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Patchwork Cacophony - Patchwork Cacophony CD (album) cover


Patchwork Cacophony


Symphonic Prog

3.41 | 13 ratings

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3 stars My first acquaintance with Ben Bell's work was back in 2013 with the "debut" album of Fusion Orchestra 2, an excellent example of long heavy progressive rock compositions. Here Ben takes it on his own to create a much more symphonic progressive rock album, keyboard-laden and mostly instrumental.

For a one-man job, Patchwork Cacophony is impressive, full of original ideas, talented keyboard playing and two major moods: the dreamy (even spacey) 70's symphonic rock side (mainly influenced by Genesis) and another, much more jazz/funky one, which counterbalances the melody with more dynamic passages and keyboard lines. Ben experiments with all sorts of keyboard sounds, from moog to organ, piano and so on. See for example the "trouble-free" No U-Turn, a tune to accompany you to your summer drives across the coast. The two moods interchange often and the track lengths as well, offering the right amount of variation.

Dance of the Fleet-Footed Heffalumps does what it says: a folksy/dreamy atmosphere on acoustic guitar and flute driven sounds, perhaps somewhere in the middle of the woods with Gryphon lurking in the background; Nylons for Parot flows in a similar vein, proving a nice interlude before the multi-part Dawn Light. Brinkmanship is perhaps the highlight with a playful main theme which does not tire, no matter how many times it is repeated. It follows a melodic piano intro, similar to how the album opens in Sketch of a Day. In fact the two tracks are very similar in the way they evolve, with the former being the flagship of the funky side of Ben and the latter the more melodic, Genesis-inspired, earning even more points by its grandiose ending.

The Dawn Light suite starts off with an Eloy-inspired theme but continues with two parts accompanied by Ben's vocals, in a mid-tempo rocking background, the more impressive of the two being No Time. The jumps between reprises and rock tunes continues throughout the duration of the suite, with Scorched Earth taking me by surprise by its dynamic, swinging keyboard riff. The underlying Deep Purple influence is confirmed in the melodic hard rock tune Final Sunset; I would expect you be up and dancing by now, while the Purple/Heep organ solos rage on. Not a very coherent suite all in all, but certainly with enjoyable moments.

Apart from the excellent keyboard work and surprisingly good performance on vocals, the rest of the instrumentation/arrangements are fairly basic and are there to support, rather than create, with the drum arrangements perhaps in need of the most improvement. However, this does not affect the professional work produced in this album. This is the second album I get to listen to this year that has such a high level of keyboard talent and ideas, the other being Unreal City's sophomore release.

Is it the era of keyboards? We shall see - this is certainly a great way to start a solo career.

3.5 stars. Highlights: Brinkmanship, No Time, Scorched Earth, Final Sunset

aapatsos | 3/5 |


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