Days Between Stations 2020
Letting go of prog megalomania, small Californian ensemble dream on a large scale.
“Standing on the shoulders of giants”: here’s a Newton quote that has long become commonplace, yet this duo embraced various meanings of “gravity” on the road to their third album – a route that seems progressive in many a way, and not only because seven years passed between "In Extremis" and its follow-up as opposed to six between the ensemble’s debut and sophomore offerings. The passing of Oscar Fuentes-Bills’ father made him and Sepand Samzadeh realize how each new generation must look up to ancestors and predecessors without relying on mythical colossi – even though the record’s cover artwork, created by the venerable Paul Whitehead, depict, alongside a dinosaur, the likes of Sisyphus, who is carrying a rock and keys. The keys to the music behind all the images.
There’s a pull in it and it rocks, powerfully so – something that’s not easy to pull off when there are pieces of epic scope, the stereo-busting opener “Sparks” stretching for nigh on 17 minutes, changing tempo a number of times and setting the concept scene which will be picked up further on. Still, the perfect balance of Sam’s guitar and Oscar’s organ keeps melodic focus sharp and firmly in place; as a result, the listener’s fatigue will not set in. Perhaps, producer Billy Sherwood’s vocals are a tad dim for the multiple tunes displayed here, whereas his elastic bass lines feel solid, but the group’s other guests – Colin Moulding, a singer and lyricist on the jovial “Goes By Gravity” and Durga McBroom on the slow, soulful, acoustic expanse of “Witness The End Of The World” – add color and passion to the unfolding philosophic tapestry.
Wondrous polyphony, folksy undercurrent as well as meditative sitar elevate “Another Day” above the stone-rolling routine, yet it’s wildness-contrasting, disciplined piano that propels the dramatic titular cut to celestial heights, before flamenco lace and cosmic synthesizer weave bittersweet motif into “The Gathering” – the only purely instrumental composition on the record. And while the roaring passages of “The Common Thread” often sound superficial in comparison to the depth of the rest, in the end “Giants” must be perceived as a major achievement.