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U Totem, both the band and the eponymous album, is the result of a merger between two avant-garde bands of progressive rock/Rock-In-Opposition allegiance: the David Kerman-led 5uu's and the James Grigsby-led Motor Totemist Guild. U Totem is a two-headed beast, a wonderful beast that is. But the integration of the two creative forces wasn't complete and one can feel important style shifts between the Grigsby-penned tunes and the Kerman collaborations. Grigsby is classically trained and shows great interest in contemporary music and Japanese culture, something that would become a leitmotiv in his future works with U Totem (Strange Attractors) and with his Motor Totemist Guild (All America City). Therefore, his pieces are full of complex and contrasting textures with a lot of emphasis put on acoustic instruments like flute and bassoon. Kerman's interest resides more into rock, but a rock derived from Henry Cow. His pieces share affinities with Grigsby's on the complexity level, but his are more structured in terms of rhythm, more driven by powerful drumming and lightning-fast keyboard chops. These differences can be very well felt in the album's highlights, the orientally-inclined "One Nail Draws Another" (although for a Grigsby tune, it rocks!) and the News from Babel-feel of Kerman's "The Judas Goat." This first album is very strong and has become a requirement to any avant-prog fan but, as a band, U Totem will deliver an even stronger opus, the conceptual album Strange Attractors.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/29/1995
Label: Cuneiform
UPC: 0045775002422
catalogNumber: 750024
Rank: 138148


  1. One Nail Draws Another
  2. Two Looks at One End
  3. Dance of the Awkward
  4. Both Your Houses
  5. Yellow Umbrella Gallery
  6. The Judas Goat
  7. Vagabonds Home

Album Credits

Performance Credits

U Totem   Primary Artist
Greg Conway   Guitar
Herbert Diamant   Soprano Saxophone
Georgia Grigsby   Vocals,Voices
James Grigsby   Bass,Guitar,Vibes
Emily Hay   Flute,Piccolo,Vocals,Voices
Becky Heninger   Cello
Kaoru   Vocals,Voices
Dave Kerman   Percussion,Drums
Sanjay Kumar   Piano,Keyboards,Sitar
Dave Lizmi   Guitar
Mirian Meyer   Violin
Maria Moran   Guitar
Rod Poole   Guitar
Howard Shepard   Vocals,Voices
Curt Wilson   Vocals,Voices
Herb Kiamant   Soprano Saxophone
Eric Johnson   Bassoon,Soprano Saxophone,Contrabassoon

Technical Credits

Eric Johnson   Composer
Bob Drake   Engineer
Georgia Grigsby   Producer
James Grigsby   Producer,Artwork,Graphic Design,Illustrations
Kaoru   translation,Calligraphy
Dave Kerman   Producer
Curt Wilson   Engineer
Rigobert Dittmann   translation
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