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Psychic For Radio - Standing Wave CD (album) cover

STANDING WAVE

Psychic For Radio

 

Crossover Prog

3.46 | 12 ratings

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Windhawk
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US project PSYCHIC FOR RADIO was instigated by one Shawn Gordon quite a few years ago. Not too well known for his endeavours as a musician, but a guy pretty well known in the progressive rock community due to being the head of record label Progrock Records. A label that has been in operation for a good decade by now with 150 or so releases to it's name.

And with that description I suspect quite a few people will shake their heads and mutter phrases like "vanity project" or descriptions of a similar nature. Being involved with music and actually writing it and performing it does require two different mind sets after all, and when you're personally tied to a project as both the creator, performer and the person responsible for releasing it and marketing the item in question suspicious people will start asking questions and any marketing done will be regarded with a fair amount of extra suspicion. Human beings tend to be sceptical in certain situations by default, and this case is one that due to the total context will feed this negative part about being human.

And I have to admit that my own emotions inclined to the negative too. I'm just as much a human being as anyone else, and my initial thoughts were that I'd cater for this production in my usual manner and then check with the label owner just when it would be appropriate to release my thoughts. My own somewhat negative initial sentiments more a case of this production being in work for a good number of years and with quite a few alterations to the participating musicians admittedly, but I'm human enough to have reflected upon the vanity project line of thinking too.

My apologies for this elongated introduction, but as I have encountered remarks and opinions on this project over the years I felt the need to address those and my stance as a person and reviewer on them prior to getting to the heart of the matter. And a nice, brief summary of my opinions of this disc is that it is a surprisingly good one. Well made and well performed compositions that manage to get it right, at times brilliantly so, with just the token one instance of badly falling flat to the ground. Those concerned about style, and in particular those who generally prefer an album to stay within a limited, well defined area, might find "Standing Wave" to not quite be what they are looking for. But those whose musical taste buds are more encompassing might just find this disc to be a minor treat, quite a few will probably replace the minor with a major.

My personal highlights on this album are the two instances where Shawn and his compatriots decide to give progressive metal. Euthymal with it's intense emotional lead vocals, crunchy and aggressive guitar riffs with a fragile, lighter toned guitar motif effectively utilized as an occasional contrast to a tune that is fuelled by intense emotions more than anything else. later on Blood (Into Wine) visits similar shores, but now with cinematic sequences, swirling keyboard additions and finely controlled vocals that appears to be on the verge of emotional outbursts as the nerve provider, a composition with an underlying ominous aggression that yearns for a release that never truly arrives. As such a nervous, vibrant tension makes this track work wonderfully, as long as you're interested in this kind of music. It's also one of the relatively few times where I've been tempted to use a word like sneer - in a positive manner - about the lead vocals of a song.

As far as the rest of the album is concerned there are a few more moments of high magic to encounter. A really effective piano ballad in the shape of Once Begun, again with high quality vocals adding life and vibrancy to the proceedings, on this occasion given an effective helping hand in the shape of a gentle, underlying brooding synth motif whose dark presence does elevate what in other cases might have been more of a pleasant encounter. The following Blacken What Is Grey another fine specimen as far as ballads go, with lead and layered vocals again a driving feature that adds a lot of vibrancy to the proceedings. later on Get Me Out of Here also touch base with the gentler parts of the rock universe, although in this case due to the use of acoustic guitar only, as the song itself is anything but sedate. Again with highly effective lead vocals elevating the composition quite nicely, although the jazz-tinged bass motif does add a certain organic warmth to the proceedings in a very positive manner too.

One might presume by now that Psychic For Radio is all about vocal driven songs. Which to some extent is correct I guess. High quality vocals does make this production a better one than it would have been without them, but the instrumental arrangements are of a more than decent quality too. Pushing The One documents this aspect quite nicely, being an instrumental effort, and it will perhaps surprise some listeners with it's groovy, 70's tinged jazzrock orientation. Complete with guitars and saxophone enjoying their separate and joint solo excursions in a manner that does make a word like groovy come to mind. Elsewhere fans of neo progressive rock and music closer to what I'd describe as art pop will get their needs served as well, in tunes that generally hold a high quality. With lead vocals as a central feature, but those who find plucked guitar licks and emotionally laden guitar soloing to be of interest won't find this album lacking in any of those features either.

But the choice to give Alice Cooper's classic an electro-metal makeover Nine Inch Nail's style is one I suspect will be regarded as contested. Personally I didn't find this rather alternative take of this classic to be all that interesting, and it is also the one instance where I found the lead vocals to not merit a positive description. A matter of personal taste and opinion I guess, but I kind of feel that this is a composition that thrives on a basic arrangement, anthemic performance and lead vocals that demands a mean sneer to them. This take on Cooper's classic is much closer to the complete opposite, and due to that not to my personal taste at all.

Summa summarum, Psychic For Radio's debut "Standing Wave" is a surprisingly intriguing production. Good quality songs ranging from jazzrock to progressive metal in style, elevated by high quality vocal performances and clever instrument performance details. Packing a good emotional punch yet also providing minor details and a well worked out substance in general, and obviously with variety as something of a key word to describe the overall context. It's not a production that will intrigue all and sundry, and I suspect that a taste for good melodies and vocal driven compositions is warranted. But if you can subscribe to this and have a fairly liberal taste in music otherwise this is a CD I believe merits a closer inspection.

Windhawk | 4/5 |

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