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Jet Black Sea - The Path of Least Existence CD (album) cover


Jet Black Sea

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars OMG, what a bloody masterpiece! Absolutely ridiculous that Adrian Jones of Nine Stones Close would have the vision to go way beyond normal and attractive neo-prog and lend himself as a slave to genius by creating such a tremendous work of art. I like Adrian a lot, he is a gentle soul and a wicked guitarist that few seem to realize, he does things to his instrument which flutters nicely in known territory but veers into such experimental tones that you have to be somewhat twisted to 'fore hear', so predictably unpredictable his playing can be, especially on this collaboration with producer and sound guru manipulist Michel Simons. Incredible mind music that shoots like a fiery meteor towards the deepest universe, though traversed by floating moments that defy comparison (maybe Eno in a more creative way). Torrents of effects only enhance the forlorn piano, the turbulent whispered vocals and the space between notes, that spirit, creator of an airy celestial disposition within the serenity of mankind. Smooth, jazzy, electronic, it was everything I expected, due to a few choice samples on their website. And then some!

On the opener ''The Path of Least Existence'' the glimmering sonic carpet is laid down with precision, a slow drone that slowly evolves into a voice shimmer, not unlike early Dead Can Dance or Cocteau Twins, until a brooding bass rumble encourages even more dense atmospherics, swirling synths, screeching guitars and colossal choir effects. The electric guitar then takes center stage amid wispy electronic backdrops, tortured and expressive as if guided by extreme emotions and even pain. Then, after a flare-up of explosive detonations, a piano rudders through the mist, unchallenged and yet slightly unhinged.

The afterglow of fuzzed out guitar fireworks, such as on the incandescent ''Outnumbered'', is purely delectable when the cracklings kick in, aided by some simple echo-laden piano motifs. The tricky electro-percussive rhythm gives this a modern and accessible feel for a good while until the mood switches to surly and heavy, Adrian ripping his frets to shreds. The track is sandwiched between ambient segments, giving it a real life of its own, full of tension and breath. Absolutely mesmerizing music, a soundtrack to our modern lifestyle.

''The Law of Diminishing Returns '' (now that's a super prog title) offers a world of aching beauty , a first impression seared on the listener's mind, quickly morphing into Kafka-esque absurdity, jarring sounds, unnerving atmospheric guitar growls and ceaseless piano, nose- diving into a heavy maelstrom of rock hard guitar and a beastly Boom-Boom metronome beat that hammers the fear home. Forceful and hefty, this is no feminine neo-prog, no hints of pastoral folk elements and no overtly simpleton soloing.

''Worst Case Scenario'' starts out with a Gentle Giant-like vibraphone etude, syncopated insanity and you ask yourself if these two musicians are on some inconceivable high (spiritual or herbal), breaking new sonic ground with strange sounds and weird waves, a musical depiction of dysfunction or ACD. The title is dead on (pun intended) , a complete and unexpected festival of creativity.

The silky smooth lullaby ''Cage of Myself Part I '' is quite remindful of 'Moments in Time '' by the Art of Noise, as it leads exquisitely into the piano-driven ''Northern Exposure'' (something we Canadians know quite a lot about), as the music become imposingly icy, crisp and overpowering in simplicity and utter beauty. 'Cage of Myself Part II' cocoons this segment perfectly with another somber reptile style of peculiar sound.

'Jet Black Sea' is another delight, easily the most overt prog piece with its gloomy imagery, clanging guitar, brooding Floydism, echoing bass voice effects, slinky percussives and a real sense of doom. It evolves quite on its own, syncopated road signs, pools of synthesized raindrops and engaging symphonic colorations. Adrian then unleashes a searing guitar solo, full of screeching agony and despair, a monster torture session on the axe's neck, wringing it like some hapless chicken. Powerful, pitiless and wholly memorable! It truly defines the style and spirit of this special collaboration.

Close out this stunner with a direct segue to the opening title track, a fitting adieu (hopefully, au revoir!) to this magical recording. The same foreboding menace is apparent in this curtain call, where explosive drums marshal the kismet, where drifting female choir and riveting synth walls of sound shove the arrangement into troubling waters of doubt and fear. Adrian rips off a screaming solo just to drive the nails deeper into the coffin of time and space.

5 Dim Rocket Depths

Report this review (#1125610)
Posted Saturday, February 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars How often, when listening to a new album for the first time do you think: That was good, I enjoyed that? 10 times a year perhaps? Probably more?

How often, when listening to a new album for the first time are you totally blown away? Once every year or two?

How often, when listening to a new album for the first time are you blown away, chewed up, taken on an innovative sonic journey, spat out breathless and wondering how the hell that just happened? Maybe once every three years? Five years? Less?

And now consider: how often does the latter happen and is still happening by the fifth listen?..the sixth?.the tenth?

I ask you to contemplate these questions carefully because when you listen to "The Path of Least Existence" you should be prepared for the last of these. Albums rarely have this sort of immediate effect on me but Jet Black Sea (the duo of Adrian Jones (Nine Stones Close) and Michel Simons) have created something so different, so unexpected that I fail to see how the effect could have been any different.

The album's power lies in its ability to pull in and hold the listener captivated for its entire length, without them realizing just how much time has passed. The duo obviously set no boundaries with the musical themes and styles they wish to explore; all within the context of an instrumental album.

The epic 19 minute title track (split into two parts which bookend the album) begins drone-like, building steadily via passages reminiscent of Dead Can Dance towards some exceptionally exquisite guitar work. The second half of the track, picking up where the first left of, is a triumph; the solos are gut-wrenching and powerful. The final four minutes of the album will tear your heart out. The melancholic interplay between guitar and keyboard providing a quiet but utterly majestic coda.

In between these bookends, seven other tracks take us onward through a maelstrom of emotion and sensation without letting up for a moment.

'Outnumbered' flows directly from Part One of the title track, until a couple of minutes in, a new beat arises and the song begins to build again, almost bluesy, with some frills evocative of The Doors. A piano melody that wouldn't be out of place on a Tangerine Dream album takes over and begins to take us in a new direction, until at just over five minutes in, the song ignites and thus commences one of the heaviest and finest guitar solos on the album.

'The Law of Diminishing Returns' may be the most mysterious, enigmatic track on the album. Crashing percussion and swirling, eddying guitar and keyboards reverberations surround us and continue to draw us ever closer to the secret within.

Worst Case Scenario is the most unexpected track on the album. A celebration of ingenuity, individuality and experimentation.

Cage of Myself (Part I) / Northern Exposure / Cage of Myself (Part II) are a trilogy in themselves, devastating in their simplicity, particularly the middle track of the three, driven by a mournful piano track.

The penultimate track 'The Jet Black Sea' is a master class of instrumental construction. The central guitar solo manages to be somehow in the foreground and background simultaneously. The ominous, tormenting keyboard passages providing ever deepening darkness. In its early sections it brings Tangerine Dream back to mind once more but later in the track Floydian influences are more evident.

The album's 57 minutes rush past in a heartbeat and you'll be reaching to restart it before the final note has faded away.

This is an album you need to hear.

Report this review (#1130937)
Posted Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Jet Black Sea is a dark-ambient musical project with elements of electronic music and progressive rock, lead by guitarist Adrian Jones (of progressive rock band Nine Stones Close) and instrument sampling arranger Michel Simons. Do not be mistaken by the name of the band, it is not a tribute to the music of Stranglers, and Jet Black's drumming in particular (though songs like "la folie" might fit the bill), it is ethereal music with lush arrangements and an overall intriguing atmosphere, akin to the likes of Dead Can Dance, Massive Attack or Nine Inch Nails but also to Pink Floyd and King Crimson for the progressive rock side.

With its incantatory voices and eerie keyboards, "the path of least existence pt 1" sets the mood of the album: dark, ambient, and meditative. Some distant colliding keyboard sounds add to the mysterious feel. Short guitar licks seem disoriented in this strange atmosphere. Slowly moving forward drums join, and guitars deliver distorted sounds, soon followed by a noise evoking crashing walls like marking the end of an era. Slow mysterious piano touches accompany the crashing noise, they really sound like the piano in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut.

"Outnumbered" opens with ulcerated guitars. It then segues into more cheerful territories than previously, with more upbeat incantatory voices, aquatic rhodes and soothing piano/keyboards, programmed beats vibrating like the tail of a dog to signify that it is happy. In the bridge, the vibrating beats morph into "laser" sounds, before syncopated drums with thrilled guitars reinforce the feeling of cheerfulness. The song ends in a meditative way with dreamy keyboards.

"The law of diminishing" starts with distorted guitars like a gurgling stomach, then some creepy piano notes and a wall of threatening guitars narrow the musical space and give it an oppressive vibe. The ambiance becomes mysterious with dubious guitars and stubborn slow drums (by stubborn, I mean "that barely deviates from a pattern that seems imposed" it is not derogatory at all within the current context). Guitar develops a melody line as the song progresses and ends in imploring ways.

"Worst case scenario" deals with a looped vibraphone, interspersed with percussions, various threatening sounds and laidback then tribal drums.

"cage of myself pt 1" comes with floating dark keyboards, gentle repetitive slow guitar. The cloudy keyboards give way to sunny keyboards and celesta join together with an insisting signal.

In "nothern exposure", a sad mid-tempo piano is backed by dark cloudy keyboards, furtive glockenspiel and aerial Gilmour-like guitars. A short passage presents with a plaintive guitar, like an animal in wound crying, while the piano sounds more upbeat and the keyboards sunnier. The sad piano then returns and concludes the song.

"cage of myself pt 2" is a short piece with orchestral keyboards and threatening guitars sounding like a military step.

"Jet Black Sea" offers programmed beats like a ping pong ball bouncing on the table, and various electronic effects, including whistling keyboards. They are followed by interesting echoing sounds and incantatory voice. The song remains in an electronic vibe with slow programmed beats, keyboards blowing like the wind, crying guitars and keyboards rendering the sound of trumpet, all these elements reminding the more laidback moments of Pink Floyd crossed with Mark Isham's meditative world.

In the closing track, "the path of least existence pt 2", incantatory voices ' la Lisa Gerrard meet pensive keyboards and slowly coming tribal drums. When guitar steps in with both aggressive and aerial inflexions, the drums start beating with syncopation, and soon ensure the transition, once left alone, to a mellow epilogue, with gentle piano and guitar licks disintegrating in the air like dust in the wind.

With 'the path of least existence', The Jet Black Sea navigate on troubles waters, and invite us to a journey through mysterious countries "obscured by clouds" and where people say "goodbye Blue sky" but sometimes are "racing the clouds home".

Report this review (#1152601)
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Jet Black Sea is one of those bands that I saw on PA's popular artists of the last 24 hours and I decided to check out their sound by listening to a sample on YouTube. I heard "The Law of Diminishing Returns" and was impressed enough to order the album without further scrutiny.

My impression is mixed. It is an album of mostly dark, haunting, and almost disturbing at times musical compositions for electric guitar, synthesizer, piano, drums, and electronica. The music often inspires images of a post apocalyptic world or the Terminator-like future with "Northern Exposure" sounding like a soundtrack for the dawn following a "Day After Tomorrow" type of devastating winter storm that has left civilization inert.

I wasn't planning to write a track by track review; however, as I listened to the CD this morning for the purpose of writing a review during my commute, it was natural to start typing notes on my phone's notepad.

"The Path of Least Existence, Part I" is a slowly building walk through a post-apocalyptic landscape with incantato vocals, a Nine Inch Nails-like use of electronica, and a flood of guitar distortion. It's eerie, dark ambient music for the most part.

"Outnumbered" features electronic drums and slow, easy synthesizer chords. In the middle we get real drums, piano and guitar that sounds like a bulging bicep muscle version of a post-Waters Pink Floyd instrumental.

My favourite track and the reason why I bought the album is "The Law of Diminishing Returns" which has a horror movie piano melody and building guitar distortion until it erupts furiously just past the 2:00 mark with full on drums and raging guitar. This is the soundtrack for the End of the World.

For a change of pace, a vibraphone in an odd time signature and effects like from late sixties Floyd introduces "Worst Case Scenario". By now I can really understand that the guitar is not used for riffing and little for solos but more for effects and mood creation, usually unsettling, haunting, and doom-laden. This track is like the soundtrack for the mechanical takeover of a human mind and it reminds me a little of "Further Down the Spiral", a remix album of music from "The Downward Spiral" by Nine Inch Nails.

I prepared a lot of notes for the remaining tracks but there is a consistency of dark, moody atmospheric music that on occasion introduces some pretty melody in a sombre minor key. I felt the word "requiem" well applied to the piano music of "Northern Exposure". In the less ominous-sounding parts of some other tracks, there is the occasional similarity to some of Porcupine Tree's music as well.

Though there is an overall sameness to the music of the album, there is enough variety in each track to sidestep any impression of repetition. I'd call it cohesion. Only "The Path of Least Existence, Part II" bears resemblance to the opening track and it should as it is the continuation of "Part I".

This is not an album you'd likely want to listen to while driving with the family to the riverside or put in your ears for a jog in the park. It's more for those quiet private moments when you can let the haunting and dark ambiance take you soul and imagination for a ride through landscapes at the end of humanity. It's not easy to pull just a couple of tracks off for a mixed playlist, but I still feel "The Law of Diminishing Returns" makes for a superb stand alone track and a great introduction to the album.

I wouldn't exactly call this an excellent edition unless this is to your taste in which case you won't want to miss it. If more complex prog or something more lively or lighter is your preference, then you can just stroll on by. I initially awarded the album three stars because for me this is an album for very specific listening times. However, it is very well done and a suitable break from the more complex and active music that comprises much of the progressive music scene. So, I will give it four stars.

Report this review (#1262283)
Posted Thursday, August 28, 2014 | Review Permalink

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