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Dean Watson - Imposing Elements CD (album) cover


Dean Watson


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 144 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars If this isn't a masterpiece then I don't know what is. After discovering the music of Dean Watson through the forums only a very short time ago, I went to his bandcamp and checked out some of the samples. I bought the album after about 5 minutes, and I was not disappointed. This is listed as jazz fusion, but there is a ton of variety here, ranging from tracks that recall classic progressive rock to music that borders on instrumental prog metal. A lot of music classified as fusion has left me rather cold in the past, but this release certainly doesn't. This is an album I've been listening to obsessively since I got it and I have a feeling it will stay that way for a while.

Solo keyboard begins the album before percussion kicks in and "Past Present" really hits its stride. Bass and a lot of great synth textures add to the somewhat moody, melancholic feel of this first part of the track. The notes on the artist's bandcamp state that the music was inspired by the painting that serves as the album cover, and I can definitely hear that. About midway through the tempo picks up and the playing gets a little faster and a little more technical, finally arriving at something that truly is a fusion of jazz and progressive rock, incorporating sounds of both to create an exceedingly well composed, well performed piece of music. I can actually hear shades of resemblance to Neal Morse's songwriting, strange though that comparison may sound. A really excellent opening track, this is emotive, technical, and progressive all in one: everything that good fusion should be.

"16 Feet Below" has a tough job following this amazing opener, but it's certainly up to the task. Beginning with a much more "typical jazz" sound mixing percussion and piano, the track quickly switches it up and launches into a much darker section with tons of synth and electronics that really has a lot of "prog" feel to it: difficult rhythms are the name of the game. After this the track gets a bit more languid and I can actually hear faint (very faint) shades of Henry Cow, though this is much less avant than HC. The track closes with a reprise of an earlier theme before one final knotty rhythmic section before moving on to the next track.

"Underpass" begins on a cheerier note, with percussion and keyboard setting a nice, sunny uptempo progression to begin the track. This leads into a great synth solo that sounds a bit to me like a jazzier Yes, and even more like the somewhat more obscure band Babylon. After a while of this the track drops into a heavier motif that almost pushes the track into metal territory. That same great synth soloing continues nonetheless and Underpass ends up being one of my favorite tracks on the album. I can hear traces of just about every big prog band you can think of, but at the same time the track is still decidedly jazz, which makes the whole thing feel wildly original and very enjoyable for any prog fan.

"Push Too" starts off a bit more minimally, with some marimba (or something of the like) leading the way into a languid, jazzy groove. A great guitar solo features prominently towards the beginning of the track, and really the guitar remains the star for most of the rest of the song. Endlessly riffing and jamming over the drum groove, I can hear some classic rock influence in the myriad of solos here, but it's never "needlessly retro" or anything like that. Best of all, it never feels like the instrumentals are noodling or shamelessly technical for no reason: everything fits in perfectly and it's a blast to listen to.

"Pendulum" returns to a more melancholic sound, with the opening section simply oozing despair. Then, in one of my favorite moments from the album, a guitar bursts forth like a ray of light, inspiring a twinge of hope but still shaded with sorrow. After a little bit of playing the mood of the piece picks up a bit, with the piano and drums playing at a slightly faster tempo while synth and guitar create a great atmosphere behind them. Another melodic line, this time with a bit of an eastern feel, introduces itself towards the end of the track and plays for a little bit before the track fades out in a grand wash of organ.

"Depth Charge" comes next, starting off with some jazzy chords and quirky synth that quickly goes off on an equally quirky solo. I have to say, I really love the synth textures used on this album, as they're incredibly varied and recall the sweet sounds of synth-drenched 70s prog quite nicely. Not to be outdone, the guitar makes another excellent return on this track as well, soloing quite nicely over the very slightly atonal piano chords in the background. In the middle of the track the theme changes a little bit, with the piece getting a bit heavier and the guitar taking on even more of a prominent role. As weird as I feel making the comparison I can hear the similarity to Babylon here again- I don't know what it is, but something about the textures or the melodies or something just really reminds me of that band.

"Of Age" begins with a totally different sound: heavy, riffing guitars appear as soon as the track begins, to the extent that this basically sounds like a prog-metal track. To Mr. Watson's credit, it doesn't sound out of place at all but fits in perfectly to the rest of the album as a whole. At about 2 minutes in a bit of that heaviness drops away and yet another amazing guitar solo kicks off, very much sounding like it could have come straight out of the psychedelic 60s or 70s. It's a stellar solo that leads into a bit of a calmer moment as what sound like wind chimes briefly appear before the bass locks into new groove. After hardly a moment the guitar appears again, and hot on its heels comes the synth as well. Solo after solo is the name of the game here, and they're all fantastic, right up until the heavy guitar riffing returns and the track fades out.

And at last we've reached the last track. It's been quite a journey up until this point, but "New Resolution" doesn't rush things, beginning with a fairly chilled out keyboard part that's augmented by some nice percussion. This goes on for a little bit before the track kicks into high gear, launching into a guitar and synth duet that to me sounds a lot like Yes. A jazzier section follows, with piano leading the way and several more synth solos as well. Eventually the track comes full circle and reprises one of its first themes before kicking up the intensity in the last minute and finally fading out.

I will freely admit that jazz fusion is not an area I have a lot of experience with. I've heard "the big names," Miles Davis, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, but not a whole lot outside of those. I'm not going to try to compare this release to those objectively (because quite frankly it's silly to talk objectively about music) but I will say that I enjoy this release more than anything I've heard from the groups above. This is an amazing album, and one that I'll be listening to for a long, long time. Every note is perfect, every track seeming both fresh and original and also intimately familiar. Progheads of all shapes and sizes should find lots to love here, and I truly believe that you're doing yourself a disservice if you pass this up. This is 51 minutes of music that you can't afford to miss.


VanVanVan | 5/5 |


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