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Rick Miller - Belief in the Machine CD (album) cover


Rick Miller


Crossover Prog

3.89 | 92 ratings

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4 stars Citing his inspirations as being on the atmospheric side of prog rock (Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Steve Hackett, etc.), Canadian Rick Miller set out way back in 1983 to create music on his own to reflect that sound. Over the years, he has released many solo albums. Over the past few years, he has made it a pattern to release an album every two years, so in February of 2020, he released the digital version of "Belief in the Machine" with plans to release the CD around March or April of the same year. This album runs close to 50 minutes and features 10 tracks with Miller playing almost all of the instruments, but he has help from a few people like Sarah Young on flute, Mateusz Swoboda on Cello, Barry Haggarty on Stratocaster, and someone known as Will on drums and percussion.

"Correct to the Core" (11:35) starts off the album with his preferred style of beautifully crafted atmospheric music, the cello and bass standing out at first creating a nice beginning landscape. The music builds and a guitar amps up the intensity a bit. After a nice solo, Rick begins to sing, and right away you notice a resemblance to the airy vocals that are similar to David Gilmour. The music is actually built quite well as a moderate tempo allows the vocal passage to float along. By 5 minutes, the music moves into a smoother, yet somewhat darker sound. The music, right off the bat, is quite appealing and it definitely would be quite appealing to lovers of Pink Floyd, especially in their later years. There should be no time needed to adapt to the music as it is very accessible, the music staying nice and smooth all the way through this track, but still changing in atmosphere with synths sharing equal time with the guitar, but getting the center stage later on in the track. It's nice and not challenging, drawing you in right away.

"That Inward Eye Part 1" (2:22) works together with the second part to bring the center part of the album together with a nice, idyllic instrumental with a lot of flute. "Belief in the Machine" (2:02) begins right away with the same style of vocalization, airy and melancholic. The melody is a lot like the beginning track, the vocals staying in a safe range, with some short burst of guitar in the middle. Another short vocal track "The Land and the Sea" uses a tonal percussion that works as the foundation for the more complex lyrics. The feeling now is of an upcoming uneasiness. "The Need to Believe" smooths things out again with a lighter than air guitar/synth interchange that gives the music a feeling of symphonic bliss. It's a nice texture that feels like something you could float away on. Now, you get the Moody Blues (later years) vibe, sort of similar to "Driftwood", but with guitar instead of sax. After those last, short and somewhat choppy tracks, this one is a welcome and better established, developed track.

The airy vocals can start to sound too much the same, even though they are nice in a way that tributes Miller's influences, but is heartfelt and not a copied sound. Just when you start to think that though, the second half of the album becomes more "instrumentally" centered. "Prelude to the Trial" (4:32) begins with a foreboding tone established by wind effects, a cello and echoing keys. Spoken word recordings fade in and out in the background as the music becomes dissonant and eerie, then things smooth out a bit and become more relaxing. Deep, Floydian guitar starts to come in with a tapping rhythm that solidifies as it continues. "Binary Breakdown" (3:40) grows from the former track with a sawing cello building intensity and then reaching its peak quickly as the guitar smoothes things over. Things pass back and forth between the cello and guitar while a nice beat is established, eventually it is dissembled and we're left with more atmospheric and flowing synths. "That Inward Eye Part 2" (3:28) includes some wordless vocals (sounds female) and then spoken word while the flute establishes its former melody from before, being pastoral again. Later, soft, Alan Parsons Project style vocals lend an airy texture.

Another instrumental "Media Gods (Including The Awakening)" creates a cinematic feels as the synths and percussion build an orchestral flair, the feeling is mysterious with an anxious edge. The flute lets some flourishes float around the atmosphere of the background. An acoustic guitar brings in a feeling of resolution and the flute helps to even things all out again. This switches from major to minor key again as it flows into the last track "The Trial" (9:56). Simple keys act as a foundation to the vocals that start off right away. The music continues to portray some story of sorts, with dramatic turns of the music moving from lovely, floating passages to darker and heavier sections, more spoken word at times and so on. The lyrics seem to indicate that paranoia is involved, the singer believe the police are coming for him for something he claims he didn't do. After four minutes, a beat is finally established, and we get that APP feeling again, nice floating and synth heavy music. Vocals return before 6 minutes with a more direct instrumental backing with atmospheric guitar and synth.

This is a pretty good album and the music definitely reflects that of the stated influences. I can't help but feel that some kind of development is missing especially in the shorter tracks in the middle. The beginning and ending tracks are great and more epic, but "The Trial" almost feels like it could have been a much bigger concept, probably even taking up an album with its ideas and quick changing themes. I think most listeners will be attracted to the music right away, but unfortunately, it tends to lose its punch after repeated listening. The music is well produced, though, and quite enjoyable. For now, I think it deserves a 4 star rating, but time will tell if it can retain that (in either direction, better or worse).

TCat | 4/5 |


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