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Curved Air - Airconditioning CD (album) cover


Curved Air


Eclectic Prog

3.30 | 173 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Have you ever had the feeling like you'd heard an album somewhere before? No? Well, anyway, Curved Air's debut has that feel to it to be sure. And that album's name sounds a bit like "Stan Dup."

But, Curved Air, yeah. I think that Curved Air is a somewhat misunderstood band. That is, I don't know a lot about their work after Way's departure (read: "I have only heard this album"), but Curved Air is usually represented as being all airy and light. Not only can they rock (courtesy Misters Way and Monkman), but this album has a real mean streak to it. I don't mean it's depressing or anything, but it...has its moments.

Opener "It Happened Today" contains a good mix of guitar and piano lines, but the real star here is Sonja Kristina, delivering chilling, existential lyrics with chilling, ethereal vocals. But for some reason, it bleeds into a sorta sappy, violin led coda. Which might be okay, if it didn't go on for so damn long.

Oh well. The best number on this here thing is probably the next song (although, to be fair, the good stuff is kinda even), a driving, psychedelic flavored bloozy piece entitled "Stretch." The whole song is great, but I love that part in the middle where the violin climbs and Monkman's guitar goes crazy. You know what I mean. Yeah. Awesome, idn't it? "Screw" is a creepy little number that fades in and out. Probably longer than need be, but, it's okay. Cool guitar noises.

Maybe my second favorite song is the little ethnic, folksy bit called "Blind Man." It's just undeniably catchy, and the hushed lyrics are great, with a sweet lil' descending violin line in the middle. Of course, the best showcase of Darly Way's instrument is "Vivaldi," an album favorite. Everyone's instruments come together beautifully, but Way is always impressive (it's really his song after all). It does get a little slow in the midsection, but the harder parts at the start and end are fantastic.

"Hide and Seek" starts out with another floaty intro, but it turns sharply into another dense, dark psycho rocker. Spooky lyrics, and probably the best guitar solo on the album. But "Propositions" lets me down a little. It follows a pattern similar to "Hide and Seek," except on crack! Unfortunately it quickly dissolves into a bunch guitar noise (which I usually love!), and it doesn't really do too much.

The instrumental "Rob One" is piano and violin based. It's pretty, but it's a little tuneless. "Situations" is an interesting number, with interesting sound effects, and an interesting guitar solo. It's nice when it's atmospheric, but it takes a few too many turns for its own good. Oh well, at least it's interesting.

Despite a little running down by the end of the album, Air Conditioning pretty much earned a four. But "Vivaldi with Cannons" guarantees it. I know it's only a minute long, but just listen to it dude! It's the same tune of the first "Vivaldi," only in the middle of all these explosions, and it's way HARDER! It sounds like the room is blowing up, and Darly's going down with it! Metal hands! In truth, I'm not sure which version of "Vivaldi" I like more; awesome album closer, one of favorite closers ever.

So now that I've talked a lot about Air Conditioning, I know what you REALLY want to hear about is Stand Up. And let's face it, this record is a big ole copy of that one. Just take a fuzzy guitarist, a "classical" instrument, and then do a buncha numbers with eerie undertones, some psycho blooz, some folk-related, some classical/rock fusion...they just retitled "Fat Man" "Blind Man" fer goshsakes! Someone owes Ian some money.

Oh well. We're talking about Curved Air here. At least, you are. And this record is not as good as Stand Up (few are of course), but it is real darn good for a young prog band that ain't done very much.

The lineup is good, albeit not fantastic. The drummer is kinda cool from time to time ("Blind Man," "Vivaldi"), but the bass hardly impresses me. Monkman is a pretty decent guitarist though, and he bangs the respective 'boards pretty good (when he does). Wonder how live shows worked...

But Sonja and Darly are the ones you want to grab onto; Way is one of my favorite prog violinists, I love the buzzy, echoey, almost metallic tricks he plays with the thing ((fellow) lovers of Larks Tongues in Aspic, take note!). And I don't seem to listen to a lot of bands with a chick singer (excuse me, a "female vocalist"), but Sonja makes it work. Sometimes.

My main problem is that it comes off as a little muddled from time to time. I mean, are these guys trying to be floaty and ethereal, or hard and dark? Or both? That would be cool, moody AND fun. Which this record is! Anyway, time will tell, but in the meantime, this is a very enjoyable progressive album, with a very progressive album cover concept that is sadly lost on the compact disc-ing public (and don't even get me started on MP3s).

The Whistler | 4/5 |


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