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Farmhouse Odyssey - Rise Of The Waterfowl CD (album) cover


Farmhouse Odyssey

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars This album reincarnated my hopes that retro prog will rise from the ashes. Farmhouse Odyssey's symphonic-fusion dipped second album is a real emotional bomb. Everything ranging from the ideas, to instrumentation and orchestration choices to the nuances in production feels... homely. A nostlagic and touching scent vibrates through the air, as the digital disc is swiftly spinning. Alex Espe's soft and trembling legato creates a very (for the lack of a better term) cute atmosphere. He might not be a technical master? but he is able to convey an enthralling mood really well. His keyboard sounds, which in my opinion serve as the main glue holding the music together are very organic and feel genuine, with the ability to not only power through the mix like a bullet, but also wrap you in mystery and curiosity. The rhythym/guitar section supports him effortlessly, inducing the rest of the emotional spectrum in the listener (the guitar solo that comes around minute 8 in Speedbump is pure elegance). On the other hand, Rise of the Waterfowl isn't a timelss ultramasterpiece. Sometimes, the magic is not present, especially when you see through how hard they tried to push the emotional barrier and thus the music sounds a teeny bit colorless (and a little too cute). Anyway, despite the minor nitpick, it's still a gorgeous record of sugary cosy and spark of authenticality, that in my humble opinion, many new symphonic progressive bands lack.
Report this review (#1548128)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A bunch of friends (Alex Espe on vocals and keyboards, Thatcher Holvick-Norton on drums, Aaron Laughlin on guitar and vocals, Alex Pepe on guitar, and Ian Taylor on bass) living in Nature's playground, Arcata, California, got together to create music in 2012 and the rest is, as they say, history. Farmhouse Odyssey is a quintet of musicians creating a jazzy symphonic prog rock in a style that is not far from the psychedelic rock that came from the West Coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s--though at times I hear very strong influences of 1980s GUNS'N'ROSES (vocals, chord progressions). I find the classically influenced rolling piano lines the most interesting parts of this album.

1. "Daybreak" (6:29) opens with some very pastoral, relaxed atmospherics. These last and gradually thicken for about a minute before the full band ignites into action, launching into a nice jazzy guitar-based weave that soon supports the vocalist. There is a kind of 3RDEGREE and THE MERCURY TREE feel to this section until the 4:35 mark when a funky drum'n'bass takes over giving us a PARLIAMENTian synth solo. Interesting. I'm not sure it works, but it is definitely interesting. (8/10)

2. "Slumberless Sun" (4:29) opens with a very delicate vocal accompanied by jazz guitar chords before the full band kicks in--bringing us a little SANTANA/THE MARS VOLTA-like dual guitar section. Returning to the softer vocal section we are treated to several harmonizing vocal tracks to go along with the main lead. The next instrumental section is drenched with keyboards and even a Mellotron sound. Another vocal section changes things up (a chorus?) melodically. Good song that never really climbs to greatness. (8/10)

3. "Brain Song" (6:09) opens in a kind of 70s jazz wash before cutting down to a nice little syncopated groove coming from the rhythm section--and joined by organ and lead guitars. THE TEA CLUB-like vocal harmonies throughout with plenty of jazzy jazz, bass, keyboard, guitar and drum runs and riffs but never really congealing into anything of substance. (8/10)

4. "Calligraphy" (7:28) opens with some bluesy jazz guitar chords, arpeggi and chord progressions before the band joins in to establish another intricate instrumental jazz weave over which an ADRIAN BELEW/THE TEA CLUB-like vocal establishes itself. At the two minute mark the rhythm style switches to a kind of Carribean-Afro-pop sound. At 3:00 it switches again, this time into something again completely different, into a more piano-based jazz-rock form-- KANSAS, ELP and LYNYRD SKYNYRD all come to mind--though the vocal becomes all AXL ROSE. A return to the Afro- pop beat and sound yields a pleasant vocal and nice slowly flanged electric guitar solo. Almost a winner. (8/10)

5. "Space Revealed" (8:30) opens with syncopated piano, bass and drum play over which piano treble hand and lead guitar perform some PAT METHENY/LYLE MAYS-like duplicated melody lines. Then, at 1:37 an older sounding jazz rhythm is established by the piano before buzz guitar and the rest of the band's instrumentalists join in with an oddly timed pulse-and release accompaniment joins in. By the fourth minute the music has leveled into a very familiar straightforward 1970s electronic jazz fusion sound--with Fender Rhodes being the central character to the music. A really nice drum-led section ends the sixth minute and carries forward into a crazed section which then culminates into the tightest whole-band play (thanks drums!) over which an awesome jazz fusion guitar lead solos. LARRY CORYELL is reborn! Awesome to the end! (9/10) 7. "Speedbump Catalyst: Upon The Wheel, Blessing In Disguise, Energetic Tides, The Road Alone" (15:56) starts out very beautifully--very European classical pastoral, but then evolves into something much more American. I find that this song is most interesting for its piano and drums work as well as for its GUNS'N'ROSES vocals and chord structures. (8/10)

8. "Safe Passage" (1:09) is a pretty little piano-based piece. (8/10)

9. "From The Night Sky" (4:12) opens with some electric piano and some jazzy rhythm play with an interesting and pleasant MIDLAKE-like folk vocal and sound. (9/10)

Much of this interestingly composed music is performed with an incongruous muted jazziness. Nice music results but nothing great--nothing that I'm going to go humming along for days or nothing that I'm going to go shouting out about. This is an innocuous music that impresses a little but cries out for . . . something more. What exactly are they trying to be (and become)? Pleasant music from very competent musicians. I think they are still struggling to find a sound within which they can all gel. We'll see. I'd like to see these wonderfully talented young men get out of their heads and jam from their hearts. But that's just me. What do I know?!

Report this review (#1555935)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2016 | Review Permalink

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