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The Church - Untitled #23 CD (album) cover

UNTITLED #23

The Church

 

Prog Related

3.70 | 14 ratings

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maani
Special Collaborator
Founding Moderator
4 stars As the unofficial archivist of The Church here at ProgArchives, I felt it incumbent upon me to offer the first review of their latest album.

Having followed up their 2003 masterpiece, Forget Yourself, with the inventive 2006 release, Uninvited Like the Clouds, The Church proved that they could remain compelling even after reaching the pinnacle of their powers. This is due not least to the fact that they have not just established themselves as solid leaders in current progressive music, but also because they have created a style that is uniquely their own. Yes, there are influences (Floyd, Moodies, U2, 60s psychedelic rock et al). But they filter those influences so successfully that the result is entirely original ? a unique blend that remains interesting, even captivating.

Their newest release, Untitled #23, once again proves just how creative this band can be. It is an album that seems simple at first. But that?s only because there are so many subtleties that it is impossible to take them all in on the first listening. There is nothing earth-shattering here; they are not breaking any new ground. But what they HAVE done is create an incredibly dense sonic stew that is nothing short of remarkable.

There are also no rockers here: the album is mostly relaxed (for them), though it maintains the lush atmospheres, superb arrangements, broad instrumentation, and, of course, those unique Steve Kilbey talk-sung story-poems.

In fact, the best word to describe this album is: dreamy. There is a truly psychedelic, even trippy quality to most of the compositions here ? even more trippy than the band usually gets. In fact, if there is one new influence to add, it is: The Beatles (particularly Lennon). The influence is subtle, and perhaps not even deliberate. But it pervades much of the album. In fact, this album could be seen as what The Beatles might have produced if they had continued down the road of I Am the Walrus, It?s All Too Much, and other Pepper/MMT/YS-era psychedelia, moving toward a more progressive, experimental, even edgy approach.

Indeed, the opening song, Cobalt Blue, is a dreamy (and borderline paranoid) Beatle/Lennon-esque affair, complete with calliopes and lots of special effects, including background talking, etc. Deadman?s Hand finds the band in classic form, and is pure Church. Pangaea is a sweet, dreamy ballad with a quasi-Beatle-esque chorus. Happenstance is similar, though with something of an edge. Space Savior is one of the band?s weirder compositions, somewhat U2-ish, but with an aggressive, insistent monotone delivery that grabs you and does not let go.

The second half of the album is even more bizarre and progressive than the first. On Angel Street is an eerie, minimalist, plaintive composition with a truly strange keyboard figure. Sunken Sun is another dreamy ballad with an edge. Anchorage comes off like an angry, paranoid Dylan with a Bowie-ish chorus. Lunar is a short, intense piece that is simply unclassifiable. Operetta brings us full circle, back to an anthemic, Beatle-esque (if somewhat eerie) approach, complete with subtle trumpet.

There is no question that, on the whole, Untitled #23 is somewhat more?dangerous than most of the band?s previous work. It is edgier (even when it is beautiful), and perhaps even a bit more experimental (in some cases). But it is unquestionably The Church. And that can only be a good thing.

maani | 4/5 |

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