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Big Big Train - The Difference Machine CD (album) cover

THE DIFFERENCE MACHINE

Big Big Train

 

Crossover Prog

3.64 | 299 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars British band Big Big Train have evolved or rather truly "progressed" from even their excellent last album, "Gathering Speed' which this writer enjoyed quite thoroughly indeed! This time around multi- instrumentalist Greg Spawton went for the home run, creating a complete package that is hard to resist, with eye-catching artwork (what a cover!), crafting progressive epics while adding massive doses of sax (my pet prog peeve: we all know that regular sax will keep a smile on one's face) courtesy of Tony Wright , as well as enlisting the help of Pete Trewavas of Marillion plus adding Dave Meros and Nick D'Virgilio of Spock's Beard. Good idea! Of course mounds of mellotron also help in creating moving sound architectures; putting that precious symphonic slant on everything (Can I have some Moh, please!). Three hugely successful epics adorn this masterwork, with a series of interval connector tracks to keep the space between free of clutter and a luscious final piece that puts the proverbial cherry on the proggy cake. "Perfect Cosmic Storm" "Pick Up if You're There" "Saltwater Falling on Uneven Ground" are all 12 minute plus compositions that clearly shoot for the stars, some of the best tracks ever composed by this clever band, with great attention to teamwork, detail -oriented touches that really hit the mark and skillful playing. The first extravaganza starts off with screeching guitars in a quasi-Floydian exposé of breezy atmospherics, synthesized angry voices, ghostly sound FX , rippling bass, everything stop and go in a controlled jumble and then suddenly morphing into a haunting piece of propelled-prog , infusing wild sax blurts with sizzling riffs all coated in rich unctuous mellotron candy. Damn amazing! The breaks veer into jazzier domains, just for the sake of groove (more great sax) , drums keeping everyone reigned in tight , simply very creative modern progressive rock music, man! "Pick Up." goes for a straightforward approach at the outset, slowly veering into more complex meters, where cascading waves of mellotron collide with simply superb galloping bass from Trewavas and superlative drumming from D'Virgilio, while Spawnton deliberately keeps his guitar licks evocative (à la Manzanera) instead of inanely soloing for no reason as well as some sexy sax work from Wright. "Saltwater." is probably the highpoint here, grooving nicely along, guitars whisper and sting in deep melancholia, a dreamy brew that introduces some achingly beautiful harmonic flutters , effect-laden lead vocals, zooming Andy Poole bass and expert drums from Steve Hughes. The resilient sonics here are very "recherché", extreme restraint and nearly cinematic attention to detail seem to guide the way, producing a brooding cavalcade of utter exaltation. This is no neo-prog I assure you, rather well within the realm of high-gloss symphonic prog, with some highly original segments. A definite prog classic, this one is. "Summer's Lease" waves mournfully goodbye, a disposition to sorrow that is best expressed by the great string depressor itself, the viola and a propensity for hopeful serenity emanating from the keyboards, yet remaining seemingly unattainable. As stated so succinctly by our avestin, listening to something else may be tough for a few minutes, as the imprint is quite intoxicating. Maybe a dose of Blackfield or Like Wendy, but that will only perpetuate the fuzzy gloom. I guess we now have ideal soundtrack music for the current news..This is an unsurprising surprise. 4.5 giant locomotives
tszirmay | 4/5 |

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