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Perhaps - Volume One CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.97 | 107 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Volume One' - Perhaps (7/10)

A couple of months ago, Perhaps approached me with the request that I check out their album, then very newly released. Since then, I've watched from afar as acclaim for their debut has steadily increased. It is- to my limited knowledge of the genre- one of the most acclaimed and momentous math rock albums to be released this year. Although "Volume One" consists of a single track, Perhaps have created a dense and complex first impression. Although their eclectic mix of atmospheric, progressive, and fusion rock styles demands several listens to properly sink in, "Volume One" is a wild ride with a bouquet of gifts for the patient listener. In spite of the scattered and occasionally meandering composition, Perhaps have established themselves as a band with seemingly limitless potential.

For those- like me- who are less involved and engaged with the math rock world, it's an often energetic derivative of post rock with a penchant for wacky guitars and dissonant tonal patterns. Perhaps' sound can't be purely defined as such, but it's a good place to start. Although "Volume One" is given a cold, gradually building opening, the guitar eventually erupts into a flurry of technically impressive licks and twangy riffs, often fusing lead and rhythms together effortlessly. Considering the impressive edge of Sean McDermott's guitar playing, it's an interesting touch (or lack thereof) that he keeps his guitar tone clean and relatively plain throughout. Although the live production is crisp and clear, "Volume One" feels raw and unmodified, a trait made impressive by the fact that the music is so impressive from a technical standpoint. Other reviewers have compared the album's opening with Yes' glorious "Close to the Edge" opus, and I'd tend to agree; it's easy to see a resemblance between Dermott's frantic playing and Steve Howe's distinctive rock-oriented fingerpicking.

Although the guitars are the most pronounced element of Perhaps' sound, the rhythm section is equally as impressive. Don Taylor's drum performance is a solid mix of rock rhythms and jazzy percussion. Particularly during the album's most energetic moments, Taylor demonstrates a very keen ear for left field time signatures and impressive tightness. Bassist and main composer Jim Haney's performance is the most subtle of the trio, but also the most consistent. While the other two instrumentalists go wild, he provides support with an endless stream of catchy grooves and bass hooks. Perhaps have a strong chemistry together as an act, and the live recording gives them an opportunity to play off of each other; it's an organic performance that you rarely hear on a studio album.

Although "Volume One" begins as a strictly math rock affair, it's not long before they show their other faces, those being the forms of atmospheric post-rock and jazz fusion. Although Don Taylor's drum performance always betrays a hint of jazz, the album takes a plunge into strict fusion territory once the guest musicians start showing up. Tom Weeks and Brian Murphy offer saxophone and trumpet solos respectively, giving "Volume One" the temporary vibe of being a recorded jazz club performance. The trumpet in particular really works for Perhaps' sound, with a wondering solo that instantly recalls Miles Davis. Perhaps also enlist the help of a string section. The violins, viola and cello (arranged by Ben Talmi) do for Perhaps' post-rock angle what the trumpet and sax did for their jazz fusion. The album closes with a wonderfully fleshed out climax that will draw strong comparisons to the cinematic sound of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It's unfortunate that the strings and post-rock approach are not explored to a greater extent on the album, because it makes up one of the most impressive passages on the album.

Although the performance is fluid and consistently impressive, the structure of the composition falters occasionally. This is not to say that there is filler anywhere on "Volume One", but there are times where Perhaps' enthusiasm for performance leads them into indulgent waters. The jazz fusion passage that takes up a good piece of the album's centre seems to go on for longer than would have been optimal. While the album begins with a fierce momentum, the psychedelic, Mars Volta-esque jazz soundscapes are not nearly as sonically pleasant as the rest of the album, nor do they share the depth of their more structured passages. Listening to "Volume One", there's a great deal of it I really love, but the album's patchy midsection can feel aimless to the verge of tedium.

"Volume One" is raw and eager, and its eclectic, experimental take on instrumental rock takes some listening to appreciate. It's certainly rough in areas, but that's part of its charm; Perhaps' musical direction is honest and unpredictable. They rest at the crossroads of fusion, math and post rock, and the result of the combination is richly enjoyable, although the band has left plenty of room to polish up their act. It's taken me some time to warm up to, but I can see with some certainty that Perhaps are one of the most interesting new acts to come out this year.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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