Albums are offered up, reviewers dip in, taste, and then select their meal; so I got Perfect Beings. In some dark recess of cyberspace lives a record of our initial thoughts, sometimes insightful, sometimes delightful, and sometimes irrationally judgemental. We are only human…well some of us. This is Californians Perfect Beings second album, aptly labelled as II. Well it worked for Peter Gabriel, so why not.
Background? A band led by a vocalist, Ryan Hurtgen, who allegedly did not know what progressive music was and consequently was subjected to an intense education (again allegedly, he tells it different in the accompanying Interview). Johannes Luley more than adequately providing guitars in a broad range of styles. Dicki Fliszar is on drums, bass from Chris Tristram, and last but not least, Jesse Nason provides some excellent keyboards. The band have some pedigree, and it does show over the course of the album.
Opening with the sound of a cuckoo (real or clock? It matters not), an evil nondescript bird that lays its eggs in anothers nest, maturing once hatched by evicting the fledglings of the nest’s owner. Here endeth the natural history, for whilst Perfect Beings borrow – and who does not – the music eventually finds its own voice. A combination of instrumentals and songs, it grows, it warms, and it borrows but never dwells to become a pastiche of the sources. The usual suspects abound, and then again they don’t. Confused? Good! Without stating what other initial thoughts were, mine was ‘Prog Beatles’. This I think is a compliment, the Beings may feel differently. Harmonies and melodies blend, even when the vocal is singular it feels harmonic. It has snuck into my affection without much effort, even the slightly crazy stuff like Cause and Effect. It has (now don’t be offended) pop sensibilities whilst encompassing the complexity of prog. The use of machine like transport noises may bring you to Pink Floyd, but I would say this band is closer to Sound of Contact / Dave Kerzner, but it does not tread on their toes.
There is a little early Genesis here too, the way in which acoustic and electric instruments combine to paint their musical canvas. A complex beast and obviously developing from their first release, Perfect Beings.
Opening in dramatic style with Mar del Fuego, compare it with Genesis – Dance on a Volcano, and it does set up the rest of the album. Perhaps a little ironic, the juxtapositions of volcanos and fire.
Cryogenia is an atmospheric piece, storytelling and borderline ballad, always it seems on the edge of something you think you’ve heard before which gives a certain familiarity. In hyper-critical mode I would spend hours racking my feeble brain and say sounds like, but no. Track 2 melds into 3 and the Welcome to the Machine comparison, but it ends there. If the sound of a machine in motion like “welcome to the machine” is the sound you are trying to portray, then yes it will sound Floydian. The Love Inside opens with a long introduction, a sparse piano, and a great track in my view, with its “Yes” guitar bits. It is at times like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of all things past, complex music where those parts of the jigsaw draw together making a completely different painting from your expectations. Yes keyboard flourishes, with bass lines from a different musical world. If the bass on The Love Inside is Chris Squire influenced, then it offers a suitable memorial to him.
I cannot say I have yet found a favourite track from this album, they all have moments. Love it loud, and on as background music, though I have found that the earworm rears up and forces you to pay more attention. If this was not the original running order then somebody has really thought about this. Instrumentals seem to blend either with the track before or after, no hard edges. I can dip into the album, but it has worked best for me as a complete listen. Intros can be long, but I have not found them drawn, that moment when you inwardly say “for Pete’s sake, get on with it!”.
Go hits on those pop sensibilities, owing something – and they and you will hate me for this – to Duran Duran in their better and more challenging of pop convention mode. I loathed DD for a long while, my little sister loved them (now it is 30 Seconds to Mars!), but hindsight helps you to see things differently. The next, Rivermaker is a ballad, simple and very paired down. Actually a really beautiful track, it rests lightly on the senses, and time to reflect on those lyrics. A teddy bear of a track, warm and cuddly, even as the pace picks up around 3:15, this a band that layers its textures well and then fades before its climax with the introduction of the whole band.
Cause and Effect reflects its title, both structured and chaotic, perhaps the only indulgence but it still manages to be listenable. I warn though, it might hurt a few more sensitive ears. Possibly why the last track seems at odds with its title, The Thrill Seeker, but it is a very nice way to close an album.
So Perfect Beings? Evolving rather than perfect, but very good, and on the fringes of my personal top ten for 2015, there is so much good music out there at the moment. I think Perfect Beings III will take further steps forward, they are a band of considerable talent. A great vocalist in Ryan Hurtgen, and hopefully this will earn them enough so he can stop waiting tables (though nothing wrong with table waiting, entertaining gets you better tips!).
Worth more than a cursory glance.
[Tony recently spoke with Jonannes Luley and Ryan Hurtgen about the album, you can read the interview HERE.]
01. Mar Del Fuego (4:22)
02. Cryogenia (3:50)
03. Samsara (1:36)
04. The Love Inside (8:52)
05. Volcanic Streams (5:55)
06. The Yard (5:28)
07. Go (4:50)
08. Rivermaker (5:08)
09. Cause and Effect (5:13)
10. The Thrill Seeker (4:38)
Total Time – 49:52
Ryan Hurtgen – Vocals
Johannes Luley – Guitars
Dicki Fliszar – Drums
Chris Tristram – Bass
Jesse Nason – Keyboards
Label: My Sonic Temple
Release Date: 16th Oct 2015