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(59 min, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sojourn 6:37 2. Taken 7:41 3. Blue Waves 16:54 4. Your Light 9:10 5. Possessing Nothing 15:06 6. Rest 3:12 PERSONNEL: Derek Barber - vocals; ac. guitar; keyboards, bass, programming Esther Barber - vocals; keyboards Richard Shukin - el. & ac. guitars
Prolusion. According to the press kit, the history of Canadian trio GREYLEVEL dates from 2001 when Derek Barber (see lineup above) became inflamed with the desire to write and record songs that would combine his classical piano training with his passion for Progressive Rock. After several years of working in his home studio, Derek involved his wife Esther and good friend Richard Shukin in the project which ultimately resulted in Greylevel's debut offering, "Opus One".
Analysis. The acoustic guitar solo, that the album begins with, is in its outline not unlike the one Steve Howe plays as an intro to Roundabout, the opening number of "Fragile", but there, however, all similarities between Greylevel and Yes are ended. Not counting the last track, Rest (which is the sole instrumental here and is a shamelessly senseless two-chord synthesizer space 'music'), "Opus One" is the product of a completely unified compositionally-stylistic approach, each of the other five tunes representing modern symphonic Space Rock modeled after such patterns of the direction as "Division Bell" by Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree's "The Sky Moves Sideways", "The Answer" by Eloy and Metamorphosis's "Then All Was Silent". Unlike each of the said recordings however, the hero of this occasion reveals no reefs or undercurrents either, the music reminding me of a broad, yet shallow river unhurriedly carrying its calm waters, all of which makes the entire thing sound pretty samey. Contrary to the expectations the press release has cast over me, there are no elements of Classical music to be found here, and although some of the instrumental sections on each of the two lengthy songs, Blue Waves and Possessing Nothing, can be regarded as piano interludes, these are closer to New Age in their architectonics (the piano isn't acoustic though, having a distinct synthetic taste). All in all, only these two appear to be well balanced with regard to their vocal-based and purely instrumental arrangements, the latter being large-scaled - well, in their own way. While the music shifts relatively frequently in textures and themes alike, it comes short of pace changes, its emotional picture being not too polychromatic either, having usually a relaxing affect on me. Sojourn and Taken are both more laid-back overall, but still not without thematic development - unlike Your Light whose 'first movement' with Derek singing to the interlocking acoustic guitar and piano stretches out for nearly five minutes, covering more than half of the track. The recordings' instrumental palette usually includes acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizer patterns (at times highlighted by organ and piano pads), programmed bass and a drum machine which, surprisingly, has an acceptable sound more often than otherwise. Derek's vocal style dovetails into the music well, his singing portraying now Steve Wilson, now Frank Bornemann, now David Gilmour - save Taken which on all levels is associated only with Porcupine Tree. Esther's contribution to the album's vocal department is far from being considerable. She sings alone two quatrains on Possessing Nothing, otherwise occasionally providing backing vocals. Generally, Esther's participation in this homebred project seems to be symbolic, though it remains unclear whether it's happened due to her own or her loving husband's whim.
Conclusion. A sort of family musical contract, "Opus One" is not a bad CD, but its appearance within the precincts of the excellent Progrock Records label is something lying beyond my understanding. And yet - despite all this disc's obvious drawbacks - I am ready to lay a bet it will achieve a strong commercial success (as applied to the scene's current state of affairs, of course). Is it to be regretted that fans of Greylevel will never see them playing live?
VM: March 8, 2007
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