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The Aaron Clift Experiment

Outer Light, Inner Darkness

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve enjoyed the music of this act since the first time I heard them. I have to say, though, that this might be their best album yet. It’s also a pretty safe bet it will make my “best of 2015” list. The brand of progressive rock here is always satisfying. There are plenty of changes and lots of peaks and valleys. This is a great album from start to finish.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Kissed by the Sun

They waste no time here. This powers out with a hard rocking, almost metallic edge. As the violin comes over the top it makes me think of Kansas quite a bit. There are some great changes during this introduction. It drops down to just bass and then a slower section begins from there. The vocals come in over the top of that backdrop. There are some seriously hard rocking moments later, too. I love the melodic prog movement later that makes me think of Echolyn. The track moves toward fusion from there as the bass solos. It seriously explodes out from there. We’re taken back into a vocal section from that point. This is just such a complex and effective piece of progressive rock, really.

Locked
I love this song, too. It doesn’t have the same kind of intensity or frantic changes that the opener did. However, it has some great hooks, a killer accessible sound and just some really evocative moments. It’s definitely progressive rock, but it’s more AOR. It has mellower movements and harder rocking ones. It does still have changes. It’s just more cohesive than the opener was. I love the guitar solo and the bass lead part that comes after it.
Fragments of Sleep
Prog rock, jazz and more combine here. There are things that make me think of the Beatles. Other things call to mind Queen. The guitar sound is more like fusion a lot of the time. However you slice this, though, it’s another great piece of music. It’s deceptively complex and yet accessible at the same time. It gets quite powerful as it builds out later, too. The vocal arrangement is quite interesting in the closing “round” segment.
Your Arms Hold Them to the Dark
Dark sounding piano opens this. It works to a keyboard and vocal section after that. It has a really dark and almost disturbing element. After the first verse it turns to a very metallic and still quite dark jam. This (on a different album) would fit well as heavy metal. It alternates between those two musical concepts with some variants and growth.
Aoide, Goddess of Song
A more complex number, this makes great use of balance between mellower and harder rocking sections. It has a lot of great melodic movements. It’s crunchy at times, but always pure prog. The mid-track instrumental section again makes me think of Kansas a bit. There are bits here that call to mind Yes, as well, though.
The Last Oasis
This first three minutes or so of this are comprised entirely of instrumental classical music. It gets a rocking guitar after that, but remains classically inspired for a time. Before the four minute mark, though, it explodes out into something closer to Celtic prog. The piece continues to evolve from there. That runs through until around five and a half minute mark. Then it drops to just piano and the first vocals come in over the top of that. By about the six and a half minute mark, it explodes out into some powerhouse progressive rock. That only lasts about thirty seconds, though. A fast paced, melodic, guitar section heralds in a new jam from there. The piece continues evolving and progressing from that point forward. That movement takes it to its close.
Moonscape
A multi-part suite, this is epic in scope and length. This starts acapella but quickly works out to a folk music meets prog styled arrangement. A martial beat moves it forward. Eventually that martial beat is almost all the remains as the sound of regimental combat is heard. The piece shifts from there into a modern moody prog sound. It builds out from that point with almost a Marillion meets Genesis kind of vibe. Some jazzy chordings and textures enter as it continues to evolve. After a time it really does turn quite jazz like for a time. An instrumental segment moves into toward some particularly meaty fusion. We’re taken into more pure prog sounds for the next vocal section. It works out to a great melodic jam from there. A mellower movement eventually emerges as the piece continues to shift and change. The vocal arrangement that comes into play is stunning. The song continues to build in some great melodic ways from there. Some great crunch guitar joins further down the road and the piece climbs to new soaring heights. There is a real immediacy as this works toward its resolution. There’s a climax and then a new jam seems ready to take over. That closes, though, and the piece ends.
Bathed in Moonlight
Mellow keyboards start this. The vocals come over the top of that backdrop. Although this is a mellower cut and a much more staid one, there are some great soaring bits of instrumental work that come over the top. It does get invigorated through additional layers of sound. This is evocative and pretty and essentially a progressive rock power ballad.
Bonus Tracks:
    
Your Arms Hold Them to the Dark (acoustic version)

In this acoustic telling, the cut almost feels darker and stranger.

Kissed by the Sun (single version)
This edit of the earlier cut is solid.
 
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