Fluttr Effect - Marking Time

Year of Release: 2006
Label: 10T Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:57:00

There's a lot I like about Fluttr Effect's Marking Time. While it is probably less progressive rock than most progressive rock fans expect, it isn't so far off from where modern prog is going that it won't be appreciated; even embraced as it aims to be smarter and more musically complex than your average 4/4 pop-rock song. Perhaps because of the vocals of Kara Trott, folks like No Doubt, Shakira, Alanis Morrisette, and Martha Davis (The Motels) come to mind, and to a lesser degree Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons). So, in way yes, there's a bit of 80s vibe here, too. It's a voice that can be sweet and pouty with a dangerous, angry edge. It's emotional and emotive.

You'll find swirly keyboards found in rock and prog -- except, wait a minute. There are no keyboards here, per se. There is melodica, vibes, and marimba lumina*, however, courtesy of Vessela Stoyanova. And this is a band that can also veer off into darker, almost metal, realms with drums that punctuate and puncture (J Marchionna) and harsh, speedy, churning guitars (Troy Kidwell). Add also into the musical mix the warm tones of cello (Valerie Thompson).

All this can be heard from the get-go in the album's opener "Like This," a piece that unfolds with languid verses and subtly churning instrumentation (structurally, it reminds me a lot of Pearl Jam's "Alive"). But, the vocals might be just a tad too buried here behind the instrumentation, just a balancing tweak needed to my ears. "Like This" leads right into the funky, seductive "Talk To Me," which is marimba lumina and percussion heavy, the first only giving away for a tightly controlled guitar solo that does demonstrate fleet fretwork without flying totally off the handle (well, maybe guitar/drum duet, though it's guitar that has the focus). "Don't Know What You're Living For" seems to me to be radio-ready. Reedy, parpy MIDI tones open this piece, give way to a strutting rhythm for the verses (at times vaguely recalling "You Oughta Know") that alternate with a suspended-time effect of throaty cello for the choruses. The middle section here is both abstract (lots of odd vocalizations, too) and proggy in a Flower Kings (e.g.) kind of way, before the abstract takes over and becomes utter chaos.

And there's the ultra poppy and catchy "Venus Loves Hades," with a chirpy chorus (that will stick with you long after the CD ends), enhanced by contrastingly languid verses. And how many computing and internet related references can you spot? (Did you ever expect that someone would include Mapquest in a lyric? Google, yes; it's ubiquitous? but Mapquest?). "Lucky Glove," has marimba (or vibes) again, and situated after some darker pieces, brings us back to a bit lighter territory? This deceptively mellow intro leads into a spirited sprint - the bash of drums, the frenetic strumming of guitars, it is quirky fun.

Without the vocals, the instrumentation on "Awake" sounds to me a bit? well, one band that came to mind was Genesis? but that's not quite it. More broadly, it made me think more of European prog, like that from Sweden or Germany? a 70s feel even as the music itself doesn't really sound 70s. Hard to explain I guess; you'll have to hear for yourself. "Nowhere" is a bridge between these poppier tracks and the gloomier tracks of the rest of the album. It has the energy of the rock pieces, but a throaty darkness that tempers it.

One of my favorites is the two part suite "Hollywood Is Porn." In part one, a girl comes to Hollywood to be "a star" [brush hands through the air to encompass a brightly lit marquee]; and we see both her and the "third person narrative" view behind the public glitz and glamour of Hollywood. In the second part, it's the darker aspects of the Hollywood life (or a perceived Hollywood life)? That's the lyrics.

With the music, while both parts are dark, the first is more violent, at times having a churning punkish, near metal atmosphere. It is here that Dale and Martha that come to mind. In a vague way, both "So L.A." and "Walking In L.A." came to mind. Who'd have thought that the combo of vibes and cello could sound so threatening? But here Stoyanova and Thompson accomplish just that.

In the second part, the seamier side of the 1930s is evoked in a sultry, nightclub kind of way. It's all art-deco in black and silver with blue-white light accents... The instruments have a jazzy aspect while Trott delivers vocally with sad, torchy kind of way. There's a swelling, swooping piano-like phrase (from the marimba lumina, I suspect), that just exudes class and elegance, all played over the dark tones of a cello. And none of it is uplifting. It has the feel of a tragic tale unfolding -- the Hollywood starlet either corrupted into that underworld, or murdered, having gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. That is the kind of dark gloom of doom that surrounds this piece - a feeling created whether you read the lyrics or not. Although, a look at the lyrics for this section reveals not that, but comments on Hollywood (as a symbol); e.g. "all the pills in Hollywood will never take the pain away / all the knives in Hollywood won't make you young again?".

This dark moodiness continues in "February 1st, 1896," which also has sort of a 30s feel to it even as moves from sparse (cello and vocals) to something more strident and bold, making a statement with the marching orchestration of cello, guitar, bass. The title track is yet another moody piece, one that mixes the sparse with the dense in great swoops from subtle to bold. In the latter, it restates the strident, marching feel of "February?," includes some chugging bass and searing guitar.

Unlisted, and after a long pause, is the bonus track "Transmission (J's Dreamy Remix)" a mellow, sparse cello-vocal-drums piece, remixed by Marchionna. It originally appeared on the band's full-length debut Trithemis Festival.

Dark as this album is, I found it enjoyable to listen to; one I went back to quite a bit and found new things about it each time. So even if it's not exactly prog as we'd expect, it's still worthy of your attention.

*a type of MIDI controller. Fun fact - while looking up what a marimba lumina was (knowing what a marimba was), my third reference was to Wikipedia, and who should be referenced by name as known for playing one? Yes, that's right, Stoyanova.
Like This (4:03) / Talk To Me (3:51) / Awake (3:33) / Hollywood Is Porn [part 1] (5:49) - [part 2] (6:04) / February 1st, 1896 (3:39) / Lucky Glove (4:33) / Don't Know What You're Living For (7:22) / Venus Loves Hades (4:02) / Nowhere (6:05) / Marking Time (4:59) / Bonus: Transmission (J's Dreamy Remix) (3:49)

Kara Trott - voice
Troy Kidwell - guitar, voice
Valerie Thompson - cello, voice
J Marchianna - drums
Vessela Stoyanova - marimba lumina, vibes, melodica

Trithemis Festival (2004)
Swallows And Sparrows (acoustic ep) (2006)
Marking Time (2006)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: April 8th 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.fluttreffect.com
Hits: 1272
Language: english


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