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Frogg Cafe - Bateless Edge CD (album) cover

BATELESS EDGE

Frogg Cafe

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.90 | 194 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

m2thek
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Bateless Edge is the fifth release from New York based Frogg Café, and was one of last year's most highly praised albums. While not perfect, Bateless Edge contains a lot of great music, and will likely have something to please just about any prog fan.

The musical styles found on Bateless Edge are pretty varied, and differ greatly song to song. There are some Indian influences, some harder metal moments, a completely symphonic song, and surprisingly, one that is straight up Zeuhl. The biggest jazz influence is in the brass instruments, though they're rarely used in a traditionally jazzy way, instead leading a lot of powerful and melodic passages. Besides the brass, there is a lot of guitar, and interestingly, a lot of glockenspiels that really make the harmonies fun and different. The changeup of styles help to keep the album interesting, especially in the first 3 songs, which all present very different music.

Regardless of what style Frogg Café is using at the time, the best moments found on Bateless Edge are those that are dense and loud. The best example of this is in Left for Dead, during an incredibly dark and intense section led by loud brass and swirling guitar, backed by the glockenspiels and bass. Nothing really competes for your attention, and the polyphony that's created is a joy to listen to and pick apart. Although this is the strongest moment, there are tons more that are just as dense, and every song has its fair share of these. It's also notable to mention that these dense sections usually don't culminate in big singular peaks, but are rather long passages of consistently good music.

Unfortunately, the moments in between the most layered are not nearly as captivating or fun to listen to. The thinner, softer moments are usually not strong enough to warrant their length, and wind up being much more aimless than the denser sections. The band does prove that they are able to do them well with the acoustic introduction of In the Bright Light, but it makes you wish that the rest of the softer moments were able to hold their own weight as well. There are also not nearly as many of these passages, but they come up enough times that make them worth mentioning.

The vocals, however, while fairly sparse, are usually pretty good, and provide nice contrasts to the harder moments. They can be a little corny at times, such as the soft flower-filled chorus of From the Fence, but they can also be very dynamic and emotional, like those found on In the Bright Light, which is definitely the vocal highlight of the album. Half of the songs are instrumental, but of the half that are not, only From the Fence puts an emphasis on the singing.

While the vocals and lyrics are at worst corny, they are not my least favorite part of Bateless Edge. That is, it doesn't really benefit from a full play through, and at just a few minutes shy of 80, it certainly could have. Apart from the 20 minute suite, Under Wuhu Son, all of the tracks stand in isolation, and there's really no rise or fall between any of them. The album's closing tracks, From the Fence and Belgian Boogie Board, are especially odd; the former being a completely symphonic song, and the latter sounding like another foray into Zeuhl (after the first, Pasta Fazeuhl). While both of these are interesting at best, neither of them are terribly strong, and the album disappointingly ends up sputtering out after the strong and varied hour that came before.

Fortunately, that first hour is very strong, and in the end, solidifies this as an album worthy of purchase. While some of the passages might bore you for a minute or two, it's worth waiting to get to the exciting parts. If you like loud and dense prog, and don't mind a long album or skipping a track or two, give Bateless Edge a try.

m2thek | 4/5 |

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