After releasing two highly original albums -- their self-titled debut and The Polite Force -- the Egg cracked in 1971, and the trio went their separate ways. In 1974, however, Dave Stewart, Mont Campbell and Clive Brooks reunited and returned to the studio. There they were joined by members of Henry Cow and old friend Steve Hillage, resulting in the The Civil Surface album. Although Egg had presented some of the material within on their final tour, still that long ago taster barely primed fans for what was to come. For as experimental as the trio had been in days of yore, with Civil Surface the band moved almost completely into improvisational, avant-garde territory. Still, echoes of the past could be heard on "Enneagram," with its intricate rhythms and tempo changes and coursing passages counterpointed by slower effervescent segments. "Wring Out the Ground (Loosely Now)," too, nimbly slips from jazzy improvisation into prog rock, enveloping numerous tempo changes along the way, while a variety of spacy effects and vocals also building on the past. "Germ Patrol" cuts the cords almost entirely. It begins with a clicking metronome, skittering noises, and a trumpet reveille, as the germs fall into line then march off into jazz, circle Yes territory, and assault the bastions of avant-garde. "Nearch" is even more experimental, a piece built around abrupt pauses that grow ever longer as the number progresses, with woodwinds and organ ominously building up between the empty spaces. The woodwinds are further highlighted on both the bright and airy "Wind Quartet 1" and the introspective "Wind Quartet 2," while a heavenly choir floats through "Prelude." Far less accessible than their previous sets, Egg breaks the binds of structure, and spins off into odd yet fascinating new realms.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene