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Empty Space Orchestra - Big Bang CD (album) cover

BIG BANG

Empty Space Orchestra

 

Eclectic Prog

3.00 | 3 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars EMPTY SPACE ORCHESTRA formed in 2007 in Bend, Oregon situated on the eastern side of the Cascade mountain range. Composed of the quintet of Lindsey Elias( drums), Keith O'Dell (keyboards), Patrick Pearsall (bass), Shane Thomas (guitar) and Graham Jacobs (saxophone), this under the radar band has so far released two albums with this one BIG BANG emerging first in 2009 followed by an eponymous sophomore offering in 2011. It's unclear if these guys have disbanded or just simply went on a hiatus.

BIG BANG features nine tracks and clocks in at a whopping 65 plus minutes and closes with one of those that's-what-i-call-real-prog sprawlers that squeaks past the 20 minute mark in the form of "Pandemonium." This is what i call smooth prog as it features a lite airy jazzy underbelly that features a steady rhythmic drive with saxophone sensualities along with vibraphone sounds. The music isn't overly complex as far as time signature craziness is concerned but the tracks do like to slowly wend and wind through lush melodic cadences before finding resolution.

This is an all instrumental affair (with the exception of the hidden track) with the lion's share of emphasis lying on the keyboards (mostly imitating a vibraphone), the saxophone and the busy percussive drive. The bass is utterly subordinate and often the guitar is buried so deep in the mix that it is rendered inaudible. While most tracks are clearly delineated, the longer ones like "Read Between The Lines" features complete shifts into what sounds like completely separate tracks stitched together to form a larger one. The album is light and breezy almost like a Path Metheny album where sensual atmospheres are nudged along by the subordinate instrumentation.

BIG BANG may have an explosive album title but it's really quite subdued. Dominated primarily by piano arpeggios and smooth jazz lushness, the album never really takes off into the realms of space rock like the album insinuates. The track "Pandiamon" is probably the most experimental with a slow as molasses doom metal procession and one of the few examples of dominating guitar heft but even that gets tamed down a bit with a bit of sultry sax sounds. This is also probably the spaciest of the lot with swirling chaotic synth sounds brewing up a storm while the sax casually pretends it's at a smoky nightclub at a chi-chi jazz venue. The short piece "Post" conjures up Sigur Ros styled post-rock.

As for "Pandemonium," the 20 minute behemoth that swallows up 1/3 of the album's running time, it starts out rather abruptly with a beefy bass line followed by jazzy drumming workouts and a vibraphone followed by the smooth jazz sax. While the smooth jazz is the template, the atmospheric background is rather dark and slowly ratchets up the tempo to give this track a somewhat unsettling vibe. The jazz simmers for seven minutes and then silence. Ah! Now it makes sense. This isn't a 20 minute track at all but rather a seven minute track with some silence, some background noise and then eventually a huge percussion shebang that sounds like it's a party in a bunker and all this continues for another nine minutes.

First of all this album is way too long for its own good. It needs about 20 minutes shaved off and since the majority of the latter part of the album is nothing but prog tributes to Kenny G, i'd start there. The weird live free improv at the end is also quite unnecessary. It just clutters things up and doesn't add diddly squat. This is what i'd call elevator prog. It's light and fluffy like a big barrel of cotton and never really takes you anywhere. It's safe enough for nursing homes and the prog attributes are meager. It's OK and i didn't feel like i wasted my time listening to this but in the end it isn't something that invites a return listen as there isn't enough creative mojo to sustain such a lengthy playing time.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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