The Aaron Clift Experiment 2018
Austin art-rockers laugh in the face of adversity and offer a variety of fantasies.
Texas may not be the most prosperous place in terms of prog complexity, yet this trio and their friends don’t let the sun go down on a good epic piece, and the band’s third album illustrates such an approach in style. From the powerful, riff-driven, defiant salvo of “Faith” to the last ripple of the majestic title track’s finale, there’s plethora of delectable moments on display – alternately anchored by Aaron Clift’s rather traditional rock vocals or let loose when his keyboards and Devin North’s guitars reach for celestial rapture – while the aural assault of “Last Crash” relies on filigree rock ‘n’ rolling and playful stereo panning in equal measure but manage to keep the outcome quite serious.
Same can’t be said of “Better Off Before” whose ’60s-indebted pop groove and harmonies shine in the most kaleidoscopic way, whereas the exquisite baroque tapestry “Absent Lovers” bears imprints of the ensemble’s many influences, its quirks as adventurously arresting as its interplay, although in a couple places the number’s melody has come dangerously close to a certain rock-opera. More so, “Castle In The Sky” falls victim of various tropes the musicians attempt to implement only to cook a superfluous, cliched composition that a neo-prog aficionado will gladly lap up before melting in the presence of “Dream Within A Dream” that’s the pinnacle of the group’s tuneful transparency.
Perhaps, sensing that, they intersperse these cosmic enterprises with “Savage In A Fancy Suit”: a tasty slice of hard rock and a chance for Clift to go wild on organ; but the punchy “Wild Hunters” is theatrical in a modern, as opposed to retro, manner. As a result, the album’s aftertaste is quite eclectic, and this may be a sign of prog’s vitality in the state which doesn’t seem the place for the genre.