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(50 min, Quixote)
TRACK LIST: 1. Three Steps Back 2:22 2. Blow Up 4:05 3. April 7:00 4. Watercolors 9:31 5. Tidings 6:22 6. La Ville Qui N'Existait Pas 10:26 7. Lotus-eaters 7:01 8. Right Ahead 3:50 LINEUP: Philipp Jaehne - keyboards Stefan Glomb - guitars Phil Griffiths - vocals Dennis Sturm - bass Dominik Steinbacher - drums
Prolusion. "Spring Tidings" is the fifth official release by the widely known progressive outfit from Germany POOR GENETIC MATERIAL (PGM hereinafter). Their previous products are as follows: "Summerland" (2001), "Leap Into Fall" (2002), "Winter's Edge" (2003) and "Free to Random" (2005).
Analysis. Although some voices are heard on the opening number Three Steps Back, this beautiful melodic interplay between synthesizer, piano, acoustic guitar and its electric counterpart can hardly be viewed otherwise than an instrumental symphonic introduction to the album. The piece located on the track list's opposite pole, Right Ahead, is in all senses a fully-fledged instrumental composition, with captivating, constantly evolving arrangements steering somewhere between classic and neo manifestations of symphonic Art-Rock, which in turn is the style typical of the entire album. The fact that guitar riffs accentuate certain vocal parts on most of the other six tracks (all coming with lyrical content) and that quite many guitar solos on Watercolors and Lotus-eaters are bluesy in nature does not contradict the said genre definition, I am sure. Otherwise the songs differ among themselves mainly only by their general pithiness or, rather, their pan-musical criteria. The point is that all the tracks on this album are highly impressive, regardless of their richness in pronounced progressive features, which depends exclusively on their continuance. Even the shorter songs, Blow Up and the title track, include numerous instrumental interludes, both of them appearing to be more vocal-oriented, just due to their brevity. Nonetheless, all the instrumental patterns here, those developing alongside the vocal lines included, are always quite eventful and, what's central, are remarkably original and inventive (which is something of an anomaly within the established framework of Neo), the statement applying nearly to the entire album. April and Lotus-eaters reveal a perfect balance between song-based and purely instrumental arrangements. Moments of light sorrow alternate with those of a more serene mood, but the music is never playful, not to mention flashy. The two semi-epics, Watercolors and La Ville Qui N'Existait Pas, are largely instrumental in the best meaning of the concept, the latter being the richest in unusual maneuvers and non-standard decisions. The ensemble work here is some of the most interesting, paying attention to the various things that are going on, the effectual contrasts between softer and harsher arrangements included.
Conclusion. It is the first time that PGM have overtly displayed that they are not ones to cling to the skirts of their past achievements, although they still retain their signature sound. I think it's just due to their bravery in the search of new creative ways that their new album proves to be better than most of the preceding ones (the only exception being "Leap Into Fall" in my view). However, it could have not come to fruition without any shortcomings. To Phil Griffiths' credit, his vocals are absolutely free of the fashionable theatrical intonations typical of the style. On the other hand however, he too often imitates Damian Wilson (of Landmarq and Threshold fame) this time out. Otherwise I would have added an exclamation mark to the rating. Nonetheless, this is one of the most compelling and, still, original Neo-related works I've heard in years. Highly recommended.
VM: May 24, 2006
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