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Spaced Out: Unstable Matter

Canada's Spaced Out have once again raised the bar here on their fourth studio release of white hot metallic jazz-fusion, Unstable Matter. While their last album, 2003's Slow Gin saw the band take a jazzier approach, here it's pedal to the metal all the way, as the band combines Chick Corea Electrik Band sophistication with the muscular might of Dream Theater or Planet X. Comprised of Antoine Fafard on bass/keyboards/guitar, guitarist Marc Tremblay, and drummer Martin Maheux, Spaced Out play music that borders on organized chaos, always reaching out into many different directions but tight and focused at the same time, much like Liquid Tension Experiment.

Litterally, there's a lot to take in here, but once you do the experience is quite rewarding. Bassist Fafard should be no stranger to fusion fans at this point, and his gymnastic bass lines are all over this CD, especially on the bass guitar workout "Art Attack Pt. 1", which then segues into the "metal guitar meets piano" of "Art Attack Pt. 2". Fusion burners like "New Breed" and the title track see plenty of keyboard & guitar interplay, and "Big Crunch" is just that, a crunchy instrumental metal monster, complete with massive riffs, loads of synthesizer and electric piano, and tight rhythms. The tandem of Farfard and drummer Maheux get the funk out on the killer "Antimatter", a real eye opener with plenty of incredible bass and drum passages. "Blood Fall" combines fusion, prog-metal, and, gulp, doom riffs, for a unique sound, and the song features plenty of solos from the band.

When the CD is done expect to let out a extended "whew" after all the musical pyrotechnics come to an end. This is one hot set of instrumental progressive fusion with a strong metal edge. If you haven't yet experienced the amazing sounds of Spaced Out, this is a good place to start. I'm sure this will definitely be near the top of many favorite releases of 2006 when all is said and done.

Track listing
1. Unstable Matter (6:46)
2. New Breed (5:58)
3. Art Attack pt 1 (3:15)
4. Art Attack pt 2 (5:51)
5. Event Horizon (2:13)
6. Big Crunch (7:52)
7. Antimatter (4:53)
8. Blood Fall (5:15)
9. Glassosphere IV (1:43)
10. Singularity (2:08)

Added: July 30th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3841
Language: english

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Spaced Out: Unstable Matter
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-07-30 11:10:13
My Score:

I am shocked I missed out on this band until now. Unstable Matter is their fourth album, released on the amazing Canadian prog label Unicorn Digital, and judging by the quality of the songs on this disc, I need to explore their earlier stuff. Spaced Out is arguably the most surprising band I've discovered all year.

So what do they sound like? First off, they are an instrumental band, consisting of three members. They play a signature mix of jazz meets fusion meets heavy metal meets avant-garde if it makes any sense. Their previous efforts are said to be more in the jazz field, but Unstable Matter has plenty of metallic riffs on it. Exuding intricate chord progressions, the songs are highlighted by lots of improvised guitar licks, incredibly well-played bass lines, out-of-this-world drumming, and the occasional synth effects. Antoine Fafard is the primary songwriter of the band, and he plays bass, guitar and is also responsible for the programming. It was only after checking the liner notes that I realised Spaced Out is one of the most impressive bands in the world producing impossible bass lines with thick guitar harmonies strung across. The bass playing is ultimately important to this album, considering most of the songs were developed solely around this instrument. Fafard's playing is not only unique, but impossibly complex, ranging from insane finger picking to slap bass solos to quieter chords to crushing heaviness.

Second guitarist Mark Tremblay lays down the solos, of which "New Breed" and "Event Horizon" demand your full attention to understand what's really going on. Packed with Meshuggah-precise riffage and chord changes, along with incessant kick drums, "Event Horizon" is merciless in its delivery. Blended with great synth effects, the machine-gun riffery is all the more effective, not to mention the lead solo. However, "New Breed" is the real deal. Lots of synths in the intro, it delves into fusion jazz territory before taking on a funky bass that merges with insane drumming. The dynamics of this song are amazing, ever shifting between calm and busy passages, and climaxing with a solo that sends shivers down the spine. It's a long yet very well-executed solo and it slowly disappears under a wall-of-sound mix of synths, bass and rhythms.

"Art Attack Pt.1" and "Art Attack Pt.2" are more on the laidback side, yet only within the context of this album. Spaced Out's "laidback" work kills others' most challenging stuff. The first part is a heavy and complex number with improvised jazz guitars exploring various dynamics and unusual rythmic patterns, while the second one boasts deft percussion and glistening cymbals before a clean Gordian Knot-like passage emerges out of nowhere. Think Ron Jarzombek's solo on the first Gordian Knot, only more daring and more unconventional.

The album's best representatives have to the title track for its intense mix of avant-garde textures and full-on jazz attacks, not to mention the ever-present bass and drum battery; as well as the seven-plus-minute "Big Crunch", living up to its title. Though the overall mood of the song relies on dense synth shimmers, underneath that layer functions uncontrolled chaos with erupting guitars, heavy breakdowns, and octopus drumming. I cannot praise Martin Maheux enough. It is very rare someone will blow me away both with his immense chops and taste rhythmic groove. This guy has it all, as he fearless goes from double bass drum explosions to unusual rhythmic patterns that would give Tool's Danny Carey a run for his money. No kidding, this guy is a monster behind the skins.

There are also shorter material in the form of "Glassosphere IV" and "Singularity", the former being a symphonic piece underpinned by fierce finger-picked bass and the latter is driven by an addictive syncopated drum pattern, combining bipolar melodies and marrying them into a single soundscape.

Although very different from anything else I've heard, fans of LTE, Planet X, Derek Sherinian, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra should waste no more time to give Spaced Out a listen. By the way, the packaging of this album is possibly the best I've seen this year: excellent graphics, superb paper quality, and amazing pictures.

Last but not least, the production is masterful. Antoine Fafard deserves a medal for his work.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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