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Prolusion. The US act FRACTAL was founded in 2000 and released its debut album back in 2003. Six years in the making, the band's sophomore effort "Sequitur" was issued early in 2009 - self-released, just like its first effort.
TRACK LIST: 1. Ellipsis 4:25 2. Aftermath 9:14 3. Mantra 7:24 4. Giving Tree 5:01 5. Coriolis 4:18 6. A Fraction of One 3:45 7. Pataphysics 1:04 8. Mauves 3:03 9. The Great Pain 4:39 10. The Monkey's Paw 2:32 11. Coda Pentacle 1:15 12. Churn Overture 1:28 13. Churn-I 2:32 14. Churn-II 6:50 15. Churn-III 2:45 16. Bellerophon 6:18 LINEUP: Paul Strong – drums, percussion Nic Roozeboom – guitars; loops; vocals James Mallonee – bass; keyboards; vocals Josh Friedman – guitars; vocals
Analysis. On the 16 compositions at hand on this production this quartet takes the listener with them on quite a ride. Despite focusing on pretty accessible creations, at least on the surface, the first name that comes to mind when listening to this disc is that of Robert Fripp. Most times Fractal takes its cues from the more accessible part of King Crimson's productions, forming distinct melodies made up of multi-layered guitars and keyboards where close listening will reveal carefully constructed dissonances and disharmonies. "Three of a Perfect Pair" is an obvious reference for these creations. The symphonic side of art rock is represented to a good degree as well on this excursion; with the opening and closing segments of Aftermath as the best example of this stylistic expression. To make matters interesting, Fractal has deliberately chosen to contrast the mellow and slightly pastoral symphonic workout on this composition with a long mid-section taking its cues from the more challenging part of the aforementioned Robert Fripp's output. Enveloping this dark and complex segment with mellow, melodic and distinctly lighter parts is an effective choice, resulting in what for me is the best as well as the most interesting creation on this venture. Other key references for this album are space rock in late ‘70s Pink Floyd style, while elements from the angst-ridden explorations of bands like Radiohead are more of an icing on the cake. There are also a blues number and a punk-tinged effort on hand here; both of them taken through an art rock blender; while the techno and electronica-tinged album closing track will make a few raise their eyebrows at this highly danceable, mainstream-sounding creation where closer inspection reveals that Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream aren't unknown entities to this act. And a distinctly jazz-influenced bass line fits pretty well with this particular musical potpourri. When covering as many bases as this band does it's hard to get it all right, or at least keep everything interesting for all listeners. Unlike other acts I've encountered, Fractal doesn't fall flat on its face on any of its creations though, but there are ventures here less interesting than others and a few just less interesting in general. For the most part the band members succeed though, with the aforementioned Aftermath and the space-tinged Crimsonian venture Coriolis as shining examples of the best this act has to offer.
Conclusion. Complicated yet not highly challenging art rock is the name of the game for this album, with numerous ventures out toward and inclusions from other stylistic expressions as key features besides the guitarwork obviously inspired and influenced by Robert Fripp. It's an album calling out to listeners with a musical taste covering a wide scope, with a foundation in art rock and a tendency to like complex music that doesn't come across as truly challenging, at least not until you start analyzing the minor details. All in all a good effort, well worth checking out.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 28, 2010
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