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West Coast prog artists, Fractal, grace us with the sophomore effort , Sequitur, a CD that is wide reaching in their approach to prog. This CD is certainly refreshing to listen to as the band reaches new territory it what can be a rather uninspired genre. What I like about this band is their unabashed revealing of their legacy influences (King Crimson, The Beatles, Rush, Pink Floyd) yet coming off as a vehicle to inform their compositions and overall tone. In essence, taking their prog heroes and making it their own.
The title track, "Ellipsis" explodes with fantastic "Frippery" lattice of guitarwork. Josh Friedman takes the time to make each of his guitar pieces distinct in the piece. Although a "shoegazer" instrumental, this track moves with energy and dynamics. Speaking of dynamics, the next track "Aftermath," (their reaction to 9/11) introduces vocals to the mix. It shows off their writing prowess in the fact that they can craft complex suites and can also crank out a very accessible effort. Beautiful arpeggios are augmented by airy and light vocals that are dashed on the rocks with crunchy guitar punctuations. "Giving Tree" is a gorgeous ballad with splashes of instrumental prog to keep it moving. The use of space and atmosphere are done well here. My favorite tune is "Fraction of One" as it is reminiscent of old Radiohead. Driving and pulsating rhythms and instrumentation back a very interesting vocal line that breaks into digital distortions atonal harmonies. Another stand out is the quick "Coda: Pentacle", a great instrumental work with harpsichord at its foundation. The "Churn" epic is a wonderful attempt at putting together several pieces that have a cohesive theme tying them together. Majestic guitars, colorful synth pads and mad rhythms make up part I, and part II introduces a funky groove overlaid with sound bits scattered throughout. Part II culminates into an apex of discord with a Pink Floyd finish that meanders into part III, a sparse and eloquent finale.
Fractal has certainly earned their place in the prog genre as master of being able to carve their own niche with creativity and independence. Look for Fractal to rise quickly in this scene as they apply both intellect and emotion into one great output.
3 Mantra: Eternal Spring of Life
4 Giving Tree
6 A Fraction of One
8 Mauves - the Great Pain
9 The Monkey's Paw Including Coda: Pentacle
Added: August 19th 2009
Reviewer: Jon Rice
Related Link: Band Website
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Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-08-19 20:12:05
Formed in the year 2000 as a three piece, the band Fractal has been in its current form since 2004. Sequitur is the follow up to their debut album entitled Continuum. According to what I have read the band started out heavily influenced by King Crimson which has decreased somewhat on their latest offering. The band consists of Josh Friedman (guitars, vocals), Jim Mallonee ((bass, keyboards, vocals), Nic Roozeboom (guitars, loops, vocals) and Paul Strong (drums, percussion). Although there is a Crimson element at work here, the band has weaved their own sound into the mix and have come up with an engaging album that has just the right amount of eclecticism in combination with wonderful melodies. The vocal duties are shared and offer quite a difference in styles as Friedman has a subtle melodic delivery in contrast to the more bluesy approach of Mallonee.
Fans of Crimson should like the opening song "Ellipsis", an instrumental containing a cool guitar riff running its entire length occasionally interrupted by breezy interludes of pretty guitar stylings. The poignant "Aftermath" is their response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is truly excellent with its crunchy riffs, soaring vocals and a middle percussion part that will leave you absolutely breathless. It is hard not to be moved as Friedman sings:
(Aftermath) In the darkness, lost within the shadows
Of a time that was our prime, now entombed within the
(Aftermath) In the dark ages past our glory
In the stark wilderness, the ruins tell their story
Thus bringing back the memory of that dark, fateful day. The ending guitar solo contains the same passion as the song's content, played with emotion and feeling. Continuing along a lighter path is the melodic "Mantra: Eternal Spring Of Life" with its circling patterns of swirling guitar notes and Strong's crashing cymbal work. "Giving Tree", a reflective ballad, has some of the CD's softer moments with lovely guitar and tranquil vocals. The ominous-sounding "Coriolis" is a trippy instrumental featuring rhythmic drumming, cool effects and moody atmospheric patterns of unparalleled spaciness. Radiohead came to mind when listening to the moody "A Fraction Of One", especially the guitar sounds and a vocal approach similar to Thom Yorke.
There is a more avant-garde approach to some of the tunes heard later on, "Pataphysics" and "Mauves" come to mind, with the latter featuring the raspy vocals of Mallonee. While I still enjoyed these songs, I prefer the albums more melodious moments. That being said, this album certainly has its share of contrasting styles and surprises, effectively keeping me totally engaged, with subsequent listens revealing subtle nuances not previously heard.
The future appears bright for this talented band. They are starting to develop a unique sound all their own and should appeal to a wide range of progressive rock fans. Recommended for prog collections everywhere.
(originally written for www.progressiveears.com)
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