Review – Pattern Seeking Animals – Prehensile Tales – by John Wenlock-Smith

When the first Pattern Seeking Animals album was released last year, such was its beauty that it easily made my albums of the year list. Its mix of style and deep lyrics made it a very worthy album indeed and, when I spoke to John Boegehold he’d remarked that they had already started work on this sophomore release.

Well that was last year and now, just about a year later, comes ‘Prehensile Tales’, the continuation of the Pattern Seeking Animals story, or sub tale really as the folk involved are predominantly the core nucleus of legendary US group Spock’s Beard, with PSA treading a slightly different path musically. It is still prog but PSA exist as a vehicle for material that John has written, but that he feels in not quite within the remit of Spock’s Beard.

At time of writing this does not mean the end of The Beard, it just means a further outlet is available to John, which I am sure you will agree is a good thing for listeners as, when that material is as fine as this, then there is really no issue, let’s just be grateful for this music.

We find a range of subjects tackled in these songs from finding a second chance in your life, vampires, shipwrecks and facing mortality. Another difference this time around is the wider musical palette that is employed to add more colours and timbre to the tones, these include violin, flutes, piccolo, trumpet, flugelhorn and cello along with saxophone and pedal steel guitars. This makes for an interesting and richly rewarding listen, although, as always, you will have to listen carefully for the magic to unfold around you.

The production by fellow bearder Rich Mouser is crisp and clear with clear separation of instrumentation across all the tracks, likewise the cover art is also highly arresting and intriguing,

The album starts with the Dave Meros rumbling bass on Raining Hard In Heaven this is interspersed with snatches of guitar from Ted Leonard, all ably supported by the keyboard work of John Boegehold and Jimmy Keegan’s solid drumming. The bass work from Meros is sublime and carries the melody wonderfully before a synth solo takes the song forward into a more upbeat section and then reverting to a quitter more measured pace with classic organ sounds and that bass moving the song forwards once again as it heads towards its satisfying conclusion. A great opener by any standard

This is followed by Here In My Autumn which features a sublime violin from Rini in the latter sections, giving this song a Kansas feel, and I mean that in a good way as this additional colour really adds to the dynamics of the song greatly, as indeed does the excellent piccolo and flute which are also very noticeable. Again, the bass work is of the highest standard and his support and playing is subtle and effective. The guitar break by Leonard yields another elegant and emotional track that really hits the mark. Ted’s vocals on this track are also extraordinarily strong, he really can take these songs and stamp his own identity on them. A second guitar solo takes this song to an epic conclusion in tandem with John’s keyboards.

Another stunning song, and were only at the start really! The next piece is Elegant Vampires which features some terrific drum patters from Jimmy alongside more solid bass from Dave and atmospheric keyboards from John, who plays a recurring motif that runs throughout the song. Another fabulous vocal from Ted carries this short song about the inevitability of death using the metaphor of vampires as symbolism. Again, an interesting song which leads us to one of the more unusual tracks of this set,

Namely, Why Don’t We Run? which features, believe it or not, a mariachi band! The track opens with what sounds like Chinese or oriental brass before an acoustic guitar ushers in the mariachi type sound and it gallops along most effectively. The instrumentation on this song is tremendous, highly evocative, and realistic, an acoustic guitar carrying the melody forwards till at the 3.35 mark the horn returns with its wail and Ted’s guitar takes brief flight. This may all sound very weird yet somehow it works and it all sounds magnificent, possibly my favourite song thus far.

We are then led into the albums longest and most epic song at 17:20 called Lifeboat. It is comprised of 5 parts, the first the first of which is an instrumental section, called Nearer Now To Heaven. It then switches to Ted emotive vocal telling the tale of the people on the lifeboat as the ship is going down, leading to another excellent bass part from Dave who really anchors the track together so that you can feel the despair that the hero is facing in an ocean of uncertainty. A plaintive trumpet voluntary takes the song forwards into Ted’s guitar solo after which the protagonist is pondering his mortality whilst crying out for someone to save him. Finally we are led into the closing section which deals with what happens when you die, in this instance we are left with an open ending to that particular question as the song ends with storms and the noise of oars, a brilliant track by any standards.

The album’s final track Soon But Not Today then follows with a musical mystery tour taking in reggae, surf and the Beatles in the tale of a man who gets chance to reassess his life and hopefully make changes to how he leaves the world. Again this song is concerned with one’s mortality and in this song we see just how solidly this band work as one to deliver stunning song after stunning song.

I loved the debut album and, guess what? I love this one too! ‘Prehensile Tales’ is very accomplished and engaging and a great piece of work that will make you glad that you heard it, I really recommend this to you all, it is really really fine piece of music.

Released 15th May 2020

Order the album here:

https://patternseekinganimals.lnk.to/PrehensileTalesID

PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS set May 15th, 2020 as release date for new studio album “Prehensile Tales”!

In 2019, PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS, the California-based band featuring Ted Leonard (lead vocals & guitars), Jimmy Keegan (drums & vocals), Dave Meros (bass) and John Boegehold (keyboards), presented its much-lauded eponymous debut.

Just a year later, the group announces May 15th, 2020 as the release date for its newest opus, “Prehensile Tales”, which expands the stylistic niche carved out by the debut and adds additional twists and turns along the way.
 
For the six songs on the album (the longest clocking in at over 17 minutes), the band introduced violin, flute, trumpet, cello, sax and pedal steel to the sound palette that was once again recorded & mixed by Rich Mouser at The Mouse House.
 
The track-listing reads as follows:
1. Raining Hard In Heaven
2. Here In My Autumn
3. Elegant Vampires
4. Why Don’t We Run
5. Lifeboat
6. Soon But Not Today
 
“I started writing for the second album right as we were finishing up the first one” says Boegehold, who is again producing. “I wanted to change around some of the songwriting approaches I’d been using and draw from a few different musical influences while not straying too far from the overall vibe of the band.”

Ted Leonard adds: “This album is another collection of lush arrangements and infectious melodies. I mean REALLY infectious. There are certain lines that are the last thing going through my head at night and the first thing in the morning. I think it’s actually furthering my insanity.”

For the striking cover image, P-SA collaborated with Polish artist Mirek (https://www.facebook.com/mirekis7/), whose ‘An evolutionary broadcast’ design Boegehold immediately considered a perfect fit to the album’s peculiar title.

“Prehensile Tales is a play-on-words I came up with while writing lyrics and thought it would be a funny album title. As a bonus, it actually seems to mean something that fits the music.”
 
To coincide with the album’s release, the band is set to perform at RosFest 2020 in Sarasota, Florida on May 9th and is lining up more dates later in the year which will be announced soon.
 
“Prehensile Tales” will be released as Gatefold 2LP plus CD, Limited Edition CD, and as digital album on May 15th, 2020 on InsideOutMusic.

Review – Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor – by Jez Denton

Progressive Rock music is a funny thing. Often pretentious, up its own arse, quite frankly snobby and elitist. Almost like you have to be super clever to get it, the musical equivalent of Jeremy Paxman asking a contestant from an old Polytechnic a question about thermo-nuclear physics on University Challenge, with an obvious sneer because they don’t go to an Oxbridge college. In short, their seriousness can make them seem ridiculous and open to much mirth.

However, every now and then you come across a band that who have a sense of humour, who are self-aware and who can create great music whilst not taking things too seriously. One for whom progressive music doesn’t have to be dour and only for a niche, but can be entertaining, fun and welcoming whilst retaining all its virtuoso playing and performing.

With a name like Spock’s Beard no one could accuse this Californian band of being dour or elitist. Their music has always been both clever and accessible; something that they’ve continued to achieve on their new album, being released on the 25th May, ‘Noise Floor’. The album is full of what singer/guitarist, Ted Leonard, describes as ‘crazy prog,’ whilst also working on making the songs ‘more immediate.’

And for sure, they’ve achieved it with this collection of smashing tunes featuring beautifully played instruments; both trusted old friends plus new orchestral additions of strings and horns. Spock’s Beard have been developing their sound and style for over twenty years now and find themselves at a point where they can take time to develop and create their music which results in this album being released at a point when all members were in agreement that it was the best work they could put out there.

With all members of the band writing and recording demo’s independently before bringing them together to be worked on collectively in production, there is a great sense of exceptional quality being produced over quantity for the quantities sake. The album itself, and accompanying E.P, displays its influences with pride; the hints of 1970’s prog such as Yes, Genesis and Supertramp, influences that have led to songs of majestic beauty such as the wonderful Bulletproof that appears on the ‘Cutting Room Floor’ E.P.

It is fair to say that the album isn’t without flaws; the jazz instrumental of Box of Spiders jars slightly, but it doesn’t diminish from what is an accomplished and melodic journey through the slightly crazy world of Spock’s Beard. Die-hard fans will find more than enough typical output to allow them to enjoy the musical development that this album represents. And those for whom this will be their first exposure to the band will find plenty to enjoy and will also spark interest in finding out more of the bands back catalogue.

Released 25th May 2018

Order ‘Noise Floor’ from InsideOut here

 

Spock’s Beard announce 13th studio album ‘Noise Floor’

Legendary US progressive rockers Spock’s Beard have announced the release of their 13th studio album ‘Noise Floor’ for May 25th, 2018. As announced previously, for this album Ted Leonard, Alan Morse, Dave Meros & Ryo Okumoto are joined in the studio once again by drummer & original member Nick D’Virgilio.

Spock’s Beard is a band that is in a continual state of evolution, as is always the case with genuinely creative musicians. And their new album, ‘Noise Floor’, fits perfectly into this process.

We are always about evolution, not revolution. But what we have done this time is make the songs more melodic,” believes vocalist/guitarist Ted Leonard. “We still love our crazy prog, but now appreciate how important it is to grab people’s attention early on.”

As with all Spock’s Beard songs, most of the new album was written by the individual members, and then brought to the rest of the band as high quality demos. “We all do this type of thing in our home studios,” adds Leonard. “So, by the time they reach the stage where the entire band get to judge them, they are really developed, and therefore everyone can make a reasoned judgement.”  Much of what you will listen to here is very much the product of fresh inspiration from the Californian band.

One key change on this album sees the return of drummer Nick D’Virgilio, who originally left in 2011. There are also two violinists, a cello player, a viola player and an English horn featured on the album, thereby giving the sound a slightly more evocative and persuasive twist.

The album was once again engineered by long-time collaborator Rich Mouser and will be released as a 2CD digipak (featuring an EP of material from the same sessions), gatefold 2LP + 2CD & as digital download.

The track-listing is as follows:

Disc 1 – Noise Floor

1.     To Breathe Another Day
2.     What Becomes of Me
3.     Somebody’s Home
4.     Have We All Gone Crazy Yet
5.     So This Is Life
6.     One So Wise
7.     Box of Spiders
8.     Beginnings

Disc 2 – Cutting Room Floor

1.     Days We’ll Remember
2.     Bulletproof
3.     Vault
4.     Armageddon Nervous

SPOCK’S BEARD Online:
http://spocksbeard.com/
https://www.facebook.com/spocksbeard/
https://twitter.com/SpocksB
http://www.youtube.com/Spocksbeard