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(16:08, ‘The Living’)
Formed in Canada in 2006, THE LIVING is a collection of highly skilled, classically-trained musicians brought together by their mutual passion for artistic exploration. “Bedd Tracks” is their recording debut, a 4-track EP recorded as a three-piece prior to the band’s recent relocation to Germany. Given the band members’ background, it is not surprising to find strong classical influences in their compositions – especially from early 20th century composers such as Stravinsky. However, The Living’s music is as far removed from ‘retro-prog’ as you can expect. Theirs is the kind of sound that may strike prog purists as too mainstream-oriented, but is sure to convey a sense of freshness and excitement to the more forward-thinking lovers of the genre. Though the whole of “Bedd Tracks” runs shorter than many so-called ‘epics’, the music on display is impressive enough. In a similar manner to their fellow Canadians Half Past Four, or new US bands like 3rd Degree and The Tea Club, The Living unashamedly flirt with the mainstream, all the while flinging blatantly progressive moments in the listener’s face. In spite of being all around 4 minutes in length, the songs featured on “Bedd Tracks” show once again that you do not need to pen 20-minute epics in order to produce authentically progressive rock. The expressive power of the vocals comes across as very far removed from the operatic bombast of many prog singers (especially of the prog-metal persuasion). As might be expected from a band of such eclectic bent, the music is a wild rollercoaster ride, punctuated by scintillating violin flourishes courtesy of Elyse Robinson. The occasional splashes of aggressive, high-powered riffing, combined with the madly shifting rhythms, make for an exhilarating listening experience. Though the overall level is consistently high, I feel that closing track Global Citizen somewhat stands out from the rest: so exhilarating as to be almost manic, it is driven by Eastern-tinged violin runs, and includes a classically-tinged string passage before the pyrotechnic finale. Opener Eye of the Day begins in a manner somewhat reminiscent of vintage King Crimson, then throws in reggae and Latin rhythms, as well as a catchy chorus and an interesting guitar solo, in an original blend of progressiveness and accessibility. Take the Reins opens instead in a subdued, ambient-like manner, with flute and sax emoting over a steady drum/bass background, then turns heavier and more experimental, packing a lot of twists and turns in the space of just a few minutes; while Real adopts a distinctly free-form approach, embodied by piano flurries and vocals ranging from almost whispering to aggressive. Though EPs can often be disappointing in providing a first taste of a band or artist, “Bedd Tracks” definitely left me wanting to hear more from the band. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting the release of The Living’s full-length debut, in the hope they will confirm the promise shown in this tantalizing taster.
RB: March 15, 2010
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