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Prolusion. DELUGE GRANDER is an American band that was formed by Dan Britton back in 2005. It issued its debut "August in the Urals" in 2006 to critical acclaim, by many regarded as one of the finest albums made that year. In the spring of 2009 their second outing was ready, titled "The Form of the Good".
TRACK LIST: 1. Before the Common Era 5:22 2. The Tree Factory 14:08 3. Common Era Caveman 6:26 4. Aggrandizement 19:12 5. The Form of the Good 8:41 LINEUP: Dan Britton – keyboards Dave Berggren – guitars Patrick Gaffney – drums Brett D'Anon – bass With: Heather MacArthur – violin Nathan Bontrager – cello Kelli Short – oboe Frank d'Anon – wood block Brian Falkowski – flute, clarinet, saxophone N Aaron Pancost – trombone Jose Luis Oviedo – trumpet & Megan Wheatley – vocals (1)
Analysis. The first album by DELUGE GRANDER, the gorgeous “August in the Urals”, doesn't contain too many vocals, meaning conventional or rather full-fledged ones – as contrasts with vocalizations for instance. Its follow-up, the hero of this occasion “The Form of the Good”, is in turn almost free of those and I personally welcome the fact. (If you’re eager to learn why, please find the answer in this review.) Of the five tracks here only the opening one, Before the Common Era, isn’t an all-instrumental creation, revealing some choir singing along the way. Another aspect that makes this release somewhat differ from its predecessor is the appearance of several session musicians, the majority of whom play acoustic, either brass or chamber, instruments (see lineup above for the specifications). So those who are aware that the band – originally a ‘mere’ quartet – deployed classical and jazz devices in their art-rock format previously, too, have already certainly inferred that the corresponding elements appear now to be more distinct and lively. The compositions are arranged in such a way that the music has a sinusoidal-like development, with its peak of intensity falling right on the album’s core, third, track, from which it logically follows that the ‘frontier’ ones are calmer and more accessible than the others. Yet another improvement? Just so, save the fact that Before the Common Era would have left a better impression had it not featured the aforementioned choir, which comes across as something both extraneous and slightly far-fetched, although it seems to be designed as one of the piece’s background layers. Otherwise it’s a fine, lushly symphonic tune, no matter that it is slow throughout, recalling to some degree of a kind of prolonged take on a classic Genesis intro. The title piece never leaves the domain of Symphonic Progressive either, but for the most part it has a full-band sound and is generally quite a remarkable creation, bringing to mind a crossover between Genesis and Yes, both circa 1972. The other tracks, The Tree Factory, Common Era Caveman and Aggrandizement, run for about 40 minutes and are brilliant in terms of composition, arrangement and performance alike. As mentioned above, the ensemble often exceeds the bounds of Art-Rock’s symphonic branch (which is the same to my mind as Symphonic Progressive of the first water), and if probably not as far or perhaps strikingly as Van Der Graaf Generator or King Crimson did in the first half of the ‘70s, then at least as bravely as Yes did in 1974. Yeah, unlike its precursor, this album relies more on “Relayer” than on “Close to the Edge”, as evinced on each of its three central compositions, though its middle track, Common Era Caveman, is particularly representative in this respect. While by and large being stylistically similar to both the neighboring ones, it contains no calm waters (with your permission), additionally standing out for its heavy fuzz-bass riffs. While listening to it, I feel in a way like a mariner in a stormy sea who is not yet afraid of heading down into a maelstrom. In other words, the composition is as intense and impetuous as Sound Chaser: the second track from the Yes ‘74 classic, but isn’t as recklessly frenetic as The Gates of Delirium. The epic pieces, The Tree Factory and Aggrandizement, both move through many transitions and are laced with enough mellotron, organ, piano and (most often very Howe-sque) guitar leads to make you think or at least imagine you’re right in the heart of Progressive at its heyday. At least at the moment, both come across as specimens of the best ‘sidelong’ epics in the history of the art-rock genre. This is indeed stylistically saturated Art-Rock (derived from ‘art’, this idiom has absolutely nothing to do with what some reviewers present as theatric/glam rock to us) where, say, conventional symphonic colorations are fairly often encompassed by jazzy or classical music-related ones. Traditionally for the style, despite the many digressions from its purest form, the music develops in a very cohesive manner, is instantly attractive and so fairly easily comprehensible as well. As always, the band’s primary mastermind, Dan Britton, shines with resourcefulness as a songwriter and with virtuosity as a player, though it would be unfair not to notice that all his three main partners, as well as side participants, are highly masterful performers, too. Anyhow, it’s Dan who is the leading and at the same time most original voice here – well, except for his mellotron playing, which instantly brings to mind the name of Tony Banks, hence the similarity with Genesis in places. Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson both can or probably should be quoted as secondary reference points, too. However, both of these acts had only one violinist and one saxophonist (on any of their recordings), but not three chamber and three brass players as Deluge Grander has as well as an outfit whose – yet to be named, also – release is, figuratively speaking, my trump card which had to be laid on the table or rather this writing as its curtain falls. An album with which the object of this review has really much in common is “This Is What We Do” by the US group French TV (yeah, formerly one the leading RIO acts), which was the first to reproduce the spirit and the atmosphere of Yes’s above masterwork without borrowing any themes from there (as Dan Britton’s ensemble did as well), no matter that its, so to speak, keyboard palette isn’t woven exclusively of analog fabrics.
Conclusion. Originally an offshoot of Cerebus Effect (which seems to fail to continue working without Dan Britton), with two albums-masterpieces to its credit, Deluge Grander appears now to be a cult band and – along with Cast and Kotebel, to name just two outfits – one of the main driving forces behind the modern Art-Rock movement, which keep the genre really alive. (But not only to formally remain on the progressive rock roster, by saying which I take pokes at most of the Neo acts.) Within said, nominally single, idiom Deluge Grander reveals a range of goods, er, styles few of their contemporaries can easily match. Highly recommended! Top-20-2009
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 19, 2009
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