Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Strung Out Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:51:00

Although this was released more than a year ago, I am only now getting a chance to hear it. Like Spock's Beard, Disicipline are proving that progressive music is alive and well in the 90s without necessarily relying on the styles of the old guard. Certainly those influences are here - the opening keyboard notes of "Canto IV" are ELP, the lyrical constructs and presentation of this same track is very Gabriel-era Genesis-like - but used more as a launching point than end in themselves.

And while the whole alternative scene maybe over now, it did make the examination of self, the human condition, and other like subjects, quite fashionable. Whatever you thought and think about Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc. stylistically, that have made that subject matter possible. To a far deeper degree, at the very least. We are tortured souls, creating the very pain we are trying to avoid. One might say that if the progressive rock of the 70s was a search for spirituality, for meaning, then the progressive rock of the 90s is examining why we are looking for that external ... entity.

Philosophical discussions aside, this is an album worth hearing once at least. No, it won't entertain you - you'll need to find a pop album for that. But it will make you think, to perhaps probe your own psyche. With that thought in mind, lets look instead at some of the more estoeric attributes of this album.

This is a much stronger release than their first - they sound more sure of themselves, of where they want to go. Matthew Parmenter's lyrical style is very poetic - not necessarily in a flowery way that the term often implies, but in that there is an economy of words used to great effect. All of which isn't to suggest that Push & Profit was an immature release. Perhaps due to the nature of the beast - more concept album than a collection of vignettes - this album has more of an overall cohesiveness.

If Emerson informs the percussive keyboards, then it is Hackett and Rothery (to name two) that inform the guitars - those lovingly sustained, crying notes that speak emotional volumes. The arrangments, while occasionally sparse, are far more lush here than on P&P, there is a fuller sound - like blood-red crushed velvet. There are hints, too, of King Crimson here - there's a section that is very reminiscent of "In The Court Of..."

If one were describe progressive music, as contrasted to pop music, this is as good example as any - shifting textures, moods, time signatures, dynamics, theatrical emphases ... music that attempts for a response on an intellectual level. Discipline has all that, here.

This is not a happy album, though there is a certain brightness to the arrangments, the subject matter may be gloomy, but the music isn't. It is heavy at times, not in a metal sense, but in an oppressive sense. Dense chords played in the lower octaves.

This isn't a perfect release by any means - Parmenter's vocals are often a bit flat, but not to a degree that its distracting or that it takes anything a way from the music. Like many other vocalists who don't have great voices (Sting, Fish, Gabriel, etc), he uses his to great effect, knowing its limits. Yes, here he sounds vaguely like Perry Farrell, but not quite as much as before.

Highly recommended.

Canto IV (Limbo) (13:47) / Crutches: The Carrot - The Silent Mirror - Down The Hatch - Crutches (13:10) / Into The Dream: Descent - Chock Full O'Guts - Drawn And Quartered - Clearing - Stealing The Key - Sum Music - Turtles All The Way Down (22:03) / Before The Storm: The Ocean - The Storm - Eden (15:51)

Jon Preston Bouda - guitars
Mathew Kennedy - bass
Matthew Parmenter - vocals, keyboards, violin, saxophone, and orchestra chimes
Paul Dzendzel - drums and percussion

Chaos Out Of Order (1988)
Push And Profit (1993)
Unfolded Like A Staircase (1997)
Into the Dream: Discipline. Live (1999)
To Shatter All Accord (2011)
Chaos Out Of Order - 25th Anniversary Reissue 1988-2013 (2013)
This One's For England (2014)

Live 1995 (DVD) (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 1st 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.strungoutrecords.com
Hits: 1848
Language: english


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