Once upon a time I was so impressed by the band The Former Life that I decided to write a full article review on their album Electric Stillness. The funny thing is, I wrote 3/4 of the article and it sat there for a half a year and I forgot about it til Progstreaming started streaming their album recently. I decided it was time to finally get that article out, but then I forgot again and now I’m freaking out because it will soon be removed, if it hasn’t already by the time you read this. My humble apologies goes out to all of you, and, in an attempt to make this album known to you as soon as possible, I’ve decided to include it in this humble offering of Bite-size Prog, along with two other albums that should catch your interest, by I and Thou and The Bad Mexican respectively. Ranging from gorgeous to disturbingly delightful, this edition of Bite-size Prog should give you a satisfying morsel and maybe even some last minute holiday gift ideas.
The Former Life – Electric Stillness
There’s a strong sense of mystery to The Former Life’s music that dares to reject conventional approaches to composition and melodic structure without feeling terribly ‘weird’ or ‘avant-garde.’ Electric Stillnessradically walks a balance of the expected and the unexpected in ways that are difficult to detect, making this a great record. I mean, really, it’s not what I would consider a ‘weird’ prog album, but there’s just something that’s hard to put my finger on that makes this album stand out. On Electric Stillness, chord changes meld and transition majestically and with superb expertise, at times dreamy, jazzy, or romantic, but there are moments where even the words uncanny and edgy come to mind. There is always a strong sense of ambiance and texture provided by layer upon layer of keyboard orchestration. I must also comment that the rhythm section does a marvelous job of building up the pieces, and the ultra-smooth fusion playing of the guitar demonstrates both tenacity and restraint, knowing when to shred and when to hold back, always accentuating the mood of the piece rather than making itself the purpose of the song. Furthermore, the vocals interest me very much due to the fact that the notes aren’t quite what you expect while feeling familiar, which produces sort of a haunting effect. There isn’t a strong sense of repeating ideas or themes, yet they are extremely catchy and powerfully executed. It’s funny because I constantly forget that this isn’t an instrumental album… then the vocals come back and I say, oh yeah, that’s right, there are vocals here, and they’re great. All in all, Electric Stillness is a solid album by a solid band. Their knack for symphonic beauty will both awe you and haunt your nightmares as their good selection of instrumentation, catchy vocals and intense but restrained atmosphere will sneak up on you and work on your emotions.
I and Thou – Speak
With his debut, US based musician Jason Hart presents Speak under the band name I and Thou. Hosting a slew of fantastic guest musicians, such as Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and John Galgano (IZZ), Speak is essentially four pieces of mellow, pretty progressive rock. Throughout the album, I and Thou focuses on the piano as the central instrument, giving it a consistent base and sense of continuity, while instilling in the songs catchy melodies, nice ambience, and bass work that stands out. The title track combines this piano approach with an old school feel, a sort of 70’s prog meets Beatles meets modern, that includes loads of great synth that is tastefully not overbearing. The bass lines immediately leapt out and grabbed me for their high sense of melodiousness and skilled interplay with the keyboard parts. “And I awaken” features some nice interplay between spacey textures and melodies with a jazz feel that contrasts with a more harmonically conventional piano approach. The light, fluffy vocals are well done here, but wat really shines here is the solid use of little bells that double the vocals on the second half of the track, as well as the phenomenal bass guitar melodies. and bass guitar on the second half of the track. Overall, I and Thou shows us that they know how to make uplifting instrumental music that will put you at ease and help you relax without boring you to tears. Their constant focus on melodies and themes keeps things interesting while their method of composing creates a very pleasant experience. Definitely look for more from Mr. Hart in the future.
Bad Mexican – This is the First Attempt at a Band Called The Bad Mexican
If you are the type that likes ‘weird’ music, I think you might make a detour toward a little Italian band called The Bad Mexican and see some of the strange wares they are peddling. Bizarre, sloppy, and full of dissonance, This is a First Attempt at a Band Called the Bad Mexican is an interesting ride through insanity. It’s full of ambient noises, synth bleeps and plops, whispered dialogue, aggressive dissonance, non-conventional explorations that should give you some surprises. The format of songs can be completely non-conventional, such as “Inches,” which starts out with about 8 minutes of mostly ambient noise before going into some heavy experimental rock with vocals. “Miles” has lots of elements that are ambient and would sound great in a horror movie, including use of drone and high ringing. Overall, the results presented in this record are a sort of psychotic marriage of garage rock and avant-garde. While the album isn’t terribly varied, it will most likely give you nightmares, and it’s high on the originality scale.