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Aisles - Hawaii CD (album) cover





3.92 | 87 ratings

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4 stars This true 21st Century band releases its fourth studio album: a double album conveying a rather dour and emotional perception of the chaotic, slow demise of our planet, our species, the band's home country of Chile, as well as for the band and perhaps some of the individual members of the band (especially the Vergara brothers).

1. "The Poet Part I: Dusk" (10:06) a solid construct--complete with the band's now familiar impeccably-woven sophisticated multi-layered instrumental construction. I'm not so fond of the hard-drivin' straight-forward rock rhythm choices nor the multi-voice approach to lead vocals. (17.5/20)

2. "The Poet Part II: New World" (4:18) gorgeous melodies created by Sebastian Vergara over this surprisingly simple (but adequate) song construct. Great drumming. Not sure Daniel Baird-Kerr's bass playing style is the best fit for the band. Not the most polished or best engineered song the band has produced, but it's still a winner. (9/10)

3. "Year Zero" (4:36) nice dreamy two-guitar, two channel foundation with solid bass presence and background drumming over which Sebastian sings in a high pitch (and frail-sounding) voice. (Is he sick? Is his [heretofore amazing] voice failing?) Nice Berlin School-like synth patterns takes over in the third minute, at first supplanting the two guitars while Sebastian sits back on the sidelines, later re-introducing the two guitars for a bit before they yield to the piano that finishes the song. Interesting! (8.875/10)

4. "Upside Down" (4:53) piano with bass and delicate drumming open this before guitar strums and big tom-tom hits signal the entry of double-tracked lead vocals (both Sebastian, I believe) mirroring the piano. It's like a stage musical's central aria. It's okay, just not the Aisles we all (in the prog community) want to here Still, the topic expressed in the lyrics is quite heavy and, therefore, appropriately expressed with serious passion. Nice solos from the two guitarists and synth player in the fourth minute. (8.6667/10)

5. "CH-7" (12:33) oddly sparse and simple music behind a rather passionate vocal performance by Sebastian Vergara. Unfortunately, Seb's voice (which is surprisingly lacking any melodic "hooks" to gain our interest and enjoyment) is not enough to carry the song all by itself. (I swear: On this album it feels as if Sebastian's voice is failing--this despite his sincere passion behind many of the messages he's trying to convey.) But carry it he does: for over six minutes--and when the musicians begin to offer more to the soundscape it still feels thin (though it does, admittedly, take a noticeable amount of pressure off of Seb's performance). The musical construct beneath the song's instrumental passage in the ninth minute is rather laughable for its syncopation minimalism--despite everyone's participation. When everybody kind of congeals in the tenth we finally feel a bit of the inviting warmth that I've come to associate the band with. Finally! This section persists into the twelfth minute before taking a turn down a faster-paced downhill street. Unfortunately, the sound palette chosen throughout this song is one that never quite wins me over. Too bad! That instrumental finish was almost worth it. (21.875/25)

6. "Terra" (8:03) nice gently-picked acoustic guitar with fluid fretless bass and sustained volume-controlled pedal steel guitar chords open this one giving the listener quite a relaxing, almost lullaby-like setting. Sebastian's voice enters matching the angelic music with great delicacy, amazing vulnerability. Gorgeous. At the four-minute mark a "sonic boom"-like noise enters--as if signaling the event of some disaster. At 5:40 the vocalist (not Seb?) enters with an almost-operatic tenor, amping up the tension and drama of the song. He is soon joined by Sebastian and multiple other voices in harmonized choral form while the piano and strummed acoustic guitars keep time and the drums, bass, and odd synth noises create a very unsettling chaos--at first in the background, but then usurping the soundscape for the finish. A song of lament and regret? on behalf of the planet? Interesting and unique. This is the kind of creative song creation that keeps me coming back for Aisles music. (13.5/15)

7. "Pale Blue Dot" (9:53) tick-tocking percussion with layers of guitar and synth play over which Sebastian eventually joins--singing his long-held notes in a clear, frail, high register. The music that bridges to a new variation at the three- minute mark is a bit circus-like, while the next motif is more of a standard rock musical experience with Sebastian singing more in front of the mix (with his melodic flow feeling a bit forced and even, at times, incongruous with the musical landscape). Still, there is something not quite right with the musical coherence here: as if the Sebastian and the rest of the band are on two different, diverging paths of musical vision. In the final quarter of the song, there are even several instances in which Seb tries reaching for high power notes and fails to achieve pitch accuracy. (17/20)

8. "Still Alive" (4:46) an emotional radio-friendly song that does a great job at expressing the insecurities and unknowns of daily life in these frail "three-minutes-to-midnight" era of human existence. (9/10)

9. "Nostalgia" (2:11) Perfectly understandable considering the flow and concept behind this album. We all want to feel the security of nostalgic escapes to past memories or past art forms. This song conveys this rather effectively while still expressing the underlying tension (pace) rushing us through a process of escapism. (4.66667/5)

10. "Club Hawaii" (7:22) a very interesting, entertaining, and effective theatric musical play. Quite brilliant--and emotional! (14.5/15)

11. "Falling" (2:11) solo piano over which Sebastian sings in a very high, delicate, almost feminine operatic way. With progress into the song, Seb's vocal definitely expresses more masculinity--though of a very vulnerable emotionality. (4.5/5)

12. "In The Probe" (6:53) interesting and, yes, a bit depressing with a single destabilized guitar occasionally strumming some disharmonic chords and a very sparsely-employed drum machine rhythm track serving as the only two instruments, but, again, it is very effective considering the psychological and emotional goals of the band on this album. I'm very much reminded of the stark soundscapes of TALK TALK's TIM HOLLIS as well as the delicate vocal abilities of Marillion's Steve Hogarth. Very effective. Thank you, Sebastián. You have served commendably. (13.33333/15)

Total time: 77:45

Despite the space of three years since the band's last album, a lot of the music on this album feels forced--as if the idealistic fire that was present in 2009 (on In Sudden Walks) is flickering. However, knowing the cynical space the band was in during its making--about their native Chile, about the planet, about the future of Sebastián's participation with the band--I can better understand (and forgive--as well as learn to grow with) the often sparse, stripped-down soundscapes employed in their musical expressions here.

B+/four stars; an admirable and quite emotional ride through a band's cynicism and decay. A listening experience that requires attention but then, after several listens, can be truly and fully enjoyed for the artistic expression it is. Highly recommended to any prog lover.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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