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(127:16, ‘The Hip Replacement’)
TRACK LIST: CD 1: The original album 1. Mount Palomar 5:08 2. Diving Bell 5:21 3. Wendigo 3:26 4. The Petition 6:59 5. Brother Sister 5:05 6. The Yongy Bongy Bo 5:03 7. The Haunted Song 6:44 8. Many a Monster 6:44 9. Isabella 7:52 10. Midnight Mutinies 6:42 11. At Night the Quarry Glows Like a Mothership 6:28 12. Black Castles 3:45 CD 2: The home recorded demos 1. Mount Palomar 5:08 2. Diving Bell 4:49 3. Wendigo 2:26 4. The Petition 6:06 5. Brother Sister 4:46 6. The Yongy Bongy Bo 4:23 7. The Haunted Song 6:46 8. Many a Monster 4:32 9. Isabella (Keep Riding the Road to the Sea) 7:08 10. Midnight Mutinies 5:16 11. At Night the Quarry Glows Like a Mothership 3:28 12. Black Castles 3:11 LINEUP: Nathan Hall – vocals; guitars; keyboards, electronics, percussion Dylan Line – guitars; keyboards, electronics, percussion; vocals Spencer McGarry – drums Michael Bailey – bass
Prolusion. The UK/Welsh band SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS first appeared back in 2004, and following some initial EP's their first full length album "Uncanny Tales from the Everyday Undergrowth" (a compilation of their first three EPs) appeared in 2005: In 2016 the band decided to reissue this production as a double album, the second CD in the package consisting of the home demo recordings of the original album.
Analysis. Soft Hearted Scientists is a band that creates music that resides on the edge of the progressive rock universe. Their brand of music is arguably closer aligned to psychedelic rock than to progressive rock in general, with an emphasis on creating compelling and easy-to-like moods and atmospheres. Not without progressive rock features, mind you, but like the music, this is a part of their subtle and careful nature. Careful, wandering acoustic guitars and soft, controlled vocals are the key recurring details on just about all of the compositions presented, with an array of unobtrusive effects and keyboard details adding a psychedelic sheen and shimmer to the proceedings. The rhythms are subtle and unobtrusive, the electric guitar also has a subservient role in a landscape of unobtrusive instrumentation, and everything is calm, serene and utterly charming. The main dramatic effects used is that the band members have a certain taste for incorporating lyrical or instrumental details of a whimsical nature, at times the former has a slight edge to it, mind you. Everyone who finds an artist like Billy Ray Cyrus to be annoying in general and his song Achy Breaky Heart in particular will treasure the way he and this song of his is described in a scene in one of the songs on this album, to halfway state an example. Acoustic rock and folk rock are dominant aspects of just about all the material on this album, with certain tendencies in the direction of Beatles appearing here and there, as rather carefully explored within a psychedelic and progressive rock context. The general mood and atmosphere has a lot of the spirit of the ‘60s about it, and despite the occasional sharp lyrics there's something of a tranquil, peaceful and innocent presence shimmering throughout this production. Music as it was before it lost its innocence perhaps, if such a thing ever was the case. The demo versions of the tracks reveal that, as lo-fi as some of the songs may feel like on the original album, they have still been subject to clever and effective production. By and large, many of these demo versions give me the impression of being comparable to what many of these songs may sound like in a live environment, a bit rougher, more lo-fi, and often with more room for the vocals and lyrics to shine. In the case of the song Brother Sister, this latter aspect makes the demo version of the song even more enjoyable than the studio version, at least for me, and while some of the demo tracks were obviously developed a bit more when properly developed, they do, by and large, come across as just about as enjoyable as the finished and finalized versions. The moods and atmospheres are still very much present, the central harmonies and motifs are present and accounted for, the main difference is the recording quality and the lack of a lack of final finish.
Conclusion. Soft Hearted Scientists made a favorable impression among many listeners and reviewers when this album first appeared back in 2005, and as far as I'm concerned, this is a production that comes across as a strong and compelling album also 12 years later. Those with an affection for the gentlest aspects of progressive rock, and one with a firm orientation towards folk music, acoustic rock and ‘60s psychedelic pop, should feel compelled to check out this band in general and this album in particular.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 8, 2017
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