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Paradox One - 2004 - "Alternate Reality"

(37 min, Neurosis)

TRACK LIST:                             

1.  Manfred 2:45
2.  Over the Top 2:21
3.  Adrenaline Rush 6:28
4.  Lisette 2:09
5.  Edge of Reality 3:50
6.  Faint Nimbus of Starlight 1:06
7.  Nuclear Casket 4:59
8.  Space Race 5:10
9.  Adrenaline Spill 4:53
10. The End of All Things 3:50

All tracks written by Phil Jackson


Phil Jackson - all instruments

Prolusion. PARADOX ONE is Phil Jackson playing all instruments, a veritable one-man band. The liner notes for Alternate Reality are sparse indeed, listing just the 10 tracks (which clock in at under 40 minutes), several addresses, and the statement: "All tracks written, arranged & played by Phil Jackson with acknoledgements [sic] to Schumann for 'Manfred' and to Rick Ray for 'Nuclear Casket'." The booklet insert was a harbinger of things to come. Besides the misspelling of acknowledgements, it is printed backwards, so that the fold comes on the right, instead of the left. Some of the tracks on this album were of that same quality while others fared better.

Analysis. "Alternate Reality" is an instrumental album featuring keyboards and drum machine. The album begins with Manfred, a classically based piece (see note above). It's a fine melody, but the percussion sounds like the type found on cheap keyboards (press 86 for cheesy disco beat). The tone and texture of the synthesizer is reminiscent of video game midi music, but could have sounded so much better if a better organ sample (or better yet an actual church pipe organ) had been used. As it is, it sounds like the music for playing Tetris online. Over the Top may be referring to the use of synthesizer, which keeps shifting between the right and left channels. The tune is perky and cheerful. The synthesizer sounds like one of the early monophonic types. Adrenaline Rush is anything but. It is a slow and plodding melody with a single measure bass line repeating throughout nearly the entire track (the longest on the album) from beginning to end, as the keyboards jam over the top, which is the same formula used for Adrenaline Spill. Lisette features a very nice melody played on a poorly tuned guitar, which is painful to listen to. The playing is adequate, not virtuoso quality. I would much rather hear Steve Howe play Lisette due to the pleasant melody line and his superior abilities. A couple of cuts on this CD make use of vocal recordings used in the background. Edge of Reality uses them in a couple of places, but as the title might suggest, they are intelligible words, but only hint at human speech. Space Race uses TV (and possibly radio) news audio from various American space missions, including when the first man set foot on the moon. Paradox One does best with the "space music" genre: A Farin Nimbus of Starlight, Nuclear Casket and Space Race all fitting into this category. Part of what makes these more successful is the absence of the drum machine for most of the time. On these tracks, Jackson sticks with slow moving chords, phase shifting and the kind of synth use that distinguishes the genre. Unfortunately Nuclear Casket is marred by a tempo change midway that reintroduces the drum machine. Perhaps the most promising track in terms of energy infused music is The End of All Things, the final cut, which begins with organ work that sounds like it could have come from Deep Purple's Machine Head. It rocks more than most of the other tracks and sounds more spontaneous.

Conclusion. Although Alternate Reality has some interesting melodies, the album is marred by the instrumentation. This feels more like a final work-up demo than a finished CD. This is more of a Prog-tinged music than true Prog, and that comes mostly from the use of synthesizers and a bit of classical infusion. The compositional structures are straight ahead rock. My recommendation would be to listen to the music of Larry Fast, who defined excellence in richly textured symphonic, synthesized music with his Synergy series. Synergy's first outing, Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra (released in 1975) sounds fresher today than Paradox One's Alternate Reality, released in 2004.

KW: May 25, 2005

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