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Rational Diet - On Phenomena and Existences CD (album) cover

ON PHENOMENA AND EXISTENCES

Rational Diet

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.93 | 37 ratings

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avestin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A rational and well-balanced diet

Not many bands manage to astonish me with how they progress and evolve from album to album; little opportunity do I get to hear bands that while keeping their core sound and style, are able to bring something new into their palate, produce an updated aural image of themselves.

Rational Diet is one such group.

I've read that this band's music poses a challenge to some listeners, a barrier of disharmonic noise and orchestral chaos. I for one hear magical harmony, mysterious and eerie ambiance and highly calculated and intricate composition, arrangements and stellar musicianship. The production is also of high quality and brings forth all the small details and intricacies that can easily get lost in such a rich and layered album.

Rational Diet's music has a diverse range of sounds. From ominous and disharmonic sounding sections to more rock-oriented segments, from slow and relatively calm to a chaotic-like frenzy-driven rhythmic bit. Their music is such that it's eerie, sharp and in-your-face one minute and then it gradually morphs into a softer-edged sound with a more harmonic nature. This album presents a variety of these sounds, much like a diverse and well-balanced diet. Each of the 14 compositions on the album presents varied and distinct pace, mood and approach, all unified by the band's sound and playing. This array of templates is at times applied in one song (Sleep Is A Teasing Man, and Passcaglia In Beautiful And Furious Worlds are two examples).

Moreover, the instruments themselves are wisely used to achieve this effect, as the violin is usually the lead "offensive" and abrasive sounding instrument while the piano and organ serve the opposite end and the rest serve both "camps" as needed. This group does a wonderful job of composing modern classical music and presenting it in a rock-like setup.

Some of the pieces on the album, poems of sorts, show an interesting development for the band; A Man Went To Sleep, Sleep Is Teasing A Man and In Five Steps are such songs. These have a more intimate and exposed feeling to them in the sung parts, though they also contain the instrumental frenzy that characterizes the group. The other tracks are prime example of this group's playing prowess and arrangements skills. Take for instance Bet On A Marked Card. Rational Diet takes a theme, layer it with all their instrumental lineup, add a second thematic section to which the melody shifts, play it fast and furious and the result is a bombastic musical punch to the face. What I find most admirable here is the writing for each instrument and adding it all up to fit together and achieving harmony between them and one effective sounding musical short piece. Another feat I appreciate is that they write mostly short and succinct pieces and don't linger on unnecessarily. I would however, like to hear how they would tackle a longer composition, how would they construct and arrange it (they had longer pieces in earlier albums but I'd like to hear what they would write now).

A feature I find wonderful in their music and in this album in particular is the interplay between the instruments. Take for instance, track 10, Private Secrets of Machine; hear how the violin and piano interact, pose each other a phrase and the other answers or counteracts it. All the while, the drums provide a propulsive beat, maintaining suspense and tension, aided by the bassoon and guitar. Some would probably say that at some point, the violin and piano lines become just random babblings, aimless meanderings; however, I hear carefully composed opposing streaks of melodies. These may sound disjointed at first, but upon repeated listening will reveal their "intention" and projected melodic paths unveiling their magic.

I must say a good word about the production, which provides a clear and crisp sound in which I'm able to hear all the instruments, even those whose volume is such that they tend to be at the back of the mix and both low and high ends are heard well in this recording.

On Phenomena And Existences is a dense, odd and intense listening experience. This is an album that requires full attention to grasp all of its richness as well as small intricacies. I find it to be a wonderful step forward in the band's output, a great follow-up to their previous release, At Work.

avestin | 4/5 |

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