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(52:42, AltrOck Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Knee 5:05 2. Oom Pah 5:09 3. Missing the Train 3:42 4. Rainbro 5:02 5. Too Good to Be True 4:11 6. Somnambulist Subversion 4:34 7. Nut Job 3:12 8. Forgotten Planet 6:00 9. Dirty Spoons 5:12 10. 25 Miles to Freedom 10:30 LINEUP: Bill Wolter – el. & ac. guitars; keyboards Nick Peck – vintage keyboards Ivor Holloway – sax, clarinet Pat Moran – bass Doug Port – drums Melody Ferris – vocals David Shaff – trumpets Ryder Shelly – vibraphone David Slusser – electronics Andrew Vernon – synthesizer With: Charith Premawardhana – viola (10) Shayna Dunkelman – vibes (10) Jordan Glenn – drums (10) Curtis McKinney – bass (10) Max Stoffregen – piano, synthesizer (10)
Prolusion. INNER EAR BRIGADE hails from the American state of California. To all appearances, “Rainbro” is the group’s debut release, at least judging by the CD press kit, which sheds no light on its history at all.
Analysis. The band describes its music as a modern take on vintage ‘70s Art-Rock, which seems to be accurate overall, as all ten of the tracks on the album contain elements of the genre, although those are rarely dominant. The first six pieces here, Knee, Oom Pah, Missing the Train, Rainbro, Too Good to Be True and Somnambulist Subversion, are songs, all using Alternative Rock as their compositional axis – which is not totally the same as a basis, though. I believe it would be safe to say that the first four of them are each a remarkable example of the band’s ability to take the style, which in itself is foreign to progressive music, and make it work in the implyed context. What we get as a result is a warm mix of Alternative, Jazz-Fusion and vintage-like Symphonic Progressive plus Hard Rock on the title one (a standout in this respect, it’s the only track here that sounds really heavy – in places). Although never really complicated, the music is impressive, rather highly variable outside the pieces’ vocal sections: thankfully, there is in all cases enough room for instrumental workouts. Melody Ferris is a gifted vocalist; however, she often leans to traditional jazz singing – on each of the recording’s songs, too keen on it on the remaining two tracks that determine its prevalent style, where she runs most of the show, though. I mean, there are some breaks for instrumental explorations, but anyhow, both of them are pretty straightforward affairs, affected by unison melodic hooks – the vocal lines included, for sure – much stronger than any of the others. Surprisingly, none of the last four tracks on the album have any axis that they’d built around, and while less innovative, all of them are excellent tunes, displaying an almost altogether different approach to composition. Enriched by viola passages courtesy of a guest musician Charith Premawardhana, 25 Miles to Freedom (10:30, the longest piece here) has a distinct jazz feeling only within some of its vocal sections, otherwise staying for the most part within the symphonic art-rock domain. Forgotten Planet and Dirty Spoons both combine jazz-fusion and sympho-prog arrangements (albeit the first of them also reveals some folk-rock as well as avant-garde features), while Nut Job is classic Jazz Rock in style. The latter two of the tracks are purely instrumental, and each of them additionally contains a few elegantly tasteful episodes offering some exceptional acoustic guitar work by Bill Wolter, whereas otherwise the musician (bandleader) acts either as an electric six-stringman or as a keyboardist.
Conclusion. This is in many ways an outstanding album, featuring some truly original ideas. I only wonder why the band has included the two more conventional pieces in it, especially since without those it would have run for almost 43 minutes, which is enough for any full-length release.
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