What the critics said about the music of James Grigsby
"Is is really possible that a rock musician sought to disguise so-called "serious" music in the trappings of the vernacular? Such a claim could be met with skepticism from the academic community. Yet such a musician exists in the person of James Grigsby, and the music Grigsby has produced ... should be considered part of the Western art-music tradition rather than the rock tradition ... evidenced by its formal, motivic, and harmonic construction, as well as through the use of other Western techniques such as isorhythm and especially dodecaphony ... Grigsby's formal organization is tightly controlled and organically conceived."
"... a proven mastermind ... Grigsby’s music while demanding and complex is also liable to become light-hearted or whimsical...Grigsby’s shrewd and at times roguish compositional style is strikingly impressive; hence, his somewhat legendary status in the so-called progressive music industry."
"It is always very good to cross borders and create
misunderstanding in music."
"Crash. Crash, crash. Three more crashes. A low, moaning
flute sound. More crashes, and an electronic squeal. A splatter of
electric chamber music, rife with tone clusters. Dense, chromatic
figuration for piano and winds. Hints of Ligeti, "L'Homme
Arme," rapid scalar motion, and -- what's that -- tonality? Yes, it is.
Sort of. This is the opening of U Totem's "One Nail Draws
Another," a composition by James Grigsby and one of the great compositions
in the history of experimental rock. In a mere fifteen minutes, it's
practically a microcosm of Western music, from High Renaissance polyphony
and contemporary chamber music to Broadway and rock music. Melodic,
consonant vocal sections are offset by blasts of heavy, dissonant
instrumental chamber rock. The music is never the same for more than a
minute, and yet it holds together perfectly."
“...like an interactive soundtrack & a musical
puzzle... (Grigsby’s) the Brian Eno of the South Bay -
quietly constructing astonishing word/sound collages while the rest of us
"The music is completely undefinable, majestic, complex,
emotional & experimental at the same time...a challenging album that
expands the boundaries of contemporary music & avant garde, &
still remains a real feast to enjoy in all its twists &
"...magnificent musical moments... giddy conceptual
camp... cosmopolitan rainbow of influences (Stockhausen,
The Residents, Bartok, Harry
Partch...??) ...should interest anyone who values civilized
"... while the music is powerful, even disturbing, it's
not just aimless thrashing."
"... blends film music techniques with avant-prog complexity and some pop sensibilities ... elegantly combines classical training and free improvisation into one impressive lump of music."
"Their style is filled with quirky twists and turns,
drastic changes of mood and direction, and a subtle humor that is rarely
found in music of this nature."
"...various barnyard animals (i.e. cows, ducks, pigs) are
represented. ...a kind of a macabre carnival atmosphere."
"Uncompromising in melody, harmony and rhythm...superbly
"...a rigorous conceptual mania about Modern Life: People
can't do anything in a flowing, linear way, because something's always
interrupting. The phone rings. A commercial comes on. The police have a
shoot-out with the crack ring next door. Your wife hacks off your arm with
the ceremonial sword from the living room wall."
"...orchestral arrangements, sometimes tinged with an
exotic tribal quality. ... The crystal-clear recording captures the wide
range of timbres used, and those with high-end stereos will really get
their money's worth."
“Music with roots in such diverse styles as Renaissance
polyphony, 12-tone serialism & Indonesian gamelan... trancelike in its
“Mindblowing... moody, dynamic, beautifully phrased, and
“...like Janacek’s Glagolitic
Mass as performed by Blue Cheer.. These guys put the
pneu in New Music.”
"MTG are kind of like a serious
chamber music ensemble who have descended into a fine madness after
listening to and fully digesting all sorts of ethnic third world music,
old Albert Ayler records and Dr. Demento radio
"... characterized by unsurpassed technique and perfect
sound; in addition, this music is well written and well
orchestrated...this must surely be the CD of the
"The closest thing to Henry Cow in
complexity...world class playing and singing...there is nothing else like