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(48:22, 'Aegis Integer')
TRACK LIST: 1. Ouroboros 11:23 2. 8 of Diamonds 4:21 3. Mirrors of Hallways 6:01 4. Caressing the Silence 3:53 5. Liminal Passage 7:37 6. Leafless 4:17 7. Astral Peak 8:51 LINEUP: Jason Norris – lead vocals; bass; keyboards Danny Badorine – el. guitar; backing vocals David Blanchard – drums; nylon guitar; b/v
Prolusion. Released about a year ago, “Sand Timer” is the first and, at the same time, the last effort by AEGIS INTEGER, although the American trio that’s behind it (see lineup above) still exists and was simply renamed Della Terra – six months after the disc was issued. As of the day of this writing, December 25, 2008, there are still no reviews of “Sand Timer” on the Internet, but nonetheless it’s unclear to me why the guys have decided to change their moniker, especially since it took almost seven years for them to make the album.
Analysis. Apparently recorded live in the studio, this creation isn’t too dense in texture, revealing for the most part a typically guitar-trio sound which, while being basically simple, portrays all the musicians as fairly resourceful players, as they succeed in providing differently vectored solos almost throughout. Bandleader Jason Norris shares the duties of lead singer, bassist and keyboardist and although the keyboards are used overall very sparingly, the sole unvocal composition on the disc, Caressing the Silence, contains no other instrument but a piano. There are two more pieces here that are standouts in a way: Leafless and a hidden track (let’s call it simply Unnamed) with which the recording ends, but which isn’t mentioned in the accompanying booklet. Finding David Blanchard playing nylon guitar instead of drums, the first of these is a pretty plain, yet original, delicate, semi-acoustic ballad with a lot of graceful, ear-pleasing, three-vocal harmonies, whereas the latter is an overt makeweight. Lasting for almost eight minutes, only within its final fifth does Unnamed reveal music, sounding very much like the same Leafless, but otherwise it leaves the listener alone with an odd, heavily monotonous, effect reminiscent of a bouncing ping-pong ball. Before using cheap tricks so as to artificially extend their recordings any performers should remember that, when later waging their promotional campaigns, they will send their materials to reviewers who, in turn, will hardly disregard the matter. The other five tracks, Ouroboros, 8 of Diamonds, Liminal Passage, Astral Peak and Mirrors of Hallways, cover about four fifths of the recording, and the first four of these are in many ways kindred creations. On each the musicians combine classic guitar-trio art-rock arrangements with those referring to contemporary mainstream Progressive for a kind of Rush’s “Signals”-meets-“Indian Summer” by Landberk-meets-Porcupine Tree’s “Lightbulb Sun” sound, but with no direct borrowings from any of these outfits, all of which therefore come across to a greater degree as their hypothetical rather than direct benefactors. The longest track, Ouroboros, is the richest in instrumental interludes and is generally the most intricate piece in the set. On the other hand, it also shows that the players still have to grow technically, as they aren’t too convincing in places – when suddenly changing their direction and pace by using odd, extremely complex, measures, to be precise. Nonetheless, while the band doesn't feel right at home everywhere on the disc opener, it inspires me more than any of its closest brothers in style, as all of those contain not enough purely instrumental maneuvers to fully satisfy my demands as a progressive listener, additionally revealing some elements of what I comprehend as Alternative. The remaining track, Mirrors of Hallways, is fairly much in the style of Landberk’s aforesaid recording and so the vocals aren’t something it is lacking in, either. Besides, the piece is basically slow throughout, but then it is highly diverse structurally, ranging from atmospherically laidback landscapes up to distinctly hard arrangements.
Conclusion. Considering the current state of affairs re our beloved genre, I think it would be unfair to value this recording only by calculating its level of progressiveness. There’s nothing progressively groundbreaking on Aegis Integer’s “Sand Timer” indeed, but most of the music is well thought-out and fairly skillfully performed, featuring few obvious signs of outside factors. I believe at least those who are mainly into so-called contemporary mainstream Prog will not be disappointed with this release, and personally I would have been more enthusiastic about that category of music if most of the outings that nominally belong to it had been creatively on a par with “Sand Timer”.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 25, 2008
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