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(50:43, 'Balloon Astronomy')
TRACK LIST: 1. Crows in the Field 1:26 2. Even Odds 4:47 3. Roots Run Deep 5:13 4. The Odyssey 6:37 5. Gentle Day 1:22 6. Sourness of Days 4:07 7. By the Strange Water's Edge 5:26 8. Eagle 5:34 9. Sigmoid Fletcher 3:35 10. One Summer 6:00 11. For Jackie 2:40 12. Summer Afternoon 3:56 LINEUP: Jim Ledger – vocals; bass, guitars Glenn Little – keyboards; flutes With: Nick D'Virgilio – drums, percussion Jason Smith – drums, percussion Mike Keneally – acoustic guitar Max Werner – clarinet Harry Johnson – b/v
Prolusion. The US act BALLOON ASTRONOMY is the creative vehicle for Jim Ledger and Glenn Little, two long time friends who have a common passion for music in general and progressive rock in particular. Enlisting some aid by musical friends, this self-titled CD is the first production to be released by this two-man project.
Analysis. While progressive rock is a genre frequently referenced when looking up additional information about this US band, in terms of style you might reference their material as pop art just as much as art rock. This due to the distinct tendencies towards traditional singer/songwriter music that is just as much a part of the proceedings as the legacy of the major 70's symphonic rock bands. One might even argue that the former is just a tad more substantial part of the proceedings than the latter. The heart and soul of this album and the twelve compositions therein resides in the acoustic department. Wandering piano motifs supplemented with either plucked and resonating or smoother, easygoing acoustic guitar motifs are central premises throughout, with powerful, melodic lead vocals on top pretty often performed in a manner that will please most fans of plain, acoustic based singer/songwriter material of the melancholic variety. But there is a bit more going on here as well. Some of the acoustic based themes do come across as stripped down versions of material of the kind that might have been written by bands such as Genesis. Passages and sequences that sound like they might have been written as symphonic art rock pieces, and then stripped down to bareboned, acoustic versions. Ledger's vocals, occasionally reminding of Peter Gabriel, might have something to do with this particular impression, but the additional features of the material at hand add a certain emphasis towards the art rock associations. And this is due to the addition of symphonic inspired textures in just about all the compositions. From careful, brief Mellotron or organ making occasional appearances to longer, elongated features with majestic, multi-layered keyboard arrangements, those fond of 70's symphonic art rock will uncover plenty of familiar sounding moments throughout. And it is this blend of barebone acoustic arrangements and fairly sophisticated, detailed constructions that gives these songs nerve and vitality. An interesting blend of themes and expressions of subtly but markedly different natures, and when the songwriters are fairly skilled at avoiding the more obvious developments the end result is rather enjoyable.
Conclusion. Balloon Astronomy's self titled debut album is a nice blend of singer/songwriter oriented material and symphonic art rock. The compositions are distinctly melodic throughout, and more often than not the moods and atmospheres explored easily justify a description as melancholic. An album for those with a taste for the gentler side of the art rock universe in general, and in particular those among them with an affection for frequent use of acoustic based, stripped down themes throughout an album.
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