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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

RPWL

The Gentle Art of Music

Review by Gary Hill

This two CD set of RPWL gives a good retrospective of their career to this point. That makes it great from a historical point of view. Of course, it’s more than that. It’s a great musical adventure. The sounds here are quite varied, ranging from nearly purely Pink Floyd-like to symphonic. It should be noted that a lot of this band’s music resembles Pink Floyd, but a big part of that is because the vocals are quite similar to David Gilmour’s. All in all this is an excellent collection that would make a fine introduction to this band. For my money, these guys produce powerful modern progressive rock that is tied closely enough to classic prog to make it appealing to the hardcore prog purists. I like this set a lot, and the cool book-like packaging is just icing on the cake. Note that several of the songs here have been previously reviewed by me on their original releases. For the sake of consistency the track by track reviews of those are copied (or included with appropriate modifications) here.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Hole In The Sky
This starts with a lengthy sound bite from the movie “Aliens.” It gets gradually more distant as it continues and the spacey music rises up. It should be noted that that sound bite earns this a parental advisory. As the music powers up it feels a bit like old school Genesis, although the build up was closer to Pink Floyd. That Pink Floyd element is still present, though. The vocals are very much like David Gilmour’s singing in Pink Floyd. Mid-track there are more soundbites from the same movie (but a different section). The Genesis and Pink Floyd elements are nicely merged into a musical mosaic that is decidedly all RPWL. There is a lyrical nod to Pink Floyd in the track, too. There’s a mellower movement later and we get a different bit of that movie in there. We are treated to a tasty and tasteful guitar solo after that sound bite.
Crazy Lane
A mellower, balladic cut, this is quite pretty, but also very Pink Floyd oriented. It’s a beautiful piece of music.
I Don’t Know
There’s a psychedelic tinge to this that calls to mind the Beatles. Beyond that, though, this feels a lot like Pink Floyd. 
Home Again
Odd sound effects and other elements make up the introduction here. As this rises out into a killer progressive rock sound, it resembles Pink Floyd quite a bit. There’s a smoking hot guitar solo section on this piece. 
The Gentle Art Of Swimming
This has a psychedelic prog texture to it, again feeling rather like Pink Floyd, but it also calls to mind newer groups like Obvious, Lands End and Chroma Key. The cut wanders in the main musical theme for quite some time, eventually intensifying it. It works into a weird effects laden jam after a time. That segment contains some very tasty keyboard stylings. It is also interrupted at points by riff-driven segments. This is a great melodic prog jam and one of the highlights of the disc. It jumps into a processed, semi distorted element for a time. This whole prog excursion gets quite intense at times. A percussion solo takes the piece for a time, then almost Genesis meets Floyd flavored textures move it forward from there. The Pink Floyd type leanings dominate the later segments of the piece.
Sun In The Sky

The early Floyd textures are all over this one, but it gets quite a bit heavier than they ever would have on the accessible chorus. Even mellow early Crimson stylings show up. The later segments are soulful and quite powerful.

Roses
There’s a cool, modern pop rock element to this, but blended with some Pink Floyd-like sounds. This is more like modern Marillion in a lot of ways. 
Wasted Land
There’s more of that electronic sort of modern edge here, but this is very much like Pink Floyd, right down to the vocals. It powers out into a real smoking rocker later. 
3 Lights
Much of this track makes me think of a David Gilmour Pink Floyd mellower number, but there’s a killer keyboard solo that calls to mind Rick Wakeman at points. The guitar solo section, on the other hand, makes me think a lot of David Gilmour. The cut dissolves nicely into space to end. 
Silenced
This is quite an energized piece. The Pink Floyd element is still present, but there’s a lot more here, too. It’s a great piece of music and I love some of the lush overtones here. There’s an angry section later that borders on rap metal. We get more traditional progressive rock further down the musical road, too. 
Choose What You Want To Look At
This is a very modern prog tune that’s quite percussive in nature. It leans toward alternative rock or techno but is still proggy enough to keep the progressive rock snobs happy (although the prog purists will probably be running for cover). There is some theremin on this piece – always a plus in my book.
Disc 2
Sleep
Most of the ghosts of Pink Floyd have been purged on this track. It’s got a rather stripped down, but very tasty, modern progressive rock texture. The only Floydian references still on show in the first segments are some of the vocals. There’s some killer Eastern world music built into this later. There is also a more purely Floydian movement in the later parts of the song, too. 
Trying To Kiss The Sun
The world music influences are all over this as various instruments skim across the surface of the energized and quite powerful melodic arrangement. It drops to symphonic instrumentation for the first vocals. Those vocals do bring in hints of Pink Floyd. The track reminds me in some ways of something like “Eleanor Rigby,” though. Merge that with world music and Pink Floyd and you are close to the sound of this. It’s a great track and one of my favorites on show here. Considering the strength of the material in this set, that says a lot. The jam later, with it’s symphonic instrumentation leading the way, is quite tasty.
Moonflower

With both male and female vocals, this has a bouncy, playful jazz approach. There is zero Pink Floyd on this and it’s a nice change of pace.

Watching The World
Here’s another piece that feels, to me, like a cross between Pink Floyd and Genesis. It’s another strong one
Start The Fire
I hear this as more like a cross between Yes and Pink Floyd, but there are symphonic overtones here, too. It’s another strong piece of music. 
Farewell
The vocals and some of the arrangement calls to mind Pink Floyd. There is a big symphonic element to this piece, though. It’s a slow moving and pretty balladic composition. The resolution section later is more Floydian in terms of the progression, but the symphonic instrumentation lends a different texture to it. 
World Through My Eyes
A gentle and tentative sound leads this off. It grows up gradually from there in a motif that makes me think of a symphonic music box. When it moves out to the vocal section it has a more standard balladic element on display. It alternates between these two sounds. There’s a great intricate jam that uses the mellow symphonic sounds but blends them with jazz type music.
Cake
There’s a lot more energy to this. I’d almost consider this to be a pop oriented alternative rock song. It’s quite catchy and tasty. The vocals are in line with Pink Floyd a lot of the time, but that’s really the only reference here. I like this track a lot. I’m not sure I’d consider it progressive rock, but it’s quite cool nonetheless. There are hints of modern Marillion and Porcupine Tree, but somehow this is more upbeat and pop-like than those groups. 
Fool
There’s a definite Pink Floyd sound on this, but it’s certainly not limited to that. I can make out Yes in the mix and Genesis at times. It’s a catchy number, but also definitely progressive rock. I’d hear at as modern prog with obvious leanings back to the classic age of progressive rock. 
Breathe In Breathe Out
A balladic guitar motif with a definite 1970’s sound opens this up. They build it up with more of the same piled on top. As other instrumentation fills the arrangement the progressive rock sounds join (still set in the same era). The vocals bring the Pink Floydish textures with them and the group move onward through their musical dream.  This is a much less dynamic composition than the last one. It shifts and changes slightly, but never leaves the central song structure.
Bound To Reach The End

This is a moody and mellow balladic cut. At times it fires out into more joyous music, rather like The Beatles. Overall, though, this is mellow and symphonic, but also quite a bit like Pink Floyd. It’s a great piece of music and, particularly given the title, makes a great closing tune.

 
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