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Poor Genetic Material - Island Noises CD (album) cover

ISLAND NOISES

Poor Genetic Material

 

Crossover Prog

3.31 | 14 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars After their season cycle, POOR GENETIC MATERIAL sought another source of inspiration for their abstract soundscapes. They marked time with a transitional album before appearing to settle on master literary works, the first of these being Shakespeare's "The Tempest". It took 4 years for this mammoth undertaking to reach fruition, in which time I would have wished for a compatible visual production which would have enhanced the experience.

I confess that this play by the bard was not on our required list for any English classes, so I am not familiar with the story, and I could imagine that a knowledge of the plot and characters, more so the themes might help an appreciation of this double CD. Still, it offers many pleasures, again walking a fine line between modern neo prog, old style symphonic prog, accessible rock, and ambient music; patient fans of all of these will find plenty to inspire them. I say patient because "Island Noises" is generally lower key than most prog and reveals itself in strata particular to each listener's sensibilities and vulnerabilities.

To dispense with the inevitable weaknesses of such an ambitious project, I have to say I am not a fan of any of the narrated parts that last more than 10 seconds or so, as they further decelerate the subtle momentum, and they cannot be programmed out. At almost 100 minutes, this could possibly have been pared to a long single disk with an executive decision here or there. And, finally, as alluded to, and perhaps related to the band's' legacy as soundtrack oriented writers, while the album is highly visual, at times I need a little help with the images, particularly on the more elongated atmospheric passages. Not that there is anything wrong with occasionally drifting off, but I keep feeling like I am missing a scene!

Of its many strengths, which I have to say do offer more than sufficient repudiation, the voice of PHIL GRIFFITHS continues to mature and sets the band so far above their contemporaries - it is heartfelt, always spot on, and fits the music to which it is set. The musicianship is confident and tight, and the arrangements and compositions appealing. Nowhere is this better illustrated than on the 20 minute title cut, a potpourri of all the styles represented by PGM in proportion and juxtaposition, with even some jazzy interludes. It all opens out to a jaunty vocal section about Caliban. Pia's flutes offset the pretensions as needed. Other superb tracks that may not seem so at first, which one can say about everything here, would be the almost classic symphonic "Roarers", the sweet ballad "Brave New World", the playful swing of "Assassins and Sleepers", "In a State of Grace", "Fountain of Innocence", "Drowning the Book", and the forward from the past looking "Dreamstuff", in which the impact of the story and author are examined.

Comparisons are challenging with PGM - I hear bits and pieces of classic and contemporary, but they have managed to retain their individuality through their eclectic nature, consummate vocalist, ambitious themes, and warm arrangements. At the risk of triggering a tempest in a teapot, I'd say these noises drown out most of their better known brethren.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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