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Squonk Opera: Pneumatica

So, just what/who is this Squonk Opera and their ninth studio album Pneumatica? According to the band's website:

"Pneumatica is an event about air, made of air and powered by air. The Squonkers pump up the volume with live original music that permeates the air, while inflatables pump up and immerse the audience.

Figures and tentacles grow, powered by blowers and vortex fans, and culminate in the 40-foot high Lady Pneumatica who incorporates a wind turbine on her head. She blossoms with sails, breathing steam and raising her inflated arms to the sky. Squonk's music incorporates the swoops and eddies of air with electronic bagpipes and a vertical accordion that is Lady Pneumatica's lungs, played like a piano while it rises and falls with her breath. Playing with visual puns, air is used to activate costumes Squonkers inflate like blowfish and musically activate headtubes with wild guitar and bass riffs.

With the creation of Pneumatica, the Squonkers continue to pursue the most American and democratic of art forms: the public celebration, with boisterous music and surreal image. Squonk taunts and whispers, bellows and caresses, using the very medium of sound: air."

Delving into their website, the concert footage certainly had me intrigued. The band members are Jackie Dempsey (keyboards, accordion), Kevin Kornicki (drums), Steve O'Hearn (electronic bagpipes, flute), David Wallace (guitar) and Nathan Wilson (bass).

"Inhale" begins the album with a heavy drum beat and sparkling percussion. Some excellent guitar solos permeate the soundscape which add a hint of fusion to the band's instrumental sound. "Floating" goes for a mellower sound, hence the title, with swirling keyboards floating amidst a backdrop of rhythmic guitar textures. The ending is quite dramatic as the music builds to a climax. Heavy guitar exploits mark the progressive "Head Of Steam" while "Whirlwinding" begins with pulsating electronics and features O'Hearns electronic bagpipes laying down some great layers of sound. "Skitter and Blast" is a fast tempo prog workout highlighted by Dempsey's Eastern flavoured accordion as is "A Cloud of Gray" where the keyboards and bagpipe are a perfect complement to one another.

My only complaint is the short twenty-five minute running time which plays more like an EP rather than a full length release. I think this band would be well suited to stretch out the songs a little longer allowing for more instrumental explorations and imaginative interplay.

That said, Pneumatica is an excellent instrumental progressive rock album played with gusto and aplomb demonstrating Squonk Opera's unique take on the genre and earns an excellent rating of four stars.

Track Listing:
1. Inhale
2. Floating
3. Head of Steam
4. Whirlwinding
5. Breathe
6. Skitter and Blast
7. A Cloud of Gray
8. Exhale

Added: December 31st 2014
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Officail Site
Hits: 1841
Language: english

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