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(46:13, Firepool Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Transformation 2.01 2. Room without Shadows 4.49 3. Road to Asheville 5.40 4. Hex 4.35 5. Blood Sky 5.01 6. Anamnesis 5.50 7. Vibrissa 4.47 8. Possession 4.22 9. S Karma 4.43 10. The Face of Another 4.20 LINEUP: Mark Cook – bass, Warr, el. & ac. guitars; keyboards Mike Davison – el. & ac. guitars, sitar Jason Spradlin – drums, marimba With: Dave Streett – Warr guitar (3, 5), bass (6, 7, 10) Gayle Ellett – el. guitar (5, 6, 7); Mellotron (5) Gavin Harrison – drums (7, 8) Pat Mastelotto – drums (6) Kris Swenson – vocals (5)
Prolusion. Hailing from the American state of Texas, HERD OF INSTINCT is a new name on the progressive rock map. The band’s self-titled debut album is made up of ten tracks, which run for 46+ minutes.
Analysis. That being said, Herd Of Instinct looks forward, being guided by the legacy of some of the most influential progressive rock bands. The album was released on Djam Karet’s new label Firepool Records and features the guest performances of that ensemble’s very own Gayle Ellett and both of current King Crimson drummers, Pat Mastelotto and Gavin Harrison, the latter additionally a member of Porcupine Tree. So it didn’t come as a big surprise that the music reveals no outside influences but those referring to the three bands, stylistically covering – at least touching – probably everything that each of them had ever played: from ambient music to avant-garde Art-Rock. (I believe there’s no necessity to list all of the implying genres.) Of the six heavier and, at the same time, most dynamically evolving compositions, Room without Shadows and The Face of Another are for the most part inspired by ‘80s King Crimson, Road to Asheville by Djam Karet circa “Burning the Hard City”, and Hex, Vibrissa and S Karma by Porcupine Tree’s “Signify”. The majority of them rarely merge their main influences with the others. For instance, the sole track here that features sitar and is lushly spiced with Eastern musical flavors, Road to Asheville, has an episode, which aurally evokes Industry, a piece from King Crimson’s “Three of a Perfect Pair”. Only S Karma reveals a few ‘alien’ moves, those recalling Djam Karet’s “Ascension” and Hawkwind’s “Out & Intake”. In most cases, the heavy riffing, dynamic rhythm section and layered overdubs combine to create a very full-sounding trio. Bandleader Mark Cook layers on bass, Warr, electric and acoustic guitars (plus some Eastern-sounding devices on Road to Asheville) that coalesce into an organic whole. My favorite track on the album, Room without Shadows, is musically intense throughout, the band making excellent use of dynamics on here. The other five compositions all have in places a quiet burn, most notably so Road to Asheville, Vibrissa and The Face of Another, all of which feature a couple of episodes with only acoustic guitar and soundscapes in the arrangement. More details? While the music has at times an improvised feeling, it never disintegrates into directionless jamming. Other than a repetitious riff within the last and the first movement of the opening and concluding track respectively, the band never stays in one spot for long on either of the described tracks. Yes, I mean it’s time to move further. Reminiscent of Djam Karet with a female singer-on-board (Kris Swenson, Kris being Kristine for sure), Blood Sky is the only vocal track on the album, additionally standing out for its marimba solos and Mellotron passages. This is another very good piece, almost as impressive as any of the above ones – overall, since it’s obviously inferior to Room without Shadows, but is totally on a par with S Karma. The remaining three compositions, Anamnesis, Transformation and Possession, all mainly evoke only Djam Karet too. None of them deploy heavy riffs, but Anamnesis is fairly well developed even without those, revealing some sudden shifts in pace and theme along the way, stylistically mixing Space Rock and Fusion. The second movement of Transformation has a full-band sound suggesting Symphonic Progressive, but it’s short, whilst the remainder of the piece consists exclusively of ambient landscapes, as also does Possession – throughout.
Conclusion. I would say, this is in many ways a remarkable release from one of the most promising bands to appear in recent years. It’s always pleasing to hear new outfits that sound not only like they’ve absorbed a lot from what they loved to listen to when younger, but also like they look for something new in their creative researches.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 16, 2012
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