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Wobbler - Hinterland CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 326 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Something seems to have gone wrong somewhere in my life. Or at least, that's what I find myself saying for the past 3 years ever since I decided to be a contemporary percussionist majoring in Music Management. But I'm certain there's a bit of truth in it, especially after listening (and playing) music of many different genres, only after coming back to the world of symphonic prog and the world of the "epics", the gigantic 30+ minute goliaths that get all the praise in reviews such as this, I had come to a very startling conclusion; the credibility of these mega-songs, the very reason I was attracted to prog in the first place, has left me in doubt.

I'm just not a fan of them anymore.

Then again, my opinion has been altered slightly after playing gigantic minimalist pieces such as Fredrick Rzewski's "Coming Together", "In C" by Terry Riley, and soon enough, Steve Reich's "Music for Mallet Instruments Voices And Organ" (Briefly for those who don't know, these are contemporary pieces designed around minimalism, the idea of creating modern and beautiful music while not necessarily using as few pitches as possible, but by prolonging dramatic chord changes, usually by repeating the same section many times over before moving on to the next one).

Predictably, listening and playing pieces like this over and over again has skewed my opinion of larger pieces and songs, and frankly I think I have a point. I'm going to use "Hinterland" by Wobbler here as a good example. See, in my opinion, if the sky's the limit in terms of song length, than the song should be of massive, epic proportions (see Dream Theater's "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence", BTBAM's "Colors" or even any Gustav Mahler symphony). And even if it isn't a colossal, symphonic experience, if appears to flow through a minimalist perspective (like a post-rock group), or even if the band itself tends to be sporadic with quick changes (a la Mars Volta), that's perfectly fine. I listen to all of those examples, which brings me to, what I think, is the fatal flaw not only of this album, but most songs and bands like this.

There just isn't anything in this piece that interests me.

The title track sets the tone in the first 6 minutes or so with the main theme and verses, so once that's out of the way, you'd expect the bad to develop them, explore beyond them and create wonderful pictures, textures and colors on top of them. But they don't. Instead, the song wallows around for a good 5 minutes restating the same chords and themes in a triplet meter, before removing the drums once again and returning to a baroque-style complete with acoustic guitar and occasional flute. And really, this whole process occurs over and over again till the song ends. In short, it's a song that should've been 8 minutes long, rather than 28 minutes long.

At least "Rubato Industry" salvages a bit of this album's honor. It seems more polished, more put together. There's a better sense of where the beat is, that its structured more musically than "Hinterland". Although roughly 5 minutes in, the solo verse spot almost foreshadows doom and despair like in the title song, but luckily the band returns quickly enough to re-energize the song. Except roughly 2 minutes later, it dissolves into another wallowy jam with no real purpose or desire. I mean, I know the band's called Wobbler, but I didn't expect these guys to name their band after the kind of music they're making.

It's the same story with "Clair Obscur". Brilliant opening, absolutely beautiful. Except it shouldn't really take 3 and a half minutes. And then when the band does come in, it's just a long sequence of abrupt stops and fills, just languildy flopping around like a huge fish on a Tempur-Pedic mattress. It just doesn't go anywhere, and when it does, it just doesn't flow, as if it were one singular composition changing and telling a story. It just sounds like several different songs stitched together into one lifeless, droning piece of mediocrity.

Then again, this was their first album, and after listening a bit to "Afterglow" and "Rites At Dawn", which are much better and much more compelling albums, by the way, I'm willing to give these guys more of a pass, which is why this isn't a 1 star rating.

Normally, I wouldn't have written a review of this album, but this to me is a perfect example that bigger isn't necessarily better. Telling a compelling, interesting story could warrant the need for a 30 minute song rather than just write a 30 minute song for the hell of it. When it comes to progressive music, you're targeting a small and limited, but a very intelligent audience, so in general, it's a good idea to not write bland music that puts everyone to sleep (for any genre of music).

Prog Rock Composition 101.

Wicket | 2/5 |


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