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Rick Miller - Belief in the Machine CD (album) cover

BELIEF IN THE MACHINE

Rick Miller

 

Crossover Prog

3.92 | 54 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The endless enigma (hello ELP) of progressive rock continues to prove itself as a valid reality, the sheer size of its history and ongoing legacy remain astounding. Even after 50 years , I still unearth hidden jewels that I kick myself for not picking up on earlier, but I understand that this is what happens when you have a global phenomenon that will forever offer new discoveries. Such is the case with Canadian composer and multi-instrumentalist Rick Miller, who has created 14 releases since 1984, the first 2 being more electronic relaxation music but veering fully into prog with ''Dreamtigers'' back in 2004. Ever since then, Rick has been pumping out albums at a steady pace (average every second year), using the same seasoned crew, namely one of Canada's top session guitarists in Barry Haggerty , Sarah Young on flute , cellist Mateusz Swoboda and his friend Will on drums. His style of choice happens to mirror mine: a romantic, emotional, heart-felt melancholic, cinematographic soundtrack that can be dark, brooding, haunting and focused on powerful melodies that seep into the spirit and conjure deep images. Having seen the glowing reviews on PA, I took the jump to read some of them and I realized I had been missing out on something right down my alley (the power of reviews from trusted sources). I recently purchased his latest ''Belief in the Machine'' and I am red-faced with shame, as this is quite the find, being exactly the type of prog I have always adored and continue to do so to this day.

The artwork for his albums is quite evocative and this one is no exception, as it mirrors the fabulous music inside, Rick showing no mufty-flufty tendency to gently entice, going straight for the jugular with the epic 11 and half minute opener ''Correct to the Core'' which lays out all the characteristics of his musical style: a somber cello slithering into the soul, Floydian textures that seek to haunt (namely vocal sound effects), a forlorn bass rumble and Gilmourian flourishes , all coalescing into a hard binary beat and an explosive and mesmerizing guitar rant. Rick's hushed voice takes centerstage, crafting the savvy melody that will guide this track through multiple developments, piano leading the way, bass following obediently behind. Clever lyrics parallel the crafty arrangements, everyone getting to solo: guitar, cello and flute, a perfect 'mise en place' that sets that table for the amazing ride this album is.

A trio of shorter pieces seek to expand the sonic palette , first up the flute-driven gorgeousness of ''That Inward Eye pt1'' which has a melody that is irreproachably magnificent , then the brief title track, a straightforward , guitar-fed rocker with a simple gait and ended by ''The Land and the Sea' , a brooding , percussive setting that serves , in my opinion, to set up the masterpiece track, the devastating and immediate classic prog of ''The Need to Believe'', a hybrid mix of Pink Floyd and Moody Blues , owner of a crushingly evocative melody that with bring tears of happiness to the romantic-inclined progger, armed with a Barry Haggerty Stratocaster foray of the finest vintage and a chorus to match: celestial, searing, hopeful, melancholic and downright beautiful.

From this moment on, the experimental side takes over, offering up cinematographic instrumental mind music of the highest order, with electronic piano a la 'No Quarter', cello, vaporous synth clouds and the subtle yet pervasive guitar interference , all displayed on ''Prelude to the Trial'' . Another instrumental piece ''Binary Breakdown'' is in contrast wilder and more energetic, adorned with swirling rhythms, cello blasts, looping bass, hard drums, slippery synths and echoing guitar flashes that finally evolves into a glittering axe solo. The melodic content is clearly defined and not a random jam, full of noodles. ''That Inward Eye Pt2 '' reprises the earlier flute melody, a welcome return to pastoral heaven, as cello, string synths and a sweet vocal all merge to create quite the melancholic feel. The choir effects are splendidly detailed, a gentle slice of symphonic beauty.

The angst-laden gloom of 'Media Gods (including the Awakening)' starts out as a symphonic holocaust of gothic choir, devilish flute and cello spurts , synthesized swirls and then an acoustic guitar introduces an atmospheric expanse , the Sarah Young flute nearby as an enthusiastic ally, and excellent intro into the final epic piece, the 10 minute 'The Trial' which elevates the proceedings to exhilarating heights as it spans the spectrum, from gentle to exacerbated, in dealing with creepy lyrics involving paranoia (as per the spoken words), as the puerile piano ambles, the orchestral melodies colliding with more poignant fervour, laden with electronic effects as the harsh beat kicks in, relentless. The vocals return, guitar twirling in a frenzy, with a choir melancholy that really hits the spot, as the attention to detail create levels of enjoyment that keeps the listener on its ears (or toes!).

This album has been a truly gratifying experience, chock full of amazingly crafted melodies, a perfect introduction to a musician I fully intend to help complete my collection, as this is right down my alley. I have already ordered his Falling Through Rainbows release from 2009, which I must say is just as enjoyable. As it stands, this is my favourite 2020 album up to now and I just cannot wait to hear more from my fellow Canadian! Rick Miller needs to be appreciated by a much wider audience.

4.5 System credos

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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