Spaced Out - Eponymus II


Year of Release: 2001
Label: Unicorn Records
Catalog Number: UNCR5003
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:24:00

The name might lead you to believe Spaced Out are either a space rock band like Hawkwind, or maybe ambient like early Tangerine Dream were... looking at the cover's artwork, you might think they'd be a metal band like...oh Judas Priest or something. Instead, Spaced Out are a heavy instrumental prog quartet whose sound owes to King Crimson rather than Crimson Glory. Bassist Antoine Fafard composed and arranged all but one of the album's 9 pieces; that 10th, he co-wrote with drummer Martin Maheux. That Fafard is in the driver's seat is evident in the fact that even during Louis Côté's guitar solos, his bass is very much in evidence, grinding, thumping and thudding away like a madman possessed. In fact, there are times he plucks those bass strings so hard you swear he's going to pull them off. The picture shows he plays a conventionally sized bass (and having seen them live at NEARfest, the pictures don't lie), but the sound of it suggests it's the size of an upright... Fafard's style is a percussive style, which meshes well with Maheux on drums. It may sound like an easy comparison to make, but I hear a lot of Levin in Fafard. Eric St.-Jean rounds out the quartet on keyboards.

If viewed from a distance, there's a lot about Eponymus II that sounds the same from track to track. Certainly that seems true of the first half. Yes, if you were dig into each track, putting them under a microscope you'd find minute differences, but... then were talking the placement of a note here and there, an extra beat, a different balance between the instruments. Now, it's not just that "Sever The Seven" is reprised in "Sever The Seven - Revisited," either. But, some tracks stood out for me.

The dynamics of "The Lost Train" is really cool -- a steady beat is introduced (like the chugging of a train, naturally), then flurries of chaos dart in with Fafard fluttering fingers at his bass, Côté walking along the fretboard and etching out searing leads, chaos ensues, recedes, returns... And then the real drama begins... just about all hell breaks loose. Five minutes later, everything comes back to that beat... It's like the train went into a tunnel, some weird stuff happened, and came out the other side, seemingly as if nothing happened...but then there's a twist at the end. It's Stephen King set to music.

The album opens with the dark "Sever The Seven," which is an eight-minute adventure. The soundtrack to your nightmare, including (at the beginning) voices that you can't really make out (other than a voice shouting "Stop talking!"). Though there is a brief interlude where St. Jean gets to have his solo spotlight... we get as well screeching guitar pyrotechnics from Côté and snappy, fat bass from Fafard. Everyone once in a while I thought they'd break into a funky version of "The Theme From Mission: Impossible" (the series). After "Train," we get "Infinite Ammo" which seems to continue on where "Train" ended, though Fafard's fat, hard bass tone sounds like that used in the Seinfield theme music -- maybe he was watching TV while composing, I don't know. Actually, I find his over-the-top bass a little distracting. Not that I don't like bass, but it's just so very dominating...

"For The Trees Too," takes the rhythm that began "Train" and uses it again, mixing it up only slightly. Actually, it results in rather cool piece, Fafard lowering his bass in the mix for the most part, letting it darkly percolate while Côté takes the lead further out front. In fact, in the lower-key, jazzier section, Côté gets to really display his chops. The sound is so clear you can almost see his fingers moving over the fretboard...well, moving in a near blur, but moving nonetheless. St. Jean's keys, while not at the forefront, only add to the track, with Maheux drums grounding everything.

"The Alarm" stands out mainly for the titular car alarm that goes off. As annoying as it is to hear in the real world when the trigger has been a bird leaving a little gift on the hood say, it becomes annoying here, too. You have to hear it each time you play the album... minor quibble I suppose, but there it is. Otherwise the track does something quite different than the previous tracks... for a good 1 minute, Fafard bass is absent - leaving Maheux on drums and St. Jean on atmospheric keys. And then the alarm goes off. There is a point right towards the end where Côté solos, and one again expects a refrain from "Mission: Impossible."

"Glassosphere - Part II" mixes things up yet again, being a little lower key - after a dramatic, organ intro and crashing percussion, things subside. Côté plays an arpeggio (or maybe it's guest guitarist Matheiu Bouchard who is credited on this track), while St. Jean's keys are spacey (what you might have expected from a band called Spaced Out), swirling, undulating, twisting in on themselves. Imagine say Bozzio Levin Stevens with a synthesist... It does seem to get locked into a pattern it can't break out of, but the moment you think that, the dynamics shift and it does. Fafard's bass returns but much more subtly.

What I'll mention about the rumbling, growling "Jamosphere" is that Ronald Stewart guests on tenor sax, and Jean-Pierre Dodel guests on electric guitar. St. Jean's organ like tones give this track what might be termed a signature "prog" feel. Guitars shriek shrilly with and across each other, in some places too shrilly. (Oh shrilly?) But Stewart's sax is at one time warm and smooth at another honking. And because I love the sound of a good sax, I love it here. Given the shifting sounds and textures, this one really falls into the avant-garde realm.

Overall, it's a good album...you'll get over the fact that much of the first three or four tracks are "samey." There's room to grow, though, room to balance things out a bit for the following. But it's not bad for a sophomore effort. Haven't heard their first, so I can't say whether this improves upon it or not. I like it, and I'm sure there are those who point out to me "but what about when..." Again, I sound as one with a middling opinion. I recommend it, but it's not essential.


Tracklisting:
Sever The Seven (8:56) / The Lost Train (6:20) / Infinite Ammo (4:17) / For The Trees Too (4:17) / Trophallaxie (5:57) / Sever The Seven - Revisited (5:33) / The Alarm (3:58) / Glassosphere - Part II (5:31) / Jamosphere (7:50)

Musicians:
Antoine Fafard - bass, sound designing, keyboard sequencing
Martin Maheux - drums
Louis Côté - guitar
Éric St-Jean - keyboards

Guests:

Mathieu Bourchard - electric guitar
Ron Stewart - tenor sax
Michel Deslauriers - guitar, vocals
Jason Martin - voice

Discography:
Spaced Out (2000)
Eponymus II (2001)
Slow Gin (2003)
Unstable Matter (2006)
Live At The Crescendo Festival (2007)
Evolution (2008)

Live In 2000 (DVD) (2005)
Live At The Crescendo Festival (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin CA

Added: August 11th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.spacedoutmusic.com
Hits: 386
Language: english

  

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