In his review of Deluge Grander's first album, August in the Urals, my SoT colleague Duncan Glenday described this American band's sound as "dissonant art rock." And I'm here to report that not much has changed on the follow-up to that disc, The Form of the Good. Despite whatever negative connotations "dissonant" and "art rock" may have, this (primarily) instrumental band rebuts them. Keyboard player Dan Britton is the main star here, but all four players — and several guests — make grand musical statements.
The album opens with "Before the Common Era," a minimalist piece that actually does little to endear itself to listeners. Haunting, chanted vocals are buried deep within the dense mix, occasionally floating to the surface. But the effect is disconcerting. It's not until the second track, "The Tree Factory" — during which elements of Kansas, King Crimson, Genesis and Yes converge — that Deluge Grander blossoms into its full potential. Alive with flirtatious arrangements, whistling keyboards and smiling strings, this is 14 minutes of prog goodness that'll have you feeling chipper than you did before. The album's other long piece, the 19-minute "Aggrandizement," ebbs and flows through much darker musical moods. For the most part, all that flirting, whistling and smiling have given way to ominous squawking and brooding — thus representing the vast range of emotions Deluge Grander is able to effortlessly convey. By the conclusion of the closing title track, the band sounds rejuvenated and restored to its majestic grandeur.
The Form of the Good is not perfect, but this music — you can hear the two years of love and frustration that went into crafting these five tracks — takes on intensely human, organic characteristics. And you have to show some love for a band that's humble enough to state at the end of its press materials that "if you don't like it, thanks for giving it a chance." Hell, instead of a chance, I'll just give it more spins.
1) Before the Common Era
2) The Tree Factory
3) Common Era Caveman
5) The Form of the Good