ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Poor Genetic Material - 2011 - "Island Noises"

(97:42 2CD, Progrock Records)


Prolusion. The German band POOR GENETIC MATERIAL initially started out as a duo with an aim to create music suitable to be used as soundtrack music, but a chance encounter with the German art rock band Alias Eye has led to developments towards rather different musical territories. Eventually settling down as a five man strong band, PGM has made a name for themselves in their native Germany as a band excelling in melodic progressive rock. "Island Noises" is their seventh production, and was issued in the spring of 2011 by the US label Progrock Records.

CD 1 (46:15)


1.	Roarers 5:39
2.	A Dance So Strange 4:44
3.	Brave New World 1 3:56
4.	Brave New World 2 5:52
5.	Caliban's Dream 6:09
6.	Island Noises 19:55


Philip Griffiths – vocals 
Stefan Glomb – guitars 
Philipp Jaehne – keyboards 
Dominik Steinbacher – drums 
Dennis Sturm – bass 
Jutta Brandl – voice 
Pia Darmstaedter – flute 
Martin Lengsfeld – piano 
Martin Griffiths – recitation 
Analysis. In the vast universe covered by the genre umbrella progressive rock there's a fair few bands exploring the gentler and more melodic side of it. Acts like Camel is among the better known purveyors of that approach from the golden age of the 70's, and their cues would later be a source of inspiration for many of the so-called neo-prog bands that appeared in the 1980's. Other artists have opted for material of a slightly different nature, taking their cues to a greater extent from radio friendly rock, but with a greater emphasis on compositional sophistication and touches of instrumental virtuosity. Poor Genetic Material is a band that comes closest to the tradition followed by the neo-progressive artists it would seem, but not afraid to include the odd passage sporting a sound and arrangement with more of a mainstream-oriented attitude. Personally I was less than enthralled with the opening tracks on the first of these two CDs. Highly melodic excursions, stellar musicianship all around and in particular the lead vocals are excellent. The songs themselves are the cause of this, slick compositions that don't quite manage to establish a firm identity and, to my ears, unable to form moods of an enthralling or captivating nature – well made, but too anonymous, and slightly lacking in continuity at times. But from Brave New World and onwards this disc picks up quite nicely. The first part of this song is a nice ballad with a neat inclusion of jazz inspired details that really add depth to the song, while the second part is an intriguing construction featuring gentle yet curiously ominous-sounding themes contrasted by parts featuring richer arrangements of a more distinctly symphonic nature. The following ballad-oriented excursion Caliban's Dream is more of a pleasant affair, with a very nice mid-sequence sporting rich dream-laden arrangements and flute solos as the highlight, and then the title track Island Noises appears ending this first disc on a high note. Arguably the most interesting creation at this point, this close to 20 minutes epic is a very well made affair consisting of multiple themes seamlessly assembled, with plucked guitar motifs in different guises and gentle keyboard arrangements as key features, of a kind and nature that should captivate many accustomed to neo-prog in my opinion, in particular those fond of the slightly gentler melodic variety of it that grew popular in Holland in the 90's. Strong vocals on top of strong melodies placed in a composition are more intricate than what it would appear to be on initial inspection. At the roughest and most dramatic “Planets”-era Eloy comes to mind, while the gentler have more of a radio friendly ballad sound to them. Very well put together in this case, as long as you don't expect to encounter material of a highly challenging nature.

CD 2 (51:27)


1.	Banquet of Illusion 5:49
2.	Assassins and Sleepers 5:47
3.	In a State of Grace 6:22
4.	Fountain of Innocence 8:38
5.	Sycorax 4:32
6.	Ariel 2:42
7.	Drowning the Book 9:04
8.	Dreamstuff 8:33
Analysis. Whereas the initial chapter of this two disc conceptual album, inspired by William Shakespeare's "The Tempest", took some time finding its bearings, the second one is a much more interesting creation altogether. The songs appear to be ever so slightly more developed for starters, the blend of symphonic art rock of various kinds and smoother, mainstream oriented themes being tighter and, to my ears, more innovative now. It may be a case of the sound and scope of an album growing on you as you are taken along for the ride of course, but I do end up with the impression that these compositions are more developed in general. The emphasis is still very much on melodies and harmonies. Those looking for stark contrasts, avant-garde features and any use of dissonant elements will find the second CD in this set to be just as lacking as the first one. But those fond of subtly intricate compositions, featuring gentle pastoral parts sporting keyboards, flute and guitar happily joined by richer, compact-layered themes close to neo-progressive in scope and sound and with the odd flirt with, for instance, bass-driven AOR-tinged radio friendly rock, with Griffiths strong, melodic and powerful vocals perfectly soaring on top, will find quite a lot to enjoy. And while at times a case of neither fish nor fowl, this is a strong CD for those fond of slick yet subtly sophisticated art rock. Sporting a compositional structure that should please most, but with arrangements that may be just too smooth for the art rock purist.

Conclusion. While not exactly adhering to that approach, Poor Genetic Material's latest production "Island Noises" is one that will have the strongest appeal amongst fans of neo progressive rock. The emphasis on harmonic melodies and the symphonic use of keyboard textures are features that will delight many who are fond of this stylistic expression. And while a few parts might be too smooth for some and the odd flirt with AOR style melodic rock may not suit everybody, the overall conclusion for me is that this crowd will be the key audience of this production. With melodic rock fans able to appreciate sophisticated features a second audience I believe this band should seek out.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 15 & 16, 2011
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Progrock Records
Poor Genetic Material


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