Maxi Curnow – ‘STEM 2.0’ (Review)

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Since Maxi Curnow dropped the original version of STEM back in 2014, he’s been one of my all-time favourite progressive musicians.

STEM – a through-composed, twenty-five-minute behemoth of a song structured in five movements and home to some of the most original musicianship I’ve ever experienced – was, in a word, immense. In two words: fucking mental. In more: Well, I reviewed the whole thing when it originally came out, and the link is right here.

STEM 2.0 is even more ambitious than the original. It’s essentially a heavily rewritten and more spacious version of STEM, recorded live in videosong form with a cast of frankly overtalented musicians including Disperse drummer Mike Malyan and Dorje/Toska bassist Dave Hollingworth.

It’s also a hell of an achievement.

Although videosongs have become increasingly common on YouTube as the platform establishes itself as the go-to place for tech-savvy musicians to flaunt their wares, a well-executed one is still something to behold. But a videosong that runs close to half an hour and comprises a constant barrage of challenging parts that need to be – and are – executed flawlessly? STEM 2.0 is just not something you can take for granted – especially considering that this is not merely a technical masterpiece, but one overflowing with emotion.

As usual with Maxi Curnow’s work, I struggle to pick out a single highlight. Every part of STEM 2.0 works best as part of the whole, although off the top of my head the most memorable guest-related parts for me right now are the epic drum duel between Mike Malyan and the equally terrifying Doug Harper; Sarah Smith’s idiosyncratic vocal (set above a stunning Malyan solo just before that battle); guitarist Jordan Harris’s shred-happy solo spot; and more or less any point at which YouTube vocal legend Sam Robson appears onscreen. That guy’s vocals and faces are the ultimate icing on an already substantial cake.

STEM 2.0 represents music as it should be. Maxi Curnow’s lack of ego, compositional prowess, unique musicianship, and friend list have all added up to what has to be one of the prog releases of the year. If you like your tunes so long and hard that Ron Jeremy would turn green with envy, look no further.

This is it.

LTK RATING: 100% (Essential Listening, as always!)

What do you think of Maxi Curnow and STEM 2.0? Leave a comment, follow me on Twitter, and let me know!

Posted on 25 June 2017

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