Dissonati - Reductio Ad Absurdum

Coming out of Seattle, USA, Dissonati came together about 6 years ago when three veterans of the Seattle progressive music scene joined forces.

With two multi-instrumentalists in the band it is not surprising that the music they have produced is vast and intricate, a heady mix that while showing the influence of classic prog acts like VDGG, King Crimson and Yes also draws on a post-punk sensibility. I can hear UK cult indie outfits The Chameleons and Magazine in here, those two particular bands being "prog" in all but name, not that they would have ever admitted to such a heinous crime. This strange brew produces something that is highly individualistic, wilful, modernistic, and in places quite strange indeed.

Any album that is book-ended by two mini-epics tempts me to look for prog cliché and I am equally surprised and relieved to find it subsumed by the band's collective spirit, and if there is cliché here, I simply don't care. Singer and guitarist Ron Rutherford has an individualistic voice slightly reminiscent of both Mark Burgess of The Chameleons and Paul Buchannan of The Blue Nile, while his guitar technique carries an obvious debt to Robert Fripp. All of these influences are indications of great taste if you ask me, but that's all they are, just influences. This man is not a copyist.



Opener Can You Hear Me? is a fairly low-key and melancholically atmospheric offering, and the swirling mists of the Western Seaboard wrap themselves around the melodic and lovely Middle Man. The album's overall atmosphere and lyrical theme of quiet introspection thus far is broken up by the very odd Age Of Foeces where sax player John Hagelbarger takes the vocal in a very Hammill-like style, the song being propelled along by a spiky tune played with some venom, especially when the guitar solo, which is short and to the point takes us to the end where John, with tongue-in-cheek longs for a simpler, less amoral time, when "men were men" and "Empire was alive".

Through all this, drummer John Reagan holds together the shifting sands of the group's muscular but subtle musicality in an unhurried and unfussy manner that means you hardly notice him at times, a bit like a very good referee in a football (soccer to any USA readers!) match. 

MindWarp goes all space-rock on us, in a Quark, Strangeness And Charm fashion, and Senescence weaves an intricate musical tale that spins out layers that build subtly to a satisfying conclusion, in an almost math-rock style. Driver - well, hear it for yourself above.

Appetites tantalised but not yet satisfied, the album saves the best until last with The Sleeper where all the influences mentioned thus far are skewered and cooked to just the right degree; the songwriting and arrangement skills producing thirteen and a half minutes of modern prog perfection. The upfront melodic bass at the start with hints of a Yes-like sound, cyclical guitar figures, musical chorus runs, passages of near dissonance; all join together to serve the occasional singing of a suitably ambiguous lyric in a fashion that has this particular progfan nodding sagely. Well, you didn't expect me to say I was dancing, surely? "The sleeper must awaken", indeed!

Some bands like to try the listener's patience by making 70-minute-plus albums without the songwriting to back it up. Not this group, who, in making an album a mere 51 minutes long leave me wishing it was longer by the end. Tight compositions and arrangements mean time will fly by as you get lost in the slightly surreal world of Dissonati.

While gently nudging the envelope rather than shoving it, this band still manage to make a new noise. After all, progressive music must move forward otherwise every prog band would be churning out Close To The Cryme forever and a day...;)

In another year that has seen many fine progressive releases, this record will definitely feature in my top 10 of 2012, no question, although the way things are going it may have to be extended to a top 20!

Available in physical or download form, find out more at the band's website. Put simply; if you're a prog fan you need this album!

Track listing:
1. Can You Hear Me? (10:11)
2. Middle Man (6:41)
3. Age of Foeces (4:09)
4. MindWarp (4:31)
5. Senescence (6:59)
6. Driver (5:25)
7. The Sleeper (13:39)

Line up:
John Hagelbarger – keyboards, saxes, woodwinds, lead vocals (3)
John Reagan – drums
Ron Rutherford – guitar, guitar synth, keyboards, bass, lead and backing vocals


Comments

  1. Hi Roger. I've read your review just now. But was tempted to listen to this album earlier because of John Wenlock-Smith' review. And I was sold instantly. I like the odd bits and pieces and the atmosphere you so accurately describe.
    André

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