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The Syn


Review by Gary Hill

 This is a reunion album from the band called "Syn." Haven't heard of them? Well, you probably will be familiar with their bass guitarist. Syn was an early variant of the band that eventually became Yes, and while Syn in the 1960's featured both Yes' original guitarist Peter Banks and Yes bassist Chris Squire, this incarnation finds the band with only the bass man. The music here seems to combine a psychedelic garage band sensibility with the prog rock that Squire is known for in Yes. The only element of the disc that takes a little getting used to are the vocals. I would say that the closest comparison on that aspect is that they sound to me quite a bit like the Kinks. Musically, this one covers quite a bit of territory. As one might expect, there are Yesish moments here. There are also textures that remind this reviewer of bands like Flower Kings, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, The Doors and The Yardbirds. Put all of this into a blender with different elements taking the fore at different points on the album, and you have a pretty good picture of what to expect. While there is only one track, the disc's closer, that I would consider to be awesome, there are definitely a lot of very good songs on show and no real dogs.

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Track by Track Review
Breaking Down The Walls
This incredibly short introductory piece starts with several acapella measures, then instrumentation takes it and moves straight into the next cut.
Some Time Some Way
With a mode that feels a bit like a more stripped down Yes, the vocals come in as a spoken verse structure. Everything eventually rises up to a more lush arrangement with sung vocals, then after at time it drops back down and they begin the verse segment again. This is a pretty powerful and empowering number that actually reminds me at times of Flower Kings quite a bit. It moves into a different acoustic guitar driven slow grind later, then it turns into a richly arranged soaring jam. Eventually the cut crescendos, then drops to just acoustic guitar, voice and atmospheric keys. They end this, then move it into a mellow jam that segues into the next cut.
Reach Outro
Coming straight out of the previous one, this feels like early Yes mixed with Pink Floyd and The Doors. It has some killer vocal harmonies and a great understated keyboard solo as part of the instrumental excursion. This eventually moves into more atmospheric wanderings until they ramp it up again, feeling a lot like The Doors. Then nearly unaccompanied vocals end the song and trilogy.
Cathedral of Love
Pretty acoustic tones with keyboard textures overtop open this. It eventually grows into a fairly slow moving, but very lush arrangement. It drops to a stripped down ballad mode to being, then gradually grows up from there. Squire works some cool bass lines in the background of this understated arrangement. Eventually a staccato, symphonic sounding segment comes in for a short time, then a series of minor twists move this one out into a more potent take on the verse section. They crank this out later to a hard-edged, slightly psychedelic jam that really rocks. This then resolves out into something more melodic and soaring with a killer expressive guitar sol. Then they move this out to the next vocal segment, which includes awesome multilayers of sounds. Then this works its way into the next movement - a new section that feels a lot like Yes. As this crescendos Squire's bass moves it into the next portion, a segment that feels like something from his Fish Out of Water album. It drops back eventually to a very stripped down progression, then comes back up into '60's rock pop styling until the chorus brings in more killer vocal harmonies. The outro here feels a lot like Close To The Edge era Yes.
City of Dreams
Acapella vocals start this. Eventually a dramatic, tentative, pounding progression accompanies it for a time til Squire's bass takes us on a new journey that is bouncy and potent. They work within this theme, but burst out into a new jam for the chorus. They move the whole cut after a time into an expansive and very powerful soaring progression that feels a lot like Yes. After running through like this for a time, it drops back to just keys. Then vocals and other elements enter in a Beatlesesque movement that grows ever so slowly. They change this after a time to a retro psychedelically tinged prog excursion, then reform it again by another twist around to a great sing along vocal arrangement. At the end of this the guitar stomps in and the whole cut reforms to a faster paced progression that feels just a small bit like yes. This gets incredibly powerful, then thy twist it around to move a psychedelic sound again. They crescendo out, then carry it into a slower plodding movement that is quite potent. They work this out to fade to end.
Golden Age
This one comes in as a slightly garagey rock sound and evolves into a late '60's kicking it texture that feels a bit like The Yardbirds. It drops back later to a sedate band dominated segment that represents the first prog elements here. This moves forward in an intriguing jazzy prog style from there. They jump it back up after a while to a harder edged rawer mode and the earlier movement of the cut takes it back. That mode carries the song through to the end.
The Promise
Ambient tones start this and begin a very gradual measured building process. Squire's bass signals a slight change, but still stays quite sedate through the first vocal sections and only grows after that point in increments. Musically this is another that feels like a cross between Yes and Pink Floyd. It's not until about 5 minutes in that they power it up in a heavier take on the chorus themes. This doesn't stay around long, though. Instead keys take it, then bass joins and they launch into a cool psychedelically tinged prog rock instrumental journey that represents one of the most effective passages of the disc. They merge this with the earlier styles after a time to carry the tune through another chorus, then move it out into a more straight ahead rock styling before journeying back towards the awesome jam. They shift gears to a harder edged segment that feels a bit like Zep, Kansas, King Crimson and Yes all rolled up into one. They roll this through wandering waves of soloing overtop in a killer instrumental section. Then it resolves into a very Yesish triumphant vocal harmony based movement that gives way to the chorus again. They eventually move it back to a more mainstream verse. As this winds down texture ambience takes it in weird sound effects, sound bite loops and general low-key chaos. Squire's bass is every present right until the final fade down that ends the track and the CD.

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