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Aisles - 4:45am CD (album) cover





3.37 | 53 ratings

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3 stars Chile's neo prog/crossover band "Aisles" would appear to be adopting the philosophy of the proverbial tortoise, marking a slow and steady improvement with each release, and a maturation that comes with watching the world pass by at half speed. "4:45 AM" channels this philosophy, the hour at which one can simply roll over or opt to savor the crepuscular serenity and put the hurly burly in its place.

The style remains as before: a refreshingly uptempo, at times even pop inflected delivery that thankfully splashes about a romantic Latin flair in its more acoustic textures, as well as in its vocals, which tower above the meager standards of most prog rock. The prog quotient remains high throughout, quite an achievement given the lightness of some of the moods. It is reinforced by several instrumentals, with "Gallarda Varura" and "hero" being the most enjoyable, the former possessing a sweet melody and the latter all the bombast of recent NICK MAGNUS instrumentals via STEVE HACKETT. The more accessible songs are the title cut, the power ballad "Back my Strength" reminiscent of the better offerings on the prior albums, and the remarkable "Shallow and Daft", which achieves its stated objective of emulating 1980s synth pop, with meticulous arrangements, irresistible synth hooks and spoken parts that warn of the dangers of charismatic media overlords the world over. But all in an uplifting way!

The mellow "The Sacrifice" and "Sorrow" incorporate fluid acoustic guitar passages that hint at the group's lineage without insisting upon it, and the result is congenial. I may be giving the impression that the music of "Aisles" is too "safe" for the more demanding progressive rock listener, and I suppose that's true to an extent. I might argue that distinguishing oneself in this realm is no easier than in the cumulus clouds of 11/8 time signatures and virtuous solos, and AISLES performs admirably well in a more crowded field by playing to their strengths. Prior albums revealed that epics were not their trump card, and the closer here, "Melancholia" does not really buck the trend, although its monotony of languid vocals and ponderous guitars is not without charm.

I have to resist grading "4:45 AM" as a schoolmarm might assess a student whom she believes to be underachieving, in the hopes of motivating said student. In a recent discussion about "Aisles", I confronted the reality that, while I really like the group, I find their output doesn't quite do them justice. Still, this is their best album to date and, like the title hints, it's still early in the grand scheme of things. 5 stars by 2020?

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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