Parallel Or 90 Degrees: No More Travelling Chess (1999; Cyclops CYCL 086) 70m

(they have a homepage reachable from my bookmarks)
(the label has a homepage reachable from my bookmarks)

Line up: Andy Tillison Diskdrive - vocals, keyboards, guitars and drums
Guy Manning - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals

1) Arrow 7.45
2) Roncevaux 6.50
3) Flight 19.24
4) Modern 10.02
5) In the black room 12.17
6) Advance 8.46
7) Evolutionary status quo 4.43

Summary of history:
Parallel or 90 degrees were Gold Frankincense And Diskdrive with Tillison and Manning. As such they recorded this album (without In The Black Room) and it was released on cassette. Now Manning back with PO90 it was easy to record an additional track (In The Black Room) and put it out on Cyclops.
The older tracks are unchanged.

The album:
Arrow is a VDGG track from Godbluff. It certainly not one of the easiest tracks of that album to get into. Usually that also makes it the most rewarding. The saxophones seem to have taken over by the keyboards, but is does not strike me as synthetic. Tillison does a good job showing the raw emotion that is also present in the original. the song itself comes in waves: soft to harsh and back and forth like that with the pinnacle being the tormentedly shouted Arrow. For a VDGG track it is rather bouncy. The song dribbles away rather quietly. And did I hear a small dip there?
On Roncevaux the band even had assistance from PH himself. I have to admit not being familiar with this song (maybe it is on Time Vaults). The first part has the energy and agression of VDGG and after a quieter interlude the pouncing beginning returns. I have to say that the sound quality is less than perfect here. It all sounds a bit muddy.
Flight is the Hammill solo epic from The Black Box. Almost 20 minutes long it opens with clear piano playing (somewhat clavecimbel like) and a good vocal melody. Across a pianic bridge we come into a more up-beat part. The drums sound a bit mechanic here (something which I think also holds for part of the percussion of the previous track. Then the music becomes quite varied with long piano strings and quite a lot of rhythmic variation. It shows also that the sound on this song for instance is quite close to what later became PO90.
The vocals of Tillison are rather like Hammill, but there is something that sets it apart making me first think of PO90 here and only later of Hammill. Between the 8 and 10 minutes the music becomes rather melodramatic, after which the music tries to make a new beginning, but returns again to the piano part after which the tempo picks up making for a good piece of driven music. With some dissonants, the pace goes down a bit again yielding the stage for a short guitar solo and a place to rest.
Soft echoey sounds quickly give way to the vocal climax and all hell seems to break loose here (soundwise). Then we get another break into a new part: great vocal melodies again with a strong dramatic feel to it.
Modern is one of the Hammill classics about life in the city. An observant track. The opening is loud and distorted, the continuation weird and freaky. Lots of experimentation here until the rhythm guitar bring a bit of clarity (!) and the rock gets underway again. Not for the faint of heart.
The last Hammill/VDGG cover is In The Black Room. This is an early Hammill track and this version is quite a bit longer than the original it seems at first, but then it shows that it's not just that single track, but also the two subsequent tracks: The Tower and In The Black Room (II). Again a great track, but bringing nothing really new.
Advance is a Tillison track. It opens quite pompously with loud keyboards and hammered piano, but also an almost danceable rhythm. The rhythm sounds a bit artificial unfortunately. Quite a nice track this with a rather menacing ending with some nice dissonants.
Evolutionary Status Quo by Manning is more an acoustic track. The music on this track reminds me a bit of Geoff Mann and other heavy wood musicians such as Rog Patterson and of course Roy Harper. I'm not so fond of this one.

The artwork looks a bit like the resolution was a bit too low. The text is a bit hard to read.

Conclusion: The quality of the songs shows enough: if you still haven't tried out Hammills or Van Der Graaf Generators music, try it (Godbluff and Black Box are good places to start.). The versions played here by PO90 are thoroughly enjoyable and they certainly live up to the music bringing over the energy and agression that is such an important characteristic of VDGG/Hammill music. This something that I often missed on the Mellow tribute. The production/sound is not always great, but the music thoroughly compensates for this. Certainly interesting for people who like either of the two bands.

Jurriaan Hage