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Perfect Beings - Vier CD (album) cover

VIER

Perfect Beings

 

Crossover Prog

4.07 | 133 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I really enjoyed the first two Perfect Beings albums and as well Johannes Luley's other albums: Moth Vellum and his solo album "Tales from Sheepfather's Grove". But I didn't know that Perfect Beings had released their third album until I saw someone review it on YouTube. How fortunate it was that I caught that bit of news and was able to order a copy for myself.

On the first two albums, Perfect Beings created a wonderful blend of classic prog (particularly Yes) with eighties pop (like Tears for Fears or even a bit of Frankie Goes to Hollywood in one song) and modern prog. The two albums were released in 2014 and 2015, and then there was a three-year gap for this third offering, "Vier". During the intervening years, two members left but only one new member was brought it. Perfect Beings also got picked up by the major label Inside Outside. What's most impressive however is how this new incarnation of the band went ahead to record an album that takes a big leap onward from the first two.

This album features a slew of guests and a broad variety of instruments, including koto, er-hu, Tibetan singing bowls, and tabla, along with a collection of traditional western instruments. Considering that Johannes Luley is a guitarist trained in jazz and influenced by the likes of David Gilmour, Steve Howe, Jeff Beck, and Wes Montgomery, it's rather surprising to notice those tracks without any guitar playing! All this should suggest a band with a vision for music and sound over a simple prog rock band.

The album is in four parts, and on the double vinyl release, each part takes up one side. I can't help but draw a little comparison to "The Wall" here because each part (one side of vinyl) is a string of music tracks that not only segue into one another but do so very inconspicuously at times. Given that a song might abruptly change into something very different, it's difficult to know when a new track begins without looking at the track number. Then there's a track like "The Persimmon Tree" that introduces a new melody in the music during the final minute or so and then this melody suddenly picks up power and fullness as though to reach the beginning of some climax in the music but actually it's at this point where the next track "Turn the World Off" begins. Back to Pink Floyd, there are at least a few parts with sustained, atmospheric keyboard chords that are reminiscent of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" here and there on the album, and a bit of David Gilmour-styled guitar playing in "America". That sax solo at the end of "Enter the Center" could also be inspired by "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". I'm also curious about the notion of building a pyramid (not a wall) and how the final track is called "Everything's Falling Apart" and the lyrics say something about having to get out of this place. Then the music becomes quiet and slowly builds in volume until everything just stops at once. Was there some inspiration from Pink Floyd on this album?

The music served up on "Vier" features some familiar Perfect Beings territory such as in the excellent beginning of the album "A New Pyramid" or "Altars of the Gods", which brings in that Steve Howe style of lead guitar. But then there's the incredible "The Persimmon Tree" which is non-rock and sounds like the score for a ballet, or "Hissing the Wave of the Dragon" with it's delightful Chinese-themed music, at least in the first half. Or how about the exciting, galloping pace and tension of "Lord Wind"? There are a lot of unexpected and awesome surprises cropping up on this album. Many of the songs also build up to some climax which is so sweet to hear but then soon the music settles down into the next track. It's an album that keeps you guessing and it has little in common with the previous two albums, but rather really does seem like a big leap off in a different direction at times.

If there's anything that might turn some listeners off, it's that many of the tracks are rather sparse instrumentally, with some passages supported only by a guitar or keyboard and a back up instrument in percussion or a synthesizer key pulsing. Because of the frequency of these less dynamic parts, some listeners may feel the need for a relaxing armchair and comfy cushion, and sometimes the stretches to the next moment of excitement might seem a bit far with a payoff that ends too soon. As I listened to the album for possibly the fifth time, I found myself appreciating the simplicity in those more serene, atmospheric parts: a single instrument with a simple melody, backed by a second instrument keeping it very simple, and then the vocals.

How much you get out of these relaxed passages depends on how you listen and consider the music. I'd probably prefer the first two albums more for swiftly changing, dynamic music, but then again, that's not the intent of "Vier". As with other Johannes Luley recordings, everything is there for a reason.

FragileKings | 4/5 |

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