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(56 min, Progrock)
TRACK LIST: 1. Broken Glass 4:23 2. Cycles 5:38 3. Trick of the Light 9:44 4. The Distance 5:56 5. Accelerate 6:09 6. Let It Flow 4:54 7. Send & Return 7:56 8. Mass Suggestion-I 7:33 9. Mass Suggestion-II 3:46 LINEUP: Chris Brown - vocals; lead guitars, bass; keyboards Ronald Wahle - keyboards, drums; rhythm guitars
Prolusion. GHOST CIRCUS is a virtual (PC talk) international duet, since one of the participants, Chris Brown, lives in the USA, and the other, Ronald Wahle, in Holland, and they've never met each other one on one. Their debut offering, "Cycles", was created thanks to duplex communication, i.e. the possibility to exchange musical files via the Internet. It didn't manage without the use of sound libraries as well.
Analysis. Easy, easy!:-) This fruit of modern computer technologies isn't a musical cyberpunk yet. There is nothing modern or post-modern in "Cycles". Mainstream, generally speaking. To be more precise, this album almost perfectly suits my concept of contemporary mainstream Prog, although it is not devoid of artifacts of the genre's academic form. However the first track, Broken Glass, has nothing to do with any kind of Progressive. I very doubt this song can appeal even to fans of Hard Rock, as it's extremely plain and straightforward, featuring no decent solos, let alone tempo changes. The title track at first sounds much like its predecessor, but later on reveals two instrumental interludes with memorable guitar solos, besides which one of the mid vocal sections appears to be a strong digression from the basic style (AOR), leaning towards symphonic pop-Art in the style of Tonight-Tonight-Tonight from Genesis's "Invisible Touch". The CD contains two more instantly accessible numbers. These are The Distance, reminding me of a cross between U2 and Peter Gabriel, and Let It Flow, sounding like a somewhat simplified version of a statistically-average song from "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" by Pink Floyd, the influences now disappearing, now popping up again, which is typical of most of the material. The other thing that comes to my mind when I listen to these is that Chris Brown is a technically-skilled musician, sort of guitar hero, but his playing here always tends to overshadow his partner, Ronald Wahle. Both The Distance and Let It Flow are lacking in keyboard patterns, as well as the two songs described first, excepting that brief Genesis-like episode. In any event, the other five tracks (running 35+ minutes) are much better. The ideas, melodic lines, instrumental and vocal structures that mark the first half of Trick of the Light come straight out of mid-'80s and '90s Genesis, the first two themes resembling No Son of Mine and Fading Lights from "We Can't Dance", the subsequent ones steering somewhere between the title track of "Calling All Station", Domino from "Invisible Touch" and still the same Fading Lights. Just consequently, the shadow of Mr. Collins more often appears in the mind's eye of the listener than that of Mr. Wilson. The song's second half depicts the duo in a quite unexpected perspective. Here we get original, muscular and rather complex heavy music with a notable chord progression, which indicates its relationship with Prog-Metal, as well as with the song Accelerate, which could've been compared with Queensryche circa "Rage for Order" if that band had a free keyboard player. Best of all however are the last three tracks, their total playing time being just under 20 minutes. On the single instrumental, Send & Return, the guys often show Dream Theater intensity, though there are quite many Space Rock maneuvers too. The only problem I have with this piece is that the drums are not deployed to best effect, unfortunately sounding most straightforward within those sections with the most complex arrangements. Nonetheless, Send & Return is the most progressive track on the album. My personal favorite would be the two-part mini-suite Mass Suggestion. This is a wholly original Art-Rock composition with many instrumental interludes and a really moving storyline, though on the pan-musical level parallels with Genesis's Home By the Sea are possible.
Conclusion. Sure, I can recommend this CD only to those who like the idea running all through the review. Hopefully Ghost Circus will unite with a couple of like-minded musicians (above all a drummer) and make a successor to "Cycles" that is in all senses a coherent recording. In all, the proverb "practice makes perfect" would be the best conclusion here.
VM: October 11, 2006
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