Prog-surf? Sure, why not? In many ways, the now almost dead style known as surf music indeed had attributes of proto-progrock: jams, unorthodox rhythms, wild leads, out-of-the-box compositions, and so on. Leave it to a buncha young cats to chance upon the style and adapt it to their own unorthodox means. Perhaps the most striking element in it all is the very happy presence of a great unknown 70s prog band produced by ELP's Greg Lake: Spontaneous Combustion. I doubt these guys knew of them—critics my own age don't, not even prog aficionados—but that elder ensemble was stripped down and sparkling and so are these gents. Moreover, From's compositions were written in their senior year in high school, recorded just after.
A trio (Daniel Woods on guitars, Sean Johnson behind the percussion, and Daniel McLeod on bass and vocals), these guys have spent a goodly while grooming their chops and it shows. The cuts mutate between ripping rock, expansive prog, period surf, and clowny Ween / Primus goofing. As a vocalist, McLeod leaves a lot to be desired; on the other hand, the group vocals are cool, frisky and energetic. McLeod's bass work revs itself up into pulsing, speedstering, and enthusiastic jags quite often, a necessity alongside the Keith Moon-ish drums of Johnson and the crunchy melodics of Woods' guitar work.
The trio did its own mastering, so there's a definite garage element present, most glaringly shown in the drum miking, but the atmosphere isn't inappropriate, keeping things raw just as much of that small 60s surf movement had. The California Guitar Trio, Robert Fripp's baby in many ways, became enamored of the style but From takes things a good ways further out than they did, with tumbling progressions and atmospheric jazz asides. The damnedest thing, though, is that one can hear the same refrains that made this mode a companion to the rock, folk, psychedelia, and flower power of decades gone by.
The ensemble has now changed into The Vaudevillians and the pre-release EP-CD I've heard is extremely promising, an extension of the above into art-damage, prime 70s a la early Trapeze (1st LP), and flowery pop psychedelia...arresting and signatory of what may well be a much-needed new entity in the California adjunct of progressive music.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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