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Algernon - Ghost Surveillance CD (album) cover

GHOST SURVEILLANCE

Algernon

 

Eclectic Prog

3.75 | 47 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Unless I meet any sort of supernatural surprise in my next musical purchases on my way toward Christmas and New Year's Day, I'm afraid that I have just found yet another undisputed member of 2010's Top 5 Progressive Albums List. Oh my? what a way to begin to get acquainted with Chicago-based outfit Algernon! Their 2010 release "Ghost Surveillance" is an amazing treat in which complexity and dynamics fuse in one single sonic resource within the ample, ever-challenging confines of art-rock. The band's nuclear essence is based on a solid mixture of jazz-rock's warmth, post-rock's textures and psychedelia's adventurous explorations within a tight framework that cries out "progressive" across every single pore of every single sound provided by the dual guitars, the rhythm duo and the relevant percussion inputs, with the occasional keyboards adding proper ornaments in the grand scheme. At times, sources from no-wave, heavy rock and krautrock also make their presence noticed in order to capitalize the creativity that is constantly refurbished along the way of this eclecticism that Algernon make their own. This is great, this is greater than just great ? ideas that will flow through your head while you go on listening to this album from the exciting opener to the eerie closer. Well, let's go for the album itself, shall we? 'The Briefing' constructs its main body in a sustained fashion, displayed freely after a brief introductory passage that bears a constrained feel. The track's swing is catchy, even in those moments where acid psychedelic tricks season the musical development. 'Broken Lady' goes for a more fusion-oriented road, with an intelligent architecture that somehow reminisces of Upper Extremities and Gordian Knot (a least, to me). The slow second half shifts toward a more introverted mood, while not feeling to forced in the track's whole scheme. 'Honey Trap' leads us straightforwardly to the sort of jazz-meets-post-rock thing that Algernon masters with such genius: the sonic result is like a landscape amply dominated by powerful grayish ones. On the other hand, 'Timekiller' bears a more brilliant disguise that makes the instrumental framework appear more colorful: having said that, there are also some momentary sources of tension that make the integral delivery quite interesting as it is surprising. So far, so good, and there is more musical extravagance in sore, as the majestic 'Operative vs. Opposition' comes to show right away. Its intriguing mixture of Crimsonian psychedelia and "Unrest"-era Henry Cow and its rhythmic nucleus that alternates Lain jazz, heavy rock and progressive sophistication make it a fundamental highlight of this album: all through its 8+ minute span, this piece never fails to surprise and engage the perceptive listener. The density displayed in the last passages adds a solid sense of creepiness, which conveniently helps to finalize the climax's strength. Once this monster piece is over, 'Everybody Stay Calm' enters in to change things for a while. Its first section is marked by a contemplative atmosphere built mostly by the dialogue of Theremin and vibraphone; then the second section settles in, shifting toward an extroverted development of elegant rocking power. 'Intelligence Meltdown' brings a funny portrait of refurbished 60s garage rock, which makes sense with the previous track's second section. 'Debrief and Defect' is the album's longest piece: it starts with a punchy intro that will eventually be reiterated in the coda, while in the ample middle space there is room for a developing set of variations. The first central motif is built on a slow tempo that enables the instrumental scheme to appear equally calm and uneasy: the vibraphone's protagonist role is essential for this, while the Spartan notes on piano and bass establish a convenient counterpoint. Then comes a moment of abstract serenity focused on a well-crafted crescendo that feels mostly eerie and spacey, but it also contains some sort of aggressiveness. The minimalist ambience we meet here is heavily based on the increasing tension manifested in the synth layers, soon joined by calculated interventions by other instruments (especially on bass guitar) ? very much a GYBE!-meets-Tortoise thing. The track's vigorous coda serves as an announcement of 'Objective Compromise', which is arguably the most successful track in terms of typically progressive dynamics ? I may allow myself to describe it as a hybrid of Crimson, Don Caballero and Attention Deficit. Two highlights in a road? just unbelievable! Finally, 'The L Pill' wraps things up in an atmosphere of cosmic nuances that manifest the band's taste for krautrock's electronic free-form: the soft amalgam of keyboards and guitar adornments make an evocative finale for an album that sounds like a Pandora's box of today's progressive rock. Let's not wait for Algernon's death to bring hem flowers ? let's give them to the band right now, 5 stars for "Ghost Surveillance".
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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