2023 has been a most excellent year for music, with many fine releases hitting the racks. They have been full of music of worth and value, not the unimaginative, tepid and vacuous drivel that dominates the airwaves, grabs the headlines and gets the promotional push and thrust of X, Snapchat or Tik Tok, the arena where things like good song craft and musical abilities are unrecognised.
This is why I like current progressive rock music as I find that it is music that contains all the elements that make music worthwhile, great song craft, strong musical performances and songs that have themes and are interesting, rather than banal and lacking these elements entirely. This all brings us to this fine new release from Californian band Pattern Seeking Animals with their new album ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’. This ten song album, has all of the elements that satisfy me, good songs and strong musical ideas and performances.
Pattern Seeking Animals are the vehicle that song writer John Boegehold uses for his music, he is accompanied by most of the current line up of Spock’s Beard, all except keyboardist Ryo Okumoto, that role being covered by John himself. On this album there is also a string section that adds significant orchestral elements to the music. In addition, for this album, extra attention has been focused on the vocals and that attention and focus has paid significant benefits, this means that the songs really are memorable and stay with you, long after the album has concluded. This time around PSA have changed this around a little to create something that is different to what has gone beforehand and this has been very successful.
Ì enjoyed and bought the previous Pattern Seeking Animals CD’s and I will buy this one as well, as I find their highly melodic approach and quality of music appeals greatly to me, as does the intelligence that lies at the heart of their music connects with me. The days of banal and misogynistic lyrics no longer have a place, I want the music I enjoy to actually mean something and be about interesting scenarios and this is why progressive music matters, as it has historically met that remit and continues to do so. This album also fits that bill, all this is most worthy but is it any good you may ask?
Well the answer is a resounding yes, it is a mature album and one that really grows on you the more you hear it. The album has lots of excellent moments and excellent performances and opener The Man Made Of Stone sets the stall out with a very memorable chorus and enough changes of direction to confuse anyone, through all of which there is a central melody that is recurrent and impresses greatly. The song opens with an almost military style drumbeat before a flute like synth sound is added and the sound then builds. There is a good solid bass part too that fills the sound out nicely, as does a neat little guitar fill and a synth line that mirrors it. The great synth fill really adds to the track, as does the cello part and the song really impresses. This is followed by the storming Window To The World which, again, features some unusual time signatures and rhythmic sections that work together to make something that is both different and unusual, yet also an a extremely fine listen. The lyrics are strong and the vocals are powerful and clear with the backing vocals sounding especially fine. What Awaits Me is hinged on a repeated bass run that plays to the bands musical strengths. Again, the string section add touches that enhance the song greatly. This track serves to emphasise just what a great band PSA are and what worth they have and offer, this is quality stuff, lovingly and carefully crafted with every song working to create a cohesive album.
The fourth song, He Once Was, is another fascinating track, slightly downbeat in tone as it is a song about a soldiers wartime reflections. This piece is very moving and well constructed, with great musicianship, it is also the albums’ longest song and the extended length gives room to expand and the time is used wisely and thoughtfully, with sections being recognisable, and different enough, to retain the listeners interest throughout. I really like this track as it shows the great skill that has gone into its making. Again, I am reminded of the classic sound of Kansas, who PSA have a similarity as they have a similar mix of sound and depth. This is possibly my favourite track on the album, it really is a great song from all concerned and a fine guitar solo towards the end reinforces that idea. The saxophone solo adds depth and gravitas to the track making it beautifully sublime, it’s a truly great song on all fronts. Underneath The Orphan Moon continues the album with another excellent song with a great vocal, sympathetic strings and bass that adds to the excellent dynamics of this shorter track. It is a very satisfyingly fine one at that, with excellent bass work anchoring the song wonderfully, this song oozes emotion and class. Clouds That Never Rain is a very upbeat and sprightly track with a recurring riff that leads the track well. An impassioned vocal really adds soul and the background vocals are especially strong. The song is only a shortish one but has lots contained within its five plus minutes running time. Bassist Dave Meros once again shows how integral he is to the bands overall sound, on this album he is most definitely on form and possibly MVP (most valuable player).
Bulletproof continues this excellent album and, again, the bass work is especially fine. The song name checks themselves as Pattern Seeking Animals and could be about resilience or maybe it isn’t, I don’t really know. What I do know is that it has a refrain that others would kill for! Somewhere North Of Nowhere is another fine track, seemingly about Aliens hunting people after an invasion. Again, there are lots of impressive bass work and touches, including some great keyboard embellishments. This is followed by the track Summoned From Afar, which is about a reluctant warrior victorious in her last battle. There are a lot of layers to this track, with subtle use of other instruments like the flute and mandolin to enhance the overall sound palette and spectrum, another most impressive track that will stay with you for certain. The album closes with Love Is Still The Light, a very poignant and gentle song with a really great vocal performance from Ted Leonard. This is a beautiful heartfelt track that tells us that ‘Love Is Still The Answer, Love Is Still The Light’. It has a neat and brief guitar solo that plays counterpoint to the vocals and really grabs the attention and this song closes the album gracefully.
This is an album of significant worth and value with some great performances and musicianship from all the band. The changes to recording location and production that the band have utilised has definitely reaped great rewards. If you want modern progressive rock with both style and substance then this album will hopefully meet that requirement for you. Why not give it a try and see if you agree with me.
Released 27th October, 2023.
Order the album here: