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(53:10, Firepool Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Praxis 5:14 2. Dead Leaf Echo 3:18 3. Brutality of Fact 3:17 4. Alice Krige-1 5:54 5. Solitude One 4:25 6. Ravenwood 3:27 7. Mother Night 4:23 8. Vargtimmen 4:59 9. Malise 3:15 10. New Lands 4:12 11. A Sense of an Ending 5:30 12. The Secret of Fire 5:16 LINEUP: Mark Cook – Warr guitar, bass, guitars; programming Mike Davison – guitars, guitar synthesizer Jason Spradlin – drums, programming Gayle Ellett – keyboards; dilruba With: Lisa Lazo – keyboards Joel Adair – trumpet Joe Blair – lap steel Colin Edwin – bass Bob Fisher – flute
Prolusion. The US foursome HERD OF INSTINCT was formed in 2007, and following four years of work with a number of guest musicians helping out they released their self-titled debut album in 2011. "Conjure" is their sophomore production, and was released through Djam Karet's indie label Firepool Records in 2013.
Analysis. Defining the music of Herd Of Instinct, no matter what approach you take, will have to incorporate words like demanding and challenging. And if you are among those who define progressive rock to be about breaking down barriers and bending unwritten rules, then this is a band that appears to follow that approach fairly closely. Which means that defining and describing the music of this band in a manner that makes sense for those who read the words alone will never truly reveal the character of the music. One key and defining element throughout this disc is the use of guitars. Sometimes in a purebred manner from start to finish, in other places as a recurring element, we're treated to at least one guitarist with an affection for Robert Fripp in general and the sound of 80's King Crimson in particular, perhaps with some Trey Gunn fascinations thrown in for good measure. Unusual timbered and toned guitar textures are used extensively, and in a myriad of ways. Plucked, clean but odd guitar motifs and textured, soaring guitar solo displays are the most common among those Fripp-inspired guitar parts, although there's room for the odd conventional guitar modes too, as wandering acoustic motifs, dark toned guitar riffs with a slight metal edge and more conventional melodic guitar soloing. The Frippian inspired ones dominate though, both as singular elements and as layered constructions, the latter quite impressive in their subtly atonal beauty. The compositions in which this key element is applied is the reason for me to describe this album as a challenging one. Especially in the first half of this disc the compositions are ever-changing affairs, rarely staying put within a given theme or arrangement for more than half a minute before a fairly substantial shift in pace, intensity and style occurs. Dream-laden almost ambient sequences with more of a cinematic expression have their place here, as do tranquil non-melodic patterns, metal-tinged dark movements reminding of artists like Nine Inch Nails or Gary Numan at times make the odd appearance, but most of all multiple layers of guitars and keyboards in spirited, quirky constellations or slower paced elaborate arrangements define the majority of the territories explored. Plenty of variety, but with an emphasis on material of a fairly demanding nature. Fairly spirited percussion and drum details are also a part of the proceedings, and futuristic sound effects adding a touch of Ozric Tentacles to the proceedings aren't uncommon. From fiery, Middle East inspired constructions like Solitude One to dark, brooding affairs like Vargtimmen, there's a great variety of moods and emotions explored; there's even room for a somewhat more regular melancholy based creation in the shape of A Sense of an Ending.
Conclusion. If you have a taste for instrumental rock that resides within the more demanding parts of the progressive rock universe, Herd Of Instinct is a band that merits an inspection. Structurally complex material using electronic effects and metal inspired details in a framework defined by Frippian inspired guitar details, and I'd recommend this band to fans of early 80's King Crimson and classic Djam Karet, especially those amongst them with a taste for artists such as Ozric Tentacles.
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