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The Church - Seance CD (album) cover


The Church


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3.77 | 23 ratings

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5 stars [Third in a series] There are occasional (some might say rare) times when the confluence in a band is so fortuitous that it creates a kind of gestalt, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Although not "progressive" in the strictest sense, Seance is one of those rare confluences. (And there would not be another such gestalt for The Church until Preist=Aura, which launched them into truly progressive rock.)

From the opening notes of "Fly," you can tell that The Church had become a far more confident band, and was developing a more "textured" and (even if not fully developed yet) progressive sound: the keyboard in the chorus is both strong and perfect, the strings (a new element) are used tastefully and appropriately, and the use of percussion instead of drums signals a very different approach to writing and arrangement. (As an aside, "Fly" may be the most perfect 2-minute song in progressive rock.) "Fly" leads directly into "One Day" with a strong, Beatle-esque guitar, a slightly syncopated backbeat, and Kilbey's first virtually monotone delivery, which not only works effectively, but is actually quite compelling. (Peter Koppes also takes a neat solo.) "Electric" opens with a nice rhythm guitar/drum pattern again, and a very interesting lead guitar part. The keyboard and general arrangement of the chorus are lush with progressive sensibilities. "It's No Reason" is the first Church song to open with and feature keyboards, and the chorus is a beautiful, melancholy mix of acoustic guitar, keyboards, and a subtle string arrangement, giving it an almost Moody Blues-ish quality. "Travel By Thought" is a mish-mash of progressive elements, and seems more like an "experiment" than a cohesive idea (it also sounds like a "nod" to XTC's "Travels in Nihilon," which was released the year before and has a very similar drum figure and general arrangment). "Disappear" makes effective use of acoustic guitar, a simple syncopated beat (they were starting to get really good at this - and would get even better in the future), and Harrison-esque lead fills. "Electric Lash" finds the band having some fun with its former approach (even slyly bringing in the guitar figure from "Sisters"), although with a strange snare effect and a nice keyboard figure. "Now I Wonder Why" is underpinned by a wonderful McCartney-esque bass figure (is there a pattern developing here?...), which at times follows the vocal. The keyboards at the bridge add a nice touch. "Dropping Names" is an interesting amalgam of the band's former and current approaches: a solid rock beat and jangly guitars, mixed with subtle keyboards, sound effects, textures, etc. "It Doesn't Change" closes the album with a haunting, quasi-paranoid (read "Floydian"), minimalist arrangement of arpeggiated guitar, drums, solid bass, and increasingly present keyboards - an approach that would eventually become part of their "signature" sound.

Overall, "Seance" is the band's first "progressive" album, in as much as they were clearly applying their growing progressive sensibilities in a conscious manner. And given the "basic rock" approach of the majority of their prior material, "Seance" is a truly unexpected and wonderful offering. As importantly, it was the beginning of the first of three short "periods" that the band would go through, all of which were initiated by breakthrough albums. "Seance" was to The Church's "growth" as "Foxtrot" was to Genesis, "Time and A Word" was to Yes, and "Atom Heart Mother" was to Pink Floyd - all of those albums were great, but presaged even greater things to come.

maani | 5/5 |


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