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RPWL: The RPWL Experience

The follow up to RPWL's critically acclaimed release The world through my eyes, could be seen as something of an anti-climax to be honest although it was always going to be hard to surpass what was such a truly superb release. The band make claim to have dropped any attempt to sound like the old 70s prog bands (having been stereotyped as a Pink Floyd band for some years) and just take a more adventurous approach without boundaries. It is certainly true that there are some departures in the album from the RPWL style which we are used to but the band's basic trademark sound palette is intact on most of the tracks.

The first 3 songs are fairly typical RPWL fare for the most part. The 10 minute "Silenced" starts in a style which Riverside have recently made their own but quickly turns to the more symphonic RPWL form once Yogi Lang's vocal comes in. The political lyric is well written and apposite and the song benefits from the juxtaposition of the lighter symphonic sound and the grungier theme which dominates the mid-verse sequences. There is a particularly menacing vocal in the central section with a clever electronic percussion/synth and bass figure highlighting the dark nature of the message.

The melodic and reflective "Breathe In, Breathe Out" could sit easily on any prior RPWL album as could the Beatle-esque "Where can I go", the longer and more adventurous of the two. Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" is covered next, considerably re-worked to a symphonic style; the result is pretty decent too, rather how you might think Dave Gilmour would have done it. For me, "This is not a prog song" is the highlight of the album. Lyrically its a collage of all the unfair criticism they've encountered over the years but musically its really well-developed, starting with a poppy rhythm with hints of the Stone Roses or The Twang (from where they maybe got the spoken part idea) and then working in a more aggressive guitar and heavier bass as it moves along into a discordant and frenzied ending.

In contrast, "Watch Myself" is a brilliant, vibrant mix of soaring guitar and mellotron supporting a heavily processed vocal - typically RPWL. Unlike the next track, which starts with sounds of warfare and a militaristic, prog-metal intro you might expect from a band like Queensryche. There is plenty of development again but I tend to feel that whenever Yogi sings, his voice is so distinctive and associated with RPWL that it's hard for them to break out of the mould, despite their genuine efforts on this album. "River" is a beautifully presented poignant ballad accompanied by acoustic-guitar showing the tender side of the band's repertoire whilst its eerie second half demonstrates their ability to create atmospheres and not be restricted by what a ballad 'should' be. I really love this song which finishes on a wonderful symphonic climax after the acoustic, then electronic, parts. The prog-metal-rap rocker "Choose what you want to look at" takes the band in another previously untried direction and works well, almost in Nickelback style. The Beatles feel returns in the closing track, a wistful review of the past featuring a joyful guitar solo and uplifting closing verse. A great end to a great album.

Overall, if it hadn't been for its predecessor, this excellent album would be getting rave reviews. Any criticism implied must be set against that background. This is a confident, solid release of contemporary symphonic progressive music which deserves a much wider audience than it will get.

Track Listing
1. Silenced
2. Breathe In, Breathe Out
3. Where can I go?
4. Masters of War
5. This is not a prog song
6. Watch myself
7. Stranger
8. River
9. Choose what you want to look at
10. Turn back the clock

Added: June 4th 2008
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: RPWL Website
Hits: 2542
Language: english

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RPWL: The RPWL Experience
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-06-04 08:00:45
My Score:

In perspective of other RPWL albums, especially their critically acclaimed World Through My Eyes, their new disc sees the band growing into a darker and heavier entity. While the aesthetics that made the classic RPWL sound are still intact, they have also branced off into other musical terrains, with great results.

On The RPWL Experience, the band demonstrates a heavier emphasis on their lyrical aspect, particularly on the lengthier pieces. The album opener "Silence" is quite illustrative of this. It is a politically conscious track with a comparatively rawer edge, unlike their previous material. That said, in parts, it still is concocted from their Floydian side, but the main verses of the tune boast a distinct yearning for angrier guitar tones, full-sounding drums, and even some cool electronic elements. The transitions from these dirty passages to clean-sung acoustic verses is seamless and beautiful, creating a dynamic aura. However, it is the experimental instrumental break what makes it one of their best songs to date. Comprised of atonal guitar voicings, a fat bass figure, and some processed vocal parts, the tune eerily recalls mid-90's King Crimson or Porcupine Tree's Deadwing.

Likewise, they further develop this aesthetic on "Stranger", noteworthy for the juxtaposition of the band's anti-war statements and the tune's warfare-evoking musical landscape. Its opening riffs are unconventionally heavy, rife with sturdy bass lines and propulsive drumming. The chorus, on the other hand, is distinctly melodic with quieter acoustic chords and shimmering synth washes. The mid-point of the song displays a free-form jam with wah-drenched guitar wails and atypical bass accents.

Those anticipating a return to their previous album will revel in the predominantly acoustic track "Breathe In, Breathe Out", with some of Lang's most depressing lyrics (and the chorus is reminiscent of Blackfield); the somewhat Camel-like "Turn Back the Clock", complete with soaring synth elements; and perhaps "Where Can I Go", whose Beatles-like vocal harmony and sparse arrangement evoke Radiohead. That said, these tunes are all marked with darker themes lyrically than what the band did prior.

Also, their blend of sweet, Floydian textures with their newly found interest is perfectly exemplified on the Bob Dylan cover "Masters of War", which is adapted to a more symphonic context and blessed with a beautiful Gilmour-esque solo. Yogi Lang's ethereal vocals are some of his best. As for the ballad of the album, "River" starts out very mellow and acoustic driven, which yields a lush atmosphere. It segues into its second half, however, in a totally unexpected syle, as the middle section gets occupied by tense silences and a vague jazz element. These pieces signify the band has certainly improved songwriting wise.

That said, two tracks on the CD sort of break the flow of what I would otherwise call RPWL's high point. The jab at rock critics on "This Is Not A Prog Song", while funny on first listen (mostly because of lyrics that go like "The new one is the worst they have done" or "They are a German band trying to play the music of Pink Floyd"), does not fully serve the purpose of this album. Its deliberately simple structure and awfully noticeable pop element simply does not gel with the other tracks. Also, the ninth song "Choose What You Want to Look at", despite its uncompromising lyrics, is arguably their worst song to date. Written in a very modern-sounding style with rapid-fire vocals and such, I feel both this one and "This Is Not A Prog Song" should have been the bonus tracks to the album.

The RPWL Experiment is one of their best albums and a step away from their more cleanly produced Floydian works. It is one of their finest releases because there is so much to unravel here, not only musically but also from a lyrical standpoint. The artwork is also amazing, and reminds me of OSI's Free album in a strange way.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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