Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bone Cave Ballet's Will of the Waves on CD

Mention prog rock and most people will start thinking of the '70s--King Crimson, Yes, early Genesis, Jethro Tull, ELP and maybe even Floyd. Over the years, many rock fans and critics have been very dismissive of the genre; even the Wikipedia entry uses such words as "overblown" and "pretentious" in its opening paragraph. What many people don't realize is that progressive rock has made a comeback in the last decade or so, with bands such as Dungen, Muse and The Mars Volta producing intricate, complex and ambitious music that has been pigeonholed as something labelled "nu prog." (One day I'll figure out how to put an umlaut in Blogger copy.) This 21st century version of prog is more inclined to add elements of indie, metal, grunge and shoegaze, eschewing the jazz and classical dalliances of old school prog. As a result these new bands have much more of an edge, and that makes them much more interesting than many of their forebearers--in my humble opinion, at least.

Bone Cave Ballet is a Seattle-based progressive rock band that straddles the precipice between the old and the new. They're as light on their feet as Fragile-era Yes, and as beholden to the baroque as the first incarnation of Crimson. But they differ in two important ways. First, they've trimmed the fat off of classic prog rock by offering five relative succinct cuts on their new EP, Will of the Waves--the whole affair lasts just over 25 minutes. Second, Bone Cave Ballet features a female lead singer named Jacqui Gilroy, and her voice is downright coquettish and sexy. (When was the last time you called prog rock "sexy"?) Female singers in prog rock are rare enough, outside of Amy what's-her-name from Evanescence who's more interested in a Gothic, overwrought patina to her vocal delivery. But Gilroy puts such a winsome spin on Bone Cave Ballet's songs that you might not even notice it's prog at first.

Prog isn't prog unless you have some damn fine musicians backing you up, and Bone Cave Ballet also includes three people who sound like they've been experimenting in the basement for decades. Drummer Kelly Mynes flies through prog's odd time signatures with the greatest of ease, bassist Ezekiel Lords delivers on that awesome classic prog name with a lithe touch and Jeff Blancato--who shares guitar duties with Gilroy, embraces all those distinctive '70s guitar effects with considerable respect and affection. Another added bonus is the superb sound quality of Will of the Waves. This is the type of album that, if released in 1974, would sport one of those goofy "This record should be played LOUD" stickers at the end of the liner notes. Open, relatively uncompressed and dynamic, this recording won't get muddy once the volume control passes midnight.

I have quite a few audiophile friends who keep complaining that there'll never be another Selling England By the Pound or Larks Tongues in Aspic--and that's what makes some of these old prog fans so insufferable, if I can be slightly snarky. But I think those same middle-aged guys would really enjoy Bone Cave Ballet, despite the fact that there's more than enough here to appeal to a much broader audience. If you're curious about new prog, I suggest you start here.

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