Well this record is different! Imagine a hard-edged rock album with your standard vocals, bass, drums, keyboards and violin. Yep – that's rock with a violin, not a guitar!
M-LAB is a New York quintet of accomplished musicians, who have substituted for the lack of rhythm, acoustic or lead guitars by developing an interesting approach to their version of song-oriented progressive rock. There is a bass played prominently in the high registers. There's a wailing, almost omnipresent violin – now the standard analog instrument, and now a sometimes-strident 5-string electric. And the most characteristic element is the piano, extremely well played and providing the bulk of the accompaniment.
Track 6, "Free Now", is a piano-violin duet. No drums, no bass guitar, and not a word is sung. It a classically styled piece and provides a pleasant interlude. That instrumental and the appealing ballads "Free Now" and "Angelina" probably represent the high points of the CD. And is that a distorted guitar on "Water's Edge"? Each song is refreshingly different from the next, although at first listen, the limited sonic range of the chosen instruments tends to run one song into the next. The mid-range slightly husky vocals deliver clearly enunciated lyrics. Lucky – because the lyrics in the liner notes are unreadable.
From Baser Elements would benefit from a more analog approach to the piano and violins, and from improved production and mixing. And you know what? A few more splashes of guitar work might add a welcome change in texture.
M-LAB's debut album is different and shows plenty of promise. It introduces rock-opera theatrics, a high standard of musicianship and a singer-songwriter's sense of narrative. Take care of the small quibbles and you'll have a clear winner. In the meantime, From Baser Elements is a pleasing listen.
All the Same
Lover, Lay Your Lies On Me
Talking To Myself
To Be There