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Mars Hollow - Mars Hollow CD (album) cover

MARS HOLLOW

Mars Hollow

 

Crossover Prog

3.64 | 76 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

rustedsynapse
5 stars I've finally been able to put my finger on it. Mars Hollow is writing progressive rock film scores. They have the address of your mind's eye.

As I was listening to their self-titled debut album, I had an altogether unexpected experience; I wondered how it was that this album was affecting me in such a sensual way, drawing from me emotions not accessed of late and certainly not normally found consistently in the progressive rock music of the day wherein, for the most part, the song craft is appreciated and debated on intellectual terms and the musicianship is rated and ranked as one would, at best, the technical proficiency of an engineer or at worse a skilled laborer.

I was transported as I had been when I first listened to the English set pieces of Jethro Tull, laying back on starry nights in back fields not caring at all that the battery life was dragging out the experience as the cassette tape crawled through the "boom box", or the mystical parallel universes of Yes and the raucous, existential sideshows of ELP pouring through my big ass Koss headphones while I sat cross-legged in the basement with the album art opened on my lap.

That's when I realized that what I was listening to was a film score for my imagination, and it was at this point that "Mars Hollow" became an interactive album - and I got it. Mars Hollow makes you an accomplice to their music. They need you to complete the experience.

Vivian Sobchack, when she was Professor of Theater Arts and Film and Dean of the Arts Division at the University of California, Santa Cruz, wrote in her philosophical tour de force "Address of The Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience": "... what else is a film if not an expression of experience by experience?"

John Baker (guitar/lead vocals), Kerry Chicoine (bass/vocals), Jerry Beller (drums/vocals) and Steve Mach (keyboards/vocals) are all smart, experienced musicians who know the craft of writing progressive rock music, though their music is not a static construct, not a cathedral with architectural influences to be found, recognized and understood (with one's hands behind one's back) but a dynamic listening environment to be experienced and participated in. They could have gone the "easy" route - they could have written the equivalent to what novelists call "teaching books" (books with obvious themes and messages), they have the knowledge and ability to do so - but rather they chose to craft this album with love and honesty. There is not a cynical song on this album.

There is so much to marvel at here, such an abundance of riches, that it would have been easy for them to cross the line from exquisite, natural showmanship to arrogance and bravado, and in lesser hands these compositions would have indeed easily veered from being that of a world class chef to rather a lazy, self-conscious hack who would spoil the soup by throwing anything and everything into it. This is progressive music with movements that are amazingly accessible and with juxtapositions that should not work, that should be jarring, but are not; there is no feeling of segments being "cut and pasted" within songs, in fact the movements make sense in and of themselves and have integrity (no matter how short lived they are) and they are fluid, like a well edited movie. It all seems so effortless and consummately skillful that you can't help but surrender yourself.

In keeping with the theme, in film editing terms, by placing a noninflected shot "A" (a shot without embellishment, that can stand on its own accord) in immediate juxtaposition with another noninflected shot "B" you should end up with another concept altogether that is not readily apparent and is the sum of these ideas in the mind's eye. Now, this accomplishes two things: first, whenever you "see" any part of the equation again ("A" or "B") you'll immediately think of the sum "C" and whenever you "see" a representation of "C" you'll think of the parts ("A" and "B") that make up that whole. This is one of the best (though perhaps confusing, albeit) ways that I can come up with to explain what it is that Mars Hollow achieves. I am also reminded of how Alfred Hitchcock described his camera craft and how he constructed scenes - he recorded what he had created and then created through his manner of recording. So, too, do the members of Mars Hollow with their music.

It excites me to be reinvigorated once more with progressive rock music as I had been when I first heard Marillion and then, later, Spock's Beard. The sound stage of this recording is broad and beautiful with superb clarity and depth of field, while the instruments themselves are distinct and seemingly compartmentalized in playing their attendant sub-themes and lines and easily recognizable though they gel brilliantly within the tapestry of the compositions of this album. Is it obvious that I love this album?

And as for that address of the mind's eye? Mars Hollow will find you and deliver. A stunning, ground-breaking (in my mind) "debut". 4.5 out of 5 stars (not a masterpiece, but according to the criteria this should be considered an "essential" in every prog lover's collection).

rustedsynapse | 5/5 |

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