Album number three from Minnesota's very own prog act Bubblemath comes five years after their second release, Edit Peptide, which came sixteen years after their debut Such Fine Particles of the Universe...not exactly a prolific band but, you have to give them credit for making every release count, and I mean REALLY count. Turf Ascension is a fantastic album, quite possibly their strongest release to date, showing the band, comprised of Jonathan G. Smith (vocals, guitar), Blake Albinson (guitar), Kai Esbensen (keyboards, vocals), Jay Burritt (bass), and James Flagg (drums, vocals) in fine form musically as always, but their songwriting seems to have risen to another level. Much of the jaw-dropping musicality of their previous releases remains in full force, but the band now seems to have gotten even better at crafting catchy harmonies and melodies to go along with their formidable chops. Sure, those clever little references to Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, Dream Theater, and Echolyn still pop up, but the music here is so clearly Bubblemath, no more evident than on the epic opener "Surface Tension", a song so mind-blowingly complex yet ever so catchy and accessible. "Everything" and "Decrypted" contain some haunting, instantly memorable melodies, helped greatly by the wealth of lead & backing vocals from nearly the entire band. Have I told you before how much I like bands with multiple vocalists? "Refuse" rounds out the album as another lengthy piece jam-packed with an intricate arrangement and more of those killer vocal layers. Guitars, keys, bass, and drums all locked in, yet all flying in different directions, and it all makes perfect sense.
An easy five-star classic of modern-day progressive rock, Turf Ascension is another absolute gem from Bubblemath, a band that deserves the immediate attention of the prog community for not only this album but their two early releases as well. Essential!
1) Surface Tension (17:57)
2) Everything (10:13)
3) Decrypted (9:57)
4) Refuse (10:55)