Giant Electric Pea 2019
Caring about the place we’re all in, international ensemble serve up tuneful analysis of what’s going on.
Sustainable environmental practices might look like a tall order to promote through music, yet this is what Mark Trueack and Steve Unruh – known for their roles in, respectively, UNITOPIA and RESISTOR – have been aspiring to as UPF for five years now, since “Fall In Love With The World” announced the advent of their movement. “Loss” – a first part of duology to be rounded off with “Hope” further down the line – is taking the idea to a more dramatic direction, exquisitely so. Despite its three-part structure, suggesting a concept, the songs’ context never gets in the way of melody, and at no point the record lets itself pander to prog purity or permit the presence of stellar guests to lead the discourse astray.
Stricken with folk sensibility from the anthemic start till the defiant riffs behind “Loss To Lost” set optimism into the album’s heart, there’s a natural, organic flow to this dozen pieces, where orchestral textures of “What Happens Now” unfold into Unruh’s flute-and-fiddle-abetted vaudevillian parade – running via the variety of styles, art-rock to fusion, and upping the sociopolitical paranoia, while snippets of spoken word from the likes of Sir David Attenborough deepen the sense of urgent relevance. So if mini-epics such as “Mercenaries” or “Cruel Times” sound a tad theatrical, especially when bossa nova rubs piano-padded shoulders with space passages and Trueack-conducted vocal polyphony reigns supreme, they’re extremely sincere – and the songwriters don’t shy away from sarcasm, either, to spice up the funky “Stop-Time” and “What Are We Doing To Ourselves” which, otherwise, would see too frivolous.
The same can’t be said about the flamenco-tinctured, if sparse, “Forgive Me, My Son” that’s simultaneously projecting anxiety and awe, nor about the grandiose “Seeds For Life” whose near 20-minute pulsating expanse is kept in check thanks to Steve Hackett‘s acoustic lace and Michel St-Père’s electric flight, yet the baroque beauty of “Dying To Be Reborn” has its raga-kissed solemnity nicely compromised with the band’s deliberately simple delivery.
Some of these numbers appear in significantly different guise on a disc called “Reimagine” – a record from ROMANTECHS, the UPF offshoot which finds a mellower disposition for the main band’s efforts, providing a pocket universe to their oeuvre by going far beyond creating alternative mixes. A nice bonus to an already impressive album, together they amount to a multilayered experience to live up to an order of any height.