Electrum - Standard Deviation

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Net Dot Music
Catalog Number: NDM2002
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:21:00

One of the highlights of 2002 is Standard Deviation, Electrum's second release. It is an all instrumental affair, though there are a tweensy bit of vocals on "The Will To Power" which opens the album. It's been a long while since I reviewed their debut, Frames Of Mind. About the same length of time as between albums, as Frames Of Mind was released in 1998 and this in 2002. Yet, Electrum remains Gino Foti on bass and synthesizers, Dave Kulju on guitar and synths and Joe Musmanno on percussion.

Whereas their debut was Rush influenced, there's very little of Rush to be heard here (the opening section of "A Fugue State" and parts of "Seven Falls, Eight Rises" would be the exceptions), just intricate progressive rock. Overall Standard Deviation is a mellower affair. I don't want to say a classier affair, but there's an added level of sophistication here, a maturity to the music. Which isn't to suggest that Frames Of Mind was immature. It's just the band's arrangements have a little more elegance about them. While often the music seems sequenced by theme or mood, the album does contain many contrasts, often within particular pieces.

"Degrees Of Freedom" is a lighter, more lilting, mellower track with piano-like synths, Foti's warm bass happily humming along, while Kulju plays gently soaring, singing leads. The mental image is probably the expected one, a bird on the wing, flying casually over the landscape. But then birds often signal freedom, as the ride the thermals. It's not as dreamy as new age, mind you, though if every piece were like this, Electrum would be a Narada or Hearts Of Space artist. They follow this up with the dark, angrier "A Tense Bow...A Moving Target." The quick rhythm and sharp leads underlie the "tense" aspect, as you get a closed in feel. There's some energetic drumming and percussion from Musmanno here as well, often played with a heart-racing rhythm (ah, the moving target aspect). This energy carries over to the next track "The Impudent Piece Of Crockery." If you love guitar rock, this will be your favourite track. Kulju's leads are front and center. Other sections of this piece remind me again (as his playing does) of Craig Chaquico, but there a few moments, the way the guitar shimmers, that Marillion's Steve Rothery came to mind unbidden (okay, him again). This particular guitar tone returns again for "A Fugue State," before giving way to a lazy, sauntering rhythm -- I thought of a dimly lit bar (orange being the color tone) somewhere in Hawai'i -- though of course, this also is a fugue. Emerson will come to mind with the darker organ tones that make their appearance towards the end of the piece.

Angularity -- and by association, King Crimson-ity -- come in with the searing "Apartment Living." This is a heavy track, given sharp edges by the occasional pauses, the fuzzed guitar bursts, and stomping drums and bass. This edge is carried through into the 14-plus minute "Seven Falls, Eight Rises." Echoes of Rush's "YYZ" come to play here, but Electrum mix it up with additional textures - some acoustic guitar-like passages. Rush fans will hear a few other references. Classical elements (which sound familiar to me) develop naturally out of the mix, beginning with a tinkling piano phrase. It becomes something austere, and something one part Rush, one part Dream Theater and maybe one part Symphony X with a dash more of Crimson. Though it's fairly common in the prog genre, you might think that at almost 15 minutes it might get a little dull, but Electrum mix it up enough to keep it interesting. In fact, I didn't know that it was a 15-minute track until I set down to write this review.

Beautiful. Yes, that just about sums it up. Not pretty, as that implies something maybe too cute, too frilly, and too fussy. Beautiful. Elegant. A pleasure to listen to over and over again. The kind of release that the more you listen to it, are drawn in deeper, you find new things -- a synth phrase here, a guitar bit there, etc. Beautiful might also imply some of those very same things I said about pretty, but rest assured it is not. "Apartment Living" would be evidence of that. It's beautiful but it's tough. This is no shrinking violet...

The Will To Power (8:42) / Degrees Of Freedom (5:47) / A Tense Bow...A Moving Target (3:34) / The Impudent Piece Of Crockery (4:45) / A Fugue State (6:50) / Apartment Living (2:09) / Seven Falls, Eight Rises (14:34)

Dave Kulju - guitars, keyboards
Joe Musmanno - drums, percussion
Gino Foti - gass, keyboards

Frames Of Mind (1998)
Standard Deviation (2002)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin CA

Added: December 15th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.electrum.org
Hits: 791
Language: english


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