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3rd Degree - 2008 - "Narrow-Caster"

(46:53), '3rd Degree')


TRACK LIST:                                 

1.  Apophenia 4:45
2.  It Works 5:05
3.  Narrow-Caster 3:09
4.  Live With This Forever 5:09
5.  Cautionary Tale 5:05
6.  The Proverbial Banana Peel 3:09
7.  Young Once 5:14
8.  Scenery 5:49
9.  Free for All 4:35
10. The Last Gasp 4:57


Robert James Pashman  bass; keyboards; vocals
George Dobbs  vocals; keyboards
Pat Kliesch  guitars; vocals
Veronica Puleo  backing vocals
Robert Durham  drums; backing vocals

Prolusion. Currently based in Bergen County, New Jersey, the US band 3RD DEGREE started out way back in 1990. At first a trio, they worked hard on writing songs and performing live, and in 1993 they released their first CD. With the addition of vocalist George Dobbs the line-up was complete, and in 1996 the band issued their second outing, "Human Interest Story". Lack of commercial success saw the band entering a hiatus in 1997, but in 2005 the original three members decided to give the music business another shot, and after getting hold of vocalist Dobbs again they started working on the creation of a new album. The summer of 2008 saw the result of their efforts with the release of the band's third album, "Narrow-Caster".

Analysis. Musically Im talking art rock, or perhaps even pop art, when it comes to describing the musical contents of this production. Atmospheres and melodies are central, with instruments and vocals carefully mixed to highlight melodic and catchy elements. In essence the vocals get to dominate quite a bit, especially harmonic vocal passages, while the guitars are dampened, sometimes subdued and often placed back in the mix, retaining the impact of the instrument but seeing to it that it rarely dominates, at least not to the extent it could if mixed in a different manner. Strong melodies, a relatively simple basic compositional structure with verse and chorus as main elements, and highlighting vocals while subduing guitars: pop sensibilities in a nutshell. 3rDegree know their game and have managed to create a sound on this release that should be pleasing and interesting also for fans of music without complexities, and I often found myself thinking of US act Man On Fire and their release "Habitat" when listening to this album. Many segments were close in sound and style, and the approach on that production is quite similar too. However, where Man On Fire inserts elements from the symphonic side of the musical spectrum along with contemporary electronic effects, 3rDegree is a bit more ambitious. Closer listening to the compositions reveals a minor plethora of subtle, complex, nuances added to the individual compositions: slight changes in sound, style and pace very much present throughout but barely audible on superficial inspection. Elements from jazz are incorporated in several places as well, most often delivered by the piano or the bass guitar. The most prominent features hidden are certain tendencies towards avant-garde music though; slight dissonances and disharmonies, brief instances of musical interludes that, at their most complex, have distinct avant-garde qualities. Carefully inserted of course, and placed in a manner that makes them detectable if you try to locate them, but otherwise they won't catch the attention of the average listener.

Conclusion. Overall I see this as a strong release. Somewhat lacking in the truly brilliant tunes department, but more than good enough to hit my top 10 list of 2008. It's not music that will please all and sundry of course, but people who like what has been coined Art Rock in previous times should find this release quite intriguing.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 1, 2008
The Rating Room

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