There is something gloriously primal about this recording, evident from the moment the jagged edges of the otherwise chooglin’ pop moves of spiky album opener Dark Sleep Fortress rip out the speakers and tear at your consciousness. Don’t make the mistake I did and fail to check the volume setting from the last time you used the hi-fi, which in my case was blasting out Motorpsycho’s The Tower at full tilt, or your eardrums may invert. Slick this isn’t, and a damn good thing that is too.
Inner Ear Brigade are another band from across the Pond possessed of a truly progressive spirit and fronted by a distinctive female voice. They are part of my imagined “scene that isn’t”, along with Thinking Plague, Half Past Four, Bent Knee, Moe Tar, and a few others that take the basic ingredients of rock and jazz, infuse it with an adventurous spirit and set sail many leagues away from what is known as “prog”, with a female singer at the helm. Backwards looking these bands are not, for they are all refreshingly individual, embodying as they do the true spirit of progressive rock in this post-biz age. These bands, my friends, are the future.
Fusing their post-punk energy with varied instrumentation, anyone who digs the fabulous Knifeworld will find much in sympatico on the splendidly named Shaman Coin Toss, and elsewhere. Melody, in addition to the singer bearing the name, is an important ingredient in these busy little compositions that hold the listener’s attention with ease. Accurately described without hyperbole on their website as “an idiosyncratic mix of progressive rock, jazz, and experimental pop”, Inner Ear Brigade make you think and twitch in approximation of dance, and at the same time no less! This could be dangerous, as none of us are getting any younger.
Coming some five years after their hugely impressive debut Rainbro, I will confess I had to dig that one out to remind myself of their confident beginnings. It seems this album had a long gestation, as the excerpts video below was put up back in 2015. Five years may be a long time in politics, but it is a veritable epoch in the modern world of music, where it is so easy to be cast aside as the relentless tsunami of releases submerges all before it. Luckily this band has talent by the bucket load, and so will hopefully soon reassert their rightful place somewhere atop the pile of avant-pop-jazz-surfer-skiffle-chamber-mariachi-rock…or summat.
Dromology is an infectious album, and these songs have a pop sensibility married to an experimental ear, akin to the Hatfields jamming with XTC, while Uncle Frank looks on smiling benignly. Dark Sleep Fortress is atypical in its full on attack, the rest of the songs that follow preferring for the most part a less strident approach, although laid back is never a term that would cross my mind in attempting a description of this all-encompassing music. Mind you, for an album opener it does what it should, oh yes!
Band leader guitarist Bill Wolter wrote the majority of these songs, with help from singer Melody Ferris and Valentina Osinski on some of the lyrics, and keyboardist Andrew Vernon wrote Targa Floria. Melody has lost none of her vocal power in the five years since Rainbro, and the dreamlike and impressionistic lyrical concerns take in the subconscious, the unconscious, forces of nature, sex, magick, technology subsuming humanity, all the eternal questions. Heck there’s even a song written in Kobaian! Extra layers of warmth are provided by some alternately mellifluous and soaring sax breaks from Ivor Holloway, as well as a few timely interjections by the guest trumpet players. Arrangements are always interesting and the sound is deep and involving, as one would expect from master knob twiddler Udi Koomran.
This album is a must for any follower of the new progressive rock. Be warned, it is not Prog.
01. Dark Sleep Fortress (6:40)
02. Black and White Taste (5:56)
03. Shaman Coin Toss (6:51)
04. Bobotut (6:12)
05. Dromology (8:55)
06. Targa Floria (4:22)
07. Birdie in the Wall (6:57)
Total Time – 45:55
Bill Wolter – Guitar
Chris Lauf – Drums
Stephen Wright – Electric Bass
Melody Ferris – Vocals
Ivor Holloway – Tenor, Alto & Soprano Saxophone
Eli Wallace – Keyboards (tracks 1,2,4 & 5)
Theo Padouvas – Trumpet (tracks 1,2,4,5 & 6)
Andrew Vernon – Keyboards (tracks 3,6 & 7)
David Shaff – Trumpet (tracks 3 & 7)
Aharon Wheels Bolsta – Tabla (track 5)
Record Label: AltrOck Productions
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 1st October 2017