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Farmhouse Odyssey - Farmhouse Odyssey CD (album) cover


Farmhouse Odyssey

Symphonic Prog

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siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars FARMHOUSE ODYSSEY formed in 2012 in the northern hippie college town of Arcata, CA by Alex Espe (vocals, keyboards), Ian Taylor (bass, vocals), Thatcher Holvick-Norton (drums, vocals), Alex Pepe (guitar) and Aaron Laughlin (guitar, vocals) who were college students taking their free moments to reflect their interpretations of the best of California sounds set to prog rock music. The literally took their name from living in a farmhouse and developed a style of prog that while set in the summery feel-good symphonic prog sounds of bands like Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings and Moon Safari also adopted many other styles such as jazz, funk and psychedelic rock.

Basically an improvisational jam band, FARMHOUSE ODYSSEY sounds somewhat like what if The Grateful Dead would've evolved into a full-on prog with instrumental workouts reminiscent of Yes, Genesis or even solo Steve Hackett. While packaging many of its influences neatly into this self-titled debut that contains six tracks which was released in 2015, this band is interesting in how it managed to sound completely different as if it was stranded and aloof on some rural beach road when it crafted this set of songs that all jam on for great lengths of time. "Colossus Cypress" is the shortest track and just misses the seven minute mark while "Sleeping Silent" almost hits a thirteen minute running time.

This is what i call flower prog, sunshine prog or fluffy happy prog as it truly sounds like one of those aforementioned bands that lives in that sliver of the universe where life is just peachy and the music reflects it perfectly. While this style of prog is admittedly not my favorite, i have to admit there are certain bands / albums that rub me the right way especially when the music is extremely well played with superb musicians on board and just quirky enough to stand out on its own even if references to what came before are indisputable. FARMHOUSE ODYSSEY cranks out somewhat of a mellow album's worth of material but still finds some time to rock out albeit sparingly. There are still lots of jarring time signature changes though that give this mellow album a sense of boldness that keeps it from becoming sleepy time.

In many ways this band reminds me most of neo-prog albums especially when lead vocalist Alex Espe sounds like Arena's Rob Sowden or IQ's Peter Nicholls but things never stay the same and the tracks are different as this album has a jittery quality that shakes things up and there are moments where his vocal style is more akin to that of Leprous lead singer Einar Solberg in his most tender moments. While based on that flowery symphonic prog that makes Spock's Beard stand out amongst the pack, FARMHOUSE ODYSSEY adds enough jazzy elements to the mix to offer an off-kilter rhythmic drive which is actually quite appealing and this is particularly true in not only the drum parts but when the guitar is allowed to engage in some soloing. The tones and timbres are very much in the context of a jazz-rock ensemble as well.

One of the strongest aspects of FARMHOUSE ODYSSEY's debut is the nice mix of the guitar with the atmospheric mellotron and extensive use of groovy bass lines. While clearly rooted in determined melodic patterning, there is a lot of effort placed in heavy improvisation that allows the musicians to drop in and out of the greater musical conversation which allows the tracks to sprawl on. There are no clearcut rules for instrumental outbursts and vocal led moments as everything simply trades off in rather indeterminate randomness however it all seems to work pretty good. Despite the emphasis on the symphonic prog elements that work in tandem with funk guitar as well as those neo-prog guitar sweeps, there are many psychedelic moments although this is not acid rock by any means. This is more of a detached sort of happy springtime prog when the ducks are leading their ducklings into the pristine lake next to the green pasture. True i have to be in the right mood for this but FARMHOUSE ODYSSEY did an excellent job mixing all these styles into a sound all their own. Bravo!

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Posted Saturday, March 7, 2020 | Review Permalink

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