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(67:33 / Unicorn Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sever the Seven 8:20 2. A Freak Az 5:05 3. Toxix 5:48 4. Infinite Ammo 5:06 5. New Breed 6:06 6. The Fifth Dimension 5:45 7. The Lost Train 6:47 8. Unstable Matter 6:55 9. Antimatter 5:32 10. Blood Fall 5:50 11. Furax 6:18 LINEUP: Antoine Fafard – bass Martin Maheux – drums Mark Tremblay – guitars
Prolusion. One of the most innovative and creatively stable jazz-rock bands to appear in the new century, Canadians SPACED OUT present “Live at the Crescendo Festival”, their sixth release to date, following “Unstable Matters”, “Live”, “Slow Gin”, “Eponymus II” and “Spaced Out”. Featuring the same three men who crafted “Unstable Matters”, this outing exists on two bearers of information, a CD and a DVD, each be viewed separately for sure, regardless of the similarity between their musical contents.
Analysis. The concert’s CD version has two extra videos, both to be omitted as inessential features, due to their inclusion on the DVD. The basic eleven tracks here are culled from Spaced Out’s first self-titled release (A Freak Az, Toxix, The Fifth Dimension and Furax), “Eponymus II” (Sever the Seven, Infinite Ammo and The Lost Train) and “Unstable Matters” (New Breed, Unstable Matter, Antimatter and Blood Fall), almost all being my favorite tunes from those respective discs. I was slightly surprised to learn that the set contains no representatives of the group’s third studio effort, “Slow Gin”, but I am certainly not the one to call their choice into question. One way or another, this is a fantastically impressive musical journey, with a sound almost as pristine as their studio recordings. All the pieces are delivered in a way that makes them sound much like a uniform-style concept album, which excuses me from detailing them. The neophytes desiring to learn specificities may read corresponding reviews, but should be warned that none of the tracks here are blind copies of their original versions. These amazing instrumentalists have from the outset paved their own path in progressive music, forging from their (originally flexible) style something new with each of their new efforts, and this one is no exception to the rule, despite being compiled of older tracks. Yes, the band covers familiar ground here, but they’ve managed to move it in some new directions as well: a sign of a truly creative approach - the trademark of this particular ensemble. This is a truly solid team of like-minded persons, a trio of bass, guitar and drums, additionally quite widely using guitar synthesizers or even MIDI technologies, the keyboard-like-sounding passages being highly diverse, as if they’re done by a real musician. As a rough description, the overall style would be Jazz Rock, but it is in fact edgy, often overtly brutal Progressive Rock / Fusion / Metal, always full of cool textural and dynamic contrasts, whether it drives fast and hard, with an odd bass describing a kind of St. Vitus’s dance over the heavy, relentless, Voivod-ian guitar riffing and the complex drum beats, or turns into something less frantic, yet still quite intense and impetuous, like fusionesque or quasi-symphonic ‘piano’-led moves as evinced on Toxix and, well, on quite a few of the tracks in actual fact. That being said, the raging musical storms dominate, relatively rarely settling down - mainly so as to offer space for the bass solo patterns, only some of which, thankfully, leave a sense of being superfluous, otherwise diversifying the overall picture. So, when Spaced Out do rock they resemble the power of Voivod in the second half of the ‘80s, though there’s generally something in common between them and their said countrymen, such as the braveness and the originality of decisions or the liking for large-scaled battle scenes (some of which seem to be really of a cosmic caliber), both being my favorite Quebec ensembles.
Conclusion. This is challenging music, with plenty of different components packed into each of the pieces, so is both demanding and exciting listening, essential for any true progressive rock fan (no fear of being trite here). I can’t resist the temptation to give this recording the highest rating, especially since this is not a mere compilation, but is a live performance with much effort put into whatever it takes to endow old material with new qualities.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 5, 2008
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