Out of the Abyss
The late 60's brought a new kind of rock music to the records and concerts of the day. In 1967 Genesis and Jethro Tull formed. 1968 saw the birth of Yes, and 1969 brought King Crimson and PENTWATER. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Gentle Giant followed in 1970, and Kansas in 1971. For 40 years, Pentwater has been the consistent voice of American progressive music with their unique style always reaching for more. With muti-part vocal harmonies, enigmatic themes, layered instrumentals, and engaging lyrics, they respect their listeners and give them quality audio, mature composition, masterful musicianship, and a dash of quirk & humor. The Music Street Journal said: "Pentwater may well be the best progressive rock band whose name you have never heard." Pentwater formed from several local Chicago rock and blues bands; "Liquid Tension', 'Crystal Ship', "Cranberry Rose", and 'The Oceanna County Pioneer's and Business Man's Band'. Early in their career, while the boys were only 16 to 18 years old, Chicago-based Dharma Records signed them to a 4 record deal, but the label went bankrupt before recording could begin. Five of the six members went on to receive conservatory training, and the song-writing blossomed to almost seventy songs. Over the years, the band toured with Starcastle, Rush, Hawkwind, REO, Journey, and many others. Their first album, (self-titled), was released in 1977 and leaned to the commercial side of Prog; (as much as they could muster themselves to do), while still providing sweeping mellotron, cutting synth, and a twin-lead guitar style that was to become their signature. Cover art was provided by the award-wining artist, Kunio Hagio. Today this collectible LP brings hundreds at auction, but the band released the remastered tracks in 2003 with four additional never-heard tracks on CD. Prog-Planet said: "They are excellent and their music just brims with imaginative, visionary themes and this debut album, really stand up to today´s prog music in a big way! In other words this is one remarkable album, that in my honest opinion, every serious proghead MUST own!!" Their second release, "Out of the Abyss", was in part brought about by fan interest and released on Syn-Phonic records in 1992. After conversations with Greg Walker of Syn-Phonic, the band agreed to remix and release nine of their tracks that were decidedly more on the extreme side of Progressive music; tracks that brought out the band's instrumental intensity, their penchant for the tongue-in-cheek lyric, and layered vocals intricacies. Abyss contains a wild and raucous version of "Kill the Bunny", recorded at NYC's CBGB's club as well as an extended version of "Gwen's Madrigal", a song from their first album. The Dutch Progressive Rock page described their music: "PENTWATER is an interesting Chicago combo whose high-decibel rock effectively utilizes contemporary classical elements. They have found a sound that is extremely complex with layer upon layer of instrumentation supported by a lyrical violin and a bewitching flute and characterised by an abuse on polyphonic vocals and counterpoints. All the members are excellent musicians, which is important as the tunes are often intricate. Combining heavy helpings of YES, GENTLE GIANT, GENESIS and ELP with some of the weirdness of FRANK ZAPPA. One of America's finest progressive bands and recommended highly." After several years of pouring over unreleased tapes, rebuilding lost passages, and writing new music, the band released "Ab-Dul" in 2007 containing an assemblage of 17 never-before heard tracks. Ab-Dul uses Pentwater's ever-widening array of instruments - far wider than most bands of the genre; thirty-four at last count. The songs include the final installment of the Three Journeys, a trilogy whose 2nd and 3rd parts were on the Abyss CD. Here, the 1st Journey, "Across the Mediterranean" can finally be heard. The band also provides their first-ever cover; a psychedelic suite from The Nice called, "The Cry of Eugene", and after re-discovering the sheet music for "Kill the Bunny", they also present a solo piano version of this classic as it was initially written. Ab-Dul's songs relay stories of passage and realization, and summarizes the arc of their journey, thus far. Of "Ab-Dul", Prog-Planet says: To me it's 60:26 min. Of sheer prog bliss with that unmistakable seventies sound!! An album that you true progheads out there Ab-solutely must own!! And, "Pentwater...must be the most interesting exiting progband hailing from the US right now!!? You owe it to yourself (and the band) to buy this excellent piece of progmusic. GO NOW!!!" The DPRP said: "Overall the playing is tight, as one would expect from a band that survived by performing live, the music is stunning and the arrangements are superb. Perhaps if the band had followed the more typical Midwest 70's sound of bands like Styx and Kansas they may have been more successful. The fact that they didn't is all to their credit and I am grateful, for the sake of the music, that they stuck to their own style which personally is a lot more appealing, original and down-right exciting!" The band's 5-member lineup has remained remarkably constant over the years, with only one substitution. Original guitarist/vocalist Phil Goldman swapped spots with local guitar-hero Ron Fox back in the mid-70's; however Phil's collaborations with the band through the 90's and 00's has brought him fully back into the fold, making Pentwater the more powerful and well-rounded 6-man band it is today. Phil adds textured mandolin and acoustic to his electric guitar skills, while Ron Fox (who can make any 6-string sing!), brings a heavenly pedal steel and oboe. Ken Kappel's prowess on keyboards of all kinds has brought comparisons to greats Emerson and Wakeman on frequent occasions, but he decidedly cuts his own unique (and slightly manic) style and sound. Mike Konopka's guitars scream, squonk, tic-tac, and wail around Pentwater's core while his violin & flute weave silk through the fabric. That leaves the rhythm foundation, consisting of Tom Orsi propelling the music along a vast array of drums and percussion that can overwhelm or emote just the right mood and driving motion. His rhythm partner, Ron LeSaar, brings low-end motion and melodic bass styles to counter-attack the treble forces using 4, 5, and 8-string basses, and has recently added Chapman Stick. While all 6 join in the multi-part and layered vocals, Mike and Tom provide the lion's share of lead vocals and harmonies that characterize the band's sound. Pentwater's lyrics, again mostly provided by Tom, entice and intrigue the listener with fantastic stories and personal insights - definitely not your average journey! So much more than the sum of it's parts... Pentwater adds up to an unforgettable experience. In the studio, Pentwater always tries to give an extreme aural trip guided by years of studio and pro-audio expertise from Mike, Tom and Ron Fox. Headphones are recommended to hear the nuances and the "in-between" layers of instruments. Crank it up - You'll be glad you did!