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The Calm Blue Sea - The Calm Blue Sea CD (album) cover


The Calm Blue Sea


Post Rock/Math rock

3.09 | 3 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars What I really like about The Calm Blue Sea is that nothing is ever forced. These guys never once went so over the top that I felt alienated or bored. Then again, Post-Rock has never been about virtuostic musicianship. It has always been about emotion. The ambient side of the music is clearly there, but the Rock elements are also present in a big way, so I think this band fits just fine in this sub-genre category.

To get started, ''We Happy Few'' certainly works. It begins the album off with a bang that left me with a wonderful emotional high for the remainder of the record. Almost like an 'afterglow' effect, if you will. The Guitar work here especially just makes me weep, it's so beautiful. Not to mention there is is some really cool classical-style Piano playing to be had, thanks to the multi-talented Max Werkenthin. At over eight minutes in length, this serves as no appetizer; it encourages the listener to jump right in. And jump right in, I did.

''Literal'' - This track features vocals, and the first thing that jumped to my mind when I first heard the way they had been presented, with all that distant reverb and long, drawn-out delivery, was Syd Barret. I swear to you, it is uncanny. It could have been a lost section from ''See Emily Play'', and I wouldn't have been a bit surprised. Well, except for the fact that the production qualities are much better (obviously). The song starts with a more subtle approach in the Guitar department, but eventually builds into the same majesty that track number one had maintained for its entire length. This change of pace is welcome, though, because non stop wall of sound a la Phil Spectre has never appealed to me, so it is good that they balanced it out by not repeating themselves in the second track.

The Drums and Bass sound more prominent to me on this song as well, perhaps because of the Guitar's more back seat role as mentioned earlier. There is a moment, however, a couple of minutes in when all of the instruments cut out completely and the Guitars are the only parts heard, but even then the playing style is subtle and reserved. Fairly soon the soft Piano stylings come in again and create a beautiful overtone which adds a certain sense of melancholy that I think serves this sub-genre so well. Finally the climax comes in big spurts of Guitar chords being held and sustained overtop of a lush sound painting of Keys and single Guitar leads. Jeff Crews and Chris Patin both do their instruments justis through their truly unique style of playing. I've seen live footage of the band, and they approach Guitar so differently than anyone else I have seen in a long time. Truly inspiring to watch, actually.

''The Rivers That Run Beneath This City'' - The moment I heard the opening riff for this track, I knew I was going to absolutely adore it. Some of the most hauntingly beautiful stuff I have ever heard; like a lullaby, but with a more adult characteristic. The feeling of experience goes along with it, and rather than feeling innocent and care-free like any actual lullaby would, it is full of dread. But we like dread in this genre, right? So it's a very good thing.

The Drums here are not as 'showy' as they are elsewhere on the record; holding a steady yet powerful backbeat for the majority of the song. Only choosing to become a bit frilly here and there, Drummer Steve Bidwell has a helluvalot of taste when it comes to his style. I wish more Drummers could be like him in any genre. He knows just when to relax and just when to leap into power playing. Most of his fellows these days seem to have the same problem as current Rock Guitar players, which is they think they have to play as fast and as hard as possible in order to make a point musically, and I'm always happy when bands like this one can say so much through so little. Another factor in why Post-Rock continues to grow on me. It appeals to me more and more everyday.

So all in all, this track is much mellower than the others, but full of such raw power and emotion, it soars my heart every time I listen to it. Probably my favorite track on the album. I especially dig the moment when everything stops and then immediately blasts out once again the song's main riff that had been slowly moved away from during the song's course. I'm always a sucker for recapitulation, so . . . no wonder. A quick outro riff via clean reverb Guitar, and this wonderful track is over.

''Now Those Ashes Are at the Bottom'' is without a doubt the most Bass-heavy song on this record. Mainly meaning that I can actually hear the Bass Guitar very clearly on this track, and all the other songs seem to kind of bury it underneath all the other instruments (I'll go into this aspect of the record more during my review of the next song, so for now, we'll just leave it at that). It is also the one track that is closest to the first song in terms of its mood, style and presentation. It isn't a 'clone' of the first track, you understand, but it certainly shares a lot of commonalities. I'm not really going yo go into it too much more than that, because I don't want to taint your own listening experience of it, but let me just say that in my opinion it is very similar in a lot of ways to the tracks epic opener, ''We Happy Few''. Still good, though.

''After the Legions'' Starts out very Bass and Piano heavy, and Noah Poole is just as good at creating mood through his instrument as his counterparts, but I notice he doesn't really spend much time doing anything else but hitting single notes from time to time and allowing them to ring out and sustain for many long bars at a time. Nothing is wrong with this, and as I'm not as familiar with Post-Rock yet as my fellows here on the site, I may not even have a very good idea of what a typical Bass player in this genre does or doesn't do, but certainly I expected a bit more from Noah, and I left this record feeling as if he were a bit of an invisible band member, if nothing else because he seems to all but disappear in the mix. Unfortunate, because who knows? Maybe he WAS in fact playing more than I realized, and just couldn't hear him.

This entire track really is very Piano-heavy, which I love, because Piano is one of my favorite instruments in the world to hear, so the more Piano is present in a song, the happier I am. I really enjoy the interplay between all the instruments here despite the Piano being the 'star' of the song, so I am not begrudging the ther guys, but the melodies played on the Piano here really moved me, made ''After the Legions'' possibly my second-favorite song on the whole thing. Great, great work, especially if you appreciate a talented Pianist with Classical tendancies (and what self-respecting Prog fan DOESN'T like that?)

The final song on the album, ''This Will Never Happen Again'', serves as a bitter-sweet ending to what started out as such a promising album. Oh, don;t get me wrong, this song itself is really good, but I guess I was expecting more. That really sums up my whole opinion of this record; it's wonderful, but not enough. I wanted it to keep going, and I felt like there just wasn't enough content to quence my thirst for more of tjis band's cool sound. And with only one album available (to my knowledge, anyway), and a very uncertain availability, I fear it will be a while before any more original music comes out of The Calm Blue Sea, and that's dissapointing, but overall, this record is very solid, it moves my soul, and speaks to me on a very personal, emotional level. So it's gotta be good, right?

Herein lies my problem, though; this album is great for me, but will most others feel the same way? Will the traditional Prog fans like it? I say no, because of a few reasons, but I'll tell ya what the important reason is: not everybody who likes Progressive Rock will like Post-Rock. As a genre in and of itself, it is wonderful, but when considered as a Prog 'sub-genre' as this site does, you start running into some issues, because Post-Rock lacks much of what makes Prog Rock truly Progressive in many people's eyes. I myself don;t believe that. I believe that 'Progressive' is anything that breaks new ground musically, and Post-Rock has certainly done that.

But regardless of my own opinion, and how much I truly do love this album, I cannot give it any more than three stars. Why? Well, because while I would happily give it a four star rating, I have to conform to what the site's current definition of the four star rating is. This website states at the time of this writing that a four star rating represents an album that is quote: 'An excellent addition to any prog rock music collection', and I honestly don't believe that is the case with The Calm Blue Sea. It is an excellent addition to MY collection, but that's me. I have to look at it from a traditional 'Progger''s point of view, and in general I can't say with complete confidence that everbody will generally like this. It's great for what it is, but what it is does not appeal to as many people as other more traditional prog bands do.

And so it is with a heavy heart that I sadly (but fairly, I believe) give The Calm Blue Sea a very even '3 out of 5' rating. Happy Listening.

JLocke | 3/5 |


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