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(46 min, Sensory)
TRACK LIST: 1. Panoramic Long-range Vertigo 3:54 2. Horizontal Radiant 11:29 3. Accidents in Mutual Silence 4:18 4. Viahayasa 4:22 5. To Fracture 7:46 6. Psychotropic Resonance 4:56 7. Luminescence 11:57 LINEUP: Nathan Sapp - el. & ac. guitars; keyboards Ben Simpkins - bass, el. & ac. guitars, mandolin Hunter Ginn - drums & assorted percussion
Prolusion. Originally a quintet, CANVAS SOLARIS was formed in the American state of Georgia in 1999, and at first they were keen on the Death Metal / Grindcore style. The lineup has stabilized since the departure of singer Brad Jeffcoat and bassist Jimmy McCall in 2002, after which the remaining three musicians decided to play instrumental music. "Penumbra Diffuse" is the second release by the trio and is dedicated to the memory of Dennis D'Amour (of Voivod fame, to whose genius I have referred in my reviews more than once).
Analysis. This band partly derives its name from the Great Polish writer Stanislaw Lem's sci-fi novel "Solaris". So I believe it's not accidental that this album has a certain fantastically futuristic feeling and that its canvas are, in a way, as strange and unpredictably changeable as those of the intellectual ocean that is the novel. I haven't heard the band's first effort "Sublimation", but in the CD press kit it is described as "brutal jazz", the concept bringing to my mind only John Zorn's most experimental projects, such as Painkiller. There is nothing of the kind on "Penumbra Diffuse" - neither brutality nor jazz. Even though a solid part of this music is pronouncedly heavy, it never reveals intonations typical of extreme Metal in any form, and while you may perceive some solos as improvised, do not follow your ears on this illusory path:-). Everything was well thought-out before played. I won't list the numerous points of comparisons mentioned in the press kit, as none seems to be suitable in this particular case, and I feel uncomfortable about replacing them with my own versions either. I think that music this unique shouldn't be subjected even to relativist comparisons, not to mention those relative and beyond. Due to their eventfulness, there seem to be just no place for vocals on any of the seven compositions, and most of them can't be squeezed into the framework of any single Prog Rock genre category. Accidents in Mutual Silence is the one that is both intense and heavy nearly throughout, delivering you the best you can expect from Techno Prog-Metal, e.g. lots of unexpected shifts of theme and tempo, baffling stop-to-play maneuvers and avalanches of guitar solos, most of which, by the way, are pronouncedly melodic, as well as everywhere in analogous situations. To Fracture and Panoramic Long-range Vertigo would have not been mentioned separately had the former not featured a quite long guitar- and keyboards-laden Art-Rock-like movement, and the latter all of two similar episodes, lushly flavored with colors of Indian music in addition. The semi-epic Horizontal Radiant and Luminescence manifest more and more digressions from the Prog-Metal idiom. Both are abundant in sections of acoustic instruments and analog keyboards, while the centerpiece, Viahayasa, is completely woven of such. 6- and 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, assorted exotic percussion, piano and Micro-Moog sing and dance in a ring round the wonderful Indian music-inflected themes. All compositions are killing, and the remaining one, Psychotropic Resonance, is just the most contrasting and unpredictable. Two rapid guitar solos crossing the length and breadth of the basic themes by inconceivable parabolas, the walls of sound alternating with more serene musical landscapes, which yet are still full of traps and paradoxes - these are just fragments of this queer mosaic.
Conclusion. "Penumbra Diffuse" is true Art, striking for its freshness and depth alike. It's a pleasure, ecstasy and catharsis all delivered in one package and is certainly one of the most innovative and captivating albums I've heard this year. Don't miss.
VM: May 4, 2006
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