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BIRDS

Trace

 

Symphonic Prog

3.92 | 89 ratings

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Atavachron
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars

"Whatever is impermanent is subject to change. Whatever is subject to change is subject to suffering." -- Buddah

Tibetan Buddhism believes in mistakes, or at least the mistake's importance in art and life; nothing in the physical or psychological world can bring lasting satisfaction, and therefore one should not attempt or seek it out. That imperfections, flaws or blemishes are in fact necessary for the transcendence of what man creates, for a spiritual realness only achieved by the austere, or in the case of the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, an appreciation of the irregular, asymmetric, simple, and of the asperity of natural processes and forms.

This is precisely what is missing from Trace's Birds. Granted many progheads will not find this lack of flawed beauty an issue. So be it. But the almost machine-like precision and perpetual motion caused by this trio is both unsettling and unattractive. In this way, Van Eik, Mosley and Van der Linden do bring to mind acts as Triumvirat, Ekseption, or Kaipa, but are even more sanitized & sterile. At least those guys never forgot they were playing rock. Quotes from J.S. Bach's second Suite showoff Rick Van der Linden's chops and I will say, to his credit, he did play real instruments which is more than many current players do. It being 1975 perhaps he had no choice but it's still nice to hear a real church organ, an actual Grand piano, a genuine harpsichord. 'Snuff' is run-of-the-mill symphonic pop, indistinguishable from any number of other post-ELP variants, and 'Janny' is misplaced here, oddly detached from the rest of the set.

Finally a very cool interpretation of Bach's Concerto for Four Pianos shows us these guys' compositional taste and brilliance, and is nearly eight minutes of first-rate art rock featuring Darryl Way's haunting violin solo break. Yearnings for the American 20th century in jazzy and Gershwinian 'Penny', and our entree; the massive 'King-bird', an epic piece that surely helped give a bad name to Prog in Europe (and everywhere else) with twenty-two relentless minutes of huge, melodramatic walls of symphonic rock at its most self-involved and delusional, and includes eighteen - count 'em, eighteen - individual parts. It's also quite well done if requiring far too much commitment from what surely would've been a baked and besotted listener. Its stuff like this that ensured pop music would always flourish and have an audience. A 'Birds' short edit and a second take of 'Tabu' are included on the Musea reissue.

Though key among the Emersonian subspecies of bands, Trace gave us too little too late and left behind a lukewarm legacy of otherwise hot music. Three stars is just about perfect.

Atavachron | 3/5 |

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