instrumental outings, the latter crafted to instill a smirking unease in the listener, evoking unexplored territory for members of the Adventurers Club to venture into with brave hearts. The last track (at 16 minutes long) excellently explores this ominous milieu.

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GRAY MORTUARY: The Flight of the Obsidian Butterfly (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2011 features 77 minutes of edgy electronic music.

A bevy of gurgling electronics is utilized to create this eerie tuneage.

This music is markedly different from other Arnold releases, in that the tunes exhibit a gritty unearthly quality with harsher electronics and a more abstract structure. Although generally melodic, the flow of each song tends to be edgier and somewhat harmonic, with a touch of savagery to the outcome.

The electronics are versatile and often convey a mixture of ghostly and spacey characteristics. The result is haunting and evocative.

Some percussives are present, mixed into the mix as aspects of the flow instead of locomotive tempos.

ThereŐs guitar, but the instrument appears only sporadically, noticeable by the sudden twang in the music.

These compositions are (as previously noted) highly abstract. Their melodic qualities are overwhelmed by this esoteric structure. A certain breathy quality dominated the musicŐs presentation, as if one is eavesdropping on the soundtrack of an alien environment filled with strange creatures. The emotional consequence of the music is riveting, generating an unsettling mood in the listener, an edginess that manifests as a tasty form of dramatic tension. The end result is quite intriguing.

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TONY ARNOLD: Selective Hearing (double CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2011 features 160 minutes of eccentric progrock.

This compilation features selections from ArnoldŐs earlier releases, including previously unreleased tracks and alternate cuts.

The music features familiar stylings as heard on earlier releases.

Anothger excellent introduction to ArnoldŐs music, and again aficionados will groove on the extra tunes.

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GRAY MORTUARY: Convivial Vicissitudes (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This single from 2012 features 1 minute of music.

Being a guttural happy birthday tiding comprising terse vocals and gently strummed guitar with a haunting electronic textural backdrop. A grinding guitar coda concludes this brief tune.

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MUSAPHONIC: Billiken Dance (CDR on Gray Mortuary Recordings)

This release from 2012 features 75 minutes of unfettered progrock.

Once more, ArnoldŐs searing guitar and squealing electronics and nimble rhythms are put the purpose of generating entertaining progrock tuneage.

The guitar produces a pyrotechnic array of glistening riffs, relentlessly striving to illuminate the night with their spry dazzle.

The electronics are mainly harnessed by keyboards, delineating luscious riffs with slippery abandon. Crisp chords sweep into action, sliding through melodies of charming definition. At times the keys adopt a grinding disposition, belting out melodies whose shrill nature matches the temperament of the pounding song.

The percussion is exceptionally energetic here, as rhythms burst forth with thunderous beats crafted into compulsive tempos. Often the rhythms become so frenetic that they communicate a riotous beat mania, urging the listener to throw off civilized conventions and stomp with wild abandon.

Besides a few outbursts of background grunts, the music is devoid of any vocals.

Horns (probably synthetic, but their artificiality does nothing to diminish their rousing impact) blaze away with exciting passion.

Arnold seems driven to pack each composition with an excess of elements, cramming a plethora of wondrous notes into each second and impressing them with the task of inflicting awesome delight upon the listener. And yet, despite the overabundance of components, these tunes possess a charismatic appeal severely characterized by melodies whose catchy nature is achieved with casual ease.

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