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District 97

Hybrid Child

Review by Gary Hill

Progressive rock is alive and well and living in Chicago, Illinois because that’s the home base for District 97. This disc is a modern prog showcase that has a lot of nods to the classic era of progressive rock. Combining strong instrumental passages with potent female vocals, this is quite a cool album. They even give us a major multi-song suite as the closing epic here. Expect great things from District 97 because they have delivered one of the best albums of 2010.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 5 at

Track by Track Review
I Don't Want To Wait Another Day

There’s a killer hard rocking staccato movement to start this. The vocals come in with an intriguing repetitive pattern. They fire out from there in a hard rocking jam that’s probably closer to heavy metal than to pure progressive rock. Still, there are some jazz and UK sort of sections. The violin solo is quite tasty. They take the track through a few changes and alterations. It drops back later to a melodic, ballad type movement with a violin solo leading it off. They tear out into a classically tinged progressive rock powerhouse jam later.

I Can't Take You With Me
They waste no time here. It fires out into a frantic prog rock jam and then the changes ensue. This is quite jazz-like a lot of the time, reminding me a bit of something from Bruford. There’s a harder edge to it, too. The instrumental segment later is very much in a classical music type of progression, at least in the first half. They take it to more pure fusion from there. There’s an awesome keyboard dominated instrumental section later, too.
The Man Who Knows Your Name
This is an awesome number. It careens this way and that. At times it’s very classical, while at other points it’s closer to fusion. It has a moment or two where it becomes metallic, but it also makes its way towards RIO. It rocks out hard and yet is quite complex and intricate. There are some great keyboard sounds, but everyone gets an opportunity to show off. You might think it’s an instrumental because the first half is served up with no vocals. When it gets vocals the arrangement becomes soaring and triumphant. Eventually it drops back for a short section that’s like a ballad. Then they fire out into some world music and soar out from there into some ELP-like territory.
They bring this one in aggressive and almost heavy metal. It moves into something that mixes that with an almost jazz-like element when the vocals join. While this is one of the most constant cuts on show, they turn in quite a dramatic bridge and then blend some classical music into the mix. A jam later is dominated by keyboards with an awesome sound. A smoking guitar solo is heard beyond that. They give us a great hard rock movement as the vocals return, but then it gets a bit of a classical twist as they continue.
Mindscan I: Arrival
Keys lead us out here in a very dramatic way. The keys hold this instrumental movement, but they do make some changes.
Mindscan II: Entrance
Another instrumental movement, this is very much piano dominated. It becomes quite powerful and almost theatrical.


Mindscan III: Realization
A flourish of keys starts this off, and then it moves out to classically tinged weirdness. That gives way to a hard edge romp that’s a lot like Dream Theater. Keys solo like crazy over the top.
Mindscan IV: Welcome
They take it out to a dramatic prog rock section for the first vocals of the suite. There are classical music elements in the mix, but the rock rules until a bridge after a couple minutes. Then strings really turn it into classical style music. The bass drives it towards fusion after that. It works back out the song proper after a while.
Mindscan V: Examination
This one is rather creepy. It’s got all kinds of sound effects and noises with someone saying several times “I don’t want them to bring that near me.” This sounds like a very scary sort of medical procedure. There are weird rushes of crowd voices, too. More noises climax. Then there’s a whisper and pretty music rises up and takes the cut out.
Mindscan VI: Hybrid Child
This enters as a piano and vocal ballad. They power it up to a more rock oriented movement as they continue. Of course, this is very much prog rock. There are parts of the instrumental movement later that make me think of Yes quite a bit.
Mindscan VII: Exploration
A hard edged guitar riff leads this off and takes us out into the next section of music. They work through a number of variants as they continue. This instrumental movement careens here and there while staying true to that basic riff. This is incredibly cool.
Mindscan VIII: What Do They Want
The music from the previous movement serves as the backdrop for the vocals on this one. There is an alternating section that’s more melodic and the vocals tell of alien abduction.
Mindscan IX: When I Awake
There’s a melodic flow to this movement, which comes straight out of the previous one. After a time this changes to a balladic motif, but it’s got a staggered sort of stripped down arrangement. Then it powers out into a triumphant sounding movement that’s hard edged and melodic.
Mindscan X: Returning Home
The hard rock that makes up the first half of this instrumental movement calls to mind Dream Theater. It moves out to atmospheric and sedate keyboard textures later. That section takes it out in style.
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