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3RDegree - Ones & Zeros - Volume 1 CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.11 | 355 ratings

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Greg Jones
5 stars Concept albums have typically been a mixed blessing for me as a listener. While I usually applaud the effort and ambition it takes to even attempt to write one, I always listen with the trepidation one bears on a first date, wondering exactly how many minutes will elapse before the whole thing starts to disappoint and unravel. With hindsight, my personal favorites seem to be those with more abstract or surreal storylines, like 70s Genesis classic The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and recent skull scrambler Theman Simpulse by the British duo Those Men. For in the realm of progressive rock, there is no more defining test of your artistic mettle and compositional prowess than whether or not you can tell a compelling tale in song across an entire release. Do it without a linear structure based in reality? Even more impressive.

3rDegree are the latest band of note to take on the challenge with Ones And Zeroes Volume I. Multiple listens in, well, here are my thoughts and impressions...

This record begins innocently enough - you have no idea of the mind threshing you're willingly queuing up to submit yourself to when it starts. The band sounds just like itself on the first song, the first minute or so, but then, hey, there's an odd twist. And before you know it, the sonic turns, trap doors and scene changes keep coming and you can't even brace yourself. The chaotic narcotic scat thinking you're riding for dear life has no intention of applying brakes. Soon I don't even recognize the band. While these are all too real performances and stellar ones at that, each player seems to have been digitized alive, essence captured as they sparkle like sonic holograms in my mind's eye through the maelstrom, the story coming to pass before my very ears. In this bizarre "where ARE"-scape, Robert Pashman's bass sounds like a 7 foot assassin with attitude, fierce and tactile; Aaron Nobel's drums roar and crack, gouging a groove atop the furies unleashed with power and precision; and George Dobbs' vocals bring to mind the great Miles Davis: completely unlike anything he's done before and recklessly out on the splintering ice. It's like he's pushing all career accolades out of his way in an instant for a daring, determined dash to discover new timbres for his voice. Successfully.

And the guitars? What can I possibly say to do justice to the nano-surgical strikes the three string slingers make to these songs? They should be celebrated on the cover of Guitarchitectural Digest. Unpredictable (in this music, that's no small feat!), they are delicate, brutal, tapestrially textural, adolescently snotty and sensationally stirring. Patrick Kliesch, Eric Pseja, Bryan Ziegler, theirs is a musical ballet of pristine and perfect contributions. With sublime subtlety and taste, they rage in the power of their ideas. And the songs? Are these, in fact, songs? In all but a couple places, not like any I've ever heard. From the subject matter to the scar-spangled hooks, this nightmare of a grave new world puts all the emphasis on new. New forms, new subjects, new thoughts, all yield new chills. The few familiar signposts and eerie background vocals serve only to show how far away you've been carried from normal music.

In closing, allow me to make two statements. First, each and every time I hear this record it's a new and different experience. How is that even possible? The great Adrian Belew's groundbreaking app FLUX achieves this with cutting edge technology; these guys did it with compositional skill and imagination alone. Second, by fearlessly eschewing the familiar sound of their band for new horizons, 3rDegree have not only struck oil but have forever metamorphisized from progressive musicians into quintessential artists. Whatever the passage of time and hindsight do to this album, it will never, ever be boring. I declare this a tear in the how, what and where; listen, and you'll know why. Like Comment Share

Greg Jones | 5/5 |


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