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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Stereoscope

Stereoscope

Review by Josh Turner

Jérémie Grima and Sébastien Bourdeix from The Black Noodle Project makeup Stereoscope. While I enjoyed The Black Noodle's second album, I can't say I was burning for another, what with all the other great music coming out. It's for this reason; I was bowled over by the caliber of bullets loaded into the barrel of this offshoot. The material on this album is very good and deserves consideration and awareness by the progressive populace.

It's what all progressive fans enjoy, but it's spun a little differently. If I was forced to make a comparison, I'd say it's a blend between Pink Floyd and California Guitar Trio, two groups that rarely if ever intersect. While it's not bland, it's not fiery either. As they touch upon a diverse dichotomy of influences, they never go overboard trying to shove them in. They keep inline with a patient demeanor and a measured pace. In spite of this, they bring together brews that aren't always mixed. It climbs around a toned-down deliverance of Porcupine Tree and steals slices from Pineapple Thief. It takes these popular fabrics, tapers them down, and then creates a commercially fashionable crease. Without going too much for the corporate look, they clean up the bangs and trim a little off the top. They ultimately arrive at a rough and scruffy appearance. It shares commonality with The Amber Light's Goodbye to Dawn Farewell to Dusk. Aside from that, it's totally on its own and it's completely unique. To complement their creativity, they choose a variety of sound effects to give the album an added degree of intrigue. Their tactics are incredibly intuitive, but absurdly simple, thus creating elegant complexity in their delicately-woven convolutions.

The album is straight to the point at a lump sum of 42 minutes. Even the artwork is clean and sterile. It's the opposite of Opeth's black on black designs, but it too is intent on breaking all the assumed conventions and rules. The cover consists of the head of a microphone and the name of the album in hollow gray letters, both watermarking a white background. The disc itself is even more sanitary as it shows nothing more than the lettering on a pallid canvas. As for the liner notes, all that's inside is a few photos along with handwritten lyrics. Between their hygienic harmonies and immaculate melodies, I'd say this is quite representative of their music. It'll appear as if there is more congestion in the lines than what's really there. The pieces are short, but as a whole they make up an epic concept. If you imagine the illusion you get from an Escher painting, that's the kind of sensation you get from these astute audio impressionists. You'll spend minutes, maybe hours, taking in this ascetically intricate art.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Typewriter (inst.)
This begins with the methodical ticks of a typewriter, literally. It then clicks into a prim and pristine instrumental. This primordial piece is fundamentally sound, but far from basic. In a weird way, it wields an incredibly wistful rhythm.

Cloud at the End
Antony plays the bass like Bill Kopecky over a melody that's passively aggressive and moody. The keyboards talk until they're blue in the face and then just like that, they go hoarse. At this point, you can tell the disposition and demeanor will subtly shift, but will stay within a certain scope.

A Minute of Eternity
With the use of an acoustic guitar, it's apparent they are folk-friendly. It's about as rocking as one of Genesis' more poetic numbers. At times it's displeased and disgruntled, but when all's said and done, it decides to remain calm. The bells provide composure while a flurry of notes from the piano catalyzes a frosty front. These chilly weather conditions originate from the coast of Coldplay.
The Girl in the Paper
This has an edginess that reminds me of "Regression" from Dream Theater's Scenes from a Memory. It contains virtually no metal, but it's fortified in highly-absorbable forms of vitamins, minerals, and yes, more folk.

Sleeping with U.
They incorporate the sounds of a broken record as if it is spun and played through staticy speakers. When the singing commences, it's comprised of Procol Harum's classy prose. This soulful sonnet is flecked with funk and once again it's infected with folk. It's a sobering lullaby serenaded by a depressed wretch who sincerely shares his heart-wrenching report.

Open Book
The guitars glide like Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. As the song begins to act out its frustrations, it quickly becomes subdued like a stone thrown into the eyes of Goliath. There is an ounce of Steve Howe in the shot-put-throwing technique. The track trembles like a feather on ticklish feet while the keyboards warble with the whistle of an unrelated, but similarly named artist, who is Saga's Jim Gilmour.
1+1 = 2
It alleviates the itch and purrs to the tune of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle." The acoustic guitars strum with the cadence of a chipper litter of kittens. They wrestle around with one another and repeatedly rub against the scratching post. The piano stutters with painstaking pleasure over an evenly distributed bed of nails. As the guitars help to craft this wiry crib, the organs blanket over it and produce a stringy hammock. The time spent pawing at this cottony ball of yarn qualifies as stress-free exercise and recreational activity. By petting this piece, you are sure to reduce the pent-up tension inside. While one guitar stalks the chords, a second guitar meows to the melody of a riveting motif. It's sufficiently strong and could be the master, but fragile enough to follow someone else's dreams.

Eva
This has the earthly undertones of Kansas' "Dust in the Wind," but it's somewhat slower than this cut that's quite critically-acclaimed. It exhibits creepy chord progressions from the piano. Like Edward Scissorhands, it wavers between the plastic, the enlightened, and the extreme. While this misunderstood misfit has some disfigurement engineered in its appendages, it is equally beautiful despite the differences.
The Sun in Your Hair
This sways back and forth in a hypnotically catatonic ballad. It asks for forgiveness and then just like that it waits.

The Beauty with a Colt
In this Spaghetti Western we get campfires, dust devils, ambushes, and shootouts. It's about as restless as a can of Mexican jumping beans. This track plays out like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It's seldom naughty and mostly nice, but when push comes to shove and the going gets tough, it can be really apathetic and nasty. It gracefully gallops on its tour of duty through the badlands. It has the danger of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive," but does all it can to protect its neck. Through the most precarious parts of the journey, our hero wisely keeps the company of The Young Guns. This fellowship offers security and they faithfully have his back. The outlaw is overconfident and arrogant with a trusty steed and a shotgun at his side. With his band of brothers, he protects the townspeople from a secret army sent out by an oppressive regime. The militia tries, but fails to occupy the region. With his allies, our gunslinger thwarts every intention enacted by the empires ruthless minions and afterwards, this wayward son carries on. He never looks back and always moves towards his goal. Like Roland from Steven King's Dark Tower serials, this rebel is a lonely sole whose content merely searching for his salvation.

Upon a Sky Corner (inst.)
The Floydian guitars smother on another creamy coat of paint. The solution is dilute enough to be whitewashed over by soundtrack music. Tom Sawyer has tricked the neighborhood kids into doing his chores. In this lazy afternoon, he lies upon a pile of autumn leaves and snoozes under a shady tree. He has little concern for his obligation or responsibilities. This song merely repeats its hymn, taking heed in nothing outside the moment and nobody beyond its own selfish needs.

Good Night
After waking up on the weekend, it's a pleasant surprise to find you can go back to your sedentary condition. Rather than fallback on an old and tired reprise, this floats up in a hot air balloon and heads straight for soft and cushy clouds. As light crawls upon your cheeks and air blows through the drapes, this gradually drifts away into an oblivious state. There is no need to remain awake as this placid song marks an exemplary time to go back to sleep. Using a combination of folk and symphonic passages, they have built a door on the lighter side of the moon, which in turn, has made the darker sides of the spectrum accessible and easier to reach. This is what I'd classify as a reliable revolver. There's no need to conceal it, but there might be one to carry. When aberrant urges prey upon your tastes and you feel the need to abscond from the usual suspects in your playlist, you'll be pleased to find a copy of Stereoscope circulating nearby.
 
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