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Under the Sun: Schematism-On Stage with Under the Sun

After releasing a stunning self-titled debut in 2000 on Magna Carta one that actually lived up to all the hype heaped on this California quartet at the time Under the Sun (too) quietly soldiered on through personnel changes, record-label woes and an evolving modern progressive-rock landscape. But now, with a live album that sonically wallops listeners and a fresh deal with ProgRock Records that promises a new studio release soon, Under the Sun appears to have come out from the shade.

Schematism the word is defined as a noun in three different ways in the disc's booklet was recorded with Under the Sun's original lineup at NEARfest on June 23, 2001, at 1 p.m., while Under the Sun's debut was still garnering accolades from critics and fans alike. This gig includes all of the songs on Under the Sun, save two ("Gardens of Autumn" and "Seeing Eye God"), and one previously unreleased song (the 14-minute, four-part "Souljourner"). If the new Under the Sun studio record sounds anything like this sprawling and squawking epic track, it will have been worth the five-year wait.

Mixed to sound as if you, the blissful listener, are on stage with the band not in the audience Schematism offers a new perspective on the traditional live album. Indeed, the between-song applause sounds as if it's coming from in front of you rather than around you. There are plenty of similar sonic surprises that justify repeat spins on various audio gear. Brad Aaron's "Producer's Notes" exquisitely explain the mixing details and while you're delving into the booklet, don't miss the liner notes, penned by Sea of Tranquility's Pete Pardo.

The set opens with the perfect opening song, "Tracer," as vocalist/guitarist Chris Shryack emits a melodic vocal cry amidst a swirl of dense synths, rhythms and riffs to kick-start the proceedings. Like Yes vocalist/bassist Chris Squire (and even Ozzy Osbourne), Shryack's voice sometimes sounds oddly strained yet wholly compelling. It suits the music, which doesn't slot neatly into any one category of prog or rock, for that matter. Sure, sparks of Kansas, Yes, Genesis, Rush, King's X and Dream Theater ignite Under the Sun's music. But band members also adhere to world-beat motifs and song structures that allow the music to expand while not losing sight of its direction. Some of the live versions here are actually shorter than the originals.

Under the Sun's Schematism stands as one of the most welcome releases of the year so far, even though it's "only" a live record. The mere fact that it has been released at all, effectively jump-starting this band's career, renews the joyous promise of what's yet to come.

Track Listing:
1) Tracer
2) Perfect World
3) Dream Catcher
4) The Time Being
5) Reflections
6) This Golden Voyage
7) Souljourner (I Am Forever)
8) Breakwater
9) From Henceforth Now and Forever

Added: April 18th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: ProgRock Records
Hits: 5602
Language: english

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Under the Sun: Schematism-On Stage with Under the Sun
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-18 19:39:06
My Score:

Schematism-On Stage With Under the Sun is the first CD release from California's Under the Sun in close to five years, and a welcome statement to let the prog universe know that they are still intending to be a viable force on the scene. Not only is the band working on a soon to be released studio effort, but this effort, recorded at the 2001 NEARfest festival, should help fans and those new to the band to revisit songs from the debut CD. Working with famed engineer Brad Aaron (Kansas), the band chose to mix this live set differently than most traditional live albums, and the end result gives the listener the feeling that they are on stage with the band rather than sitting in the audience. Your opinion of this technique will vary depending on what type of audio equipment you hear it through-I found that headphones were the way to go, but in my car the rhythm guitar work of Chris Shryack and some of the keyboards played by Matt Evidon were a little muddy and low in the mix. Still, on a cheap little boom-box, all the instruments, especially the Chris Squire influenced bass work of Kurt Barabas, Shryack's searing lead guitar, and the crisp drum work of Paul Shkut, surrounded me with a wall of sound that was unique and effective.

Many of the bands best songs from their debut appear here, such as the compelling "Tracer", complete with beefy guitar work and strong vocals from Shryack, the soaring and melodic "Reflections", the heavy "Dream Catcher", and the progressive gem "This Golden Voyage". Speaking of prog numbers, the mini-epics "From Henceforth Now and Forever", "Breakwater", and 'The Time Being" are also included, as the band combines their Kansas, Rush, Yes, and Genesis influences to bring a very unique sound that almost defies categorization. At the festival the band unveiled a new piece, titled "Souljourner (I Am Forever), a lengthy 13-minute track that hints at the treasures that should be included on the upcoming studio release.

Many of the tunes differ slightly from their studio counterparts, which is all the reason for fans to pick up this CD. Shryack's guitar takes on a more biting tone throughout, as his leads sting with the intensity of a young Alex Lifeson or Steve Morse, yet packed with fierce emotion. Barabas shows what an impressive and technical player he is, forming a rock solid rhythm tandem with Shkut yet still flashing some wild solo fills every so often, while keyboardist Evidon is easily busier here in this live set than he is on the studio record.

So, for a unique and different listening experience, be sure to check out Schematism-On Stage With Under the Sun, and see what all the talk is about. Welcome back guys!

Under the Sun: Schematism-On Stage with Under the Sun
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-07 08:37:22
My Score:

Under The Sun recorded their first CD in 2000 and was given the opportunity to play NEARfest the following summer. This 2001 concert was recorded and is now released as Schematism On Stage With Under The Sun. Since this is the only output so far from the band, you can understand that most of their debut is also represented on this CD. One new track is "Souljourner" which is an amazing live song that flows for 13 minutes.

The recording is a little unique as it wasn't recorded from the audience perspective, so much of the recording does not feel live. The attempt was nice, but to me the mix was not pulled off 100% so many of the instruments tend to be lower in the track than you would expect. The keys sometimes sound muffled, although Matt Evidon's piano parts (I don't know if he played a real piano or not) on "This Golden Voyage" are excellently recorded. For me, "Breakwater" held more power on this live CD than on the studio album.

Overall Schematism is a nice memory for anyone who saw them in 2001 or a great introduction for anyone that has not heard their debut CD. If you already own the first CD, the tracks are unique enough to possibly justify the purchase of this. If you are on the fence, let the stunning "Souljourner" be the tie breaker. Let's hope we get something new from this band of excellent musicians soon.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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