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(57"38, 'Neural Mass')
TRACK LIST: 1. Monoxyde World 9:14 2. Trailer by the Swamp 6:29 3. Female Disaster 3:12 4. Cold Temptress 4:48 5. 3 Days 2:38 6. My Death Girl 4:30 7. Viral Zoonosis 3:19 8. Actions in the Nervous System 6:49 9. The Undertaker's Last Customer 11:28 10. Final Warning 5:11 LINEUP: Gary X Floyd – keyboards; vocals Sylvain Rodrigue – drums; vocals With: Hugue Jomphe – saxophone, clarinet Mark Tremblay – bass, guitars Stev Otis – guitars
Prolusion. The Canadian band NEURAL MASS has been around since the mid 90's, and until 2010 they had four studio albums and one live production to their name. "Final Warning" is their sixth album in total, and was self-released in 2010.
Analysis. One of the more interesting parts of being a music reviewer is the sheer span of the music you're called upon to have an opinion about. And in particular in a genre as widespread as progressive rock you'll get to encounter a fair deal of music of the kind you never suspected had been made, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the not so good, very much depending on personal tastes. Neural Mass is a good example of a band that is of the kind you'll either love or loathe. Their approach tends to be rather experimental, and their particular take on it appears to blend minimalistic and much more expressive and adventurous sounds with what one might describe as mainstream-oriented motifs and themes, at least if this production is representative of their work. Loud, often minimalistic and commonly repetitive drum patterns are a key feature to their sound - loud to the extent of coming across as rather lo-fi, with something of a mechanical trait to them. Supporting the rhythm are richly layered keyboard motifs, elaborate in construction and rather often in a compelling manner too. Bass and guitars have more of a subservient role, the latter most frequently used to either provide dramatic bursts or a supporting melodic motif. And for the vocals, when present, David Bowie is as good a reference as any as far as timbre goes (but sadly not for delivery), when the lyrics aren't spoken that is. But the end result of all this is far from what one might suspect. On one occasion I noted down Pink Floyd and Pet Shop Boys in my notes – in the same sentence. I believe that is a first. Some themes are lighter and more sophisticated, closer to Tangerine Dream, with just a slight touch of Vangelis thrown in for good measure. But to my ears many of these creations never quite seem to get anywhere. There are shifts in pace, arrangements and moods aplenty, but not of a kind that, to my ears and my brain, appear as logical or coherent. Chaotic is a good word I guess. A track like Viral Zoonosis is rather embarrassing, the sampled sounds of people either having sex or pretending to do so: not a detail I find pleasing or interesting either. The following Actions in the Nervous System are not too inspiring either, initially being a circulating instrumental affair midway between Tangerine Dream and Vangelis in expression, which shifts to some sort of guttural punk after the 4 minute mark, with swirling symphonic textures soaring above. To describe just two items in more detail. At best this music is fairly interesting, though. The sweet surprise of 3 Days is an unexpected delight with its massive keyboard arrangements, chaotic clarinet and saxophone motifs and adventurous drum patterns. The slightly minimalistic Trailer by the Swamp also manages to create an engaging atmosphere with its bass, drums and dampened keyboard layers. But the album as a whole will intrigue a select few I suspect.
Conclusion. Neural Mass describes their latest creation as "a disturbing journey to the end of the World". It is a mostly dark affair, chaotic and slightly repetitive, but I can see how many might be charmed by this musical journey towards Armageddon too, a sort of apocalyptic musical journey where the ghosts of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis dish out random motifs to a steady rhythm in something of a lo-fi manner. If that sounds interesting, you'll perhaps want to find out more about what this Canadian band has to offer.
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