05 May 2011

"A Highly Impressive Debut" - FAME reviews Alchemist by Project

In a highly impressive debut EP, Project immediately establishes itself as a progfusion outfit that needn't ask for entry into that hermetic world, its street cred 100% in order, its talent glaringly evident, and its consummate taste nearly unaccompanied in the current milieu.

A gorgeously orchestral blend of many tastes from everywhere, the 10-person mini-symphonia has created a sound that fuses Romanticism with Glassian meta-serialism and an atmosphere wherein the Berlin pulse shakes hands with Ibizan tropicality.

Anchored by composer and terrenely muscular drummer Mike St-Jean, whom I will predict is going to find himself soon in the forefront of percussionistic regard, Project has woven a glitteringly sensuous fabric of sound that grabs the listener by cerebellum and torso to provoke intellectual hypnosis and somatic seduction. You might, reading that, momentarily think "Oh yeah...Enigma!", but their sound goes well beyond that and into territory earlier marked out by many outfits, now collapsed down into a neoclassicism that embraces its antecedents with affection. True prog has ever been thus.

Think Minimum Vital, think Ozric Tentacles, think Gong, Sebastian Hardy, Alan Parsons, and myriad other outfits, and then project outwards, but also look upon Alchemist as something a very hip contemporary Neville Mariner might have joined, no longer content to just conduct and influence but eager to participate, drawing rich multi-tiered arrangements into the heady mix. The three-person string section contributes mightily to that lavish ingredient amid an already complicated but coherent swirling atmosphere. One might even venture that Project is somewhat the flipside of Univers Zero, as captivating and futuristic minus the storm and thunder, more the glowing aftermath now that the storm has passed on, the revivification of nature momentarily hushed, now re-emerging in all its subtler glories, rich and rhythmic.

Penguin Cafe Orchestra makes its way into the evolving landscape, especially in By Southwest, a delectable cut in which guitarist Alvaro Rojas surprises the listener in the comprehension that Project isn't much devoted to soloing, so collectivistic is its backbone. The six-stringer's appearance is brief, a sharp upspike of individual presence in the morphic field, but surprising and only redoubles the audient's growing engrossment with the entire affair. Evan Arntzen repeats the singularity on sax in the closing track for a sightly more emphatic but just as truncated appearance. The two-time illustration in purposeful tantalization makes the device all the more interesting.

Thus, dear FAME gaggle, don't pillory me when this sweeping tableau ends after only 25 enchanting minutes: I warned ya it was a EP right from the outset. T'ain't my fault, y'see, but I'll be more than happy to spearhead a fanbase effort to force these musicians back into the studio to further their artistry for our ravening ears—not that I'm advocating for my personal hedonism, you understand, certainly not that, never, not at all, oh my goodness perish the thought! I'm quite concerned with group evolution, naturally, it goes without saying, and a, oh I don't know, kinda martial Marxistic perversion of harmonic propinquity-adhered reflex urges me to strive towards that end, but…waddaya think…a 10-CD suite perhaps? Yep, sounds good to me, too. Surfeit can be a very nice estate.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

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