Mike Olson is a Minneapolis-based composer, producer and keyboard player. For this most auspicious debut disc, he has gathered some 18 musicians, only three of whom I know from previous sightings: cellist Michelle Kinney, who used to live in NY and work with Louie Belogenis and Joe Gallant; Steve Tibbetts, prog guitar great with numerous discs on ECM and hot-shot bassist Anthony Cox, who also used to be more involved with the NY scene. None of that really matters that much since Mr. Olson is in charge and manipulating the sound as it unfolds and providing verbal instructions and graphical gestures. It starts with quirky Zappa-like strings over some sharp rhythm team action and soon turns into a swirling mass of tight fibers. Steve Tibbetts flies in to provide some great Frippish guitar while Mike creates some mesmerizing cosmic swirls by manipulating the overall sound. It is true that Mike keeps a tight hold of the music as it evolves through sections, fading one section into another seamlessly across different layers. Some of this sounds both ritualistic (ancient) and modern simultaneously. It also sounds like the soundtrack to a brilliant but slowly shifting series of scenes for a great short film. "Incidental 3" has that charming Canterbury whimsy that you don't hear very often nowadays, sounding as if it can handle complex rhythm shifts and is about to fall apart at the same time. There's a section where Mike plays some fine Dave Stewart meets Chick Corea-like electric piano, yet everything changes into something else soon thereafter before the spacy electric piano re-enters. Mike Olson's 'Incidental' sounds like some long lost prog masterwork that has somehow escaped from the looney bin of popular spotlight. Don't let this gem escape your grasp.
Incidental Reviewed in the Downtown Music Gallery
February 23, 2010 | Posted in Review | Tagged incidental, mike olson