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Farpoint: Cold Star Quiet Star

Each Farpoint record is a substantial development on its predecessor, and Cold Star Quiet Star moves the band into a new level of sophistication. Pity it took so long for the band to release this record ... pity the record is so short.

The new album is very melodic, a pleasing listen, approachable but with a degree of sophistication you'd never expect from Farpoint two or three records ago. The musicianship is good, but you're more likely to appreciate the songwriting. Cold Star Quiet Star is nicely layered and the arrangements flow easily from section to section, through well managed tempo shifts, delivering satisfying melodies and well constructed progressive art rock. You won't number it among the most imaginative pieces of music you've heard, but you might well file it among your more enjoyable albums.

Star is characterized by the contrast of acoustic and electric guitars, male and female vocals, strong bass lines and lush keys, and flute and mandolin. The result is best described as sophisticated, symphonic, and pastoral. No two songs sound quite the same, yet a consistency permeates the whole piece - which is characterized by good but rare vocals, and long instrumental passages. Dean Hallal's restrained singing is clear, delivered in laid back tones, often backed by effective over dubbing and by Jennifer Meeks' rich but soft female vocals. Listen for Meeks's excellent delivery in "Cold Star". Rick Walker's drumming shows less 'intensity', and a more refined approach than on prior albums, and in several passages, the percussion is at the heart of the arrangement.

Special mention must be made of David Frain's excellent artwork. Like his previous illustrations for Farpoint, each picture is a the same subject shown in various phases - this time it's a ring of doric columns supporting a circlular lintel. It's perfect in one picture, ruined in another, overgrown in another - and in each image, the spacey background changes. It's best viewed on the band's web site, and it supports the album's loosely sci-fi theme which explores aspects like honor, faith, loneliness, conflict, acceptance and redemption.

"Epilogue: Machine Symphony" is a spacey piece that never changes tone yet never loses your interest, and is a dark, introspective way to close the record. "Solar Wind" is a brief 3 minutes of instrumental buildup - and it isn't the only instrumental. In fact the vocals probably cover less than a fifth of the music. Ten-plus minute "Red Shift (Alone)" is characterized by flute played against rich synths, big swings in tempo, some of the more melodic moments on the album and ends in a nice instrumental buildup. Probably the most 'progressive' track.

Farpoint briefly disbanded in 2005, but quickly reformed with a modified lineup. The new personnel definitely lack the ballsy vocals-orientation of the past, but it's replaced by a mostly-instrumental, more elegant, well rounded sound.

Don't expect this album to set your world alight - it's a cold star, a quiet star, and it's a relaxing, refined place to spend 49 short minutes. You probably wouldn't play this at the gym. But you'd probably play it again and again while wearing your old slippers, tilted back in your favorite recliner, sipping slowly on a good single malt.

It's that kind of music.

Track Listing:
1 Prologue: Call to Arms
2 Solar Wind
3 Red Shift (Alone)
4 Cold Star
5 Darkness
6 Quiet Star
7 Blue Shift (Home)
8 Epilogue: Machine Symphony

Added: May 17th 2012
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Score:
Related Link: The Band's Website
Hits: 3821
Language: english

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Farpoint: Cold Star Quiet Star
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-05-17 23:38:27
My Score:

Farpoint are a progressive rock band hailing from South Carolina and formed in the late '90s. In 2005 the band broke up only to reform in 2006 with a fresh outlook and a few new members added to the fold. There had been a few changes through the years but in 2008 Farpoint released Cold Star Quiet Star which many consider to be their best album. Although I have not heard their first three albums or their latest entitled Kindred released in 2011, I can say Cold Star Quiet Star is a real beauty and anyone who digs symphonic and melodic progressive rock needs to check it out.

Founding members Kevin Jarvis (keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals) and Rick Walker (drums) are joined by new members Dean Hallal (lead and backing vocals), Jennifer Meeks (flute, lead and backing vocals) and Frank Tyson (bass and baritone guitars, backing vocals). These players have great chemistry and the musicianship is very good, exactly what we would expect from a seasoned progressive rock band.

Lyrically, there is a spiritual component in these songs and the message is a positive one and judging from the song titles there also seems to be a science fiction theme running through the album.

Musically, the album is very melodic with numerous shifting themes, stop/starts and superb arrangements. The album begins with "Prologue: Call to Arms", a very solid melodic prog offering with lighter moments showcasing nifty flute work and heavier guitar parts augmented with symphonic keyboards and some stellar soloing. The short "Solar Wind" follows suit with cool spacey synths leading into an upbeat quirky groove and a Celtic tinged melody.

One of the album's best songs is the multi-dimensional "Red Shift (Alone)", a ,more poignant offering with excellent vocal harmonies, pastoral classical guitar and fine instrumental play from all of the musicians.

I hear elements of Pink Floyd and Camel in the acoustically driven "Cold Star". The vocals of jennifer Meeks have a fragile quality that matches well with the pastoral elegance of the music. It is a fine ballad and another album highlight.

The album ends with "Epilogue: Machine Symphony", a track more electronic in nature and quite different from the rest of the album with an almost Ayreonesque feel.

If you like melodic progressive rock that is both accessible and extremely well played Cold Star Quiet Star will not disappoint. For aficionados of Kansas, Styx, Camel, Pink Floyd and other related bands.

Farpoint: Cold Star Quiet Star
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-05-27 15:06:59
My Score:

The first Farpoint album after this South Carolina collective briefly disbanded in 2005 proves that its demise was premature. You can still hear the Yes influences Farpoint got its start playing Yes covers but the band's pleasant blend of symphonic rock, New Age, classical and Celtic music with understated male and female vocals has both expanded and relaxed. And the early bluegrass tendencies seem to be gone, replaced at least on one track (the closer "Epilogue: Machine Symphony") by compelling ambience.

With instrumentals comprising nearly half of the eight songs on this pastoral and reflective album, Farpoint leaves listeners wondering about the group's sonic direction. Here's hoping it's won't disband again before we find out.

Also, Cold Star Quiet Star may sound a bit, um, quieter than other like CDs thanks to Jeff Hodges' attempts to master the album to sound as warm as possible. A note on the back of the CD booklet informs listeners to turn up the music, because "this recording has been intentionally mastered at a lower volume level to preserve the energy and dynamics of the source material." Whether played loud or soft, this still satisfies.




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