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(44:59 / '23 Current')
TRACK LIST: 1. Truth & Lies 3:13 2. Skin Deep 3:36 3. Hyperstition 2:15 4. Noise In the Circuit 4:05 5. A House Divided 4:50 6. Curve of the Universe 3:39 7. Letters in Stone 3:36 8. A Shadow of Doubt 3:31 9. The Fire of Time 2:31 10. Strangers Voice 5:14 11. War & Wonder 3:42 12. The Aftermath 1:44 13. Sound & Sight 3:01 LINEUP: Shawn Brunette – vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards Andy Reamer – drums, percussion Mike White – vocals
Prolusion. “Curve of the Universe” by American trio 23 CURRENT is a successor to their debut album, “The Violence of Distance”, from some four years ago.
Analysis. Now, that I’m already acquainted with this recording, I realize this is largely the product of the performance of two men, Shawn Brunette, who handles most of the instrumentation and all lead vocals, and drummer Andy Reamer. The third member, Mike White, is heralded in the CD booklet as a free singer, but appears relatively rarely, and only then as a secondary voice. I don’t know whether Shawn is originally a guitar player, but the music is much more often dominated by guitars than keyboards, which are used as a lead instrument only on four of the disc’s thirteen tracks, otherwise either simply shimmering in the background or creating a sense of atmosphere, such as on the ambient space rock instrumentals, Hyperstition, Curve of the Universe and The Fire of Time. As for the remaining instrumental, The Aftermath, I feel free to label it as the only track with the keyboards playing a key role throughout, since there is nothing besides piano here. The remainder clocks in at 33 minutes and, roughly speaking, is Rock with occasional progressive flourishes, although most of the songs are still slow-paced. Four of those, Skin Deep, A Shadow of Doubt, Strangers Voice and War & Wonder, all remind me to a certain degree of Porcupine Tree at their most balladic, circa “Lightbulb Sun”, but are more accessible, with an even more strongly song-oriented approach. (Please take note of these reservations: they’re relevant to each of the yet to be named categories of tracks as well.) The interlaced acoustic and electric guitars along with the leisurely, measured rhythm section create a highly spectacular sound filled with quite an intriguing aura, but since the tunes are basically bi-thematic at best, with no pace changes, none is intended for frequent listening. Upon a second listening to the CD my original attitude towards Shawn’s singing hasn’t changed. To cut a lot story short, his vocals suit heavier compositions better and are particularly effective on Truth & Lies and Letters in Stone. These two are conventional Hard Rock, although Brunette’s riffing approach instantly brings to mind the name of Tony Iommi. If you’re familiar with Black Sabbath’s “Seventh Star” (which was originally designed as Iommi’s first solo album), think Danger Zone from there with a less distinct metallic edge, and you won’t be wide of the mark. Finally, the Doom Metal-stylized ballads, Noise in the Circuit, A House Divided and Sound & Sight, are all steeped in melancholy, aurally reminiscent of Tiamat’s “Wildhoney”.
Conclusion. While stylistically this recording is far from being homogeneous, emotionally most of it is in minor keys. Shawn’s ability to provide his music with a deep feeling of drama in such a way that makes the listener really be imbued with the matter is beyond question. In terms of musical profundity, however, the album fails, so can only be recommended to those whose horizon extends no further than contemporary mainstream Progressive.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 1, 2008
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