Poor Genetic Material: A Day in June
Well, how do you follow up an epic double album built on the concept of Shakespeare's The Tempest? Maybe by examining James Joyce's novel Ulysses. Yes, these guys are very ambitious. One of the many reasons to enjoy their creations. This time, the band brought together the vocal talents of their lead singer Phil Griffiths and his father Martin Griffiths, of the famous band Beggar's Opera, to help add even more superb talent to an already talent-laden experience. Poor Genetic Material is a five-man German symphonic progressive band that created deep ripples in the lake of progressive rock with Island Noises, and now they aim to build a tsunami of support with their follow up A Day in June.
How do you start such an epic album? Well if you're going to create music worthy of Joyce, then it should start from "Martello Tower". The pictures inside the CD booklet set the scene as the sound of ocean waves, bass and keyboards fill the soundscape. Perfect. A Day in June opens like a return to Pink Floyd's Signs of Life. But that is where the comparison ends, as the band begins to make their own waves with keyboard rhythms, bass, lead electric guitar and solid drumming. Griffiths sings, "I wake up to a day in my life or is it just my life in a day?" The instrumental section of this track, which begins in the middle with launching lead electric guitar, solid bass, surrounding keys and the thump of drums is an excellent welcome to the album. Pia Darmstaedter's flute perfectly accents the lyrics, "The best that I can do is walk out in style".
"Wisdom and Menace" brings more great lyrics sung with feeling by Griffiths, "How can a story survive when put in a box that's locked?" Darmstaedter's flute returns to create that early Genesis feel that just drips all over this album. However, this track has a cool reggae back beat rhythm that the band mixes well with all of the prog keyboards. Griffith's sings, "Dive deep, get lost in every day. Cease to strive and stay". Yes…and those synth strings bring back many a memory of Genesis' best. Griffith's sings, "Its wisdom and menace that won't be fooled or mocked".
"Bloom" is an ode to the central character in Joyce's book. It opens with elegant guitar and Griffiths'voice, "Step out and greet the new day. Set sail; be moved by the ocean's sway". Solid keyboards, bass, drums, and lead guitar. Then a tip of the hat to Joyce's stream-of-consciousness, Modernist lit, and a reminder of the classic lines from Yes', Perpetual Change, "Inside out, outside in". Griffiths' continues singing the classic story, "The end is the beginning. A figure of eight. Pass the word and pass the grain. Once more to be young again".
"Wandering Rocks" opens with some of the best soft acoustic guitar on the album. Well picked strings that sound like dueling guitars. This guitar meandering is slowly replaced with Darmstaedter's excellent flute. She weaves mystical webs of sound that you just do not want her to stop. But they take off on a drum, bass, and key melody that paints aural pictures of a stream of consciousness within the soundscape. Griffiths' returns with, "Silent communication of lives apart. Nothing fancy. The mundane turned into art".
"Nausicaa", is a song written for the daughter of King Alcinous, a character in Homer's Odyssey. The track opens perfectly with soft unfolding piano and electric guitar. The instrumentation sets the mood perfectly for the story within.
"Oxen of the Sun" opens with high pitched guitar cascading over soft drums and pulsating keys. Griffiths' sings, "You were born in flesh and blood. But only when you're touched by my art will your soul and spirit live. That's the life that I can give". The melotronic keys that follow will bring back more memories of the glorious past. I even hear similarities from Tony Banks' keyboards on Seconds Out. Darmstaedter's flute however, will blind you to any of the other music happening around you. She is wonderful. Griffiths' ends, "But the art that I create. It is here and it will always be".
"Ithaca", the famous Greek isle. Who wouldn't want to sing about it? And Griffiths' sings, "A single moment that stops the flow of life in a freeze. Or do we just catch a fleeting glimpse of eternity's deflated spot?" All of this proceeded by wonderful classic organ – like keys and those stirring keyboard strings of long past. The longest track on the album at over nine minutes, and they provide you with a great keyboard and drum journey through the mystery and beauty of this island. Those piercing keys, bass and guitar harmonies truly re-create in the mind the almost mythical land of Homer.
"Yes" is an instrumental closer that includes some excellent launching electric guitar and those Tears for Fears keys from "Gas Giants", that will really will take you back to dreamland. There is a surprise narrated excerpt from Ulysses that I will not spoil. But the beautiful flute and piano that follows was the perfect way to close a classic.
I have often read about this band being compared to many Neo-prog bands. I could not disagree with that comparison any stronger. This band is boldly going where only their elder peers from the era of progressive rock I grew up with in the 60s and 70s visited. How many new bands would be willing today to examine the works of Shakespeare or Joyce with such and eye to capturing both the content and expression of these works to music? The list is too short. Yes, this band is bold and enjoys making a statement. And that has to be respected amongst the numerous bands trying to fit into the mold of either the past or adopting the sounds of their contemporaries. Yes, this is not easy listening music. You have to open a book and read. Which is a wonderful thing now isn't it?
Poor Genetic Material has captured the essence of Joyce's work here and presented it with the sounds of music. Thank them for the effort by at least giving this album a listen. I think you will be glad you did.
1. Martello Morning
2. Wisdom and Menace
4. Wandering Rocks
6. Oxen of the Sun
Added: June 28th 2013
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: poorgeneticmaterial.de
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