Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bigelf – Into The Maelstrom

We last heard from Bigelf way back in 2008.  I don't know about you guys, but 2008 seems like a long time ago for me anyway.  I had assumed that they were done, they had shot the proverbial wad and after 3 trippy albums had just all moved on to other things.  When I saw that, lo and behold, here was another album in 2014 (I know, I'm a little late writing this up), and very pleasantly surprised and bought it as soon as I saw it.

If you're already a fan of the band, this really isn't going to sound like anything new.  It does seem more solid, more well crafted than their previous releases, as though the time away helped cement the ideas behind the music and the band.  If you're not familiar with them, this would be an excellent starting point.  I should tell you that they are a proggy rock band, with definite psychedelic leanings, and more than a little pop sensibility, so that some of their music strays in very Beatles-esque psych-pop.  And nothing says prog like having a former member of Dream Theater in your lineup.  Although I generally steer well clear of those wankers, Mike Portnoy fills in here as a session drummer and manages to keep his drumming pretty well confined to what each song needs rather than throwing in all kinds of flash, “look at me” kind of playing.

There is some very tasty songcraft on display here.  Track 4, “Alien Frequency”, is by far my favorite song on this album, and probably one of my favorite songs period over the last 6 months.  It's got a heavy, poppy quality and is really an earworm that you will find yourself humming and singing.  Great song.  “High”, the 9th track, is a long groove full of all kind of psychedelic heaviness, and sounds really fantastic with headphones.  “Theater of Dreams” seems like a simple pop song and then dives off into something that would not be out of place on the “White Album”.  And “ITM”, the album closer, let's their freak flag fly with enough psychedelia that it sounds like a lost Syd Barrett track.  Nothing wrong with showing your influences as long as the resulting music is also your own, and Bigelf manage that quite nicely.  There are 12 songs in all that you just want to hear over and over again. 

The album feels like a concept album, although I have not read anything from the band that acknowledges this.  Aliens and time and space travel pop up throughout, although it could also be that under the right, er, influences, these topics just present themselves.  Not that I would know anything about that.

There is also a version of this release that comes with a bonus disc, which is the one I bought.  There are some re-mixes of certain songs and a few demo versions that are well worth the couple extra dollars.  I really enjoy hearing the process of getting a song to the final version that you hear on the album, and the demo versions show these songs in a more bare bones setting, so you can actually hear how the band built them up.

Bottom line, this is a release that is worthy of your time.  I've been spending more time lately listening to stoner rock and psychedelic rock and this is one of the better releases I've heard lately.  If you're already a fan, just buy it.  If you're not, I highly recommend that you take the plunge.


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