MAGNATAR – Parallel Worlds

Magnatar Music 2018

Reverting gravitational collapse, prog-minded instrumentalists from America deliver a riveting record with remarkable escape velocity.

MAGNATAR –
Parallel Worlds

The members of this Floridian ensemble may have a long pedigree, yet “Parallel Worlds” is their first album together, the result of a dozen-year toil, and its multifaceted landscape reflects both the players’ ability to blind the listener with melodious flurries and an eerie unpretentiousness of the rather sophisticated pieces – a rare thing for art-rock the quintet set out to fashion. There’s a downside to such balance, though: while not actually conjuring the ghosts of the genre’s protagonists who influenced them, the veterans evoke a slightly generic flow, as fantasy often fails to break free from sci-fi frontiers which can’t help but affect the record’s beyond-momentary expance. Still, it’s special thanks to founder Glenn Smith’s mandolin – a vital part of the overall picture and another rare charactestic, style-wise – cutting through faux-orchestral textures of the cosmic dances on offer.

Thus, if the title track would seem suspended between Ryan Rivas’ six-string riffs and Joey Costa’s heavy bass, the folk thread shooting through their thick net of notes is what’s supposed to lift it off the ground and, at the same time, anchor this soundscape so Dave Norton’s ivories will not indulge in bombast. What’s even better is the rock foundation of “Fourth Passage” – rolling on Reed Hayes’ drums into blissful Neverland – whereas “Night Changes” should appear too paradoxically static and the funky epic “Five Pieces Of Six” too contrived to fully register with one’s feelings. Once acoustic instruments have found their way to the fore, a piano sonata “Solara” leading into “New Galaxy” that’s britstling with strum, the group unashamedly unleash pop perspective, only to see the guitar-driven “A Walk In The Park” stumble unto a pure jazz path – emotional and cathartic.

This is also how “She Flies” embraces the musicians’ effervescent variety in terms of approach to arrangements, giving their dynamics the momentum a tune needs to defy the law of gravity without leaving the prog domain, a place which doesn’t provide “Augmented Reality” with any substantial movement but renders the number a jaunty anticlimax to the album. Sadly, life served the band with a more dramatic finale: Smith passed away in October 2019, yet he wanted the collective to continue, so “Parallel Worlds” is not the end.

***3/4

November 26, 2019

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