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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kelly Padrick

Soulmate

Review by Gary Hill

This is quite a find. It might well become one of my favorite discs of the year. I love the fact that there are links and nods to other music, but it’s mostly original and unique. I also love the fact that Padrick understands the value of changing sounds from song to song and creating a flow within a set. That makes for a disc that flows from start to finish without ever lagging or feeling redundant. The most obvious comparisons here would be to Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Bjork, but there’s a lot more going on, too. While this might not be the most obvious entry into the progressive rock category, it surely fits – particularly when you see the links to both the inimitable Kate Bush and Porcupine Tree. Whatever you call it, though, this is an exceptionally strong disc. It should be mentioned that part of the credit for the effectiveness of this set should go to Nancy Hess, who produced it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Piercing

Electronic music with a real symphonic texture creates the music to this. It’s lush and dramatic and powerful. The vocals are strong. They weave a trail that’s both pretty and powerful. At times they seem almost whispery, while at other points they reach upwards. This is such a cool song and a great way to start things in style.

Tangled Forest
The music to “Tangled Forest” is in some ways not far removed from the opener. That said, there’s almost a roots rock or country music element to some of the music. References to Chris Isaaks wouldn’t be out of the question. Still, this is far more lush than that, and far more dramatic. Again, while the music strong, Padrick’s vocals truly drive it all home. It drops way down for a time mid-track, then comes back out with some seriously powerful sounds. Somehow, I’m reminded a bit of Pink Floyd at points on this later section.
Here I Am
With alternating whispered and sung lines, this comes in with a much more stripped down approach. It calls to mind Tori Amos a bit, but also, perhaps Bjork. Kate Bush is a valid reference, too. This grows upward and is both pretty and somehow a little melancholy in texture. In some ways, comparisons to Porcupine Tree wouldn’t be out of the question here. Although this piece is a bit more restrained than the first, too, it really has a charm that keeps it an even level with the quality of those two songs.
While I Disappear
The general concept isn’t all that different here, but this has more of an electronic music texture. That makes Padrick’s vocals even more crucial to the success or failure of the piece, and they succeed. Somehow, this feels a bit like Depeche Mode, but with a considerably more progressive rock oriented leaning to it. It has some of Padrick’s most intriguing and potent vocal deliveries.
This Time
A lot of this song is more purely rhythmic, but still focuses on that electronic texture. Padrick’s vocals are multilayered and strong. In a lot of ways this feels like the kind of thing that might be played in a club. Normally, I’d say that it’s weaker than the rest of the set. However, the fact that it represents a fairly dramatic change and some variety, makes it stronger than it would be otherwise.
Believing Makes It So
Somehow this is a mellower tune. It’s got a definite Porcupine Tree feeling to it, but Padrick’s vocals bring some Tori Amos or Bjork to the table. There’s a retro texture to this, but with a modern twist. The arrangement gets more symphonic as it continues. This is quite pretty.
Au Contraire
An intriguing cut, there’s almost a twisted circus music vibe to this at times. It’s more dramatic and artistic than a lot of the other material here. It also has a lot of symphonic and theatrical elements. It’s cool and another that brings some variety to the table. That said, it’s also the “strangest.”
Beautiful Man
From the rather bizarre to one of the most straightforward and “normal” cuts, this piece really feels like it could have come out in the 1960s. There’s a real old school pop music vibe to it. It’s a lot more organic than anything else here and includes some cool slide guitar soloing. I like this one a lot and once again, it lends more variety to the set.
So Long
Starting with echoey acoustic guitar, there are layered sounds over the top as this builds. It’s sort of like an old school folk music piece with a lot of electronic and modern moody progressive rock over the top. It’s another great piece on a set that has no shortage of them. This has some of the most dramatic vocal performances of the whole set and is a highlight.
Soulmate
Starting with percussion, this one represents another change. It has a lot of that retro cool that shows up in a lot of the tunes here. It also represents more variety.
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