Heavy Water Experiments - 2008 - "Heavy Water Experiments"
HEAVY WATER EXPERIMENTS, a duo at the time of the release of their self-titled album, is really a direct continuation of a band called Imogene that was formed in 2004 and that released their one and only album in 2006. In essence, this makes "Heavy Water Experiments" the debut release by this version of the outfit, but the second from this band.
1. Goldenthroat 6:31
2. Mirror the Sky 5:28
3. Anodyne 4:42
4. Clairvoyance 4:55
5. Neverlove 4:18
6. Oracles 4:07
7. Octavian 2:32
8. Otherland 4:31
9. Dementia 4:36
10. Conflagration Song 5:22
11. Solitude 4:11
12. Book Colored Blue 9:42
David Melbye – vocals; el. & ac. guitars, 8-string bass; keyboards
Roberto Salguero – drums, percussion
I'm not familiar with the album issued by this outfit under the Imogene moniker, so for those familiar with that release I'm not able to compare the sound and development between what is the first and second outing by these musicians. From what I've read it was one relatively close in style to the music presented on this 2008 release: Hard rock with strong psychedelic leanings and a distinct ‘70s sound. For this specific creation I might add that their chosen style does not truly belong to the retro-movement; they utilize a fair amount of stylistic elements from bygone days, but try hard to not come across as a band emulating the music of yesteryear, with a fair degree of success. When it comes to instrumentation, drums and bass guitar make a huge impact on this production. The drums are loud and heavy and have a more distinct place in the mix than in most other cases I'm familiar with in the field of progressive music. Whether serving up driving, simple patterns or more complex ones, the drums dominate quit a lot and tend to take the attention away from the other instruments used. Not to the extent of drowning out other instruments, but to the point that it becomes distracting to try to pay attention to the rest of the instruments. The bass guitar has some of the same qualities on occasion, in select parts it dominating in the mix, most often when providing dark, distorted and rather grim sounding themes to one or more parts of a composition. The electric guitar mainly has two functions: to add distorted riff patterns – at times with stoner rock qualities – or to add melodic, mellow licks where acoustic as well as undistorted, clean electric guitars are used, depending on the mood they are a part of. Keyboards flesh out the compositions, quite often in the guise of the organ, but electric piano and floating keyboard layers can also be found spread throughout the album. The recording seems to be deliberately made with a slightly fuzzy mix, making it rather challenging to identify individual instruments on these songs, which is part of the retro feel I get for this creation, alongside the psychedelic-tinged guitars and the vocals. The latter aspect of the songs is done in an intriguing manner; very laid back and melodic, but in a way that instantly made me associate the vocals with psychedelic music without ever finding out just why I made that association. The element that makes me regard this act as not quite belonging to the retro movement is the structure of the songs. The sound, although not a textbook case, is mostly a retro-like one, but not too many acts active in the field of heavy psychedelic rock in the ‘70s structured their compositions in the same manner as Heavy Water Experiments. And somewhat surprisingly for the genre, the band opts for the use of highly structured verse-chorus-verse compositions, with just a couple of tunes deriving from this pattern, which does give these songs a mainstream feel despite the musical contents. Further enhancing this commercial approach is another pattern followed almost to the letter throughout this creation – the compositions mellow considerably for the verse parts, in most instances with a sparse soundscape for these segments, while the chorus sections and the instrumental parts are the most energetic, with rich and at times rather complex sonic tapestries. In other words, the band opts for the use of structural elements most common in mainstream music, while the musical style they explore has markedly less mainstream appeal. Not a big issue for most I'd guess, but worth mentioning since this does add a slight pop music tinge to the album overall.
Personally I found this creation to be a fascinating and compelling affair, perhaps not the most challenging nor adventurous one, but a charming one that does add some refreshing new elements to a genre overly populated by emulators these days. And with well thought-out and performed songs that are both memorable and contain enough twists and turns to have staying power, this is an easy recommendation to make for those who find heavy psychedelic rock interesting.
Heavy Water Experiments - 2008 - "Heavy Water Experiments"
In my view this US duo, HEAVY WATER EXPERIMENTS (HWE from now on), can hardly be regarded as a direct successor of Imogene’s, okay, legacy, since it features only one of the four members of that band, David Melbye, even though he was among the primary masterminds behind its sole – also self-titled – CD and handled all vocals there, too. Nevertheless the albums have a lot in common between themselves, the sound here being overall much the same as on its hypothetical predecessor, so if anyone else desires to view the hero of this occasion as a kind of sophomore release by Imogene he/she has virtually (derived from “virtual reality”) enough, indeed perhaps many, trump cards up his/her sleeve to do so, though I personally would – or rather should, being a reviewer – go even further in evaluating “HWE”. There is almost nothing new here compared to you know what, save the disappearance of a King Crimson connection as well as all those that are related to that band in any way, which isn’t a virtue in my eyes. As for “almost”, the sole instrumental (only containing some female vocalizations, to be more precise), Octavian is at the same time the only piece on the disc that is largely acoustic in nature and is additionally filled with flavors of Indian music. This is a very pleasing tune overall and I only regret that, while wonderfully designed, it doesn’t seem to be properly developed. To put it in a more precise way, well, I believe any progressive heart will rebel against the fact that such a fascinating piece as this is at once rather brief (2:32, the shortest track here) and basically bi-thematic. Otherwise a solid part of the Imogene review could potentially be copied and pasted in this one; we even have the same quantity of tracks on “HWE”, twelve. Most of them, Goldenthroat, Clairvoyance, Neverlove, Otherland, Conflagration Song, Solitude, Mirror the Sky and Anodyne, still represent a blend of either an emasculated post-Black Sabbath (call it Grunge or Stoner or whichever you like, but not Doom Metal this time) or clearly Primus-style tension and a minor-key alternative/glam rock romanticism, the music being either slow or moderately slow throughout in the majority of cases. Each is made up of three different musical storylines, two of which – the heavier and the smoother one – come across as what in pop songs is labeled as a couplet/verse and a refrain/chorus, because they almost strictly alternate with each other without any noticeable alterations to them The third one – a fine, yet still polished, is an instrumental intermezzo with usually a guitar or a keyboard (mainly organ or electric piano) solo at its fore – appearing somewhere in the middle of the tracks. At least from the progressive perspective, what I hear on all the said songs doesn’t suit my concept of an author’s design and is a conventional, if not a schematic, approach in the end, while personally I’m not that happy while listening to something repetitive and almost completely predictable already upon the first spin. Besides, the guitar riffs on the last two of these are played via a compression, but not a distortion, unit: thus, logically, both are relatively poor even in textural contrasts, though a couple of songs are almost completely free of those. There are some spacey licks (evoking Porcupine Tree at their most reflective) on Oracles; an art-rock-ish piano-laden move (which, surprisingly, reminds me of late ‘70s Sweet) is present on Dementia, whilst otherwise both the pieces stay firmly on mellow pomp-rock terrain. Contrary to these, the heaviest track, Otherland (sounding very much like Primus with keyboards), is quite impressive, perhaps because so-called drive has always had much more chances at winning my heart than something pastoral – the heart has a will of its own as far as that goes. Not surprisingly, the sole composition where the project’s progressive influences become at times really evident, Book Colored Blue (which is on average twice as long as any of the others), is offered for the last bit, finishing this hour-long musical affair. By and large, it’s not too dissimilar to the previously described song, but is richer in keyboards-laden arrangements of which the ones that develop outside the-‘big-guns’-involving-maneuvers are especially impressive.
It’s somewhat pleasing to realize that David (who, save drums, plays all instruments here: see lineup above on which exactly) has become a real multi-instrumentalist and that the “HWE” album is on most levels on a par with the one that’s regarded by many as its predecessor. I also appreciate the overall quality of the material presented and, of course, if I were a kind of alternative or mainstream observer I would have certainly rated it much higher than I did and, maybe, would’ve been completely positive towards it instead of acting in our parochial progressive interests.