Reviews

Linear Sphere

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Aug 20, 2012    l   By Jan-Mikael Erakare

Manvantara

Jan-Mikael’s EARS: Linear Sphere: ‘Manvantara’

Evaluation:

Linear Sphere's latest record, Manvantara adroitly continues in the tradition of  the Mahavishnu Orchestra in blazing a trail across the barren wasteland of what is considered fusion...

Analysis:

Ability, Vision, Execution…finding one’s Voice

Linear Sphere ably demonstrated their musical prowess on their debut, ‘Reality Dysfunction’ (reviewed on Abstract Logix in '06); ‘Manvantara’ does nothing to dispel the notion that these guys are seriously gifted musicians, capable of genre-bending, ear-twisting, gut-wrenching extrapolation and sublime musicality…

Martin Goulding shoulders the mantle as sole guitarist (Charlie Griffiths left amicably prior to commencing recording, but left an indelible compositional mark on half of the tunes), thereby creating an opportunity for hyper-acuity in the layering of parts…often the loss of a 2nd guitarist eliminates a strong sense of divisi; this is not the case here; delineation of parts reveals that Goulding’s arranging acumen and the technical complexities of the 1st album are undiminished, if not accentuated…the guitar-work on ‘Manvantara’ is nothing short of spectacular…

Bassist Steve Woodcock provides a solid foundation while spinning complex counterpoints, cleanly-executed ostinatos, and ubiquitous beds of Chapman Stick…his impeccable finger-style technique coupled with  orchestral sensibilities keeps the bottom end out of the morass…

Nick Lowczowski propels the music forwards, underpinning the abundant odd-meter effortlessly with deft footwork, melodic cymbal-work, artful rhythmic displacement and attention to groove…he has developed a musical vocabulary devoid of metal-cliches, which he uses to stunning effect throughout the disc, transcending comparisons to any other than the titans of modern fusion…

Keyboards are again provided by Jamie Brooks, and his contributions cannot be undervalued, particularly in light of the absence of a 2nd guitarist; he uses different textures and sounds very effectively, providing cohesion to the softly-dissonant ‘har-melodic’ intersections which occur as a result of the voicings chosen for chords throughout the arrangements…

Vision is the lens through which Ability is focused…without it, technicality, either in performance or in structure, can only hold attention captive briefly; with the scope that Vision encompasses, Ability can be utilized to present a clearly defined picture of the intent of not only the music and lyrics, but the concept…in my review of ‘Reality Dysfunction’ this was an area where I lauded Linear Sphere… ‘Manvantara’ carries that Vision further, distilling arcane concepts into a heady stentorian soliloquy…

Proverbs 29:18a…”Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

Execution can only be accomplished through determination, both to complete the project and to remain true to the Vision… The level of commitment necessary to write, rehearse and record material of this caliber cannot be understated…without drive, this music would exist only in the composer’s imagination…with it, a Real Reality, cleanly Executed

Linear Sphere have done what the vast majority of bands cannot or won’t do: they have stayed true to their Vision; ultimately though, the Ability, Vision and Execution must be in service of the voice; that is, the message and how it is delivered…

My review of ‘Reality Dysfunction’ pointed out that Jos Geron’s vocals, while integral to the overall concept, might have been a watershed for some listeners…nevertheless, my contention was that his delivery and style suited the music and actually prevented the overall message of the music from being obfuscated…

The vocals on ‘Manvantara’ are the crux of its success, not from a commercial standpoint necessarily, but as the arbiter of the fierce contest between marketability and adherence to the completeness of the Vision…

Jos Geron succeeds completely in advancing the Vision of the lyrics, music and overall concept behind ‘Manvantara’. This is what sets Linear Sphere apart from any other band touting itself as “progressive”. He utilizes his range extremely effectively, including the stylized vocal delivery from ‘Reality Dysfunction’, and provides a focal point for each song, articulating the emotions, both visceral and poignant, through elegiac turns of phrase, vitriolic remonstrations and melodic approaches only hinted at on the 1st record…

Rating: **

Summary:

**How does one assign a rating to a piece of work so grand in scope and thorough in execution without sounding cavalier? The danger with music that exists outside the mainstream is that it will be labelled unfairly, or worse, inaccurately as a result of words that fail to convey a sense of the majesty of the whole concept…

Despite the incongruity with the ‘metal’ ethos, I strongly advocate listening to this album at low volume…the mix holds many surprises which manifest themselves most effectively at softer level, lifting the record from the mire of modern metal through its sophisticated arrangements and beautifully wrought orchestrations…if the only experience one has with 'Manvantara' is visceral, the listener is bereft of a glorious experience where the arrangements support the vocal delivery in rendering the lyric clearly and elegantly in a non-confrontational manner…

By all means turn it up too…

‘Manvantara’ offers up aggressive, complex material, couched in superb songwriting, dense but uncluttered arrangements, bolstered by a vital and compelling vocal performance…unlike those alluded to in the first paragraph, who display verisimilitude, or a semblance of truth, Linear Sphere exudes veracity from every note and word…


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