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(147:46 2CD, Progrock Records)
Prolusion. PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES (PO90D hereafter) was a UK outfit that started in 1996, and was first and foremost a creative vehicle for the duo of Andy Tillison (sporting the surname Diskdrive at the time) and Sam Baine. During their time 5 studio releases were officially issued; they made a free for download compilation production, rather innovative marketing at the time, and the album they created prior to their official debut was later made available in a special limited edition: All in all 7 albums from 1996 until 2001. They started to record a new album in 2002, but due to the popularity of a side-project, The Tangent, Po90D was put on hold at that time. "A Can of Worms is a compilation that sums up those 6 years, with a few select tidbits thrown in for good measure.
Disc 1 (74:29)
TRACK LIST: 1. A Man of Thin Air 5:05 2. The Single 5:56 3. Unbranded 8:36 4. Modern 6:00 5. The Media Pirates 10:33 6. Promises of Life 7:49 7. Blues for Lear 8:50 8. Space Junk 10:38 9. Petroleum Addicts 11:02 LINEUP: Andy Tillison keyboards; vocals; guitars; drums Sam Baine keyboards Ken Senior bass Alex King drums Gareth Harwood guitars With: Several more players
Analysis. A simplistic description of the musical output of Po90D would be that they play keyboard-dominated progressive rock, with extensive use of organ as a dominating feature in their sound and frequent ventures into the heavier parts of the art rock territories, which may lead one to think about bands like Uriah Heep or perhaps ELP. In this particular instance the similarities in sound are vastly different though. A feature in most compositions is musical ventures with similarities to an act like Porcupine Tree. Not strikingly similar except for a few select occasions, but the modern/alternative details and textures pop up on a regular basis throughout this compilation. At times these elements are put in a different context; on one hand in creations with a style and general atmosphere close to what was called AOR when I grew up, on the other space-tinged ventures closer to an act like Hawkwind in expression. Mostly the band follows its own particular style though, and does create much music hard to pin down as belonging to one specific type of music. The opening quartet of the first CD of this compilation takes on the AOR-tinged explorations of the band. These tracks are among the most popular by the band from what I understand, but for me these creations didn't come across as anything special. Good tunes, with strong commercial sensibilities and an obvious mainstream appeal, but without providing the strong emotional vibes I need to be able to highly enjoy these kinds of songs. I guess that time to some extent has caught up with these compositions though, and that they came across as more modern and innovative at the time they were first released, but for me there aren't anything extraordinary about these songs when listening to them in 2009. The last of these tunes, Modern, is a Peter Hammil cover, but not one that convinced me. It's quite different in sound compared to the original and the band shall be given credit for making its own version of this composition rather than replicating the original. The following ventures, The Media Pirates and Promises of Life, are far more interesting. Both creations are mellower in general expression, the former combining lush, ambient segments with modern alternative progressive rock while incorporating a select few vintage elements reminding slightly of Deep Purple, while the latter combines the lush and mellow moods partially with jazz-tinged and partially with psychedelic-tinged explorations, but also managing to come across as modern and innovative in general sound. Blues for Lear is a tidbit for the fans, an alternative take of the composition featuring Roine Stolt from The Flower Kings. A lengthy blues-tinged exploration, enjoyable in itself but like the opening four compositions lacking the emotional tension or musically intricate details that really gets me intrigued. The final creations on this first of two CDs are the most interesting ones as well. Both of them epic in length, both exploring a more detailed and elaborate musical territory. Although somewhat different in general sound and mood, both Space Junk and Petroleum Addicts are compositions where space rock elements are added to the modern, alternative sound of Po90D, with quite a few Hawkwind-tinged segments featuring driving bass and guitars as well as soaring, space-tinged sounds provided by keyboards: top notch tracks both of them. Following the last track, a few minutes of additional music is served, unnamed and unmentioned on the CD. Another tidbit for existing fans of the band I guess, as well as adding even more value for money for those who choose to purchase this release. The band pulls the same trick on the second CD on this compilation too, basically filling up all available space on both CDs with music, adding about 5 minutes of playtime to each disc. Although somewhat uneven in quality, the first of the two CDs in this set does provide a good insight into the scope and width of this outfit's output in the time period they were active, and seems to be a good introduction to the band as a whole. Not too much stuff here for those already into the band, as those get their needs covered on the second CD.
Disc 2 (73:17)
TRACK LIST: 1. Afterlifecycle Sequence 28:00 2. Embalmed In Acid 5:42 3. Four Egos One War 20:14 4. Fadge-I 3:31 5. A Kick In the Teeth 6:46 6. Unforgiving Skies 9:04 LINEUP: Andy Tillison keyboards; vocals; guitars; drums Sam Baine keyboards Ken Senior - bass Alex King - drums Dan Watts guitars With: Several more players
Analysis. The second disc of this set opens with material familiar to the band's existing fan base, but assembled in a different manner, the tracks making up the Afterlife Sequence from Po90D's 1997 album "Afterlifecycle" put together as one single track lasting for 28 minutes. A truly epic exploration, incorporating all the different musical varieties explored by this band at that point in time, with lush, ambient segments, jazz-tinged explorations as well as hard-hitting and heavy ventures with trips into space-rock territories included. The much shorter Embalmed in Acid follows, a composition exploring the modern/alternative aspect of the bands output. It's an intriguing affair, a perfect companion to the prior exploration and in my view one of the most compelling songs on this compilation overall, more or less a ballad with strong atmosphere spiced up with quirky keyboard layers, a few harder hitting guitar-driven segments and innovative details in the instrument as well as vocal department. The three songs following are all previously unreleased efforts. The first of these, Four Egos One War, is the least interesting of those. Partially because this particular track later was recorded and released by The Tangent, but also because it seems slightly underdeveloped in this version. Not that it's a bad track by any means; but it fails to truly engage me, despite many different sounds explored and several segments that were highly intriguing individually. Fadge-I is a brief escapade similar to the heavier side of the band's modern alternative sound; a high intensity track with dampened, distorted guitars, floating synths and treated vocals that reminds me quite a lot of the heavier side of Porcupine Tree in mood and atmosphere; combining mainstream qualities with a few neat, innovative tricks and a high energy mood. The last of these previously unreleased songs, made for the planned but never finished album "A Kick in the Teeth of Civic Pride", seems to have been planned as a sort of a title cut for that recording, at least the name A Kick in the Teeth indicates that. This creation is a really adventurous affair, arguably the most innovative composition on this 2 CD set. Lush, ambient moods are paired off with harsh, aggressive segments with some detours into space rock territories, with careful use of dissonant elements and some quite quirky riff structures in the harder hitting moments both providing details and effects particular for this composition. Unforgiving Skies from the "Time Capsule" production gets the honor of being the last track out on this compilation, disregarding the 5 or so minutes of unnamed music following this song of course. On this occasion, psychedelic and space rock elements are paired with quirky arrangements and experimental details, although not to the extent of the previous track. The second CD in this set seems to be directed towards the band's established fan base, as this part of the collection mostly consists of unreleased material and rearranged previously released material, while the two tracks pulled directly from Po90D's back catalog seem to be generally more elaborate than the compositions assembled on the first CD. Personally I find this latter part of the compilation far more rewarding in general too; the songs are generally more innovative, creative and complex, and the moods and atmospheres explored have a higher degree of nerve, tension and emotion.
Conclusion. Very much a production consisting of two parts, the first CD in this set is a good introduction to PO90D as a band, covering most of the width and scope of their output, with a slight focus on songs with mainstream appeal. The second CD in the set contains material more of interest to existing fans of the act, assembling songs more experimental in general sound with previously unreleased material. Overall this compilation offers excellent value for money. Both CDs are filled to the brim with music and even if some of the compositions may not appeal as much as others, most buyers should find plenty of songs here to their liking - as long as they appreciate the general style explored on this 2 CD set. Overall, this is probably a perfect way to get acquainted with the band, and with enough goodies to be of interest also to their existing fan base.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 5 & 7, 2009
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