Vapourspace - Sonic Residue
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Vapourspace
Sonic Residue

I'm one of those people who have always sort of shuddered when I hear progressive rock. Just the whole notion of the term "Prog Rock" seems almost funny to me. Was it progressive because it had a keyboard instead of the traditional rock lineup, or was it some other reason (perhaps the fashion sense of some of those involved)? At any rate, the majority of the prog rock I've heard has made my cheese-meter go off within 1 minute or less of listening to it. For that reason alone, I have to give Mark Gage some huge props for taking on such a monumental task. For him, it was probably obviously mainly a goal of remixing prog rock music, but I see it as him taking on prog rock music and trying to make it into something listenable.

Although it would probably take someone who was pretty highly interested in the genre or the Magna Carte label to recognize most of the band names responsible for the original tracks, there are tons of big names involved including the obvious trio of big name Steve's (Steve Walsh of Kansas, Steve Morse of Deep Purple, Steve Howe of Yes), Dennis Chambers of Parliment/Funkadelic, and several members of Dream Theater. If you're not a fan of classic rock, some of those names still might not ring a bell, but having grown up in a smaller midwest town, I've heard them all.

I've already slightly mentioned this above, but I'll say it again in that the tracks I enjoy the most are the ones that Mark Gage deconstructs the most. It's stated in the liner notes that he didn't add any elements of his own to the tracks, but through studio trickery reworked nearly everything from the ground up. Even with that, though, there are still shining moments that simply make me want to tease out my hair and play air keyboard (or something). The disc opens up with a great reworking of Attention Deficit's "Girl From Enchilada" in which the bassline is turned into a tripped-out rubber band twang while other elements are turned into gurgle and haze. The beginning of "Blue Mondo" by Niacin starts out with a shimmering ambient sound and flanged-out beat, but the silence is broken and the remainder of the track sounds like a weird, amped-up drum and bass remix of the original. It's novel sounding, but ultimately kind of scary.

From there, the disc continues sort of this shift back and forth between quite good, and not so. "Led On" by Steve Morse is turned into a beautiful, ethno-electronic sounding number with multiple layers of guitars and tablas, while the light melody interplay of "Osmosis" by Liquid Tension Experiment is isolated over a nice midtempo beat for another pretty track. Of course, when "Kansas" by Steve Walsh drops (with over-the-top vocals still in place), it throws you out of whatever peaceful moment you were having.

Still, for every track that silly vocals are left in the mix somehow (and it doesn't really matter how much they're toned down, as they're still too much), there are three other tracks that Gage has turned into something quite listenable. By the time that the almost dancey album closer (which itself has a great ending 3 minutes of spaced-out goodness) of "Jenny Nettles" by Tempest rolls around, it sounds like something that might have come off one of his own albums. So, as mentioned above, I'm biased against Prog Rock music anyway, but if you enjoy it along with electronic you'll probably absolutely gobble this stuff up. As it stands, it's definitely an interesting combination/clash of genres, and it's good to see Gage back again.

rating: 6.7510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00