Friday, July 17, 2009

Album of the Day (Special Edition)

Number Seven, by Phideaux (2009): LA-based collective Phideaux, led by the namesake composer/vocalist/pianist/guitarist Phideaux Xavier, sort of broke through in the prog scene with their 2007 release Doomsday Afternoon. The second part of a trilogy about an ecological apocalypse, the album generated a lot of buzz. I wasn’t immune from the hype, but was pleasantly surprised when the album lived up to it. Which is why I was really looking forward to hearing their new album. I’m equally happy to report that Number Seven is an excellent album that should keep the Phideaux buzz going for quite a while.

Oddly enough, Number Seven is not the final chapter in the Doomsday Afternoon trilogy (that’s still in the pipeline). Still, Number Seven shares a certain mood with that album (it’s subtitled "a post-Pythagorean presentation by Phideaux") and is a concept piece in its own right. The album’s 16 tracks are divided into three sections: Dormouse Ensnared, Dormouse Escapes, and Dormouse Enlightened. As you might guess, the story is about a character named Dormouse (who may, or may not, actually be a mouse – I can’t quite tell) who breaks free from a stifling closed minded world and learns to open his experiences. In spite of that being laid out in the liner notes, I’m not quite sure I “get it,” at this point, although the general vibe I get from it is along the lines of “the truth shall set you free, but not necessarily make you happy.”

So what of the music? In a lot of ways, it’s similar in style and quality to Doomsday Afternoon. The orchestral layers of that album are gone, though it spots you’d hardly know it thanks to some nice violin and keyboard work. Speaking of keyboard stuff, I love the lead synth sound sees primary duty here and on Doomsday Afternoon. It’s pleasantly distinctive. The music draws in influences from both the prog world and the realms that lie along its borders. The result is often not the most complex music in the world, but not a note is put wrong and it all adds up to something very rich and interesting. Believe me that the simple acoustic guitar and vocal “Darkness at Noon” and the long instrumental workout “The Love Theme from Number Seven” are battling it out for favorites in my mind’s ears. Speaking of vocals, the two main lead voices, one male (Xavier, I assume) one female (can’t tell), are excellent and distinctive.

The bottom line is that Phideaux have followed up a brilliant breakthrough with an equally satisfying listen. And, thankfully, there’s apparently more where that came from, as the liner note promise a 7 ½ and, of course, we still need the end of the trilogy. It’ll be a fun wait to see what they come up with.

Disclaimer: The band was nice enough to send me a copy of the album to review.

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