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Supersister - To The Highest Bidder CD (album) cover

TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER

Supersister

 

Canterbury Scene

4.27 | 242 ratings

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rogerthat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars At the outset, let me declare my strong personal bias towards this album, or, specifically, the style of music employed here. I am a total sucker for baroque counterpoint as well as walking basslines. This peculiar combination is down to my adolescent experiences with music, which consisted of absorbing the works of a composer who happens to be my favourite musician of all to date. Being that said musician is not a prog rock musician, I won't get into the details of who he is and what he has done here. But let me just say that there are many moments on this Supersister album that evoke the style and approach of said musician to me. This perhaps blinds me to some extent to the flaws of this, their second album "To The Highest Bidder".

Both the mini-epics on this album, Girl Named You and Energy (Out of Future), lack organisation and resolution. It's not that the music is chaotic but there are places where it drifts into tangents, albeit rather busy and entertaining ones. And the resolution in both tracks feels a bit forced, as if stuck on to the end as an appendage for want of better alternatives. Both the other tracks, No Tree Will Grow and Higher, don't suffer these problems but are also lightweight in terms of structure (not that that's necessarily a problem). And...that's it. In essence, this album, not counting the bonus goodies on the remastered edition, consists of four tracks of which only exceed 10 minutes. In total, 35 minutes. That means while there is no danger of this album dragging on and losing the listener's attention, it is also a bit too short and 'light' to be truly sumptuous, at least from my perspective. Awarding a 5 stars is a long shot already and I can even empathise with those reviews that denied the 4 stars to it. As entertaining as this album is, one may well end up feeling, "What the fuss" when he is through with the album.

And, yet, oh, the entertainment. This Dutch outfit has a great sense of humour. It may not manifest itself quite so much in the lyrics but certainly in the musical decisions made. It is hard, at least for me, not to listen to this music without a big smile on me. They do get quirky and weird, as one would expect with most Canterbury, but in a funny and enjoyable way. Though there are some dissonant passages of music in the album, the mood rarely ever exudes dissonance. It's just the sound of a band having tons of fun.

And they do know how to have fun. The bass, drums and flute are superb throughout the album and the keyboard contributions are great too (check out the very baroque keyboards just before vocals kick in in Girl Named You). Robert Jan Stips sounds pretty close to Richard Sinclair in lots of places, notwithstanding some downright strange voice box-aided passages. The band's sense of fun, added to my partiality to their baroque harmony and hyperactive basslines, makes it easy going for me. I can nitpick and be critical but I don't feel particularly inclined to for the most part. Oh, it helps that, as such, I love Canterbury and Supersister, though they may be Dutch, nail the quintessence of Canterbury I would not be too far off the mark to suggest it's like listening to a quirky version of Caravan.

And any doubts I have for how much I have been engaged by the album are washed away by the brief but lovely Higher. This under three minute track has a very delicate and haunting refrain and the rendition, both vocals and instruments wise, is pitch perfect (emotionally, that is). To me, this track, in spite of how short it is, is a lot more substantial than anything else on the album and makes a much more lasting impression. The rest of the album is very entertaining to listen through; Higher has that elusive quality which persuades me to want to listen again...and then again and again.

With more tracks of the quality of Higher, Supersister would have pushed me to consider a 5 stars, overriding its notable flaws. But there's just one and as beautiful as it is, it does not push me to throw all objectivity out of the window.

In summary, it's got that classic 70s prog feel and unless you strongly dislike Canterbury, it's hard to go wrong with this album. But with that said, that's as far as it goes too. 4 stars.

rogerthat | 4/5 |

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