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Imogene - 2007 - "Imogene"

(48:50 / Intrepid Sound)


TRACK LIST:                                 
1.  Happy Communing 2:46 
2.  Paper Dolls 3:40 
3.  Sunny Day Child 3:54 
4.  Wormwood Raindrops 3:55 
5.  Not To Be 4:10 
6.  Wasteoids 4:12 
7.  Daath 3:43 
8.  Seraphim 4:27 
9.  Tongue & Groove 3:52 
10. Dark Room 4:30 
11. Slow Dive 4:48 
12. Quoth-I 4:44


David Melbye - 8-string bass; vocals
Gabe Cohen - electric piano, organ
Andy Campanella - drums
CJ Cervaillos - bass 

Prolusion. Formed in 2003, IMOGENE are an LA outfit, so their country of origin is definitely the States. Before recording their self-titled debut album, the quartet had time to do several self-organized concerts in their native land and in the UK.

Analysis. Overall, this 49-minute / 12-track recording is quite a varied blend of influences taken from Art Funk, Hard, Psychedelic and Progressive Rock, Alternative and Doom Metal, including a few sub-genres, Grunge, Garage, Stoner etc. Occasionally comparisons can be drawn with King Crimson ("Vroom"), early Black Sabbath, Radiohead and Stone Temple Pilots, as well as some profanators of the Doom Metal godfathers' style, such as Saint Vitus for instance. Most of all, however, I am reminded of Primus and David Sylvian & Robert Fripp, the music during the recording's first half bearing a strong resemblance to the former band, taking me back to those relatively distant days when they were still part of my listening repertoire. Judge for yourselves readers: the (fuzz, pronouncedly heavy) bass, played via a distortion unit, is in most cases the main driving force here too, and I believe many of you will agree with me that Imogene's general approach is often similar to Primus's. David Melbye's vocals are not without originality, but intonations of both Les Claypool and David Sylvian aren't alien to them either. The arrangements seem to be designed so to mesmerize the listener, and therefore are comparatively straightforward, used to have two or three lead voices (8-string bass and vocals alone or along with electric piano respectively), which are supported by drums and a conventional 4-string bass. With the exception of Wormwood Raindrops, the first seven tracks all burst out of the speakers with violence, like convulsions of nature in a way, but not all of them are equally impressive to a progressive mind. The first three numbers, Happy Communing, Paper Dolls Sunny and Day Child, while being basically groovy also, all build variations almost throughout, with the electric piano figuring just a bit less prominently than the 'fuzz' bass. The basic sonic constructions are almost hypnotically repetitious, but this doesn't seem to be a flaw in any of these three particular cases, since there is no lack of variety in the pieces' soloing department, the work of the rhythm section being both tight and rhythmically complex, coming across as a jumping-off place for the lead instruments' solo flights. If you can imagine a cross between Brightness Falls, Jean the Birdman and God's Monkey from "The First Day" by Sylvian & Fripp and anything else from Primus's "Pork Soda" or "The Brown Album", you're already halfway to getting the idea. David Melbye uses the possibilities of his 8-string bass well here, working equally effective whether by playing riffs or providing solos, all of which in turn are quite similar to guitar ones in sound. Daath is the heaviest song on the disc, but would've been listed along with the previous three if its riff structures hadn't referred to early Doom Metal - a cause for recalling Black Sabbath. Instead, Not To Be and Wasteoids both bring us back to the style that the recording begins with, namely hard Art Funk, but since each is vocal heavy (the singing being affirmative rather than laid-back in character), as well as lacking in electric piano patterns, none arouse other associations but Primus. To their credit, even on these two Imogene manage to show enough individuality to keep themselves from falling into the category of imitators. Nevertheless it is Gabe Cohen's electric piano that most often appears to be crucial to the identity of their sound. It is when this instrument joins that the band is at its most original and inventive, and in the absence thereof the dangers of sameness mount up, such as on those two. Wormwood Raindrops, Quoth-I and Seraphim are all noticeably less heavy than any of the previously described songs, only evoking "The First Day" or "Damage", but what is of more importance is that the band invest a lot of their original ideas into each. Quoth-I stands out for its Japanese colorations, while the last of these, Seraphim, finds the quartet exploring what I see as their most creative arrangements and thus is easily the best track here. Following each other up to the disc's end, Tongue & Groove, Dark Room and Slow Dive are my least favorite tunes. Free of any heaviness, all these strongly digress from the album's prevalent picture in general (thus indicating that the band's style is yet to be formed), and if the first two are creations at least slightly prog-tinged, the latter is extremely simplistic, which is to say a complete makeweight, reminding me of a cross between The Police and U2 at their softest.

Conclusion. A promising debut. Despite some flaws, this is overall a good recording, quality modern mainstream Prog Rock that might get a positive response from quite a wide audience.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: January 22, 2008

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