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Patchwork Cacophony - Patchwork Cacophony CD (album) cover

PATCHWORK CACOPHONY

Patchwork Cacophony

 

Symphonic Prog

3.41 | 13 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars My honorable colleague, compatriot and confidant, mellotronstorm suggested to Ben Bell, the man behind Patchwork Cacophony to send me a copy of his debut album in order to evaluate it, perhaps with more affinity than John did, as he gave an honest and appreciative review and felt that I would be perhaps a better suitor to trumpet the merits of this album. And he was right! Not really surprising in light of our past and current relationship that lives on, in suggestive anecdotes (musically. Hey!) propelled by the urge in stretching prog's bountiful borders. Thank you, Mr. Davie!

Yeah, this is my kind of progressive rock album, seduced by an opening piano motif that lights up the epic 16 minute introduction to keyboard-driven bliss, a majestic and adventurous layering of softer and wilder sections, extremely melodic and exploratory. The way keyboard prog should be, virtuoso and 'soundscapist', pushing the boundaries that have illuminated our genre and help it to survive. Ben is a wicked player, a mix of Gary Wright and Manfred Mann on the synths, as well as a classically-trained pianist that hints at two Ricks, Wakeman and Davies of Supertramp fame. "Sketch of a Day" is a thrill, a track that will demand repeat listens. The bright opening piano segment could easily have been part of 'Fool's Overture', a rather lusty but deserved accolade, as it slowly builds into a more symphonic piece, boisterous synthesizers sliding into the midst, mellotron in support, yet maintaining the focus on the piano at all times. There are some clever choir-likes crescendos that expand the orchestral grandeur and give a lot of depth and creative lineage to the piece. A melancholic piano waves a solemn good bye towards the setting sun. A truly satisfying opening salvo that bodes well for the ensuing set of tracks, particularly the lengthier arrangements.

Two mini-stylistic presentations are in order, "No U-turn" is a playful ditty, Ben Bell trying out his Booker T organ lessons and succeeding nicely. It's pleasurable, unpretentious, almost boogie-woogie progressive with synthesized mayhem and a melodica-led theme. "Dance"is a lighter, similarly brief piece that is fluffier, something Geoff Downes would do with his New Dance Orchestra, and I enjoyed the playful mechanisms that envelop the listener, a feel-good sense that is quite graceful.

But the true measure of the album remains pointed at the more successful longer tracks, so its back to another long one, the 11 minute "Brinkmanship" , a stellar ride that is quite an anomaly in that its seems so fresh and exuberant. The classically tinged piano spearheads the remaining keyboards (organ and synth) to assault the senses and create a rather bombastic, modern sounding mini-opus. The drums are kept in the background and there is nothing extravagant about the keys being so front and center. The 'ooh' backing choir thickens the plot and pads the thick mellotron mattresses while the boogie piano is once again in the spotlight. There are some Emerson/Wakeman winks as well as a few nods to Jon Lord (the organ work), the piece's development is an all-keyboard affair again, with multiple visits and revisits.

The breezy pastoral air of "Nylons for Parot" is an another nice 2 minute intermezzo, with the acoustic guitar taking up the slack and sugaring the road ahead with some delightful vibes as the segue into the album's core is next and last up, the titanic 26 minute "Dawn Light" suite. This heavenly ivory-laden behemoth is broken down into nine nimble sections, with the wind-swept synths leading the gorgeous "Prelude", a perfect electronic opener that would make even the great Vangelis envious. On the next section "Changes in the Air", the piano hogs the stage again, with Ben Bell's voice supplying some drama to the worried lyrics, as the drums muscle onward. The jumpier "No Time" has a jagged edge, brusque and raging when need be, steered by bruising bass and relentless organ flurries, Ben Bell's reedy voice has tinges of Guy Manning and gives the lyrics some meaning. The brief piano "Reprise" has a child-like innocence that cannot go unnoticed, as it's utterly compelling. "We Can't Stay" slings into another direction quite unexpectedly, fusing incorrigible Gentle Giant-like counterpoint vocal harmonies and once again giving the stage to some deft piano work. It's fabulous for me but I can see why mellotronstorm would cringe a little bit. On "Rest my Feet", Bell intones his exasperated exhaustion convincingly, a subtle vocal and sterling piano accompaniment that makes this wee section a real treasured highlight. Contrast that with the squeaky insanity shown on the aptly-titled "Scorched Earth", featuring a squirming synth that is just out of this world, voice effects in the background! Now elevate that to a higher notch with the propulsive attack on the 6 minute ramble "Final Sunset", a featured e-piano solo that has a busy clavinet sound to boot, a great slice of intricate keyboard-driven prog rock. His Manning-tinged voice does well again, reaching high spots that are confusingly adroit, under the circumstances. The suite ends with the melancholic grandeur of "Twilight Procession" and that is exactly what is conveyed, a sense of gentle accomplishment and a keen eye on the road ahead.

Though showing a few 'raw' moments (which I happen to admire a lot in a debut work), there is a huge talent at play here, an artist that has successfully displayed his craft and can only get even better with his next effort, perhaps finding instrumental partners that may heighten the already lofty stylistics at hand here. The lengthy pieces are superb entertainment and underline a quality musical mind at work. The piano playing is thunderous and the sound is majestic.

4 makeshift discords

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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