Minus the Bear

In all the hoopla over the influence of '60s and '70s art rock on some of today's most interesting bands, one salient fact is frequently overlooked: A lot of that stuff blew. For every Roxy Music and King Crimson, there was a Yes or an Emerson, Lake & Palmer (plus two or three even more tedious acts). Then again, the best current prog-inspired groups aren't simply mimicking masturbatory music from the past, stroke for stroke. Instead, the likes of Minus the Bear use it to stretch a variety of other forms into consistently captivating shapes. Planet of Ice finds the Seattle five-piece making the smoothest conceivable lineup transition: New keyboardist Alex Rose operates under the supervision of his predecessor, Matt Bayles, who coproduced the disc with Chris Common. As a result, the players exude confidence throughout tracks like "Ice Monster" — a virtual minimedley that shifts from style to style with undeniable logic — and "Double Vision Quest," whose aggression does nothing to quell its beauty. That's the right way to put art into rock and vice versa.

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