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Pangolin Band - 2005 - "TRB"

(57 min, 'Pangolin Band')

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  TRB 5:12
2.  Dragonfly 5:15
3.  Collide-a-scope 0:52
4.  Summer 7:27
5.  Rain 0:59
6.  Electric Ambience 3:03
7.  Treeline 9:19
8.  Palisades Intro 0:43
9.  Palisades 9:17
10. Cathedral 7:57
11. When We Awoke 0:43
12. Tenebrous 6:40


Paul Hughan - guitars; keyboards
Gerrit Thomson - basses
Barry Mason - drums
Kylie Auldist - vocals
Jacinta Percy - vocals
Wendy Rule - vocals (12)
Geoff Shields - bass (1, 12)

Prolusion. I have no idea of the meaning of the acronym "TRB", which is the title of the first CD by the Australian outfit PANGOLIN BAND. In the CD press kit, they avoid talking of their prehistory and just barely touch on the fact of the band's formation (date: 2002, location: Melbourne), mainly listing their numerous influences along with the originators of those.

Analysis. While Pangolin Band is basically a trio, two guest female singers play a very important role on their debut album. The band's founder and primary songwriter Paul Hughan formally handles guitars and synthesizers, yet concentrates primarily upon the axes. Generally, there are few genuine keyboard solos on "TRB", the only more or less notable departure from this rule being the longest track Treeline. The material is more than merely varied on the stylistic level. I'd even say it's excessively heterogeneous, which is synonymous to the noun of "motley" in my understanding. (Well, it is not difficult to make a precise diagnosis regarding the album's stylistic inconsistency: Pangolin Band could have not avoided the notorious debut syndrome.) The four instrumental pieces: Collide-a-scope, Rain, Palisades Intro and When We Awoke evoke associations with atmospheric Ambient, but are just sketches in the end, none exceeding one minute in duration. The first two numbers, the title track and Dragonfly, are each the product of a marriage of mellow AOR and traditional Hard Rock, a primitive verse-chorus-couplet-refrain song with the 'obligatory-in-such-cases' guitar solo interlude. I believe the title of Electric Ambience drops hints about the song's nature, but for me, it's just a slow ballad performed without the rhythm section. The longer tracks are more adequate from a progressive viewpoint, featuring quite a few interesting, somewhat psychedelic guitar patterns and a rather diverse instrumental background in general. Kylie Auldist, who is well known in her native Australia as a funk and soul singer, quite well diversifies the vocal palette with corresponding colors, although none of the remaining five songs is vocal heavy, to say the least. Summer and Treeline are woven mainly of harsh textures. Musically, they steer somewhere between classic and quasi-progressive Hard Rock, at times displaying a clearly experimental approach. Kurgan's Bane can serve as a point of comparison, as long as you remove the Rush influence from the picture. The basic arrangements on Palisades are both slow and heavy, but are far from being thematically monochromatic, Paul Hughan applying a bluesy guitar technique this time around, most often when soloing. Impressive. Best of all, however, Paul's excellent command of guitar is displayed on the last two songs, Cathedral and Tenebrous. While generally both should be referred to the so-called Alternative rather than to Art-Rock, the crossing speedy electric and acoustic guitar solos (one being overdubbed for sure) that reign in the instrumental sections on each are so masterful and inventive that I have gladly revisited their bearers to follow their flight again.

Conclusion. There are quite a few essential moments on "TRB", which raise the album far above an average AOR / Hard Rock / Alternative release. Nonetheless, having mentally inspected the material a few times running, I yet again came to the conclusion that, despite all its panto-musical virtues, it offers very little to traditional Prog heads, not to mention those hugely experienced.

VM: May 6, 2006

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