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Somnambulist (USA) - 2001 - "The Paranormal Humidor"
(54 min, "The Laser's Edge")


******

Tracklist:

1. In the Mindwarp Pavillion 8:09

   (Clouse, Park)

2. Pathos of Least Resistance 7:37

   (Clouse, Park, Shelton)

3. Destiny, She Said 7:23

   (Clouse, Park, Shelton, Whitaker)

4. Infant (inst.) 1:30 (Shelton)

5. Troy Built Helen 10:10

   (Clouse, Park, Shelton, & Scott Ratchford)

6. Died & Gone 6:00

   (Clouse, Park, Shelton, Whitaker)

7. Paranormal Humidor 13:20 (Clouse)



All lyrics: by Cornell. 



Line-up: 



Terry Clouse - bass guitars

Jody Park - synthesizers, organ, & piano

Charlie Shelton - electric & acoustic guitars

Jo Whitaker - drums & percussion

Peter Cornell - vocals



Produced & engineered by Fred Schendel. 

Recorded by F. Schendel & Steve Babb

at "Sound Resources" studio, Chattanooga, TN, USA.

Mastered by Bob Katz at "Digital Domain".

Prologue. Somnambulist's self-titled debut album was released by "The Laser's Edge" in 1996, and I have yet to hear it. "The Paranormal Humidor", which is the second album by the band, was released on October 2, 2001. However, it has fallen into my hands only yesterday (as well as the last two releases of 'Clearlight Music', both of which are also dated 2001). On the other hand, it is better late than never.

The Album. While it's clear to me that Somnambulist are inspired (I didn't say "influenced") by the creation of Yes at the first half of the 1970s, "The Paranormal Humidor" is an original and in many ways unique album. Musically, it represents the old-school Classic Symphonic Art-Rock, though Shelton's guitar parts often lean towards a heavier direction. Which, though, is just another major trump in the sleeve of the band's own view on classically progressive things. All of the songs that are featured on the album were created within the framework of a unified stylistics, though, of course, there is a guitar instrumental among them. Infant (track 4) consists of the wonderful passages of acoustic (or semi-acoustic) guitar performed with the use of such effects as Delay, Compressor, and Chorus. The compositional and performing characteristics of each of the six songs on the album are on the whole typical for all of them as well. The instrumental arrangements are complex and very diverse throughout the album. They are filled with cascades of tasteful and virtuosi solos of electric and bass guitar, passages and solos of organ and various synthesizers, very contrasting interplay between all of these instruments, complex time signatures, frequent and, often, sudden changes of tempo and mood, etc. All of this is accompanied by a very diverse and truly outstanding drumming by Jo Whitaker. However, as I've already mentioned above, the riffing guitar plays one of the significant roles in most of the instrumental arrangements as well. Peter Cornell (he is the brother of Chris Cornell from the defunct Seattle band Soundgarden), whose natural voice is rather rough, is by all means a unique vocalist-chameleon. His singing on the album is very tasteful, original, and, sometimes, truly innovative. Also, Peter is able to change his timbre from low and raw to normal, and vice versa, during the same vocal phrase, and he does it easily. Jody Park's solos on organ and synthesizer are as virtuosi as those of Charlie Shelton on guitar. Park is also the main 'constructor' of the lushly orchestrated symphonic structures on the album. Terry Clouse's fretless and fretted bass work is turned up in the mix too, and his solos play a major role in most of the arrangements on the album as well. The frequent interchanges of the vocal and instrumental parts are typical for most of the songs on the album. These are In the Mindwarp Pavillion, Destiny She Said, Died & Gone, and Paranormal Humidor (tracks 1, 3, 6, & 7). Although the number of vocal and purely instrumental parts are approximately equal on each of these songs, the instrumental arrangements flow nonstop regardless whether Cornell sings or not. Unlike all four of the said songs, the second parts of Pathos of Least Resistance and Troy Built Helen (2 & 5) are purely instrumental. While on the first of them, that instrumental 'field' is as hard-edged as most of the arrangements on the album in general, the long instrumental outro of Troy Built Helen is rather unusual. The lush symphonic passages of synthesizer and remote, soft and fluid, solos of electric guitar move slowly yet diversely round the axis of the violin-like pizzicatos.

Summary. While I don't consider all of the existing progressive genres as stagnant -- especially such flexible ones as RIO and Fifth Element, - but the fact remains obvious within the framework of Classic Symphonic Progressive. So it wasn't difficult for me to come to the next conclusion. "The Paranormal Humidor" is one of a few contemporary albums that are on par with most of the masterworks created at the golden age of this genre. Also, it is already clear to me that although the small NJ label "The Laser's Edge" releases CDs rather rarely, most of them are truly rare masterpieces. The release of Somnambulist's second album is just another confirmation of that especial tactics.

VM. April 3, 2002


Related Links:

"The Laser's Edge Records" web-site: http://www.lasercd.com/


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