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(42 min, 'DS' / Independentz)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Clothes Horse 6:40 2. The Happy Elephant 6:11 3. The Alternative Magpie 8:05 4. The Abstracted Sloth 7:08 5. The Unwashed Platypus 14:06 LINEUP: Bob Leek - vocals; guitar; synthesizer Jason Tilbrook - bass Nick Beere - guitar Archie - drums With: Henry Crud - lyrics
Prolusion. The press kit I've found in the package somewhat laconically presents the makers of this CD, saying just that England's DAY SHIFT releases their debut album "Imaginary Menagerie" about a year after the band's birth. All four of the musicians, whose names you can see in the lineup above, are no novices on the music scene. Bob, Jason and Nick were core members of Tantalus from 2000 to 2003. As for Archie, I am certain this is the same guy whose excellent drumming is featured on all but the very first CD by The Morrigan, as well as both of those Blue Drift recorded so far.
Analysis. Day Shift's music has nothing in common with that of any of the bands these men played in before, and I would've been surprised had it been otherwise. They aren't youngsters after all, as we've found out already:-), although that's not actually the point. Bob Leek and Jason Tilbrook both contributed solidly to the songwriting department of the latest Tantalus album, "Lumen et Caligo-I", having shown an independent approach to composition, quite different from that of Tantalus's founder Max Hunt. Although I am not about to dispute furiously that "Imaginary Menagerie" is unique from head to toe, I am not going to understate Day Shift's achievements in the field of originality either. In other words, while the style the group has chosen isn't new, the music is free of anyone's direct influences. Accordingly, I'd ask the readers to regard all reference points I use here primarily as relative. Four moderately long songs and one epic form the content of this 42-minute album, already the first track, The Clothes Horse, giving the listener a rather vivid idea of what Day Shift's principal bag is about. This is driving, infectious Space Rock-meets-Space Metal, with crunchy guitar riffs forming much of the background for interactions between (another, soloing) guitar, bass and synthesizer, accentuated by effectively complicated drum beats. As almost everywhere on the album, there are only three, at most four different vocal themes here, but Bob Leek's singing as such is highly diverse and emotional. Besides which, the vocals are probably the most original voice in this ensemble; they're as if laid back from the events that attend them on the instrumental plane and are always contrasting with those. The repetitions take place mainly only in the vocal sections, both essential and unnecessary, but even the latter appear to be rather unobtrusive, serving for the intensification of a hypnotic component, which in turn serves as a kind of guide for the untried listener to reach and taste all the hidden psychedelicacies (with your permission). The Abstracted Sloth is of the same story overall, as also is The Happy Elephant, whose lack of purely instrumental arrangements is in many ways compensated for by the highly memorable thematic interplay between all the musicians in the introductory movement, which later becomes one of the central themes of the song. The initiators of the implied Space Rock direction, Clear Blue Sky and Hawkwind, have subjected the style to many changes during their long history. Well, I'm just trying to tell you that the three said compositions are closer to the latest rather than earlier achievements of these bands. The Alternative Magpie is basically slow throughout, combining the album's primary style with a ballad-like approach. This song reminds me a bit of Deadline from Blue Oyster Cult's "Cultosaurus Erectus", although the cited example doesn't have an electronic sense and is perhaps another story altogether. The 14-minute epic The Unwashed Platypus concludes the album like a triumphal (though unexpressed) fanfare. This is a fully-fledged Space Rock suite with numerous different sections, revealing a fine balance between the vocal-based and purely instrumental arrangements, the latter being especially diverse and inventive. The cut begins with a slow organ-laden theme, straying not far away from the path Pink Floyd paved while visiting "The Dark Side of the Moon", but the resemblance dissolves like a mirage in the air as soon as the vocals appear. One of the most compelling episodes here is when the band very subtly begins to gather momentum, finally rocketing to find themselves far beyond familiar space spheres.
Conclusion. If classic Space Rock / Space Metal (some people may call it Stoner Rock, but not I) with occasional electronic tendencies is your cup of tea, your day will come as soon as you get "Imaginary Menagerie" by Day Shift. I like it.
VM: March 8, 2006
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