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Arabs In Aspic - Pictures In A Dream CD (album) cover


Arabs In Aspic


Heavy Prog

3.86 | 150 ratings

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4 stars I was greatly looking forward to hearing the follow-up to Arabs In Aspic's `Strange Frame Of Mind', which was one of my absolute favourite albums of 2010, and if I recall one of the first albums I gave a five star review on the Prog Archives. I was wondering if they would continue in the more melodic direction of that album, or perhaps a return to the doomy stoner psych of their earlier works `Progeria' and `Far Out In Aradabia'. Instead, `Pictures In A Dream' sees the band further honing their songwriting craft, as well as taking on more complex vocal harmonies, weaving their psychedelic flavours through more concise arrangements, but still full of all their usual colour, quirky humour and heavy/retro vibes.

The dreamy two-part opening title track, a mix of 70's Floyd with it's mellow vocals and chiming guitars, wavering synths, and bristling Mellotron gets things off to a fine start. After an extended frantic instrumental passage in the middle, the track ends up resembling a soulful Rare Bird/`Beautiful Scarlet'-like vibe, with warm female chorus vocals, humming Hammond and strident drumming. Very positive and thoughtful sounds all around. `Let U.S Pray' bridges numerous styles, parts of the track are built around heavy brooding doomy Black Sabbath-like riffs, a mellow drifting psych atmosphere, female backing gospel harmonies and thick Hammond that will remind instantly of `Division Bell'-era Floyd. This is one of the best of the disc! The deeply psychedelic and unpredictable `You Are Blind' jumps back and forth between murky but darkly groovy hard riffs with joyful foot-tapping sprightly acoustic rock behind a catchy melody, with whirling Theremin drenching the entire piece. Reflective and somber instrumental `Felix' slows things down for a moment, all gloomy Mellotron and grand David Gilmour emotional guitar soloing. Quickie `Hard To Find' is all feral angry riffing, smashing drumming over maddening Hammond repetition and creeping electric piano dreaminess, it's a bit of shame about the abrupt ending that just kills the track dead when they could have jammed on!

The fun `Difference In Time' is a terrific up-tempo poppy distraction, mixing muscular groovy rock by way of fuzzy Canterbury organ that's sure to get your girl headed to the dancefloor! I love the flirty vocal and romantic lyrics, and I know I wouldn't mind finding a girl that `tastes like honey and fine wine, that lights the gloom in my darkest nights'! It's followed by the album's epic `Lifeguard At Sharkbay' (yes really!), the comical lyrics at the start seeming totally out of place with the rest of this intense improvisation! Strap in for floating Mellotron mystery, overwhelming repetitive drumming and bluesy guitar jamming, a slow-burning brood, before up-tempo sprightly Hammond kicks in and the band really take off! The pace keeps up for the sleazy strut of `Ta Et Steg Til Sedan', with the Norwegian band singing in their native tongue, but if you don't understand the words just chill out to the bluesy Nektar-like swagger, while `Vi Motes Sikkert Igjen' again sees the band in Uriah Heap/Atomic Rooster heaviness, but contrasted with a striking and lovely thoughtful melody through dramatic group harmony vocals that recall the warmth of Rare Bird. `Prevail To Fail' is back to dreamy acoustic strumming, washing Mellotron and twisty Moog soloing similar to Yes. The vocals here range from sublime to a little messy, almost getting away from the band in a few spots. The album ends on an acoustic reprise of the title track, and although I'm not sure if it's meant merely as a bonus track, by closing on a return to the opening piece, it gives the album a complete, more rounded feel. Vinyl junkies beware, however, as these two tracks seem to be absent from the LP edition.

Initially a bit of a disappointment (I'd honestly just set such a high standard in my mind of their previous album!), `Pictures In A Dream' quickly reveals it's immense charms, as well as just how much effort has gone into finding a successful balance between catchy songcraft, psychedelic colours and heavy grooves. Housed in mind-bending psychedelic artwork by Julia Proszowska Lund to truly become lost in, this album shows the band playing perfectly to their strength with a winning mix of accessible vocal melodies and dynamic psychedelic rock instrumentation.

Four stars, and another highly recommend release by this wonderful band!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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