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Released almost four years after PFS' first LP, Illustrative Problems, 279, while not making a brutal disconnection, did mark a change of aesthetics. Pieces are shorter, more tightly composed, and integrate a lot more classical elements, mostly through clips from actual classical pieces inserted in the band's compositions as a tape part. 279 is a mixed bag of tape pieces ("War"), free improvisations ("Live Faust Die Jung"), preconceived or re-composed improvisations ("Solace," "2 S's & 2 O's"), and full compositions. Fans of the progressive rock band Cartoon (in which all three members of PFS were previously involved) will be happy to know that "Raising the Dead" contains a theme from "Shredded Wheat," and that "Leeward" was actually part of the band's repertoire. "2 S's & 2 O's" features beautiful interplay between Herbert Diamant on bassoon and guest cellist Bill Johnston. "Sigh" is a strange composition, blending clips from pieces by Josquin des Prez, Mahler, Mozart, and DeLassus, with music played by PFS. The album ends with "Theme in E-Flat," Robert Schumann's last composition before sinking into madness. The delicate romantic melody has been respectfully arranged. The whole album lacks a bit of cohesion, but the classical-meets-rock approach will interest fans of Art Zoyd and Univers Zero -- same global sound palette. Not an essential item, 279 is more of a worthy curiosity.

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