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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Imogene

Imogene

Review by Gary Hill

You don't see a lot of rock bands out there without guitar. Niacin is the first one that springs to mind – and a good picture when thinking of this album. The comparison goes deeper, though. Both bands' sounds are heavily rooted in retro textures. The difference is that where Niacin draws its inspiration from a retro jazz texture, these guys lean more on psychedelia. This may not be a tight fit in the progressive rock heading, but between the exploratory nature of the music and leanings towards the sound of Pink Floyd, I think it works. So, if these guys don't have a guitar, what instruments do they use? Well, you have the typical drums. Add into that mix keyboards with retro sounding textures and the layout is not all that unique yet. Where the biggest surprise comes is in terms of bass. There are two bassists in this quartet – one a four string and one an eight string. As a bass player I toyed with this type of combination a few times in bands – and it never worked. Some how these guys pull it off. Whether you call them prog or not, one thing's certain. Imogene have created a unique sound that has a great sense of melody and style. The retro stylings and unique perspective are another touch that makes them standout. Whatever the combination or the reason, these guys rock!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Happy Communing
While this track comes in with a definite Led Zeppelin-like flair, as it continues on retro jazz textures and even some hints of Pink Floyd twist into unknown, but very cool forms. I'm not sure, but I think the title to this one must be rooted in an old Star Trek episode “The Return of the Archons.” While the lyrics don't reflect this, it's a pretty unique phrase, so it seems likely. If so, that earns the cut bonus points in my book. So does the killer retro sounding jam that comes in later in the piece.
Paper Dolls
This one has more of a crunchy feel than the one that preceded it, but still those retro jazz textures and Pink Floyd elements are present here. They drop it back later to a bass driven segment that combines elements of retro prog with a great funky groove to excellent effect. You might also hear elements of the Doors here.
Sunny Day Child
Here a distorted texture (still feeling very retro) drives the cut and keys come over the top to complete the picture. This is the most rocking cut we've heard so far and has elements of 1960's pop rock (think The Monkees). In fact, that motif creates the mass of the song structure. They still manage to throw pieces of Pink Floyd in to change it up. The fuzzy bass guitar stylings on the later half of the track are a nice touch.
Wormwood Raindrops
And now for something a bit different. This comes in with percussion working along side keyboards. As it begins to build up from there we get a musical motif that's rather like The Doors with more prog rock elements. This is spacey and tasty. If I had one complaint about this one, it would be that it's a bit monolithic and tends to drag a little.
Not To Be
This is a nice change of pace that feels to me like some sort of strange collage of King Crimson with Pink Floyd, bouncing retro pop and Jimi Hendrix. While it's a unique sound and rather unusual, it's still quite catchy.
Wasteoids
Here we get more playful retro pop rock. It has elements of Pink Floyd, while also incorporating vocal stylings and hooks that call to mind “bubble gum” music of the 1960's.
Daath
The keyboard groove that starts this reminds me of Grand Funk Railroad. As the basses enter with a killer groove I'm reminded of Starless and Bible Black era King Crimson. When they drop it back for the vocals I hear a more modern KC sound. In fact, I'd have to say that while this cut still maintains a lot of that psychedelic texture it has a lot in common with King Crimson. The funny thing is the sounds seem to call to mind different eras of that band.
Seraphim
Percussion leads this off, joined shortly by keys. The bass comes in with a killer fast paced groove and then the band launch out into a retro groove. It seems like it will explode out, but instead they pull it into a spacey sort of melody that again makes on think of Pink Floyd a bit – but with more of a groove / jazz element.
Tongue and Groove
This one has a slightly more modern texture and feels like a rather psychedelic Pink Floydish jam that's fun. I'd have to say that it doesn't quite rise to the level of the rest of the material here, though. However, the cool instrumental segment late in the piece does lend some style.
Dark Room
Beginning more tentatively with spacey musical themes as this grows upward I'm reminded of the Doors a bit. When the vocals enter this has more of an alternative rock approach, though.

Slow Dive
One of the most rock and roll oriented jams of the whole disc, this one is cool. While in some ways it's not a standout, the change that it represents helps to elevate it. So does the cool descending chord pattern that shows up from time to time. This feels a bit like a more bluesy Captain Beyond.
Quoth I
They finish off with a great psychedelically tinged rocker. This is one of the catchiest tracks on the disc and a great way to close off the festivities.
 
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