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DISTRICT 97

Crossover Prog • United States


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District 97 biography
US act DISTRICT 97 was formed in the fall of 2006, initially consisting of Jonathan Schang (drums), Rob Clearfield (keys), Patrick Mulcahy (bass) and Sam Krahn (guitars). Instrumental rock in the vein of Liquid Tension Experiment was their thing from the onset, but when they decided that their music could use a vocalist changes were about to unfurl.

Enter American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt (vocals). Her vocal provess soon started changing the band's stylistic directions, compositions merging challenging and adventurous instrumental sequences with accessible and catchy vocal passages a direct result of her influence on events. The addition of Katinka Kleijn (cello) further expanded the band's musical canvas, and when Krahn decided to opt out, young and talented guitarist Jim Tashjian proved to be the final piece of the puzzle District 97 needed to finalize their stylisitc search.

District 97 signed to Laser's Edge Records in May 2010, and their debut album Hybrid Child was released in September the same year.

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In VaultsIn Vaults
Laser's Edge 2015
Audio CD$10.44
$10.69 (used)
Trouble With MachinesTrouble With Machines
Laser's Edge 2012
Audio CD$9.61
$11.98 (used)
Hybrid ChildHybrid Child
Laser's Edge 2010
Audio CD$9.77
$9.09 (used)
Hybrid Child by District 97 (2010)Hybrid Child by District 97 (2010)
Laser's Edge
Audio CD$32.63
In Vaults By District 97 (2015-06-29)In Vaults By District 97 (2015-06-29)
Lasers Edge
Audio CD$33.05
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DISTRICT 97 discography


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DISTRICT 97 top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.46 | 97 ratings
Hybrid Child
2010
3.97 | 136 ratings
Trouble With Machines
2012
3.35 | 27 ratings
In Vaults
2015

DISTRICT 97 Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.59 | 8 ratings
Live at Calprog
2010
4.00 | 6 ratings
Live at WFPK FM
2012
3.04 | 7 ratings
One More Red Night: Live In Chicago (with John Wetton)
2014

DISTRICT 97 Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

DISTRICT 97 Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

DISTRICT 97 Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.08 | 5 ratings
Quartet for the End of Time
2010

DISTRICT 97 Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 One More Red Night: Live In Chicago (with John Wetton) by DISTRICT 97 album cover Live, 2014
3.04 | 7 ratings

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One More Red Night: Live In Chicago (with John Wetton)
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

3 stars DISTRICT 97 is a young American band that has been praised by one or two musicians from the King Crimson camp, or so I've heard. This live album was my first acquaintance with the band. I certainly would have preferred it to be with their own material. The set is completely devoted to the songs of KING CRIMSON (the John Wetton era, plus '21st Century Schizoid Man' originating from the 1969 debut) and the vocals are by Wetton himself, so... For starters, there's no use of searching any notably new point of view to these classic prog songs, even if the band's own female vocalist Leslie Hunt can be heard a little, too. Too little.

The skillful musicians of District 97 do their job extremely well and very faithfully to the originals. Only in 'Starless' I miss the mighty Mellotron sound (there's a little hollow synth backing instead), and that song is somewhat watered down here also due to the abridged song version. Wetton is in good shape though.

I'm satisfied with 'The Night Watch' and 'Book of Saturday', two of my Wetton era Crimso favourites besides 'Starless'. And with 9 songs I suppose the song output of the era is being covered almost completely -- there aren't any instrumentals. But frankly, to me this kind of a CD is hardly nothing else than a curiosity, quite useless in practice. OK, now I know this band is an excellent cover act of King Crimson material. Apparently too blinded by the respect for both Wetton and the music, to bring their own material /personality /individuality as a group to the set. If it was a DVD it would be another case, much more justified as a release.

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 In Vaults by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.35 | 27 ratings

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In Vaults
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

2 stars I'm not going to review this album through my typical track-by-track summary, not because I don't want to, but rather, I really can't with this album.

And that's a shame, because I really want to like this album. I really do. And the fact that I can't do a track-by-track summary explains its most fatal flaw. A track-by-track summary highlights all the great moments in each track.

But I can't do that with this album, because I can't remember ANYTHING on this album. Seriously.

I will correct myself from this standpoint. It's not the sound quality that bothers me (the quality is very good actually), what bothers me is the sound of the guitars. They sound way too grungy 90% of the time, and it just doesn't fit the character and nature of this album. Singer Leslie Hunt sounds beautiful here, and I really like the incorporation of jazz and blues scales here. It's a nice touch, but they're both constantly set in opposition to the guitars, and it's a conflict of interest, where neither side is winning and both sides lose, and it hurts their sound and this album.

Don't get me wrong, though, these guys know how to rock out, they can shred like no one's business (as on "Hybrid Child"). The problem still remains from their first debut album, though: "They just don't know what to play".

And frankly that's one of the pitfalls of this generation of bands. Genre walls and stereotypes have been knocked down, so you can essentially play whatever you want and no one's going to think differently. The problem is that because you can play whatever genre you want, doesn't necessarily mean that all combinations of genres are going to work together, and I can hear many different genres on this album: Blues, grunge, classic prog, radio rock, piano ballads. They're all great genres. Put them all together on the same album, though? Ehhhhhhhhhh....

Songs like "Snow Country" and "On Paper" are great tracks, identities in themselves that work brilliantly, whereas others like "All's Well That End Well", "Handlebars", "A Lottery", they're just completely lost on me, no catchy hook, no purposeful direction, no signature flash. Nothing. "Learn From Danny" is an excellent example. It starts off beautifully, but I can't enjoy it because i know it'll change dramatically from then on out and never sound as good, and sure enough less than a minute in, a Hunt verse fades out into a guitar solo like the traditional end of huge prog epics, as if the song is already over, and from then on out weird phrase. awkwardly transitions into weird phrase. Coming from Between The Buried And Me's latest albums, these transitions are jarring and uncomfortable, proving just how difficult music like this is to perform.

This, to me, is another example of proof that these guys still don't know what kind of music to play, from beautiful, string laden ballads, to Nirvana-esque grunge, to shades of Morse-era Spock. It sounds brilliant "On Paper" (heh, I made a pun), but the aural results just aren't there, and it really makes me sad. This gang has the talent and ability to breakout, and this should have been their breakout album, but they just haven't put it all together yet.

Perhaps this IS the sound they're looking for (it's been noticeable since "Hybrid Child", and if the song remains the same going forward, than this isn't the band for me. Still, there's oodles and oodles of promise for these guys (and gals) to put their heads together and create a full album that's full and rich and smooth, not at all disjointed and conflicting like this album. "Blinding Vision" gives hope, at least. It closes out the album with a saving grace. It's the most polished of all the songs, and I hope it (somewhat) follows that kind of direction going forward.

After "Hybrid Child" and "Troubles With Machines", I'd be moronic to call this album a "setback". The best way I can sum this all up? It's still a work in progress.

Highlights: "Snow Country", "Blinding Vision:", "On Paper"

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 Hybrid Child by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.46 | 97 ratings

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Hybrid Child
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The discovery of District 97 has always confounded me. Sure the American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt makes for an interesting footnote, one worthy of intrigue. Still, I just wasn't sure exactly where this band was going to go style wise.

I'm not even going to bother reviewing the newer albums, mainly because to my musical ear, the quality has diminished drastically, and the material just isn't captivating or groundbreaking. Personally, I believe this debut effort is by far their best work so far, and even then it's not a brilliant album in comparison to other bands of similar caliber.

The opener starts off with a catchy chorus, it's the kind of hook that wants to drag you in, but it's instantly noticeable from beat 1 that this is no ordinary radio band. So the first few three minutes entertain me for a good time, until the band fades into this b-section I honestly can't remember anything about, before coming back to the main chorus roughly 50 seconds from the end. "I Can't Take You With Me" suffers the same effect. The main theme almost sounds akin to classic Dream Theater riffs, and while I like the melodic progression singer Hunt takes, apart from the organ-like bridge in the middle, it's not really moving me much.

"The Man Who Knows Your Name" suffers the same effect. The instrumental opening sounds like it's designed to be a prog metal intro, meant to shake and rattle and bring the house down, but it honestly sounds half-assed, a bit tinny, and seriously, I almost laughed at how pathetic it sounded at times. I'm not being mean at all, but there's something about the quality that this band has always struggled with, and it's mainly due to the quality. The licks and solos in this particular song are honestly, fantastic. These guys can shred, no lie. They just seriously need a completely new studio and recording crew. Quality issues aside, though, this is of the standouts on this album.

"Termites" is another intriguing prospect. It's not so much a quality issue, but rather the grungy, dirty opening the band foreshadows should've been met with the same approach from Hunt, but at times her voice seems a bit too delicate. Perhaps if the volume dropped considerably once she stepped in (Hunt included), the band could aim for a more mysterious approach and it would've been more effective. However, that's mere nit-picking at this point. I really like this track. A somewhat "meh" opening two tracks has lead to a fantastic inner two.

Which now takes us to the "epic". About 27 and a half minutes long, "Mindscan" scares me. This is a talented band that has a few issues with sound quality. I BS'd about it when I listened to "Troubles With Machines", leaving behind optimism that with a band of this caliber, the quality can only get better from here, and with "In Vaults" it actually got worse. Thankfully, though, the spacy intro riff leads nicely into a beautiful piano melody in "Entrance". The transition to "Realization" though seems a bit abrupt, as if the guitar and keys players where enjoying playing licks up different scales before realizing "oh crap we gotta move on", and suddenly shifted gears. The instrumental licks are fine though from there on out, and "Welcome" is a nice little breath of fresh air, and the light pizzicato's in the background accompanied by a sweet cello melody seems to create a very scholarly air around it, as if it was accompanying a love story set in a London bookstore.

The biggest flaw by this point is the abrupt end to "Welcome" with no segue into "Examination, and I do mean abrupt, as if the band literally had no idea how to move on from there and just had to cut off, and "Examination" in of itself is weird. It just sounds like a collection of materials used to scare people in horror movies with a girl whispering in the back before again cutting off altogether before the nice sweet piano melody returns to close it, as if someone with bipolar disorder composed this entire track.

"Hybrid Child" is a nice and beautiful ballad, a wonderful song that frankly should've been a stand-alone track, while "Exploration" is a cool little instrumental bridge highlighting drummer Jonathan Schang on drums underneath what sounds like a synth drone akin to an Indian tanpura (the instrument that creates that typical drone). The segue to "What Do They Want" is nicely well done, though I wonder if it might have been better if both tracks were combined into one. Nevertheless, I'm still enjoying the song.

The transition to "When I Awake" is good as well, as is that tasty guitar solo towards the end, all as it's wrapped up with "Returning Home", a finale that almost seems to recap "Entrance" and "Realization" in one hectic finale. The finale is impressive actually, a bit more memorable than most finales in big symphonic prog epics where they typically lull and drone by with nice fluffy "Ahhhhhs" dragging along a slovenly, boring drum beat. The piece closes out nicely, though, one of the better epics I've heard recently.

VERDICT: I've tried listening to the later albums, and I haven't gotten even 5 minutes into each before I just completely turned away from them. This album as of right now typing this review is LIGHT YEARS ahead of both "Trouble With Machines" and "In Vaults", and I've given this 3 stars. I'm going to try and listen to both albums and give reviews on them soon as well, and it may take a few listens to figure it out, but honestly, the sound quality just gets worse with release, and it STILL doesn't sound like they don't know what kind of sound they want to make.

The band sounds like they want to rock out like Dream Theater. (with "The Man" and "Termites"), but there's still a desire to create catchy songs, like "I Don't Want To Wait" and "Open Your Eyes" off "Trouble With Machines" (which actually is quite good, by the way). The best bands that instantly appeal to my palette are bands that have their signature sound all sorted out, and these guys (and gals) still don't.

Again, I'm gonna listen to both albums in depth and (hopefully) my opinion may change. All in all, though, this album it still worth a gander from both a prog metal and a simple prog rock fan's perspective.

Maybe I'm just not on the bandwagon yet, I dunno. We'll see

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 In Vaults by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.35 | 27 ratings

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In Vaults
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by Droidmaster

5 stars I haven't written too many reviews here, but after repeated listens of this album, it warrants me to let you know- the readers, to go out and purchase this amazing album. Myself being from Chicago, I am so proud to praise this band- all their albums have affected me positively, but this one is a grower that should make them one of the best "new" progressive bands. I say grower because I admit on the first listen, I thought maybe this isn't what I expected or completely wanted from this band - it seems their earlier albums had a more catchy tracks. In Vaults took 3 listens and I was hooked. It hasn't left my player in two weeks. I listen to it everyday and it doesn't tire my mind like most other albums. First off the players are top notch. Jonathan Schang is like a young Bruford-utilising his complete set with precision and passion. Multirhythms and polyrhythms are explored with care not to get in the way- so, if you like Bruford ( and who doesn't) you will like Schang. Patrick Mulcahy on bass, the same as Schang perfectly complementing him and careful listens will reveal technical apptitude and artistic voicings. So you have a dream rhythm section. Now- keys and occasional guitar are by Rob Clearfield- killer sounds and unison runs with the guitar that are exemplory of a progressive player and composer. "Blinding Vision" string arrangement is the best I've heard in quite awhile. And Jim Tashjian on guitar, whom at first I was hoping for more guitar solos, but realised his role that feeds off the keyboard, and gives some powerful crunch-also very nice semi-acoustic licks on the latter half of the album. Lastly, but far from least; Leslie Hunt on vocals. This woman is a singing angel with a range and power that invades your heart- but she also knows when to show restraint. On top of that she is all around singer that could warm your bones with jazzy tones or if she wanted crush your soul with metal meanderings and would get my vote as the most beautiful female lead ever. OK- drooling aside...hmm the compositions which I would attribute to overal band effort. All of them participated in the writing. Overall a 5 star album and a band that deserves more recognition.

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 Trouble With Machines by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 136 ratings

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Trouble With Machines
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by progpig66 (arnold)

5 stars When I entered the page of one of my top one favourite bands, District 97, I noticed immediately the sad trail of two star ratings, all given shortly one after another by a number of silly persons with strange names (probably one and the same person), like daemacho, purplefloydfish, marfish, waeguk, or whatever. If you don't like progressive rock, find yourself a nice country or hip hop music page and don't bother progressive rock lovers with your [&*!#]!

Anyway, I think The Trouble With Machines is a masterpiece of progressive rock. Here we have five incredible talented musicians, who are prepared to give everything they got and who have delivered some huge music. Yes, it is obvious, that they must admire a lot albums by U.K. and GENTLE GIANT. What is wrong with that? Every progrock musician should be aware of the music of these true gigantic bands.

District 97 have succeeded in blending these influences into a true powerful sound of their own. A song like "Open Your Eyes" is as strong as hell and has even hit potential. Female lead vocalist Leslie Hunt doesn't hesitate to enter well-chosen aggressive dissonants in her vocal parts, supported by fast changing tempo and time changes. She really is my kind of singer ! Throughout the album the music maintains its force and surprises you with new great themes or aggressive interventions by the rhythm section. Check out a track like "The Thief". Drummer Jonathan Schang, who is responsible for most of the compositions on the album is a true mastermind and a wizard on his instrument.

The Trouble With Machines is a fantastic album, and should I have any doubt between a four and a five star rating, the silly sad proggophobic two star tail has decided me definitely to five stars !!!

progpig66.

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 Trouble With Machines by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 136 ratings

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Trouble With Machines
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars District 97 is one of the most intresting and original bands I've ever come across, really. Born in 2006 in USA, around the excellent drumer Jonathan Schang (who was aplused big time by the famous Bill Bruford declared officialy a fan of his drum playing). The band released so far two albums one in 2010 and second in 2012 named Trouble with machines. Well, I might say this album really kick ass from start to finish. Unusual type of prog rock/metal with slighty a jazz feel, specially in vocal department. This is very demanding music, many changes in tempo, very solid musicianship, lenghty pieces with very nice instrumental sections. On top of this spectacular instrumental parts , where each musician shines is the voice of Leslie Hunt who really breaking many grounds and her prestation here is jaw dropping. Her style is very much into jazz realm but adding a very powerful range and in combination with prog metal/rock instrumetal parts, the result is quite awesome for sure. Very elastic voice has this girl, managing to create some really not of this earth passages, she goes very easy from calmer moments to more dynamic one is only few seconds, fantastic voice. Now, the highlights for me are the opening Back and forth, The Perfect Young Man hre featuring as guest the legend John Wetton on duet with Leslie, very nice tune and the ending top notch The thief. All in all, this band is extremely well crafted musicaly speaking with an spectacular voice on top, this second offer Trouble with machines is something worth to be investigated. Easy 4 stars and recommended.

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 Hybrid Child by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.46 | 97 ratings

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Hybrid Child
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars A prog band featuring a former female American Idol finalist?Yes, that's the case with District 97 from Chicago, USA, found in 2006 by drummer Jonathan Schang, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy and guitarist Sam Krahn, originally playing instrumental music, but the next year they proposed Leslie Hunt, a top 10 A.I. finalist, to join them on vocals.In 2008 Krahn leaves his place to Jim Tashjian, the band soon became a live beast and in 2010 they signed with the Laser's Edge label, that released the debut of the band ''Hybrid Child''.

The music of District 97 recalls the post-2000 sound of SPOCK'S BEARD, apparently scanning the fields of contemporary Progressive Rock with retro-styled structures, featuring quirky movements, powerful riffs, soaring synths and heavy organ breaks.The sound is very rich with plenty of great tempo changes and an impressive ability by the group to change from in-your-face guitar-led grooves and riffs to more symphonic- and vintage-sounding themes.Add a female vocalist with a young and clear voice, a good amount of careful melodies and a unique cellist, Katinka Kleijn, who delivers a few powerful string parts here and there, and you somewhat get the picture.The album even contains a very long epic track, divided in nine pieces, entitled ''Mindscan''.For the most of its part this is very nice music.Alternating between smoother soundscapes and more edgy passages, this one contains the basic components of District 97's musicianship with a touch of a more atmospheric approach.Angular guitar riffing, dominant cello, good vocals, sharp keyboards to go along with calm piano parts, spacey synths and grandiose textures, eventually creating a welcome 27-min. prog suite.

Very good debut, albeit a bit unpersonal.District 97 are a young and very tight group with lot of potential for the future.Recommended to a wide range of fans, from Symphonic Rock lovers to even die-hard Prog metallers.

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 Trouble With Machines by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 136 ratings

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Trouble With Machines
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by Dutchman

5 stars Aggressive and super dynamic are words that could well describe this brilliant album by the American District 97. Dissonant and virtuoso vocal parts by super talented singer leslie Hunt over very complex structured songs perfectly executed by a band of freaks who all are absolute masters on their instruments.

Being a guitar player myself, I first focused on guitarist Jim Tashjian, who has a fabulous technique and a great inventiveness in his soloing that amazed me and even made me a bit jealous. He really moves to the edge! Throughout the seven songs recorded on this album I remained sitting clued to my chair and being stunned by so much talent. This must be one of the top albums of this year.

The album will probably not be everyone's cup of tea right away, because of the many dissonants and the strangeness of lots of the vocal lines, but those who are already familiar with the oddities by bands like Gentle Giant, King Crimson and of course early U.K. will find no trouble in appreciating this album. The drumming of band master mind Jonathan Schang evokes the best Bruford and Peart, his way of moving through all sorts of rhythmic complexities is just stunning.

It is difficult to describe an album like "Trouble With Machines", so many things happening in so little time. The best way to describe this album is to call it an explosion of talent. I can only advise everyone to check out this band, you won't get disappointed !I!

Theo Schop

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 Trouble With Machines by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 136 ratings

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Trouble With Machines
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by Life Line Project

5 stars Last week I visited my favourite cd-shop to upgrade my collection and one of the albums I bought was "Trouble With Machines" by District 97, a real fantastic band from Chicago. I played it over and over again and at every new listening I grew more convinced of the qualities of this album. I think that it will become my 2012 favourite album.

I was deeply impressed by the great ease with which ail musicians played the seven songs on this album. Led by an unchained Jonathan Schang on drums (an unbelievable talented drummer) the band move through all sorts of complex riffs and often jazz based chord progressions. The bass playing by Patrick Mulcahy is as solid as a rock and his performing of an infinite number of marvellous riffs, cleverly doubled by guitarist Jim Tashjian is a true lust for the ear.

Jim Tashjian shifts seamless from complex riffs in strange times and rhythms to beautiful melodic solo's and complex two hand tapping virtuosities, a fantastic guitar player!

Keyboard player Rob Clearfield delivers with his well-chosen keyboard sounds the perfect finishing touch to this great band sound. His playing reminds me of course a lot of Eddie Jobson in his UK days, but also of Morgan Fisher on his brilliant Brown Out album, the same weird and aggressive, but at the same time beautiful solo's and perfect mastering of the instrument.

Then we have the next trump chard up the sleeve of D 97, singer Leslie Hunt, who moves her voice in an extremely agile way through the most complex jazz based vocal lines. Her voice still has to mature a bit to keep the warmth in all registers, but I was deeply impressed by her vocal qualities. "Open Your Eyes" (where did I hear that title before?) is an instant smash hit, that keeps haunting your mind. Leslie is probably one of the best singers in the progressive scene of this moment.

District 97 have developed a true own sound, but of course there are some bands you could refer to, in order to give an idea of what you may expect. The vocal lines seem to be inspired by the more avant garde and progressive Duke Ellington vocal compositions, but put in a completely different musical landscape. The same was done by Tim Staffel on the already mentioned Morgan album Brown Out of the seventies, one of my all time favourites. On this album you can also enjoy sudden outbursts of baroque music like in "Open Your Eyes". Lovers of the first UK album or the music of Gentle Giant will also be very pleased with District 97.

The enthusiasm with which the band approach and perform their music is incredible and contagious. Most of the music is filled to the brim with aggression, caused by that tad bit of nu- metal influence in the riffs and some of the vocal parts, that's just right to spice up the sound. But don't think there is no time for more introverted moments. Just listen to the perfectly executed cello part played by guest Katinka Kleijn in "Read Your Mind" or the beautiful piano introduction to ''The Thief' , the longest and most elaborate composition (13:43) on the album.

Another bonus on the album is a vocal contribution by John Wetton (!) in ''The Perfect Young Man". This album is just great, every composition is an explosion of virtuosity and an outburst of musical inspiration and I think that every true proglover should have at least one District 97 album in his collection and "Trouble With Machines" would be a very wise choice.

Erik de Beer

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 Trouble With Machines by DISTRICT 97 album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 136 ratings

BUY
Trouble With Machines
District 97 Crossover Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars On the first couple of listens, District 97's second album `Trouble With Machines' sounds like a total mess of musical ideas! Schizophrenic vocal melodies that go in all directions and a blur of hard riffs and pounding drumwork. A few spins will reveal it's a very inventive and complex mix of high quality progressive rock, metal, hard/heavy rock, with accessible and commercial pop elements also. Here's a band that could easily tap into a younger (and potentially female) demographic while still offering endless musical virtuosity for more established and older progressive rock fans.

Lead singer and focal point of the band, singer Leslie Hunt is one tough chick! She has a very strong, forceful and original voice and sets her apart from the numerous other more faceless female-fronted prog bands around today, and she shows a level of power and control that is such an asset to the band. On the first few listens, her vocal melodies seem far too twisty and complicated, up and down all the time, changing direction every few seconds. They often come across like they are overthought, the band not realizing that usually `less is more'. However eventually they start to get into a real flow with the music and she shows a lot of variety and real character.

The appropriately titled `Back and Forth' is probably not the best track to start the album off with, a bit of a mess of Jim Tashjian's pummeling guitar riffs, punishing drums and very busy over-the-top vocal melodies. Although the track itself goes in a number of different directions, the plodding guitar riffs seem to dominate the piece and take away the attention from the more interesting musical elements. It takes a few listens to notice the flow and groove of the track, so it's more interesting on repeated tries. Probably the least interesting track on the album, but don't be put off by it! I do think it has very good lyrics if you take the time to read them in the CD booklet, too.

`Open Your Eyes' would make an ideal radio-single for the band - put a good promo video together, guys and gal! It's heavy but accessible hard-rock/pop married to a catchy melody and a deal-sealing chorus. I think a track like this could bring in lots of female fans to the band, with Leslie's powerful voice, not to mention her `strong independent female/take no crap' lyrics would appeal to younger fans of tough female pop singers like Pink. At least it would be a welcome remedy from the `dear diary, princess-music fantasy' rubbish of Taylor Swift. Girls, there are alternatives!

Dancing riffs and drums, strange electronics and groovy bass highlight the start of the mysterious `The Actual Colour'. The main vocal melody is a little plodding, but it has an energetic instrumental middle section, with a lovely brief piano interlude. Probably not the best track on the album, but full of nice little touches. It's great on the live DVD thatr comes with the album!

Despite a seemingly schmaltzy lyric (at first), the darkly troubling ten minute `The Perfect Young Man' is a scathing and worrying semi-epic filled with contrasting styles and emotions. Featuring guest vocals in the second half from UK/Asia main-man John Wetton, the track is filled with 70's Genesis like organ, and even that same galloping rhythm they so frequently used. Reflective but dark ballad moments, lovely melodic guitar solos, neo-prog keyboard snaps, with an angry and grand finale. The track has very clever but unpleasant lyrics filled with predatory and innocent insecurity and spitefulness. This bleak track is a total knockout.

`Who Cares?' has a bouncy bass/heavy drum combination, warm Hammond organs and a sprightly and playful middle section with clever vocal scatting from Hunt and cool electric piano. Not the best vocal melody of the album, but the interesting musical arrangement always keeps it interesting.

There's gorgeous weeping cello from Katinka Kleijn throughout `Read Your Mind' (the only track she appears on for this album), with strangely middle-eastern sounding guitar riffs, clever vocal phrasings, atmospheric electric piano and epic Dream Theater-like synth solos. The finale has some messy and interesting instrumental moments around the vocals, pity they weren't a bit longer. It's still a very complex and busy piece for a fairly short running time.

13 minute finale `The Thief' is an urgent Haken-like rocker than slows up and speeds down throughout, with longer instrumental stretches highlighted by low-key hard riffs behind a number of different keyboard solos and sounds. Patrick Mulcahy's bass playing is all over this one, grumbling away in the background, it's not surprising as he wrote the piece. Terrific varied and forceful drum- work ensures Jonathan Schang gets a real workout too. There's crazy and noisy keyboard solos throughout the whole track that really go off! Leslie gets a lot of interesting vocal moments on this one, plenty of commanding and alternatively restrained spots for her. Lots going on in this dramatic track, and it finishes the album off in a typically proggy and epic manner.

Sadly I have to point out that it's a real shame that the endless heavier guitar riffs constantly drown out Patrick Mulachy's bass playing totally. It seems to be frequently mixed far too low throughout most of the album. Having seen the live DVD that comes with the album, you see just what a great player he is, so it's disappointing he's not mixed up a lot louder and more prominent. The loss of cello player Katinka Kleijn from the first album is a shame too, as she gave the debut a very distinct sound.

Special mention must be made to the high quality of the lyrics. Strong and defiant, frequently bitter and sarcastic, spiteful and bating. Lots of depth and interesting observations in them.

Although the album is full of variety and originality, I think the band would work even better were they to tone down the constant hard riffs. Tracks like `Perfect Young Man' and `Read Your Mind' are more interesting for allowing all the players to be heard better without as many riffs drowning them out. However, District 97 understands what it takes to make a modern prog album that will appeal to a younger crowd, while being intelligent and interesting to established prog oldies - exactly what we need to keep this genre fresh and interesting. It could even encourage young fans to look further into the band's influences, to discover a musical world of endless varied and exciting progressive artists, which can only be a good thing. For now, though, `Trouble With Machines' is an excellent modern progressive album that will surely win them even more fans, and only bigger and better things await the band.

Four stars!

Please note - The first run of this CD comes with an excellent 90 minute live DVD of the band's performance at the 2011 Rites Of Spring festival. With a good mix of tracks from both of their albums, keyboard player Rob Clearfield dominates the entire show, his effortless playing is amazing to watch. The guitar/bass combo of Jim and Patrick is first-rate, and drummer Jonathon Schang is like a robot - totally focused, mechanical and powerful! But the show belongs to Leslie Hunt. She shows a real joy with her terrific varied singing, and a cheeky sense of humour! I probably should add an extra star for her outstanding wonky dancing that has to be seen to be believed!

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