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Days Between Stations - In Extremis CD (album) cover


Days Between Stations


Eclectic Prog

3.96 | 270 ratings

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5 stars Days Between Stations has been in my rotation for quite a while now, a surprising work that has me spellbound for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there are some stellar musicians involved in this project, luminary names such as Tony Levin (aka the Master Basster), Rick Wakeman needing no introduction, Billy Sherwood playing drums (and rather well, may I add!) , the amazing Colin Moulding of XTC legend and Peter Banks , for whom this was the least recording before sadly passing away. This is a band led by keyboardist Oscar Fuentes Bills and guitarist Sepand Samzadeh , two talented and creative musicians, offering a seductive mix of various styles and sounds , all well within the classic symphonic sphere of influence.

'No Cause for Alarm' is one of the finest introductions ever expressed in prog, an instantly searing orchestral rumble, mixing classical themes and electronic touches (featuring mellotron sounds and massive amount of synthesized keyboards) and getting the adrenalin level pumped up, ready for action. Somehow, I have the feeling I have heard this all my life, it's that good! Segueing into 'In Utero' is a sumptuous initiative, a seamless penetration of sophisticated sounds and incredible sonic restraint as Sepand carves some scouring electric leads amid the dense textured orchestrations. There is a very slight early Genesis feel, like the impending doom on 'Watchers of the Skies' but this is tempered with a trumpet 'like effect that is pure genius. This bleeds into the pulsating 'Visionary' epic, a 10 minute deep space jam that shows off some wicked playing by all participants, shoved hard by a typical Levin onslaught on the Stick and the bass, with Sherwood hitting his skins with bold fury while he sings in his rather hushed style. A delicate piano break only enhances the mystery, along with a dobro solo that simply astounds by its mere presence, reminiscent of the 'Us and them' section on Dark Side of the Moon! Immediate flow into the harder-edged 'Blackfoot', another 10 minute psychedelic romp that flutters wildly as Samzadeh delivers some almighty six-string work while Levin really cooks up a hurricane with his pal Sherwood drumming like an unhinged madman. The Stick solo is simply mind-blowing as Levin navigates the piano ripples with supreme confidence and masterful composure. This is impulsive, beastly, passionate and perfectly executed symphonic mood music of the very highest order. Sepand then sticks us with a massively scalding slide solo that would make Steve Howe blush with unmitigated envy! Oh yeah, that good!

After all these fireworks, a little respite was necessary and what comes up next is a thunderous surprise, something almost like a lost Phil Manzanera track, 'The Man Who Died Two Times' has that quirky British eclectic prog-pop feel that is absolutely infectious , led by XTC vocalist Colin Moulding and ably supported with some sizzling backing playing. The chorus of 'black suit, black tie, all over the edge' has that Eno vocalized silliness that characterized the early Manzanera catalogue. Four minutes of genius!

In homage to Peter Banks, who will be guesting on the final two epic tracks, the Angel City Orchestra composed a two minute purely classical ode to the famous guitarist, entitled 'Watz in E Minor'. These little ditties rarely have any effect but there it's simply spectacular. The arguably highlight track is the massive 'The Eggshell Man' a nearly dozen minutes of mellotron-infested magic , with Ant Phillips-like vocalizings, Levin on the upright bass, Banks and a variety of guitar texturings, the arsenal of splendid keyboards played by Oscar Fuentes and cameo solos by Rick on Mellotron-flute and a breathless Mini-Moog solo for the ages as the caped wonder does some hypnotic work on the ivories. To add a little more spice to the banquet, a Tar solo by guest Ali Nouri (Tar is a Persian stringed lute-like instrument) just to keep you enthralled and excited. This is dreamy atmospheric symphonic prog of the finest quality, both resourceful and grandiose. Oh, and yes, lots of mellotron! Even Sherwood's vocal work is of the highest order, very impressive piece of music!

But why try to be cute when you can provide a coup de grace to really anoint this special album with eternal glory and kill it off with a 21 minute epic slice of magic. A six-part suite gives this recording its title and does a supreme job in establishing its recommendation. This just has it all, from demonic organ introductions ('Mass'), moody piano and funeral march surrealism to screaming guitar duels between Sepand and Peter, all kept in tight formation by cannonading bass and powerful drum fills. The choir bellows 'On The Ground' with conviction and supreme density. 'The Requiem' section conveys both love and pain, with a hopeful a wish to 'Writing on Water', where a higher sense of synthesized delirium takes over and shoves the piece into upper psychedelia, Banks and Samzadeh exchanging axe licks. Though along piece, the segments are exciting enough to keep the interest level very acute, never quite knowing what will surge from the next curb. In my view, that is one of the predominant standards one looks for in prog, constant creativity, freshness and explosions of sounds and textures that will keep the heart racing on and on'.Various themes are revisited (the Eggshell man, the forlorn trumpet) with great success, a fitting recap for all the pleasures between the folds of this musical matrix. The choir farewell sends the soul into heaven.

This is a successful project that took some time to absorb by its uniqueness and gets high praise for variety, dedication to symphonic exuberance, intense musicianship and overall entertainment value. Give it some well-deserved respect by spinning it a few times in a variety of environments and hear the music bloom before your ears. A definite winner at death's door, RIP

5 Peter Banks

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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