Poetica is a collection of songs and instrumental abstracts from the duo of Linda Cushma and Frank D'Angelo, with guesting ex-Primus alumnus, Tim "Herb" Alexander. OXYGENE8's modernistic brand of experimental rock is performed with MIDI'fied Chapman Stick (Cushma), MIDI guitar (D'Angelo), guitar synth & loops (both)—add to that Herb's drumming, while Linda sings on seven of twelve tracks.
The first two tracks are formidable rockers with fluid Stick rhythms and graceful soloing which avoids the tenets of wankery. "Stand" introduces us to Cushma's sexy voice, while "Hold On" wins a spot on the long list of artists who've penned songs with this very title, from Triumph to Wilson Phillips. "Hold On" nearly sounds like a Rush track circa Hold Your Fire save the vox; check some of Herb's fills. "Empty" is another track which exhibits a Rush influence, with a decidely Lifesonesque opening pattern on guitar synth, and suspended chords.
"Funkernickel" is the first instrumental (and for some people, may be the first interesting selection, as tastes vary); Tim shines on this track! Odd-time sigs galore, great interplay from the three—OXYGENE8 cannot be held responsible if you hyperventilate. "Poetica" is an eerie exercise in texture with loops & sampled chorus, while "Larry's Lullaby (Prelude)" is a somber vignette of synthstrings and acoustic guitar; "Spoolanoosh" consists of a heavily-processed, triggered vocal/string sample, sequenced percussives and harsh, wirey analog tones. The poignant lyrics of "Larry's Lullaby" detail the pain of a void left by a lost sibling. "Mocha Butterfly" is a work of modesty and subtle beauty, with gentle arpeggiations and restrained guitar leads; it's obvious Cushma utilizes the Stick as more of a bass substitute; she & D'Angelo do share some unison lines, and other Stick textures appear here and there throughout Poetica, so fear not.
Carbon dioxide excess! "Love Soldier" was a surprise—in spite of the cast, it seems like a quirk, out of place. A chorus like I will guard your heart/I'll be your love soldier is a serious turn-off and can be a bane to an otherwise experimental rock album; even the guitar solo, while executed perfectly, seems a little run-of-the-mill. Another instrumental would've been righteous. "Cathedral" is a step back in the right direction, for what it's worth.
As it stands: the score is ± 4 stars (more like 3.75); "Love Soldier" could've been swapped for something else. ½/¼ of a star is ½/¼ of a star. The musicianship on Poetica is still first-rate. A cool indie disc, worth checking out for blissful detachment from our cold realities.