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kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars

According to the label, Bubblemath are an Eclectic Prog / Avant-Pop / Technical Metal Quintet, while Prog Archives simply call them "eclectic". In my humble opinion, they're both correct, and wrong. When I put this on the player I knew immediately what this style of music was, namely "pronk". Yes boy and girls, at long last we have a band that is determined to keep the name "Cardiacs" alive and kicking. A mere short fifteen years since the debut, the line-up (who got together in 1998) is still the same, they just had a small issues getting this finished. I'm sure they haven't' been recording full-time for the last fifteen years, but there are times when the listener wonders how on earth they managed to move from point A to point B in a song, as this is complex, tight, and completely off the wall.

Don't try to work out what time signature a certain piece of a song may be in, or what chord structure they are using, and instead just relish the total insanity and musical chaos of what is going on. They use a (fairly) straightforward musical line-up, just use the instruments in somewhat unusual manners. The quintet is Blake Albinson (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, nylon string guitar, keyboards, tenor sax, vocals), Jay Burritt (electric bass, fretless synth bass, fretless electric bass, upright electric bass, vocals), Kai Esbensen (keyboards, vocals), James Flagg (drums, percussion, vocals) and Jonathan G. Smith (vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, flute, clarinet, chimes, gong, glockenspiel, xylophone, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, banjo). Yes, they all sing.

I love this album, it's just plain awesome, although I can pretty much guarantee you won't be singing any of the songs, although they somehow manage to be melodic as well as, well, weird. Zappa would love these guys, who also have a hint of Specimen 37 in what they are doing, and if you want something so far out of both normal mainstream, and the progressive mainstream, then this is going to be worth discovering.

Report this review (#1722077)
Posted Tuesday, May 16, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, lummy. It finally arrived...after what seems like several generations of waiting, the second Bubblemath album 'Edit Peptide' is here, and, by God, it's a musical explosion right into your face.

Prog fans may, in general, be ignorant of the band's existence (even the ProgArchives bio has them labelled as "Bubblebath"), but this is almost certainly down to the huge temporal distance between their recordings. Their first album 'Such Fine Particles Of The Universe' was released back in 2001 on a small record label, and garnered much (well deserved) praise at the time, although, like most good things in/around the prog genre, it slipped under the radar of 99% of the good folk of Planet Earth. Its mind-boggling complexity, coupled with its playful sense of humour, pun- heavy lyrics and song titles, and its memorable tunes, left a real impression on me. I first heard a selection of tracks from the album, long after it was released, on the Aural Moon internet radio station, and even though Aural Moon in those days was prone to breaking up mid-song (and sometimes crashing completely), somehow the Bubblemath selection got through unscathed. Bookended by more furrowed-brow classic prog such as ELP and Yes, it stood out and shouted 'Buy me!'. It was as earnest as the classics in terms of skill, but in terms of atmosphere, this was more foam party than wake. And so I eagerly anticipated a follow-up, with accordingly multiplied sales and subsequent world tour...

Being a fan from that point onward was, to say the least, a little frustrating. Year after year after year went by with the constant inkling of a promise of the hint of a new album...but none arrived. Songs had been written, and in a lot of cases recorded, but it seemed the new material was stuck in 'mastering limbo' - and with the members all having grown up, the distractions that come with family, house moves etc all impeded progress towards completion. And for a band whose sound is defined by perfectionism, this means a LONG wait indeed.

The wait is at an end. And Edit Peptide is every bit the masterstroke that the Bubs promised for all those years. Punishingly complicated, ridiculously tuneful, jagged as a shattered flint, and, lyrically, one of the finest albums you'll ever read. Puns abound in and between song titles, and musical themes are ripped backward and forward in a way that makes the band virtually uncategorisable. Indeed, the band refuse to be pigeonholed and have stated on many occasions that they have only heard their supposed influences (Cardiacs, Echolyn, Yugen) after they've been told that they 'must have been influenced' by those bands.

Stand-outs, for me, are...

1) The spine-tingling 'Making Light of Traffic', which has to be one of the songs of the decade, with vocalist/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan G Smith veering between caustic ego-flattening ire and sweet Green Gartside avant-pop. It's almost impossibly delicate and brutal at the same time. A serious, serious achievement.

2) The very start of the album, where Routine Maintenance kicks in via a series of battering-ram syncs. It's like 'hello again' with a boot in the face. Drummer James Flagg is clearly one of the finest players on the planet, and he shows it here - it's just about the perfect percussive showreel.

3) "...can't we all just get a lawn??". A full song about lawns is to be lauded in any context. "...'Cause we're not gonna take any mow" just finishes it like Picasso must have done. If Picasso had been a lawn mower, that is.

4) Avoid That Eye Candy - "Seven billion people feel shamed and shoddy 'cause they don't have a supermodel body. But it's time those seven billion knew that only seven people do" True dat...

5) The Sensual Con - the breakdown in the middle of this song makes Dream Theater look like the Monkees. Exhilarating and bonkers in equal measure.

If you want to smile more in 2018 and beyond, forget Happiness Therapy and all of that rum meh - just catch yourself an earful of Edit Peptide. Like its title, it works as well backwards as it does forwards. Roll on the next one...sometime before 2033 would be great lads!

Report this review (#1822989)
Posted Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A sophomore album release 15 years after their debut! This can only happen in Minnesota! This amazing music reminds me of bands like 3RDegree, Echolyn, The Tea Club, Frogg Café, The Cardiacs, and Gentle Giant--only these guys might be better! Top notch musicianship, complex and quirky compositions with lots of sudden and unexpected dynamic shifts, presenting lyrics that are very humorous while being head-on with their biting socio-political commentary.

1. "Routine Maintenance" (12:41) comparisons to bands like NATIVE CONSTRUCT and HAKEN are warranted here. The busy background and singing/lyric don't seem to fit as well as other songs here, but these guys can play! At the three minute mark it seems as if Todd Rundgren snuck in, then it goes all flowery, syrupy with a flute-led section. The vocal performance here is quite nice. This singer could have quite a career as a pop singer or on the Broadway stage. Somewhat Gentle Giant-like. Then it goes seriously jazz-fusion--shades of Jaco Pastorius tickling my ears. Nice mixing of the multiple tracks of lead electric guitar (or is it just one guitar phased through multiple chorus pedals?)! How all of the band members can remain so tightly glued to the constant twists and turns of this song is beyond my comprehension. The shift to djenty prog metal at the 8:00 mark is awesome--astonishing! The dénouement at 9:38 is sheer prog perfection! Anybody else hear flashes of AMBROSIA c.1976, first album, here? (9/10)

2. "Avoid That Eye Candy" (3:53) an okay song that is carried more by its clever lyric. (8/10)

3. "Perpetual Notion" (6:56) opens with very staccato instrumental performances weaving their support of the jazzy mathematic vocal. When the instruments begin to sustain their sounds a little more in the second half of the third minute things begin to actually slip a little. The RUSH instrumental section at the end of the fourth minute is a little obvious. But then the King Crimson-like guitar weave that plays up till the next vocal section. A multiple voice weave begins around 5:30 but then as quickly desists, leaving the original vocalist and his jumpy delivery to finish the song. Not my favorite. (8.5/10)

4. "A Void That I Can Depart To" (10:07) the smooth music and singing at the start of this one are such a refreshing change (reprieve) from those of the previous song. As the song amps up into its full-blown instrumental sound it just as suddenly switches to a kind of white-man's Rasta beat before switching back to --with multiple voices singing the lyric. This sound so much as if you mixed RUSH, QUEEN, GENTLE GIANT, and HALL & OATES into one band/sound! The second, and more prominent, appearance of the faux/tongue-in-cheek death metal growls. Hilarious! Almost too much going on in this one to make it memorable or totally lovable. The bands MOON SAFARI and THE GABRIEL CONSTRUCT come to mind in the sixth minute. Some quite stage-worthy vocal theatrics in the eighth and ninth minutes. Nice nod to GENESIS with the ending. (9/10)

5. "Get a Lawn" (6:20) What a lyric! What music! Even the faux death metal growls are hilarious! Quite similar to some of work on 3RDEGREE's last two albums, Ones & Zeroes, Vol. 1 and The Long Division. (9/10)

6. "Making Light Traffic" (8:58) Joined to the previous song by the sounds of night cricket song, the muted "radio" play that enshrouds the opening 1:15 is a bit unusual--setting us up for the moment when the music "breaks through/out of" the "radio" and into a more normal stereo sonic scape. The music has a heavier low end edge to it while at the same time supporting the use of mandolin and tenor sax. The lull in the sixth minute leads into a wildly dynamic and exciting section that plays out till 7:43 when another lulling section leaves us back into the cricket-diffused nightscape. (9/10)

7. "Destiny Repeats Itself" (7:23) opens with an almost Soul/R&B/Adult jazz teasing sound--fretless bass and quick high octave guitar chord strums. Very sultry, seductive. Then the singing joins in with some other instruments and it turns more 90120 YES-like--but then it goes UTOPIA Ikon on us! Some other reviewer mentioned the amazing job the engineers/producers did with the mixing of these songs. This is nowhere so apparent as on this song. Incredible clarity and definition for each and every instrument. Amazing bass play in the fourth and fifth minutes. Jay Burritt, you have my attention! Some nice guitar shredding to follow. Such an unusual, refreshing, remarkable song! (10/10)

8. "The Sensual Con" (7:36) melodic, dynamic, catchy, instrumentally intimidating, this is just a great song, great ending to a great album. (9/10)

Sorry for the sparse song descriptions but the music is so busy, so complex, so unusual, and so fast-changing that it'd take weeks to write anything justified. This is just music, an album, that simply must be heard to be believed (and appreciated). The intellectual and meaningful lyrics are worth some study, too, I believe.

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. This one is so close to being five stars--it FEELS like it should be five stars. Keep posted: I may upgrade it as I get to know it more. Those first and last songs are real growers.

Report this review (#1825934)
Posted Thursday, November 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars This music has no limits or boundaries so the best thing to do is have an open mind and enjoy this zany wild ride. Unlike anything you have ever heard, and fifteen years later, Bubblemath are back with their sophomore release and they have not missed a beat. They only got better and added flute, sax, clarinet, glockenspiel, xylophone, mandolin, and banjo to the mix. If you enjoy superb musicianship, songs that are groundbreaking, accompanied by witty lyrics and a great mix this is essential to your collection. The imaginative jaw-dropping instrumental breaks Bubblemath throw down defy expectations with fluid detours through uncharted territories never knowing where this over-the-top musical journey takes you next. There is not one dull moment to be found on "Edit Peptide". The opening epic "Routine Maintenance" blasts off the album in fine form. For all the prog-rock fans and music snobs out there - after hearing this you may change your opinion on what progressive music should be as this towers above and beyond the norm. What a killer song. "A Void That I Can Depart To" has many musical detours mentioned above that fall outside of my comfort zone and even with a few strategically placed pseudo growls this tune leaves me spellbound. "Get a Lawn" is probably the most accessible tune on the album, one you can almost hum if you majored in music theory. "Making Light of Traffic" is another killer tune, hell they're all killer, and I catch a smidge of Yes (the ascending/descending lead bass lines) and Zappa influences during the quick paced xylophone break that brings nirvana to my ears. "Destiny Repeats Itself" has a jazzy riff that is infectious and of course the song morphs into something more than anyone expects or could imagine. "The Sensual Con" is an intense beast and closes out the album on a high note. Many moods and intricacies flow through this masterpiece with insane breaks perfectly syncopated by the relentless rhythm section pounding away to the climax. This is tasteful shredding at its finest! How can regular folk who have day jobs pull this off and do it better than those who do this for a living? Well, they are Bubblemath.

Overall, this is a breath of fresh air, addictive and worth the time you put into it. Thanks Bubblemath for giving the universe another brilliant record that will easily be a contender for album of the year. Make that one of the best albums this decade. The wait was worth it.

Report this review (#2236431)
Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can see why this album took 15 years to make. Not a single song on this albums stays the same the whole way through, they all switch between different themes, riffs and melodies every few seconds. The tempo is constantly changing and the drummer keeps up very well, still being able to play very advanced beats at such varying speeds. I see there as being a much larger emphasis on the keyboards in this album than in their previous albums, the keyboards seem to be the main part of the instrumental sound. Still, the guitars had a very big role in this album, there were some seriously killer guitar solos on this record. I could not say that the vocals were perfect, but i dont suppose that matters because the vocals were not the emphasis of the album. All in all I think that Bubblemath are very skilled musicians and showed that very well in this album.

As for the songs themselves, i find this album slightly weaker than their previous work; the songs fell a lot more forgettable. Though the music was clearly impressive, i found the songs lacking. I think that the songs changed a little bit too much, which gives the listener very little time to hear the individual aspects of the each section. Still, this album is very great, just not as good as their debut. I would recommend this album to anybody who likes prog rock, especially if you like some of the more math rock type music.

Report this review (#2530479)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars Very few people like prog rock. I like prog rock. When i was 13 i started out listening to Genesis, King Crimson, Yes... Then, a couple years later, stuff like Gentle Giant, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation... Then in my 20s Frank Zappa, Magma, Cardiacs and some other rarities. So now i'm in my 30s and it's hard for me to get surprised with any new musical discoveries. Somewhere between 2021 and 2022 i read a review of this album and gave it a listen. It was weird, i didn't like it at first... but i knew by experience that was a good sign and decided to be patient. I listened to it again and again until it became an obsession. I think this is one of the most original prog rock albums of the 21st century! It's hard to compare this band's style to other bands. It's very dense and complex sounding. The Gentle Giant and Yes comparisons are reasonable, Cardiacs may have been an influence. I find it somehow similar to The Gourishankar as well. But overall this album sounds like nothing else. Very unknown and also underrated. The music has a very anxious, neurotic feeling. There's unusual guitar and keyboard sounds throughout the whole album, giving it a very refreshing feel. This is not normal prog, this is a risk taking, very in your face musical attitude.
Report this review (#2966603)
Posted Friday, November 3, 2023 | Review Permalink

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