Back in the Jurassic, when the Lizard King walked the Earth and Psychedelic Jimi was broadcasting from Mars, we who were then in our happily misspent youth not only enjoyed the well-publicized leonine bands of the time, but those of us who were heart and soul eternally searching for new wrinkles in the rock motif waxed ecstatic when running across the great lost groups like T2, Clear Blue Sky, Byzantium, Spontaneous Combustion, Stray Dog, and a host of ear candy now apparently eclipsed in heart and soul. Um, but I did say "apparently", didn't I? I did, and with good reason: this band is one of a far too small klatsch of ensembles bringing the exhiliration, power, and creativity back with blinding clarity and breathtaking innovation.
Liquid Jungle is a wonderland of prog, jam, driving rock, and a strikingly subtle twist on funk, rescuing the little-practiced form back to an evolution somewhat in the vein of Mother's Finest crossed with Sly & the Family Stone and the way-short prime of the Funkadelics but by no means stuck in it, the shading being but one of many in their arsenal. Perhaps, purely in uniqueness, Liquid Jungle's closest relative might be Izz, but even that would be drawing difficult comparisons. This quartet makes an astonishing amount of music for just four lads, all carefully crafted and arranged, insistent and muscular while smooth and seductive, boasting melodic narrative lines that few contemporaries are able to approach. Graham Yoder dominates in an oft dense guitar dripping with bone and sinew, breaking off into cosmic leads once the headlong rush is established, but drummer Jason Monseur is likewise a powerhouse, a master of the traps and unafraid to rip through dizzying patterns and ornamentation, reminiscent of Billy Cobham and ilk. Josh Yoder wields a subtle bass somewhat in the vein of Porcupine Tree's Colin Edwards, opting for colorative and emotionally intelligent rhythms while the keyboardist, Zack Varner, expands the canvases in hues and atmospheres, also taking unusual leads when called upon. Beware, though, as Zack and Graham play more than one axe, trading off to bulk up the interplay, with Varner's sax recalling Van Der Graaf Generator and other heavies.
Those who favor what Satriani and a few others are doing in terms of tone and timbre will find much here that's neglected elsewhere. The band shifts flavors frequently while subordinating everything to an architecture that works brilliantly through its many permutations. 14 cuts occupy 70 long minutes and not a second is wasted, every measure fascinating. With so-called neoprog fading and groups like Ohm, Mars Volta, the aforementioned Izz, and other cutting edge players moving back in, talent and erudition re-enter the arena, and it's more than obvious Liquid Jungle has been woodshedding like crazy, honing up while getting down. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what made the greats great: Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, et al. They spent long hours at their craft, emerging formidably to take the music world by storm. That lesson was not lost here.
Another killer adjunct is the presence of multi-vocals delivered in the great elder Euro fashion, wringing ever more harmonics from each cut. To mention a single song for any of the cited attributes would be a mistake; one must listen as though to a new Trespass or Nursery Cryme (both by Genesis), sinking deeply into the tableaux, surrendering to a webwork of complicated plots, variations, and exaltations. Only then can the entire work be properly appreciated in its full strength. Be prepared for a presentation filmic in descriptives, primal in energies, evolved in cerebral contemplations, and monstrously engaging in every nook and cranny of its many byways and avenues. Work like this hasn't been common since the 70s but this is exactly what will rescue the hallowed genre of progressive rock from its own ennui and self-satisfactions. Arise, dinosaurs, and rejoice, the hatchlings have remembered the future and a renaissance is on the way! There is so much on this disc that it would take pages to properly catalogue it all; suffice to say that you will listen goggle-eyed and blissed.
Oh, and anyone who mentions Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson in their gratitudes is already a mile ahead of the game. One begins to understand why these guys are overachievers.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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