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(90:10 2CD, Giant Electric Pea Records)
TRACK LIST: CD I: 1. Crossing into the Unknown 20:45 2. The Air Pirate 11:22 3. Cycles 12:20 CD II: 1. Unexplored 5:36 2. iPhone 6:05 3. Lost 7:18 4. Serena Song 9:23 5. Nowhere Bound 5:43 6. Which Way Is Up 4:22 7. Air Pirate Jam 7:16 LINEUP: Alex Cora – guitars; lead vocals Derek Sherinian – keyboards Vinnie Colaiuta – drums Ric Fierabracci – bass Ginny Luke – violin With: Gustavo Farias – Moog Matt Linsky – guitars Colette Von – vocals David Kirsh – vocals Luke Tierney – vocals
Prolusion. The US project PURPOSEFUL PORPOISE is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Alex Cora, and at the tail end of 2014 he initially self-released his then self-titled double CD debut album, featuring contributions from an all-star cast of musical friends. The album was soon picked up by the British progressive rock label Giant Electric Pea, which reissued an expanded version of the album, now named "The Water Games", in the summer of 2015.
Analysis. Purposeful Porpoise is what many would describe as a supergroup, I suspect. While main man Cora isn't what one might describe as a household name, the musicians used to record this album are all fairly well known figures in the world of progressive rock, quality musicians with a CV many might envy them and the skills to match such a background. Quality is the common denominator throughout this production, as the album does cover a few too many stylistic bases for any specific subset of progressive rock to merit a description as a defining feature. Unlike many double albums, this double feature has been assembled with a clear and marked difference in mind for the compositions to be featured on each of the CDs. The first CD features all the long, epic tracks, but while epic in length, these aren't the multi-sectional progressive rock epics one might imagine finding. Instead, these are creations with a liberal amount of room for improvised features, where all instruments at some point are given at least one solo run, and the key instruments a few more. Not all instrumental affairs, however, as there are vocal sequences functioning as something of a framework, but the main focus on all three opening tracks are the instrumentalists, for intertwined instrumental movements almost as much as for purebred singular instrumental solo runs, I must add, and, from what I can hear, always performed with the end listener in mind: all the songs come across as appealing and compelling. In terms of style one could argue that the opening and concluding compositions on the first CD exist somewhere at the halfway stage between Yes and the more accessible material from a band like Mahavishnu Orchestra, complete with liberal amount of ethereal and occasionally spirited violin sections, while the middle of those three replace the classic and emotionally positive Yes-like tendencies with a more forceful delivery, closer to the likes of Kansas and, arguably, Rush. The second composition also features quirkier and more intricate instrumental movements in general, or at least movements that for the non-musician listener come across as being that. The second disc in this package kind of continues where the first one left off, but expands to cover a few additional bases as it unfolds. The shorter songs at hand here also give these compositions a generally firmer sheen, with less room for improvised features and vocals passages being the more dominant ones. The sole exception, Serena Song, is probably the quirkiest song on this double album, at least in terms of the number of styles and modes of delivery touched upon in the close to ten minutes of playtime of the piece. That the second disc in the set opens with what might be described as a positive and jubilant Yes-meets-jazz rock style and concludes with a more melancholic, ballad-oriented affair with firm and dramatic recurring inserts that remind me strongly of The Beatles (and their song Eleanor Rigby in particular) does say something about the variety at hand here, and that we're also treated to a subtly more exotic journey along the way with the plucked strings and sitar used on Nowhere Bound kind of emphasize that. An ongoing feature is that the music is generally light-toned, uplifting and positive however, and, besides the aforementioned high-quality musicianship throughout, this mood and atmosphere is one that should be noted.
Conclusion. Purposeful Porpoise comes across as a vital setup, exploring a style of progressive rock I'd generally describe as founded in the classic era, yet without any direct pointers to specific bands other than certain trace elements and tendencies in terms of mood and atmosphere. Fans of bands such as Yes, Kansas and probably even Camel might want to give this one a spin, and in particular those among that crowd who know and appreciate music of this kind with improvisational aspects and a slight orientation towards jazz-rock. Top-10-2015
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 1, 2016
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