Melodic Revolution 2024

Progressive dive into the lore of yore for an intoxicating drive to a rendezvous between written word and musical passage.


Here’s an ensemble who like to mess with their listener’s head by offering the audience a ride on a stylistic carousel on which strange impressions spin in front of one’s mind’s eye – delving into classic storylines and bending old books’ plots to bring heady fantasies to the fore of the band’s sophomore album that picks up where their 2021 debut “Decoupage” left off, yet projects more gelled images onto art-rock canvas. It’s still difficult to grasp why a Chicagoan collective, plus guest vocalists, can be popular in Paraguay while demonstrating how steeped they are in a Soviet culture, as Derek Ferguson’s pieces draw not only on Bulgakov but also on Gorky and refer not only to long-forgotten toys but also to the titular tour operator serving and hosting mostly foreigners. Hence the pun of the “Intourist Suite” – however, none of this should matter in the light of the group’s memorable melodies and arresting arrangements.

It’s one of the best features of the Illinois foursome that the players don’t feel the need to restrict their approach to any particular genre. Thus, epic opener “DMK” unfurls a cosmic tapestry which Rogelio Souza’s ivories weave so intricately and vigorously and which Derek Pavlic’s six-string riffs and Jerry King’s bass notes punctuate in all the right places, as Ferguson’s inventive drums dictate, to shift the groove towards rock ‘n’ roll, sung very infectiously by Craig Cairns. Still, the AOR front will be busted, thanks to the arrival on the scene of viola passages and NIDA’s voice, in “Asunción” – given Spanish lyrics in a a bonus version – in favor of more nuanced, albeit just as multilayered, harmonies, instrumental and vocal; and if the Hammond-laden “The Devil Returns” is heavy, despite the presence of sax and Mellotron, there are almost symphonic histrionics to lead the cut’s many facets beyond the original gloom.

The 11-minute spectacle of the title track, partially delivered in Russian, takes the folk-inspired flow, over the course of three distinct parts, further, through chamber elegy and funfair artificiality to purified synth-pop and, well, prog – that’s prominent on the flute-flaunting “Side Hustle” as well. But then the ensemble allow the harmonica-harnessed “Mr. Darwin” sway with a lot of bluesy gusto and infuse “The Red Apple” with Slavic and Latin motifs which sound moving in the song’s acoustic variant attached at the album’s end. However, the piano-rippled, soul-stirring “Smiling” may not seem like a proper finale – and here’s why the CD has a cover of SPIRIT’s “Mr. Skin” added to it for good measure of human touch. The touch defining the band’s entire oeuvre and the band’s future.


June 20, 2024

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