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Greylevel - 2011 - "Hypostatic Union"

(67:52, Progrock Records)



1.  Memory Remains 9:31
2.  Achromatize 11:13
3.  Terminal 8:15
4.  Pale Blue Dot 7:44
5.  Already, Not Yet 9:03
6.  Buried in Time 3:46
7.  Hypostatic Union 13:09
8.  Parallel Signals 5:11


Derek Barber  vocals; keyboards; guitars
Richard Shukin  guitars 
Davis Friesen  bass 
Tyler Friesen  drums 
Esther Barber  vocals 
Jason Hywel Martin  guitars; vocals
Michael de Boer  backing vocals
Rebecca de Boer  backing vocals

Prolusion. The Canadian band GREYLEVEL started out 10 years ago, initially as the solo vehicle of composer and multi-instrumentalist Derek Barber, but over time this project developed into a full-fledged band unit. "Hypostatic Union" is their second production, following five years after their debut album "Opus One", both of which have been issued by the US label Progrock Records.

Analysis. What intrigues us about music is hard to describe and will most likely be subtly different from person to person. But a common denominator for most who buy music is that what they choose to buy and spend time listening to will be creations that have an emotional appeal. For some the appeal will be that the music will make them feel happy, or perhaps less sad, while emotional recognition will be the major selling point for others. And Greylevel is a band I suspect will have many fans amongst the latter category. In terms of style and expression, this Canadian acts repertoire can be summarized in two words: Porcupine Tree. I think anyone familiar with Steven Wilson's extensive back catalog will make that association long before the first track hits the end sequence on this disc. Not exactly a clone or replica of the territory he has explored since the early 90's, but close enough in sound and construction to make this comparison inevitable. The arrangements are big, the mix and production slightly compressed, the soundscape filled to the brim by sparse themes as well as ones taking on a sound more grandiose and majestic. The lead vocals are light in tone and melodic and subtly distanced in delivery. Those fond of powerful lead vocals will find this CD exceptionally lacking to their tastes. The compositional structure is subtly intricate, sporting several themes, but first and foremost a minor plethora of theme variations. The main approach is to pair off slow and careful sequences with ambient aspirations or calmer, acoustic guitar-driven ones supplemented by careful symphonic backdrops with majestic passages featuring dampened, dark-toned guitar riff constructions supplemented by a rich array of keyboard textures and instrumental details. The tone and mood explored tend to stay on the bleak side; the most positive emotional association I got was melancholy while the least positive bordered on depression. But more than anything else I found the overall atmosphere to be subtly distant and detached. For the avid Porcupine Tree fan looking for something here that doesn't sound just like what that band has been doing for a couple of decades now, I'd say that the main separating detail in that department is that Greylevel, to my ears, comes across as exploring a slightly warmer and organic overall sound. The use and utilization of distinctly electronic sounding elements are few and very far between, while the tangents and occasional Mellotron evoke late 70's Pink Floyd just as much as Porcupine Tree. An almost constant presence of textures that distinctly invite associations towards deep space and science fiction is a more distinct feature of Greylevel's sound, at least of the main part of that. The guitars have slightly more of an alternative and indie expression to them too, at least as I experience this CD.

Conclusion. "Hypostatic Union" is a production that contains subtly bleak and emotionally distanced music, taking its cues from 90's indie and alternative rock and aspiring to blend it with the majestic sounds of late 70's Pink Floyd or vice versa: well-constructed, -performed and -recorded, with a good quality mix and production to match. The band and album alike will most likely have their main appeal amongst fans of a band like Porcupine Tree, and I'd recommend those who enjoy that type of music to lend an ear to what Greylevel has to offer.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 4, 2011
The Rating Room

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