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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Sanguine Hum

What We Ask Is Where We Begin: Songs for Days Sessions

Review by Gary Hill

The first disc here is an old album from a band who has gotten quite a following since then. The second disc of the set includes rarities. I like the balance of more mainstream accessible music and more pure prog on the set. This is more modern progressive rock for sure, with some psychedelia and more in the mix. There is really nothing weak here, but I suppose the first disc (the main album) is superior. Then again, the other stuff is basically bonus, anyway.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc One

                 
Songs for Days
                     
(original master, Nov 2006)
                                        
Bookend

Symphonic and psychedelic in nature, this instrumental is a cool introductory piece. It does a great job of building tension and expectation.

Revisited Song
Here we get a mellower tune. It’s more of a power ballad in a way. That said, it lands closer to modern prog rock and sounds in the vein of Jellyfish. It’s a catchy tune with layers of sound that move it into other directions. There is a dreamy, psychedelic quality to it for sure.
Before We Bow Down
Some of the same types of sounds heard on the previous cut are here, too. This is more of a pure prog excursion, though. It has some pretty amazing left turns. Some of the instrumental work is among the best here. This is not as instantly accessible, but it’s stunning. There are even some moments late in this number that make me think of Pat Metheny a bit.
Cast Adrift
This one seems between the last two cuts. It’s more complex and diverse than “Revisited Song” was. The general structure and concept, though, it more cohesive and consistent than “Before We Bow Down.” Whateever you call it, though, this is great stuff. In some ways it makes me think of Spock’s Beard.
Juniper
In some ways this makes me think of a cross between the aforementioned Spock’s Beard and Jellyfish. It’s accessible, but also proggy. It’s another classy song on a set that’s full of classy music. I particularly love the multi-layered vocal arrangement.
Interlude One
This electronic interlude is very much a space rock kind of thing.
Little Machines
Pop oriented prog, this manages to have a real groove to it. It’s catchy and yet meaty at the same time. There is a bit of a dreamy psychedelic edge built into it, too.
Milo
The bombastic opening here feels like King Crimson to me. When it drops down the mellower movement for the vocals, it’s very much in line with fusion. This is one of the most purely proggy cuts here. I love the vocals on this, but the musical arrangement will gives them a run for their money. There is a great balance between mellower and more powered up rocking stuff in the mix. There is a fairly crazed instrumental section mid-track, too. It also includes a drop back to a rather sparse and tastefully strange movement. I love the bass sound on that segment. Weird keyboards take over from there to end the piece.
It Grows in Me Garden
Speaking of bass, with the sounds of street noise and the like, this is a bass solo for more than the first 30 seconds. Then piano takes over, and it gets a really jazzy vibe with just the bass and piano driving the piece. Other instrumental join after a time. This instrumental never gets really rocking, though, with only keyboards and bass present.
Interlude Two
Electronic hum starts this. Other elements join in a very freeform and random feeling arrangement. It gets into some particularly weird space sound at the end.
Someone Else's Words
Hard edged guitar kicks things into high gear here. This is the hardest rocking thing of this CD. Yet, it still has a lot of that Jellyfish element along with plenty of prog. This definitely leans toward metal in some ways, though.
Hedonic Treadmill
Full of left-turns, this number is quite complex. It has a great dynamic range from catchy mellower stuff, more crazed jamming and all kinds of things. It’s accessible and yet also unpredictable.
Ace Train
Acoustic guitar opens this, and the cut moves forward to mellower, pop oriented prog rock from there. Later in the piece a noisy industrial element, like a warning buzzer, enters. That eventually takes control of the piece. Near the end guitar returns to reclaim it melodically and segue into the next track.
Revisited Song Revisited
Hard rocking prog is the order of business on this killer cut. This is an instrumental that works out to some weirder territory at the end.
Morning Sun
This is more in line with the trippy psychedelia inflused modern prog we’ve heard on a lot of the dis. It ends with some electronic weirdness. Then, after some silence, a wall of vocals enters to take it (without instruments) for a short time. More silence ensues after that. Some weird effects laden textures join after a time. This section remains around much longer than the acapella thing did. In fact, this hidden ambient section seems even longer than the song proper.  It’s sort of a freeform bit of music that’s repetitive. There are some weird slowed down voices at the end, leading me to think that the whole thing has been taken down in speed.
Disc Two
                   
Where We Begin
                    
Remixed Singles

                   
New Streets (2015 Mix)

Starting with percussion, this is a great bit of modern prog with a lot of pop and psychedelic leanings.

Share My Blues (2015 Mix)
Here we get another powerhouse helping of the same kind of psychedelic based modern, pop-like prog. This is great stuff. There is really nothing weak on the whole set, though.
Nothing Left to Prove (2015 Mix)
This powerhouse piece is another that makes me think of a merging of Spock’s Beard and Jellyfish. It’s a particularly effective number.
Unreleased Music
                    
Apple Pie

Weird space elements accompany acoustic guitar playing at the start of this. The cut shifts to a more traditional modern prog arrangement from there, but the space remains. Then the other music drops, leaving just those space elements and the acoustic guitar returns. The piece builds from there with piano creating some melody. There is another excursion into more soaring and melodic prog. This instrumental is classy stuff.

Cartoon Friends
The prog built into this song is classic and modern at the same time. This has some impressive shifts and changes. The late instrumental break is among the best musical passages of the whole double disc set.
Bastard Stretch
This instrumental has a dreamy kind of musical texture. It’s classy stuff for sure. It has some cool melodies built into it, but the song structure is less dynamic than some of the other material.
Double
This fires out with a fast paced crunch jam that’s a lot like Dream Theater. Mellower, more melodic fusion-like sounds take it beyond that part. The screaming hot jam returns later. From there we’re taken into a more hard edged fusion movement. This is definitely quite a ride.
Dressed Up in Rags
There is some world music in the mix on this at times. Overall, though, it’s one that feels along the lines of RWPL with Spock’s Beard and Jellyfish in the mix.
Quartet
This instrumental is quite effective. It’s not a huge change, but it has some particularly strong passages. There are some great layers of texture built into it, too.
To Them Only
I like the intricate acoustic guitar here. The balance between the particularly mellow and more rocking stuff on this is great. It isn’t a huge change from the rest beyond that, but when it’s this good, who cares?
Here at the Western World
Here we get a cover of the Steely Dan tune. I’m a big fan of that band, so I prefer their version. That said, this is a good take on it.
Session Out-Takes
                            
Perc Tune (There's No Hum)

This instrumental works through some intriguing territory. It even has a bit of a drum solo built into it.

Melted Cheese
There is a lot of weirdness built into this beast. It has sections that make me think of King Crimson. This instrumental also has some fusion in the mix. There is another short drum solo mid-track here, too, and one at the end.
Revisited Song Revisited (Again)
For some reason the mellower guitar parts at the start of this make me think of Led Zeppelin just a little. This instrumental works into more familiar territory as it works forward.
Morning Sun (Basic Track)
Here is a slightly more stripped back version of the song. It’s not a huge change, but more of a different flavor.
Bookends (Solo Piano)
As the parenthetical indicates, this is a piano solo, very much like Keith Emerson in some ways – part classical and part jazz.
 
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