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Under the Psycamore: I

Like many of their counterparts in the Swedish music scene, melancholic prog duo Under the Psycamore revels in gloom. That similarity, however, is only superficial; as the duo's debut LP I attests to, this isn't a sad-sack falling in love with sadness for sadness' sake. I is an album that really wrings beauty out of the morose, the infinite out of the finite. It's the kind of music that aims at—and hits—a poignant emotionality that's not easy to capture.

Sonically, Under the Psycamore is an amalgamation of diverse influences. Self-labeled as "neo-prog," the duo brings to mind many artists across a spectrum of genres, including some interesting ones from the world of metal. "Beyond the Fire I" recalls the soft passages of Ghost Brigade's Isolation Songs, and its sequel, "Beyond the Fire II," hints at Agalloch in its Pacific Northwest-style acoustic strumming. The influences then vary even more from there: the hard-edged riffs of "Garmonbozia" are like Porcupine Tree qua The Pineapple Thief, and the opening seconds of "Amalthea" nod to indie rock. Spelling-wise, "Amalthea" is only a few letters off from this duo's biggest sonic kin, the British atmospheric rock group Anathema, whose soft/heavy juxtapositions and universal lyrics are a solid match for these Swedes.

These sonic parallels are not to suggest that Under the Psycamore are a derivative group. Of course, any group is the sum of those who came before it, but in the case of this duo, there's a skillful integration of unique and sourced material. Album finale and highlight "Remember Me" exemplifies this difficult balance; though throughout the song's seven minute runtime it's easy to pick out an influence here and there, the music is so engrossing one isn't likely to care. Much like Anathema, the duo reels the listener in via simplistic yet lyrically powerful pleas—"Remember me/For what I used to be"—backed by emotively turbulent music.

Debuts like I don't come around often, which makes Under the Psycamore one of prog's bands to watch in the coming years. It's not often that a band can take a melting pot of influences so clearly while also forging a unique take on a genre all at once, but Under the Psycamore have definitely hit that tricky balance here. After all, with influences like these, the duo is in esteemed company. I is an emotionally and engaging debut that's a must for those who like their prog with as much heart as there is complex musicianship.

1. The Owl [A.N.T.W.S]
2. Beyond the Fire I
3. Beyond the Fire II
4. Celestial
5. The Gatherer
6. Amalthea
7. Garmonbozia
8. Remember Me

Added: February 27th 2013
Reviewer: Brice Ezell
Related Link: Album Stream
Hits: 1981
Language: english

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