Inner Nova Music 2020
The ever-changing prog brigade challenge themselves with capturing an elusive instant of wonder.
It takes a lot of self-confidence and a nerve to serve up two concert albums on the base of two studio ones, yet that’s what this American ensemble do – and there’s a nice logic to it. Documenting their 2017 performance at ProgStock Festival, “New View” is significantly different from “Majestik” which preserved their RosFest show from the same year for posterity. With a new line-up and a new setlist, the group’s on-stage presence and equilibrium changed, and the ranks seemed to start stabilizing, but even though they’ve moved on again since then, “New View” – a CD, DVD and Blu-ray package – may mark the moment when elements of the sextet’s sonic puzzle began to fall into places.
Remarkably, neither front side nor spine of the digipak features the collective’s name, opting instead for “Circumlive” as if it was their fresh curriculum, and it is so, indeed, because the band’s show should nicely complement the sound they make. Not for nothing the artists’ stances exude histrionic elegance – and humor, too – that goes perfectly with anxious funk they offer from the start, once “Erosion” has segued into “Soleil Noir” to bounce off cosmic synthesizers. Still, there’s enough reserved energy in the music to make Billy Spillane break out of cool character and jump merrily early on so, once he and fellow singer Natalie Brown leave the scene in “One Wish” – first of their many exits – and take the amazing vocal split with them, the remaining foursome unleash a stunning dynamic battle to balance interplay.
There’s also a lot lows and highs to display aural extremes the sextet reach for. That’s why Joel Simches’ subaquatic bass acrobatics in “Nautilus” amp up the overall joviality and marry the piece’s nuanced bombast to tuneful angst. And that’s why “Return” sees the ensemble move to the front and weave an exquisite acoustic lace for the opening song of their debut album to smolder and exude sexiness – something not inherent to art-rock – whereas their cover of “Pale Blue Dot” reveals a rarely perceived romantic stratum in this SOUND OF CONTACT classic. But entertainment doesn’t end here.
Taking the fun further, “Piano Challenge” will find keyboard player Andrew Colyer and drummer Darin Brannon, the collective’s masterminds, face each other like chess masters, in the center of the stage and with impressive stereo separation, and engage in a chamber duel on ivories – in a manner so amusing, it’s riveting to watch, let alone listen to – until they land on the same melody, arrange a unison, shoot for the moon and call it a tie, with Joel hitting the skins and Alek Darson laying down sharp riffs and lyrical solo. Later on, Colyer caresses a circuit board to introduce the passionate “Forbidden Planet” that’s peaking with Natalie’s soul-shattering performance and is followed with a percussion fest in which all the six musicians construct an arresting rhythmic edifice.
The Blu-ray version of this concert expands on the audio-visual experience, yet doesn’t enrich it in terms of context, because the ensemble’s magic and charm exist in the aforementioned moment when stars align, and “New View” has captured it almost impeccably.