Parallel or 90 Degrees - "The Time Capsule"
(Cyclops 1998, CYCL074)
From Aural Innovations #7 (July 1999)
Here's another modern group whose intention it is to further blur the lines between progressive, psychedelic, and electronic music. Whereas most of us open-minded music fans will favor this approach, the danger is that militant prog purists might gasp at the ambient and trancey bits, and the lo-fi space punkers might balk at the thought of a perceived 'clean and sterile' sound. Oh well, their loss. Po90° is a fine band, and I think 'Time Capsule' is a little stronger than their 1997 release 'Afterlifecycle' (CYCL060).
The first two-thirds of the album are chalk full of quirky tunes that mix laid-back semi-acoustic passages with more energetic choruses that are sometimes dark and tension-building ("Encapsulated") and other times are uplifting and trancelike ("Unforgiving Skies"). "The Sea" is probably my favorite individual song, a more subtle dreamy piece not unlike Sky Cries Mary... perhaps the simplest tune even, but it works to sooth the inner soul. This spirit is continued in "Blues for Lear," though it turns a little 'loungey' and hence comes across a tad schmaltzy. "The Single" rounds out the individual tracks, an energetic but predictable tune, though I do admire the band's commitment to 'truth in advertising.'
The highlight of Time Capsule is the 22-minute title suite, made up of eight individual parts including reprises of motifs heard earlier in the album. My initial impression was cynical, given that 'side-long' epics can hardly be considered anything but formulaic by now. So in my mind, I challenged it to do something for me, and eventually it succeeded. The cool spaceborne rhythmic jam "The Sea Returns" made me perk up a bit, which was just the set-up for the excellent "Thousands of Suns, Myriads of Stars," growing slowly from ambient space with additions of bass and percussion, eventually leading to a final non-invasive trance rhythm outro. The following piece, appropriately titled "Piano Solo," brings forth the type of circular runs that Cyrille Verdeaux mastered on old Clearlight albums of the 70's. Another nice touch. All in all, this suite is everything that Fish's "Plague of Ghosts" *should* have been. His pairing with the remix duo Positive Light on that track just didn't succeed where Po90° has here.
Because the songs are generally well-written, and because the musicians and vocalist (Andy Tillison) are solid, you can't go wrong with Po90°. I'm certain that someone has already labeled the band, "Marillion meets Pink Floyd" at least once, so I don't feel responsible having quoted it. I know they happen to be fans of Porcupine Tree, and I might be persuaded to agree there are some similarities, but I do think Po90° have some original charm. Oh, perhaps 'The Time Capsule' has a few redundancies and would work better at 50 minutes rather than the full 72, but I still have yet to cut them off mid-verse.
You can visit Parallel or 90 Degrees at their web site.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson