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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Chris Field

Sub-Conscious

Review by Gary Hill

The music on Sub-Conscious fits somewhere along the intersection of progressive rock, new age and electronic music. There are places where it falls into one genre more than the others and sections where other sounds are accessed. Overall, though, this is a great instrumental (there are a few songs with vocals, but other than “Ave Maria” they are non-lyrical) album that should please fans of Enigma and similar acts.

This is a great disc that manages to maintain interest throughout. With a musical style this subdued and a mostly instrumental set, that can be hard to pull off with style. Field makes it work. That says a lot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Floating

Mellow, but stirring and beautiful soundscapes open “Floating,” feeling quite symphonic. After a time with just this symphonic atmosphere, some piano rises up tentatively to begin guiding the melodic process. Then it takes on more of a “song-like” nature, feeling a little like something Vangelis might do, but with a less electronic air. After a time it works out to a more rocking motif. It definitely feels like a more organic Vangelis, but comparisons to Enigma would also be worthwhile.

Ave Maria

This begins with chorale vocals. Just as it seems it might be moving into something that’s purely classical or new age, though, it turns towards a more powered up electronic musical texture. Those symphonic tones are still overhead, but this perhaps closer to Enigma blended with something Rick Wakeman might do. The vocals are really intriguing, although they feel like they could be purely synthetic. This definitely rocks more than the opener did. There is certainly a more “song” oriented structure here and there are also a lot of symphonic elements at play.

Five

Wind sounds and percussion open “Five.” From there piano and symphonic elements move it through to a rather sad sounding but very beautiful melody. It is a slow moving song structure from there until around the two and a half minute mark. Then it shifts to a more cheerful sounding movement that gives way to something that’s quite classical. The cut keeps getting reworked and changed as it moves further down the road. Then around the four minute mark it gets a real rock infusion with the entry of crunchy guitar. It’s still quite symphonic in its arrangement; otherwise it would come close to heavy metal territory. This powerhouse is one of the highlights of the set. It’s not only beautiful and captivating, but also one of the most dynamic pieces on show.

Days

This launches out with a rock motif from the onset. It has a real symphonic music meets Pink Floyd feel to it a lot of the time. Enigma still remains as a reference point, too, though. A little past the one minute mark it drops to just piano, then it becomes a rock meets symphonic arrangement once more, working through some varying melodic themes. There is some tasty guitar soloing and this thing is very definitely progressive rock oriented as it continues. Bands like Yes and Kansas are valid reference points at times.

D&A

Coming in a bit like Tangerine Dream, “D&A” feels quite electronic early on in its arrangement. Percussion and other elements join shortly and the track gets more of a symphonic treatment as it continues. The percussion really brings an almost house or techno feeling to the piece, but the rock sounds and symphonic music keep it rooted nicely in real music. There are some sections that bring an almost funky, bluesy vibe to the process. Portions of this call to mind Alan Parsons a bit. It’s a nice blend of sounds. 

Blue
This starts with a suitably bluesy vibe. It’s slow and powerful with some great retro keyboard sounds. It’s another that calls to mind Pink Floyd, but it also shifts to more pure symphonic territory. At over fourteen minutes in length, it’s the “epic” of the disc. It’s almost like Gary Moore meets Pink Floyd with a symphony orchestra on hand. There is also some fusion built into this. If there’s a complaint here, it’s that this tune is too long. It’s not that it remains completely staid. There are changes here. It’s just that it might have worked better if those changes had been more frequent. At times it seems to drag a bit. Still, around the eight and a half minute mark acoustic guitar brings in one of the coolest rocking sections of the whole disc. Certainly Pink Floyd is a valid reference for that segment. As that section develops, it even turns a little countrified. Of course, that’s not that far removed from Floyd, either because at times David Gilmour has some country elements in his guitar playing.
Mother

As “Mother” starts, the disc is in more Enigma-like territory again. Non-lyrical vocals are heard along with a lush mellow arrangement. It drops to more symphonic before powering out to an energized progressive rock jam that’s quite cool. The vocals come back over the top as it continues. As this keeps developing we get some especially tasty keyboard sounds later.

Sub-Conscious

The title track has a far more experimental and open arrangement. It combines elements of electronic music, jazz and new age to create an intriguing sound. While it might not be the best choice to close the set, it is interesting.

 
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