4:15 AM came to be like a breath of fresh air. I hate that bloody alarm clock. Likewise, 4:45 AM, the last Aisles album, was also an introduction to something new and easily slipped into my 2015 Top Ten at year end. Hawaii, their latest release, offers up more – more style, more ambition in its scope, new experiments in textures and sounds whilst still holding on to that core that made 4:15 AM so special. And more. With this release there is a clear Aisles identity, the South American feel is more pronounced with the nods to the past integrated into the bands sound.
It is a concept album, something that was frowned upon at times during the golden age of Prog in the ’70s, but there do seem to be a lot of them coming out these days, but hey, I like a good story, sometimes I even write one! This is about the aftermath of the destruction of Earth, after the Mayan calendar date, and deals with the emotions and feelings of some of the survivors. It is a very human album, and it is beautiful.
Being the second Aisles to fall into my grubby little paws, my expectations were muted. Could they soar again having set the bar so high last time? I think they have and I really want to see them play live when the rescheduled tour reconvenes in the autumn. They would be perfect for the Summer’s End Festival, if not this year, as the well-crafted weekend already has its acts, then next. If you’re reading this Mr Lambe, that’s a heavy hint (subject to the limitations of cost, of course).
Hawaii opens with The Poet Part I: Dusk, a seemingly instrumental Genesis styled opener before the vocals kick in. The stage is set, the scene opens, let the play begin; I find it best to think of a concept album as a stage play, close your eyes, listen and create your own scenes and images. If the words are right and the music compliant, then imagination can hold sway and you become lost in another world. This works, if the album has the right keys to open those imaginary doors and allow entry into a new reality.
The accompanying artwork enhances this, from the Art Deco cover portraying Club Hawaii like an ancient jukebox (a shiny device that once inhabited the space in a pub or club playing seven inch vinyl) to the inner views depicting a club or restaurant akin to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe rather than Mos Eisley. It is a nice package, with notes and lyrics, and worthy of the purchase for those of you who, like me, enjoy the physical contact with the playing medium and its packaging.
Disc one is the scene setter, both dark and disturbing but with glimmers of hope, Sebastian Vergara’s vocal portraying a breadth of emotional content. Swept away are the cross pollination of European prog styles, this is I think the true Aisles sound and much the better for it. Being a concept it has used the studio effects templates, but unlike some the balance is right. It is easy to get carried away with the toys, just listen to mid-nineties Rush, but Aisles haven’t and the balance is right.
It has a progressive Jazz feel, think Brand X or Weather Report, stuff that in the ’70s I would avoid but now, with more cultured ears, this is great. I really think that Hawaii manages to provide the true Aisles identity. Album of the Year? In what is rapidly becoming an exceptional year for progressive music it is definitely one of the essentials. I have listened over and over, finding more with each listen, but to gain true understanding read the lyrics and notes, it is much clearer. However, you do get the sense of moving out through the solar system, the tracks are long but I have yet to tire of them and, when heard through the full sound system, they are beautifully nuanced. From the slightly Tubular Bells bass line of Daniel Baird-Kerr on the first track to Juan Pablo Gaete keyboards, like its predecessor there are no weak links.
Sound clips are used throughout and appropriately, no waste or indulgence, as our displaced human race seeds the colonies between Mars and the Kuiper Belt. It’s fine to listen to in the car but you will really feel the richness of this album in a suitable listening room, and it really is crying out for a full 5.1 surround sound version; every note, every phrase part of the narrative. In part the initial suite on disc one is best heard in a singular sitting. Disc two is more individual, tracks can be heard in isolation without detriment. CH-7 closes the first disc in an epic style and if when they perform this live there is an accompanying film, well, ‘Wow’ is what my mind will expect. When the keyboard phrases are repeated they have a strength reminiscent of some of Tony Banks’ best work.
Disc two, Terra, features shorter songs, well, a little bit but not much. Like a musical Raymond Chandler novel set amongst the stars, it’s very film noire, a touch classic sci-fi, that lounge Jazz feel, and pleasingly distinctly Latin, that said as a compliment and not critique. Life in the now established colonies with a gentle Floydian opening. It’s an emotive piece with, I think, feelings of loss (everything is open to interpretation); it could comfortably be orchestrated without losing that sensation, it does tear my heart, and there is “Stone and Fire”, oh for the lost Earth. A 5.1 release, pretty please, the clock ticks… Yearning for the Pale Blue Dot, as said, each track on disc two works in isolation.
A track by track break down? No I really have enjoyed my trip into the Space Era, and I would not like to spoil all the joys that you will find in Hawaii. A world has been created, and if the band have it in them still further tales may come from the world they have created. In conclusion, epic in the telling and yet a pleasure in the listen, from the words and music to the artwork of Omar Galindo, every element of the band contributing to the aural feast.
Club Hawaii; the journey is only beginning. Step aboard traveller and together we shall seed the stars.
This is a must have, in a year of concept albums, the majority very good, the difficulty of building and sustaining a story has been achieved. A box of delights. Aisles tour Europe and the U.K. in October, go see, it will be good.
01. The Poet Part I: Dusk (10:10)
02. The Poet Part II: New World (4:19)
03. Year Zero (4:36)
04. Upside Down (6:25)
05. CH-7 (12:37)
01. Terra (8:06)
02. Pale Blue Dot (9:55)
03. Still Alive (4:48)
04. Nostalgia (2:14)
05. Club Hawaii (9:22)
06. Falling (2:14)
07. In the Probe (6:55)
Total Time – 81:44
Sebastián Vergara – Lead Vocals
Germán Vergara – Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards
Rodrigo Sepúlveda – Guitars, Vocals
Daniel Baird-Kerr – Bass
Felipe Candia Bass – Drums & Percussion
Juan Pablo Gaete – Keyboards
Record Label: Presagio Records
Country of Origin: Chile
Date of Release: 29th July 2016