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(51 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Deep Down Inside 4:34 2. Sparkling 4:14 3. Behind Thoughts-1 5:21 4. I Like 4:16 5. Every Door 5:37 6. Where is God 4:53 7. Under Water 5:19 8. Before the Bullfight 6:09 9. It's Nice 4:14 10. Don't Know Much 4:57 11. Behind Thoughts-2 1:48 All tracks: by Engstrom & Pocketful, except 8: D Sylvian. Produced by J Keso. LINEUP: Johan Engstrom - guitars Anders Kwarnmark - keyboards Jerker Rellmark - vocals Lars Kallfelt - drums With: Magnus Berggren - bass Anna Leis - vocals (3, 11) Jan Rellmark - trumpet (10)
Prolusion. "Sparkling" is the debut album by Sweden's POCKETFUL, but the band isn't new as such. It's comprised of the same musicians who released two albums in the '90s under the name of Masque (also via Musea Records): "Flesh That Understands" and "Ten", none of which I have heard, though.
Analysis. The album is made up of eleven tracks, ten of which are the band's own works, and Before the Bullfight is a rendering of the eponymous song by David Sylvian, who is well-known for his collaboration with Robert Fripp of King Crimson and his solo creation as well. Overall, Pocketful performs a pretty impressive music, even though for the most part, this is nothing else but a Prog-tinged Pop Rock, at times blended with elements of modern (read mainstream) Art-Rock. The only instrumental, Behind Thoughts-2, closes the album and is the only derivative track here. With a specific screaming female vocalization being the main plot, it sounds like a light variation on The Great Gig in the Sky from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon". Here, I wish to give some advance warning. Any other references, that I am going to appeal to while describing the material, will be relative. The point is that at least overall, the sound's originality is one of the main trumps this band has up its sleeve, so I don't want to be misunderstood. All the other tracks, without exception, are vocal heavy, but only one of them, the rhythmic It's Nice, is distinctly straightforward, due to the lack of resourcefulness in the instrumental arrangements, so typical for the other songs. Deep Down Inside, Sparkling and I Like are done up-tempo and are the most intense and dynamic. Each features no less than three different thematic sections and has a sparkling, intricate instrumental background. The effectual angular measures, stably provided by the rhythm section, the soulful vocals, as if laid back of surrounding events, and the quirky, constantly shifting parts of electric guitar (some of which were overdubbed) are the matters whose identity with so-called progressive features is beyond question. The said three numbers have definitely something in common with David Sylvian's works, though those are usually edgier and heavier simultaneously. REM and the most rhythmic stuff of the Hogarth-era Marillion may also come to mind. Every Door and Where is God are elegant ballad-like pieces of modern Pop Art (in its musical appearance), somewhere in the vein of the 'current' Marillion and, perhaps, Radiohead. But I would have hardly rated this album so high if it had not featured something really uncommon. The remaining four compositions are much more original than the others, but this is not all. On Behind Thoughts-1, Jerker Rellmark sings along with a guest female singer, and the vocal palette here is as unique and incomparable as the instrumental one. It's marvelous: the music is slow, diverse, dense, dark, symphonic and harsh all simultaneously, so it's practically indefinable. What's most important, the song is literally filled with magic, and do I really need something more as a music lover? Under Water is lighter in mood, but is a similar thing overall, worthy of the same epithets. Even though a bit more conventional in sound, Before the Bullfight and Don't Know Much are the best from a progressive standpoint. All three of the main soloists shine here: the band's primary mastermind guitarist Johan Engstrom, drummer Lars Kallfelt, and especially keyboardist Anders Kwarnmark, whose clever piano improvisations lay the foundation of these amazing pieces of quasi Jazz-Fusion.
Conclusion. While there is nothing on Pocketful's debut outing for those into adventurous music, this doesn't mean that the general Prog audience should avoid "Sparkling". The CD might have a major commercial success, and the band can easily become one of the most notable Prog-related units on the contemporary mainstream scene.
VM: June 13, 2005
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