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(69:25: Melodic Revolution Records)
Many years ago, I received the download of an album by an American band called Vertical Alignment. Nothing really special in that I hear you say, but for me it was, as ‘Signposts’ was the first time I ever received an album digitally, something which now happens all the time. For various reasons the band then went dormant, until Pete Jorgensen "Phoen1x" brought together a line-up, along with many guests, to record ‘The Trail of Tears Suite’ which was released in 2017. 2020 saw the release of ‘Immaterial Witness’, by which time Pete was calling himself Phoen1x, and the album was released under that name. Alongside Jake Livgren (lead and backing vocals, saxophone), Seth Trotman (bass) and Vertical Alignment drummer Michael Adams, there are also numerous guests, so on this album there are members of Proto-Kaw, Evership, Time Horizon and Stratospheerius among others. The album commences with a woman saying, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen”, and then we go into an instrumental, over which there is a person with a weird Anglo/Kiwi accent speaking a poem. It’s not my fault, I may have been in a studio more times than I can remember, but this was my first time behind a microphone, and my thanks to TeMatera Smith of Red Room Studios for putting up with me. We then go into the rocker of “Dreamer Awaken”, which has some amazing bass, great guitar, and outstanding vocals. Jake is of course nephew of Kerry, so he has been involved with music from a young age and on this track he is outstanding. However, what lets it down is the production which feels like it is behind a gossamer shroud, which is particularly jarring in the transition from the first track. The production feels quite different for the next, and this lack of continuity is somewhat of an issue. Also, Mike Fitzpatrick is singer on this one, and there are times when he is asked to sing somewhat out of his range which is a struggle. So, the album feels much more like a project than a band, which of course it is, yet that does not negate some really powerful songs, such as “Home of the Brave”, which is a delicate acoustic guitar-led number, with gentle piano and some gorgeous touches of native flute. This tells the story of the last Algonquian and is very similar in many respects to the last Vertical Alignment release, so much so that I checked the track listing to see if it was a repeated recording as there is something so familiar and relaxing about this. Contrast that to the next number, “Small Charade”, which finds Phoen1x working solely with one of the most exciting electric violinists around (who also provides vocals here), the wonderful Joe Deninzon. This guy can shred like you would not believe and produces sounds that makes one check if it is a six-string in his hands. This just belts along, an electronic rocker, which is dynamic and exciting and at nearly 11 minutes long, still isn’t long enough as it works through its sections. There are times when the band come across as Kansas, which may be down to influences from Jake who is of course a member of Proto Kaw, while at others they are veering off in different directions, and the album is constantly surprising the listener. The inconsistency in the production may well be down to people working in different studios at different times, and the project feel comes through strongly, but overall, this is an album I enjoyed and is worth checking out.
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