Friday, August 24, 2012

Brice Plays Drums - Man the Animal Cannon (2012)

1. Freight Train Blues 12:40
2. The Jester 12:01
3. Delta Waves 18:07

This record has pretty thoroughly won me over. Like their debut record from last year I Laugh at Your Greener Pastures, this is clearly a band whose interest in composition are more at the *epic* scale. But refined at the same time.

There's a clear maturity in the compositions, textures, production. As much as I love Greener Pastures, this album in more or less every way is a step up. I think it's a classic case of a band learning and progressing in the product they released, from their last work.

I love the vocal harmonies, piano, the way they brought in the saxophone, and overall the amount of jazz/jazz-fusion they brought to this album.

Just as a reference, the liner notes on the back mention the following about the 3 pieces on this album:

Freight Train Blues inspired by the writings of Wendell Berry
The Jester inspired by Goethe's Faust and V for Vendetta
Delta Waves inspired by Camus's The Stranger Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and Nietzche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra

There is clearly a plethora of ideas coming from this band. I'm not sure if the writing is purely collaborative, or if Michael Higgins, who sings lead vocals and plays guitar, takes a lot of the writing on just himself. His brother Robert actually is terrific on here, with some really clean-toned and highly mixed bass lines that act as almost melodies at times. A bit like Yes I suppose in that way. In fact, this album resembles Yes among others in a number of ways. The structure is sort of similar to Close to the Edge with 3 tracks/2 sides. Melodically and harmonically, including the segues and namely the guitar tones at times I think of Yes or some of their other influences such as The Mars Volta.

But at the same time, the Brice Plays Drums sound is clearly evident here. I don't think there is a band who really sounds like them, nor this approach to writing multi-part pieces that FLOW perfectly. Each piece really does flow extremely well on this album. And they all have those crescendos and build to sections you look forward to.

Especially with the Jazz-side becoming more apparent. It wouldn't surprise me the band has been listening to more Jazz since Greener Pastures, just based on this.

There's more to edit-in later today, but just for right now at 6:09AM, this is clearly a breakthrough album that I can't endorse enough to any fan of progressive rock or anyone whose into supporting music in Minnesota.

I'd be surprised if a better album comes out in 2012 from Minnesota; it has a chance to at least make my top 10, and as of right now it's already among the 5 best records of 2012 I've heard.

Will it find its deserved larger audience? I've been down this road too many times to expect it. All the folks who never check it out are just shooting themselves in the foot. But maybe one of these times, it'll change.

Minnesota has prog, and it also has bands better than Polica and Owl City. But the local music media and hipster lemmings never give stuff like this a chance (or hear about it in the 1st place pathetically). Maybe just once, like with this album, that could change.