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Collecting Space - Subside CD (album) cover


Collecting Space


Crossover Prog

3.51 | 17 ratings

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4 stars An excellent debut signaling great potential

Lately I've been running down the list of ProgArchives highest-rated 2011 albums and sampling them, trying to hear as much as possible before our annual PA poll deadline. What I've noticed is how unexcited so many of the very highest rated and 'popular' prog titles leave me. I won't mention names but it's clear to me that my tastes are very different from many. Instead I am more often surprised by some of the relatively unknown and local bands I stumble across, the ones at various stages between hobbyist project and first accomplished album. Having just achieved that accomplishment, this very pleasant surprise is an act from Ohio, a place I'd previously associated with Ed Crawford, Over the Rhine, and Joe Walsh to name a few. But I can't think of too many prog bands.

Collecting Space from Columbus began around 2006 when founder Kaleb Burkhart began writing material on his own accord. An obviously talented guitarist, Burkhart slowly began teaching himself keyboards to bolster his own demos. Some of his many influences include Anekdoten, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, and Rush. In 2010 Burkhart met drummer Vincent Derosa on the internet where the two hit it off discussing the progressive bands they enjoyed. Keyboardist Preston Tamkin and bassist Fred Holtzclaw soon followed and the summer/fall of 2011 became busy with gigs and recording. In December of 2011 they released their full length debut album, 'Subside.'

So, I sat with glazed eyes pouring through some of these bands with their suffocating productions and mechanical sounding 12 minute tracks, which while technically perfect and pristinely recorded, had little to offer my weary soul. Then I stumbled across Collecting Space and streamed a track from their site....and oh we're gettin' somewhere. An original sound, the kind of hands-on feel I like and guitar leads with some juice, some passion. Songwriting which benefits from avoiding excessive pretension and wankery, delivering personality and sincerity the listener wants to embrace. Beyond his guitar playing Burkhart's greatest strength would seem to be his songwriting instincts, his ability to construct consistently interesting tracks. Wherever the future takes him in terms of personnel or sound styles, that keen songwriting instinct should serve him well.

So very hard to describe their times it can feel like 'Animals' era Floyd, 'Like a Hurricane' from Neil/Crazy Horse, or Porcupine Tree crossed with My Morning Jacket. There are wonderful vocal melodies and a unique sound with this kinda narcotic feel that like Floyd vocals can give the music a relaxing and comforting feel. Despite the 'relaxing' feeling mentioned, overall things can hardly be called mellow. The band rocks and occasionally can get pretty heavy. Burkhart's guitar is very impressive ranging from warm acoustic to a wall of lightly distorted electric rhythm sound. Then he offers frequent melodic leads where he holds notes for maximum emotional impact, really hitting the 'eyes closed' zone for me. Beautiful. Behind him Derosa is a powerhouse, a heavy drummer who occasionally lets the cymbals ring out in full glory. Tamkin and Holtzclaw play a crucial if more laid back role'the bass is solid and the keys atmospheric without ever being grandiose or cheesy. There's lot of background fog that is so great, I assume most of this is mellotron but I'm not a hardware expert.

Lyrical themes are on the melancholic side and from what I can decipher delve into important personal relationships, loss, and dealing with the pain in our lives. Individual highlights for me start with the title track which initially reminded me of Midlake's 'Roscoe' with its medium beat, mellotron, acoustic guitar, and lovely vocal. The chorus is beyond sublime, it really gives me the chills how the layered guitars and harmonies coalesce there. The solo flies beautifully over the laid back distortion in the rhythm guitar. 'Downbeat' comes out of this track with ominous riffs and methodical notes, pushed by savage drumming and some neat little rim hits. 'Moon of Mars' is a very cool (mosty) instrumental with electric piano and organ, along with some wild and spacey textures. 'Looking In' reminds me of Steven Wilson with those nice chunky guitars backing a very catchy series of verses. Ditto with 'Delusion' which gets positively thrashy and nuts in between the Wilson-ey phrasings of the verses. The closer 'Anoesis' is slower, epic, lumbering....with a big up-front bass presence, an aggressive riff-heavy middle section and a final emotional guitar solo. Kaleb hopes his next album will be conceptual, a bit less heavy and a bit more instrumental, trying some things he didn't touch on with Subside. It promises to be worth waiting for, but for now this is one tantalizing debut.

The songs range from three to seven minutes and are never long for the sake of it. This is one of the very few albums where 50 minutes feels short to me. Rarely do I wish they were longer, and this one I kinda do. Collecting Space is one of my favorite finds of 2011 and the most exhilarating initial spin in quite some time. Highly recommended to all.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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