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Aisles - 4:45am CD (album) cover





3.36 | 50 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars '4:45 AM' - Aisles (55/100)

Aisles guitarist German Vergara introduced me to his band's music a few years ago, when I received a pair of their albums in the mail. The Yearning and In Sudden Walks offered a more melodic approach to progressive rock that I was used to hearing, but the Chilean act soon grew on me. I still have fond memories of hearing In Sudden Walks for the first time and being taken aback by how beautifully Aisles had managed to incorporate vocal melody and harmony with the progressive mainframe. Not surprisingly, I was intrigued to hear where Aisles had gone thereafter. 4:45 AM is a quasi-concept work of sorts, inspired by the emotions and thoughts one might feel at that time where a new day begins. I'll say outright that Aisles' third album hasn't initially impressed me as much as the first two; even so, their efforts to innovate and expand their sound haven't gone unnoticed.

I don't think a review of any of Aisles' albums could go without bringing up their focus on melody. Historically, Aisles have always built their songs around emotive vocal melodies, a trait which will either attract or dissuade a progger outright, depending on their taste. Even if the human voice is the most potentially emotive musical instrument our species has at our disposal, I don't think the potential is often unlocked in prog or rock. In Sudden Walks was one such album that fulfilled that promise; Sebastian Vergara's voice complimented the atmosphere beautifully there. In comparison, 4:45 AM is less successful. The excellent acoustic piece "The Sacrifice" is reminiscent of the vocal success on In Sudden Walks, but the integration isn't handled so well here. In fact, many of Aisles' best successes on 4:45 AM are of the instrumental variety. "Gallarda Yarura" is a great instrumental that, surprisingly enough, offers some of the album's best melodies. "Intermission" is the album's darkest, most experimental track, based around the repeating motif and a bevy of soundscapey effects atop it. Sebastian Vergara's brooding voice is still in sharp form, but Aisles' vocal-based tracks aren't quite so dynamic this time around.

I once pegged Aisles as a band training from under the shadow of Marillion. Neo-prog was the surefire label for this band on the first two albums, but no I'm not so sure. The title track sounds like they could be drawing from dredg or The Dear Hunter. "Shallow and Daft" sounds like New Wave or 80's pop. The instrumentals have also added unprecedented variety to Aisles' music. Yet, for an album that sports such a variety of sounds and styles, 4:45 AM feels very subdued. The Floydian "Hero" is a welcome exception to this rule, but on the whole Aisles sound a little too restrained for their own good here. Even "Shallow and Daft"- Aisles' satirical love letter to pop excess- sounds relatively somnolent. I do suppose it makes sense given the album's theme revolves around "an hour shared by a soul in decline and one ready to rise" (according to the band) but the constant mellowness can make 4:45 AM frustrating, especially when the band clearly has the potential for a more energetic performance. If you need any evidence of that, you need look no further than the opening of the title track. Though it picks up on a characteristically mellow note, the way the drums pick up pace and lead into the first verse is brilliant. Aisles have always opted for the more laid-back side of the spectrum, but more often than not on 4:45 AM, I'm left feeling like a lot of the music is in need of some early morning caffeine.

Although part of it may be attributed to a natural shift of tastes over time, I don't find myself as engaged by 4:45 AM as I did with the first two Aisles albums some years ago. It feels like a well-intentioned transition between their neo-progressive roots and a yet- undetermined point of destination. In offering such an attractive variety of prog and pop styles, Aisles haven't done quite enough to link it all together; each song offers some sort of promising identity, but there's little indication that the tracks are working together as a whole. It's an unfortunate side-effect of the album's promising variety that 4:45 AM ends up feeling disappointingly indistinct. Even if I don't find it as enjoyable as In Sudden Walks, I still think that Aisles' third album is a step in the right direction. Whatever weaknesses 4:45 AM has suffered over its predecessors is simply a result of Aisles' bold attempt to expand their boundaries and evolve musically.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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