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Matthew Parmenter - Astray CD (album) cover


Matthew Parmenter



3.97 | 86 ratings

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Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Many influences abound on Matthew Parmenter's first solo release. The Genesis school of theatrical music, VDGG's pain and anguish (Parmenter occassionally sounds very much like Peter Hammill) and early King Crimson's aural soundscape (heavily mellotronised) and even a glimpse or two of Jon Anderson styled lyric lines (in my head I could hear Anderson singing some of the vocals. Not timbre, mind you, more inflection). All in all, a healthy prog soup.

Except for the bass, all instruments are played by Parmenter. Drums, percussion, vocals, keyboards, violin, sax, guitar... It has such a live feel, it's hard to believe everything is totally overdubbed. Each instrument is played with finesse and the conviction one puts into being adept at only a single instrument. This guy could be a member in any band. Versatility is an understatement.

This album is a grower, each listen (about 15 for me) brings forth new elements and wonders. By the third or fouth listen, I was captured.

Vocally, Parmenter can be a chameleon. He changes styles and tones in an instant. From Hammill's melodrama to Anderson's wispy naivete to Gabriel's storytelling characters. Personally, I would be appreciative if he dropped the Hammill persona. It comes across as almost too imitative, rather than personal. I researched other sites regarding this release and some even credit Hammill as singing on this record. Believe me, Hammill''s name does not appear on the CD sleeve, nor on the MP website. Strange? I'll say. Discipline's last studio release, Unfolded Like Staircase features some Hamillesque vocals as well.

Musically, Astray doesn't get as heavy as the Discipline albums. There are many softer interludes and rarely do the tune reach any climatic cresendoes. The music lilts and flows. It will not lull you, however, it's piques your interest and carries you along. This is what progressive music should do. This is visual art for the mind. It's not always pretty, but it screams to been seen.

High points? The longest track, "Modern Times" has many movements, plenty of mellotron and some King Crimson power chording and eclectic themes. Over twenty minutes of shifting textures, martial beats, apocalyptical lyrics and a stunning guitar solo finale. "Dirty Mind" features wonderfully irreverent lyrcis and a playful piano accompaniment. "All my thoughts turn to dirty thoughts." Wickedly fun. "Distracted" gives me the Jon Anderson image. Too bad YES doesn't get this charged lyrically anymore. "Now" has a heavy Hammill vibe in the lyrics and delivery.

It's a strong disc. There is a lot to absorb and many sights to see and hear within the music. Just like the old Ragu commercials, "Try It, You'll Like IT."

Dan Bobrowski | 4/5 |


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