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Outside In - Karmatrain CD (album) cover


Outside In


Crossover Prog

3.59 | 15 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Over the course of the last 12 months or so, my musical explorations have taken more into metal territory, and as such I was spending less time on Prog Archives. Very little time in fact. So it surprised me when I signed in and checked my message box and found six requests for reviews! One of those requests came from New Zealanders, Outside In. I'll admit having a sweet spot for New Zealand. It's the country I wish I could retire to someday. So, I was eager to hear what these lads had cooked up from the land of the tuatara.

"Karmatrain" is in the crossover prog category. I guess that means that there is less obvious emphasis on the tricky dicky playing that often comes with prog and a strong focus on songwriting and melodies because that was my first impression of this album. It is for the most part very mellow, pretty, soft, and easy to enjoy. I felt the music and vocals sounded very similar to Perfect Beings. Other reviewers have cited Porcupine Tree or others, but I am strongly reminded of Perfect Beings.

On my inaugural listen, my impression was that this album is very dreamy and rich in vocal melodies and vocal harmonies. The music seemed to be more in support of the vocals rather than for showing off anyone's skill. But it was during the second listen that my ears perked up. The complexities of the playing and song structures and the odd drum rhythms became more apparent to me. The vocals too became more enchanting and I felt some tracks were beginning to draw me in. It was as though I had come to the seaside and after an initial view of the waves I was now entranced by their motion.

A couple of observations. The first is that the music basically sticks to a certain style of delivery. Though I can hear heavier guitars at times, these songs are for the most part gentle and easy on the ears. At first it seemed as though there was little variation in the songs but now I can hear the different variations better and make out the playing more. Still though, this is not an album that leaps all over the board. It has a course already set and after the first few songs there will be no jarring examples songs that stand out as greatly different. It's a very consistent album, but that should not be understood as meaning dull!

The other observation is the mixing. I can hear the guitars, drums, and bass as though they were mixed to sound as a cohesive backing unit for the lyrics. The best way I can describe it is that while on other albums all the instruments might sound as individual mountains, the instruments on this album sound more like peaks on a singular massif. There's a thick, warm sonic atmosphere. That's not a criticism. But what it means is that I don't hear the music for the details as easily.

I feel this is an album that will reward further with more listens. Once you get past the initial impressions, the cleverness will become more and more apparent. Once again, I haven't been in the headspace for softer music recently, so perhaps I am not appreciating this album as much as I should. But the door has opened and I am going to inspect this one deeper.

Many thanks to Outside In for sharing your music with me.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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