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THINKING PLAGUE: In Extremis
After 9 years, a new collection of (mainly) Mike Johnson pieces of fiendish complexity, impeccably performed and mixed. Personnel changes: Susanne Lewis' signature voice replaced by Deborah Perry, Bob Drake's bass largely replaced by Dave Willey and his place at the drums by the maestro Dave Kerman. It's sure that Americans now do what used to be the 'progressive' thing better than anybody else, in fact forming a kind of family (highly distinctive similarities between U Totem, 5uu's, and Plague are easy to spot - and not just because of shared musicians but also through compositional, harmonic and melodic affinities. Which is interesting I think, and going somewhere). Mike Johnson is an inventive and painstaking composer and there are sections and moments here which are sublime. As well as things which - for me - could do with crueller pruning (some instrumental prodigality, general prolixity and occasional lapses of taste). But I criticise only because this is a Rolls Royce of a band which sets a standard hard to match and they deserve to be taken seriously.