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Salim Nourallah

Somewhere South of Sane

Review by Gary Hill

Years ago I had a book on making your own records. Yes, it was the days of vinyl records. One of the lessons I remember from that book involved tempo. The author said that you should get out two albums, one that you really like and one that has good songs but seems boring. He suggested that you listen to them with a metronome and record the tempos of the songs. His point was that no matter how much you alter the music from song to song, if the tempo is too close throughout the whole album, the disc will seem boring and repetitive. That definitely applies here. There is change from song to song relative to the other songs here, but overall this is all in too similar of a tempo causing it to really feel monolithic.

In addition to that problem, there is little variance in terms of the vocal performance from song to song. These things mean that the disc tends to feel repetitive. Some of that could have been resolved by moving the first few songs and the last few into different slots in the set, as those tend to be the most "different" pieces here. I would also suggest that this would work better as a whole if a few of the songs had been left off entirely. It's definitely a case where less would be more.

All that said, the songs are quite good when taken independently. I suppose that's how a lot of people listen to music anyway. I should add that this is perhaps not the best fit under progressive rock, but it has a lot in common with the moody prog of acts like The Pineapple Thief and Porcupine Tree, so there it lands.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Boy in a Record Shop
Trippy and psychedelic in texture, this is mellow and quite interesting. There are some proggy pieces of psychedelia over the top of the arrangement at times. While this isn't prog rock in the traditional 1970s way, it has a lot in common with the modern, moody mellow prog.
Let Go of the Night
Intricate and pretty, this is another particularly mellow cut. There strings on the arrangement make me think of the proggy side of The Beatles.
Relief
This cut has a lot of that modern prog texture in the mix. It's also set well within the zone of post-prog. I can make out things like Muse in the sounds of this track. There are some noisy elements when it powers upward. The pyschedelia of the previous pieces seems to have been replaced by more of techno and electronic edge.
Rainbow Dolphins
Trippy electronics are on display here. This is quite mellow and slow moving. It's also very artsy.
Whiteheart
Picked guitar and mellow electronics create the textures of this cut. It's another that's quite trippy. This is actually one of the mellowest pieces here. Given the competition, that says a lot.
Moving Man
Very artsy and psychedelic, this has more energy than some of the rest. The guitar work on this is particularly pretty.
Going through the Motions
More of a folk meets psychedelia piece, there are some hints of country in the mix at times here. The first half is quite mellow, but it gets more energy and power in the later segments of the piece.
A Thousand Ways to Miss You
There is a bit of that country edge to this in some ways, too. The number is another with a lot of folk music built into it.
Everything Under the Sun

Even mellower, this is solid, but the formula is starting to wear a bit thin by this point in the set.

A Betrayal
More of a stripped down folk tune, this definitely suffers from the monolithic nature of the album early. After a while some cool trippy electronic elements appear in the arrangement helping it to stand out a bit.
Tucumcari
Playful folk rock is on the menu here. There are still enough layers of proggy texture of the top to keep it interesting. The thing is, this brings a bit of variety as one of the most rocking pieces here. The strings bring some of that Beatles element we have heard earlier to the proceedings.
Sweet a Weed
I dig the psychedelic elements that run over the top of this mellow number. This one has some cool trippy part sides to it.
Robot
Another slow and folky tune, there are some hints of Vangelis in some of the layers over the top. This one definitely suffers from feeling a bit samey in the first part. As the arrangement gets lusher, it manages to stand apart a bit more.
The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants
This number is quite effective. It has some good tones and textures, and the hooks are among the best of the set. It manages to stand above the majority of the set.
I Missed My Own Life
Moody and trippy, there is a lot of folk music in the mix here, but also plenty of the modern prog texture. This one does loses something due to the monolithic nature of the set.
Is This Where the Trouble Begins?
Now, this brings some much needed variety. It has plenty of alternative rock built into it. It's psychedelic in a lot of ways. The first movement isn't all that different from a lot of the rest, but the second part definitely is. We get some distorted, rocking electric guitar that brings an almost punk rock edge to this. That plays through for a while with some vocals that are packed with angst, bringing a bit of a punk edge. It drops back to the mellower for a while, but then comes out to the screaming hot rocking movement to close the piece.
Chopping Block
Back into the moody psychedelic modes, this gets into more art rock stuff later. It's another that has some distorted guitar further down the road, but it doesn't rock as much as the last one did.
Cold Cuddle
A processed vocal line opens this without instrumentation. Some bit of instrumental texture is heard on the first section, but it never really gets involved until after the first vocal movement. The cut alternates between those two sections in an especially art rock driven arrangement.
February 23
Trippy psychedelia is merge with a rather minimalist art rock arrangement. This is one of the oddest cuts here, but in a good way.
Life School
There are some hints of jazz in the arrangement here at times. Beyond that, the tune is too samey, though. It's another slow moving, mellow folk meets modern prog cut.
Sleepwalking

I like the trippy kind of arrangement on this. There are some hints of Americana here. Beyond that, though, this is more of the same.

 

 
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