Vast Conduit 2022
Scaling generational walls and bridges, Californian prog group find firm ground for their debut.
Relationships between parents and children are a complex phenomenon with multitude of facets that may require proper scrutiny – and the same can be said about progressive rock: the genre which these musicians, veterans of various American bands, attempt to pursue as separately so together. “Always Be There” is their first common work, and there’s also a common goal making the album’s pieces gel into something more and more solid with each new spin of the record. The cuts, perceived as too different in the beginning, slowly but surely create an entire panorama out of the deceptively disjointed.
Thus, if opener “Barrier” seems, despite all its diaphanous effervescence, to be painting prog pictures by numbers and streaming instrumental excitement across the artificial ennui of Friel’s singing – so impressive in the heavy, riff-laden finale of “Wesley Save Us” which betrays the ensemble’s hard rock roots – the voiceless “Soul Tuck” maps out a different, fusion-minded meander for Michael Harris’s guitar filigree and Jim Hurley’s violin vivacity to give the piece’s shiny surface a multicolored allure. However, Bill Jenkins’ piano passages on the platter’s title track feel equally natural in their solemnity, and when Jeff Plant’s four strings figures come to the light, there’s no return to the album’s initial dryness, which is why the similar moves of “Endless Days” find a way into the listener’s psyche with much less effort.
Yet, it’s the buzzy “Too Busy” that takes the ivories and bass interplay to a whole new level and shows the band’s prowess in electric jazz, as Will Jenkins’ drums up the collective’s elegant vigor, while the luminous vocal harmonies in “Odessa” reveal the players’ pop agenda, and the sweet “Early Eclipse” and “500 Miles” hark back to the ’70s soulful romanticism. So quite logically, though unexpectedly, the brass-spiced “Philly Etymology” replicates TSOP with much gusto, before “Of A Feather” bursts into a dynamically blinding blizzard of sound. The result of the “Always Be There” is puzzling – but only until the record has been spun: hereafter, these aural images become simply admirable.