"…[a] unique style which incorporates many influences – from hard-edged guitars through new age touch and a bit of fusion to ambient textures and industrial environment – a gathering totally dedicated to progressive rock."
Once again Sea Of Tranquility is invited late to the party. Mindmapping by TravelHouse was released in 2008, yet we're just getting around to being asked to review it. What are we, chopped liver? Regardless, I'm glad we were asked to embark on this instrumental mind-mapping quest with Bulgarian upstarts TravelHouse as it's well worth the journey.
The above quote, from the band's electronic press kit, was so on the money that I had to begin this review with it. TravelHouse does indeed touch on all aspects noted above, and does so in almost perfect equilibrium. The opening "Route No.1" introduces the heavy, slightly crunchy guitar riffs and soaring keyboard passages (both digital and analog, including the mighty Hammond organ) that will return at regular intervals throughout the disc. The following "A Guru In Love" introduces a little space rock flavor with slight touches of neo-progressive in some of the keyboard lines. "Black Coffee Morning" has the band veering off in a more modern fusion sound with some nice guitar work from Biser Ivanov, while "Clouds" slows down the pace with some soothing ambient soundscapes. This leads us to the high-water point of the disc, the one-two punch of "More Magic From Oz" and "Dark Gentleman". Everything hinted at in the opening 4 tracks comes to a head on these two numbers. The former showcases the band members' chops with its funky bass line, soaring keyboard excursions, and heavy riffing guitar bridge. It segues beautifully into the band's most 'progressive' moment. "Dark Gentleman" is the disc's longest track, clocking in over 9 minutes. It features the most bombast, and also the most contrast within one song. Heavy guitars give way to some tasty fusion-inspired fretwork over some ethereal keyboard fills, only to return to the original heaviness. The song closes on a sweeping keyboard outro, reminiscent of the glory years of symphonic progressive rock. The band then inserts another ambient musical sorbet with "Blink" before returning to variations of the styles previously introduced on subsequent numbers. We also get a bonus track which is anything but filler. "Archived Travels.Neutron II" features arguably some of the heaviest moments of the entire CD and caps off a very rewarding musical journey.
TravelHouse does not reinvent the wheel with this disc. They do, however, manage to present some tried and true musical ideas in a somewhat original way. I'd be hard-pressed to compare them to anybody, but their approach is maybe akin to American band Djam Karet, who also meld similar musical influences, albeit with somewhat different results.
- Route No.1
- A Guru In Love
- Black Coffee Morning
- More Magic From Oz
- Dark Gentleman
- Archived Travels: Neutron I
- Travels With A Son Of A Gun[Dark Gentleman Unleashed]
- Keeping The House: Neutron III [coda]
- [Bonus Track] Archived Travels: Neutron II