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(41:31, Shoulder Tap Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Doom 3:36 2. My People Are Around 2:06 3. Solamente Cloud 2:46 4. Blood From a Stone 3:39 5. Arizona Angels 4:10 6. Given 4:01 7. Wedding Waltz 0:46 8. Spinning 3:06 9. A Rolling River 2:54 10. The Silver 2:14 11. I Walk the Streets 2:45 12. The Unholy Mountain 6:30 13. Lord of Japan 2:58 LINEUP: Ben Wigler – vocals; guitars; vibraphone Tony Waldman – drums; vocals TubaJoe Exley – tuba Yazan – guitars With: Andrew Dunn - trombone, trumpet; synth; guitar; piano; vocals Barry Seroff – flute, shakuhachi Dima Drjuchin – piccolo bass Matthias Kunzli – percussion Eric Stephenson – cello Masayo Ishigure – koto Stefan Zeniuk – reeds Aerial East – vocals Emily Fox – violin
Prolusion. The US band NEW BEARD was formed in 2010, more or less as an artistic continuation of singer Ben Wigler's previous band Arizona, from what I understand. This new ensemble released an initial EP in 2011, which was followed by their full-length debut album "New Beard City", issued in the summer of 2012 on the US label Shoulder Tap Records.
Analysis. One of the telltale signs of dealing with a band residing somewhere towards the core of progressive rock tends to be a certain difficulty in describing just what's going on. Which is very much the case of New Beard too, although I suspect many might replace progressive with experimental due to the unorthodox style this band has chosen to explore. Styles (plural) might actually be an even better description as far as trying to cope with everything this band manages to compress into a mere 40 minutes of compact disc enjoyment. As Ben Wigler's lead vocals are a dominating trait let's start by describing his vocal talents. Somewhat similar to Thom Yorke of Radiohead, but without the angst and whining tendencies. Crystal clear, frail, but dominating, and just as fond of a Beatles-inspired mode of delivery as the more theatrical antics of aforementioned Yorke. With a delicate, tender touch that inspires associations towards frail emotional folk music of the psychedelic variety as well. His good friend Tony Waldeman merits a mention next, with smooth but intense and sophisticated rhythms delivered aplenty. Just as able to deliver careful percussion only whirlwinds as intense dramatic drum rolls, and on this occasion with at last half a foot well placed inside jazz music as far as style is concerned. Supplemented quite nicely by a tuba player instead of the expected bass, something that gives this band a fairly unique sound. With brass and woodwinds complementing these dominating performers, and a guitarist at hand just as able to serve up careful and subtle details as well as compact riffs, albeit the latter are rarely employed, and you have a core description that in itself will be difficult to imagine the sound of, I presume. Beatlesque symphonic oriented art pop constructions, quirky psychedelic-flavored pieces that incorporate jazz and punk inspired details both, frail piano and vocals based affairs that develop into multiple-themed compositions of a kind and manner impossible to place within a stylistic context at all and even a mournful woodwind based instrumental with a delicate, joy-filled flute solo on top as just some of the different kinds of music represented what this disc sounds like gets even more difficult to imagine. Or how about a song that sounds like a high tempo jazz-oriented version of The Beatles, or a delicate vocals and piano theme book-ending a song with a symphonic inspired mid-section? If I should emphasize some elements as mainstay, it would be that there's a certain presence of The Beatles present throughout, liberally flavored with psychedelic and jazz inspired details. Closer to pop art than art rock arguably, although I do find it accurate when New Beard states artists as different as The Kinks, Megadeth and Yes as some of their many sources of inspiration. Although the middle of these probably is more describing about approach than style, as metal is a just about non-existent feature on this disc.
Conclusion. Quirky, unpredictable and eclectic music of a kind that might be described as both experimental pop and progressive rock is what New Beard has to offer on "New Beard City". A taste for the unexpected is probably needed to enjoy this production, and a certain affection for jazz-tinged escapades, psychedelic rock and The Beatles. Accessible, enticing and engaging music sporting sophisticated and quirky details aplenty.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 6, 2013
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