Now, how does one follow up the major triumph that was 2015’s Ones & Zeros Vol. 1? The success of 3RDegree’s fifth outing came as a big surprise, even to the creators themselves, who, subsequently, decided to tour Europe in promotion of the first instalment that finally sees the release of its follow-up – or, to be more accurate, prequel in Ones & Zeros: Vol. 0.
3RDegree never quite fit into the choir of progressive currents that have arisen and fallen back to dust over the years but have rather always been able to distinguish themselves from the crowd with their very unique approach. Their last effort finally accumulated all of the different unique subtleties and tied them together into a homogeneous whole. Terrifically ironic lyrics emphasised by quirky melodies sung by George Dobbs in a unique falsetto are but a few qualities that make 3RDegree special, and they have found their way back into this prequel.
Thematically and sonically this album is of course conceptually bound to its predecessor. Ergo, the album opens with the first of the two most ambitious compositional undertakings by 3RDegree to date: an overture entitled Re1nstall_0verture. Many of the sequel’s striking melodies are reworked into a different harmonic context while new elements are presented as well. Not only does the compositional construct seem more complex but even the soundscape of the instrumentation widens through the employment of various synthesizer layers and a short but poignant string-section. The overture comes to a compelling close on a reprise of the main melody of the last album’s hit, This Is The Future.
But enough of the Sequel. Connecting opens a new chapter and leads on to new adventures. While it is a great song, one cannot help but notice that it completely lives off its chorus. The verse gives the impression that it couldn’t stand on its own but only exists to serve the chorus. It actually sounds like the extension of the chorus, which, to be fair, is a strong storm of George Dobbs’ fine vocal timbre in a pool of various synth-layers.
Many of the songs on Ones & Zeros: Vol. 0 share similar traits with Connecting. Strong choruses engulfed by somewhat trivial verses and instrumental sections are found in several places – Olympia and Perfect Babies being among those compositions. The Future Doesn’t Need You on the other hand demonstrates 3RDegree’s best qualities all over again. Complex rhythmic patterns, thundered out by the drums and guitar, interrupt the introductory melody lines sung by Dobbs before guide vocals, arranged in syncopation, add surreal harmonies – convincing the listener that the future truly doesn’t really need them now. After a short middle-eight on acoustic guitar the song ends on an extended jam over the chorus chord progression that provokes heads to bop, bang and join in unison.
Unintended Consequence is the pop-blockbuster of the album and starts out quite promisingly. The guitar introduces a rapid one-two movement over which Dobbs and guest vocalist Moorea Dickason sing an intriguing melody of a highly syncopated nature, in unison. Orchestral elements are simulated by the synthesizer just before the electric guitar slides in and the drums truly drench the song in a hymnal “We Will Rock You” sphere, by means, among other things, of bass hits on the one and the two with a subsequent snare punch on the three of a 4/4. And it works. The only thing holding it back from being great is the production, which demonstrates flaws on several occasions over the course of this record, among which two very striking ones need mention here: Unintended Consequence especially suffers from the slightly narrow image. The room and scape these compositions demand can’t seem to unfold due to the cramped space which in consequence also drowns out some ornamenting elements along the edges. My main complaint however lies within the choice of the snare sound which repeatedly rips the listener out of the experience. It doesn’t fit. A lack of dynamics and natural reverberation ultimately lead to it being too loud. A minor drawback though in the scheme of things, considering how adventurous this recording is.
The epic Click Away! represents the second highly ambitious composition on the album and is a slow-paced success. The first two thirds of the song live off the constantly changing progressions that create much space and diffuse highly psychedelic flavors reminiscent of The Beatles around 1967. Patrick Kliesch finally gets the space for a more voluptuous guitar solo and delivers with much devotion. Around the 10 minute mark the song is deconstructed by a funky bass line which Robert James Pashman shares with the guitar.
The saga built around the binary code of ones & zeros ends on exactly that, Ones & Zeros. While a nice melody and a wonderful delivery by the entire band, the closer somewhat suffers from the same fate mentioned above. The unfolding of the “nice melody” is all that really ever happens over a span of 7 minutes – a great chorus but little to support it. It is however a nice ending to a long journey of ones & zeros presented over the two volumes, 1 & 0.
Ones & Zeros: Vol. 0 wonderfully draws and builds on what was established in its predecessor while at the same time remaining an independent undertaking that can stand on its own. All of the elements that made the sequel so intriguing reappear in a new context and ultimately make Vol. 0 a thrilling ride.
01. Re1nstall_0verture (3:56)
02. Connecting (4:53)
03. Olympia (5:15)
04. The Future Doesn’t Need You (5:49)
05. Unintended Consequence (3:34)
06. Perfect Babies (4:42)
07. Logical Conclusion (6:40)
08. Click Away! (15:27)
09. Ones & Zeros (7:25)
Total Time – 57:41
George Dobbs – Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion, Violin
Robert James Pashman – Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Patrick Kliesch – Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Robert Durham – Drums & Percussion
Eric Pseja – Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals
Bryan Zeigler – Electric Guitar & Backing Vocals
Aaron Nobel – Drums & Percussion (track 7)
Sheuh-Li Ong – Theremin (track 3)
Moorea Dickason – Lead Vocal (track 5)
Jay Friedman – Additional Violin (track 8)
Ava Penelope Pashman – Spoken Voice (track 6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 30th April 2018