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All Over Everywhere: Inner Firmaments Decay

It is not often that I quote the press release which accompanies a CD. However with the debut release from All Over Everywhere, I have to be honest and say that while maybe not in the manner that was intended, the description of Inner Firmaments Decay sums up exactly how I feel about the music contained in its eight songs. The phrase "Since most of the songs were a bit dreary and melancholy, the design for the album was seven sad songs followed by one happy and uplifting song." Is almost a perfect illustration of how this album shapes up, I say almost because I wouldn't exactly call the last track "Gratitude" a playful or joyful little ditty, it is more that the effect is just slightly less dreary than what has come before.

Formed in 2007 by Dan Britton (Deluge Grander/Birds And Buildings) and classical/folk musician Trinna Kesner, the band has nine instrumentalists and a vocalist, who have been brought together by the main duo from their respective prog and classical backgrounds. What that has led to is the marrying of instruments such as guitar, keyboards and bass, with flute, viola, dulcimer and clarinet. In places ("Gratitude" being a case in point) it works with great building, atmospheric results, however across the initial seven tracks it is hard to honestly say that the music is wholly convincing. Too often the everything just trickles along and the vocals of Megan Wheatley become buried in the syrupy mass of melancholy. Wheatley possesses a quite wonderful voice that is seductive and serious in equal measure, but for the large part it feels like she is having to battle to be heard over some reasonably sparse arrangements. I can only presume that this was the intention when the album was mixed, however it does make for a frustrating and at times confusing listen.

It isn't all bad news and in short bursts (which may suit the "modern" listener), the songs are quite enjoyable. As a cohesive collection however the experience is just too one dimensional to hold the attention, or entice frequent revisits. Taken individually "Endless Night" is an atmospheric journey that brings together some swathes of gentle keyboards with lonely piano and little splashes of flute, while "Honesty" piles on the melancholy, but in a way where you feel at one with the sorrow of the sounds, but not saddened by them. That said, when you listen to even these stronger moments within forty minutes of similarly themed pieces, the "dreary melancholy" becomes too much to bear.

Inner Firmaments Decay does have some wonderful musicianship and well thought through arrangements across its eight tracks; however it would have been a much more interesting listen if even the faintest glimmer of light was allowed to pierce the gloom from time to time.

Track Listing
1. Art of the Earth
2. Endless Night
3. The Shroud
4. Honesty
5. After All the Years
6. On a Dark Street
7. Until the Sun Begins to Fall
8. Gratitude

Added: October 24th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: All Over Everywhere MySpace
Hits: 2586
Language: english

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All Over Everywhere: Inner Firmaments Decay
Posted by Jordan Blum, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-10-17 07:45:37
My Score:

The cover to All Over Everywhere's debut record, Inner Firmament Decay, is a fantastic visual complement: a dreary, pastoral landscape that would suit a live performance of the album. Rather than grab our attention with progressive complexity, the band crafts a collage of ethereal and fragile compositions, announcing itself with subtle beauty.

All Over Everywhere is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Trinna Kesner (guitar, viola and violin on the album). She gathered friends from the University of Maryland who've played together before and wanted to collaborate on a folk/ambient/progressive project. Their name, then, represents their diversity and uniqueness. Fatefully, keyboardist Dan Britton (Deluge Grander, Cerebus Effect) and vocalist Megan Wheatley, who both worked on the debut by Birds and Buildings, also contribute. Together, this ennead produces some very lush and moody sounds.

Instantly, with opener "The Art of Earth" and throughout the record, the symphonic textures and power of Tony Banks' and Genesis are felt. Actually Inner Firmament Decay feels like one piece broken into eight parts (albeit without segues), and the feeling of melancholic folk combines well with classical arrangements from start to finish. The dynamics constantly fluctuate, and the pieces build to majesty similar in technique to the last minutes of "Entangled" from A Trick of the Tail. A piano or guitar usually leads the music while synthesized sounds, varies forms of percussion, and random but intriguing sound effects add several layers of color and personality. In essence it's folk rock with Canterbury production and odd prog rock timbres, supplementing technicality for touching personality.

Vocally, Wheatley is both an asset and a deterrent. Rather than emulate influences like Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, her voice is a lovely mixture of ominous power and mystical delicacy, reminiscent of predecessors like Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) and Annie Haslam (Renaissance). Unfortunately, Wheatley isn't really given anything interesting to sing; her contributions feel more like an additional instrument than a substantial component. If this is in the intention of All Over Everywhere, fine, but usually the singer and the music are equal parts of what gives an album its quality. On Inner Firmament Decay, the music is 90% of what matters, rather than, say, 50%, and so Wheatley's presence, as wonderful a singer as she is, isn't really necessary.

Also, the album moves rather slowly, which, like Wheatley's vocals, are a curse and a blessing. This tempo allows the melodies and passages to develop and flow with the same precision a painter uses to decide where each stroke will fit. But this tempo also means a distinct lack of excitement and force; the album is, overall, fairly mellow, and that may bore some people.

Inner Firmament Decay is a commendable debut LP, showcasing a collection of musicians who were born to play together. The synthesis of genres and ability to envelop listeners in bucolic worlds equates to a record that will delight most listeners. However, the album is best thought of as an instrumental work with vocal accompaniment; if it were judged for its songwriting, it would fail, and to be honest, it does move a bit too leisurely. All Over Everywhere is an outfit to watch, and if they can work on quicker and more developed songwriting, their sophomore LP will be fantastic.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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