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McStine & Minnemann – McStine & Minnemann

I see all you prog rock guys out there. You saw McStine and Minnemann and started getting all nerdy. I know, because I did the same thing. 

Any fan of prog rock will recognize these two names as two of the most talented musicians in the genre. McStine’s work in Lo-Fi Resistance and with various members of prog legends like King Crimson, Spock’s Beard, and Porcupine Tree has brought him high respect amongst his peers as well as the press. Marco Minnemann is regularly praised as one of the top drummers in the world. His work as part of Steven Wilson’s band as well as his own prog trio The Aristocrats has turned the head of every drummer in the industry, and his work with Joe Satriani, Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess, Paul Gilbert, and dozens of other amazing musicians has vaulted him to the top of numerous “Best Drummer” lists. So, yeah, you should see these two names and get all silly. It’s normal.

I have to be honest, I did worry about this before I got into it. Having two of the best come together doesn’t mean it will be a worthy listen. Actually, in many cases it makes for a sterile, non-cohesive mess. As I started spinning this one over and over it became evident that McStine & Minnemann had indeed created something special, but the appeal wasn’t immediate. 

On the first listen I did immediately notice the expertise of these two virtuosos. The drum parts are complex and timely, rumbling and raucous, even patient when need be. The vocals are sometimes odd and unconventional, but that is part of their appeal. The guitar parts are sharp and fitting for the songs. Nothing too over the top, but none of these songs really call for guitar excess. What really was “jumping off the page” for me was the bass work that’s all over this record. Perfectly played and well out in front in the mix, the bass lines were something I looked forward to with each listen. So, the musicianship was glaringly obvious and appreciated on the maiden voyage, but it was the ambient noises and the sonic diversity throughout the record that took me a while to latch on to.

The album kicks off with “Program,” which has an industrial-like stamping machine sound through the verses and a vocal that’s slightly stiff and dark. The chorus of the song brightens a bit, but the whole structure took me some time to appreciate. The same happened with the following track, “Falling from Grace.” It has a wicked bass line under fast, complex rhythms and more drill and jackhammer sounds. “Falling From Grace” has a light and airy layered vocal harmony over most of the song, too. Huh?! My mind was saying, “Pause… Process… Good?... Maybe!!” It was all a bit much at first. That’s when I started to notice that this was a true progressive record that didn’t rely on song length. There’s nothing over five minutes here. What?!?! There is so much structure complexity and movement, yet each canvas in which they splash their musical paint is minimal at best when it comes to length. As we all know, this is odd for a truly progressive record. Perhaps, like DaVinci did within the confines of the Mona Lisa, McStine and Minnemann try to prove that they can produce that same artistic quality on these musical postage stamps.

There are many styles at work on these quick jabs, too. “Catrina” is one of the more proggy songs that has a mixture of dark ambience and creepiness, along with crisp vocals and another monster bass line. “Fly” is another one that goes to very dark places that almost lean toward a Marilyn Manson edge, with sinister vocals, eerie synths and some chant elements. Not everything here has oddity and awkwardness, though. Songs like “Your Offenses,” “Top Of The Bucket,” and “Activate” are immediately accessible with hooky choruses and beautiful vocal parts and harmonies, many of which reminded me of Yes’s 90125 period. 

As you can imagine, this was a LOT to take in on a first listen, especially when I got to the last two tracks of the album, “The Closer” and “Voyager.” These two are yet another twist that will have you reeling. “The Closer” has Roger Waters’ son Harry playing a gorgeous piano part underneath a completely raw and real vocal part from McStine. Something simple and substantial standing tall in the midst of musical chaos. This is stunning stuff …and then “Voyager” kicks in. “Voyager” is a song that has all of the above. It’s a giant amalgamation of the entire album in one song; the light and airy layered harmonies, the dark voice, the eeriness, all of it.

The second listen came a bit easier having known what to expect, but I was still processing all of it. The third time through had me gripping my seat in a few places, and smiling like a fool in others. I was starting to “feel” the sound. The fourth time through had me fully vested, and every time after has me thanking the musical gods for making this record happen. 

This may not be a record for everyone, but it’s a record that begs like a dog at the dinner table to the music aficionado. Tap tap tap. Hey. Hey. You… Listen to me! Try to figure me out! Put me together like a puzzle!! And I don’t know about any of you other wide-eyed prog nerds, but I’m one that can’t resist a nagging musical challenge that pays huge dividends like this record does.



A Conversation with Marco Minnemann

Moon drummer and friend to the Dr. Music website, Chris Schneberger, has a candid conversation with multi-instrumentalist Marco Minnemann. Chris and Marco talk about the latest release from his McStine & Minnemann project, their love of drums, and Rush! 
Many thanks to Chris for a fun and informative line of questioning, and to Marco for sharing his time and spirit.

McStine & Minnemann gets released on July 3, 2020. You can pre-order the album here: 

You can also order Extinction, the latest from Chris Schneberger and Moon, here

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