SOUTHERN EMPIRE – Civilisation

Giant Electric Pea 2018

SOUTHERN EMPIRE - Civilisation

SOUTHERN EMPIRE –
Civilisation

Australian ensemble building a world which could be ours, with flights of fantasy that engage in endless adventure.

Nothing screams “prog” more intimidatingly than an hour-long album comprised of four pieces of which one will stretch for half of the record’s entire duration. It can be tiresome, but in the case of this album it’s not, because erstwhile UNITOPIA co-pilot Sean Timms should know how to roam musical panorama to avoid cul-de-sacs, so the secret of SE’s sophomore offering is the record’s stylistic variety and arresting storytelling – or, rather, a clever placement of intrigue instead of clear narrative. Not without a pinch of panache, each passage here is brimful with purpose, making the whole easy to breathe in and almost impossible to breathe out, getting high on the music the only option available.

The retro immersion of the album’s beginning pull the listener in “Goliath’s Moon” – a tale about a rare diamond whose inner light is refracted through funk and fusion that run through riffs of different intensity to navigate such a labyrinthine course – where guitars, in turn, rage and caress the ear before opulent vocal polyphony is unfolded. The result is airy, yet not ethereal, oozing life and letting pure art-rock tropes flesh it all out rather than stress their own importance in the overall picture. There’s sharpened playfulness in “Cries For The Lonely” as Timm’s ivories and Cam Blokland’s guitar vie for space until anxious violin ushers in nervous choir to deliver a stunning oratorio, led to delirium by Danny Lopresto’s voice, and it would take a flute to bring the tasty tumult down and fling to celestial heights once again.

This move may help escape the Black Spider’s embrace and hit the disco bliss amidst filigree licks and catchy chords which strive for harmony in the end, but the tribal chant preceding “Crossroads” – the aforementioned epic among epics – dissolves in an elegant dance. The groove is broken to smithereens when metal assault enters the Eastern-flavored aural landscape – spiced with Brody Green’s percussion and smoothed with sax further down the line, once an irresistibly infectious chorus has abated, and folk-tinctured transparency is revealed behind the bittersweet squeal. Hereafter, hope must reign supreme – and then acoustic flamenco strikes to up the passion, revert it to prog and take to bossa nova lounge and, ultimately, to a piano-propelled pop triumph of spirit.

It doesn’t matter that”Innocence & Fortune” conforms to stereotype sound of the group’s chosen genre, still keeping a firm grip on melody and a full elegant grasp of baroque blitz; otherwise, leaving “Civilisation” would be nigh on unfeasible – and cul-de-sacs don’t belong in SE’s existence. A truly sensational, sensual work.

*****

August 26, 2018

Category(s): Reviews
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