What? Not Dark Yet? Oh, I don't know about that! Nathan Parker Smith's Large Ensemble starts off their CD with Mega leading into Interstellar Radiation Field and if you don't get knocked into the recesses of your living room couch, back beneath the cushions and under the floor when the King Crimsony / Magmic horns, wild drums, and thundering arrangements make your woofers and tweeters jump through the suddenly fraying cloth frontage, then you probably put on an Edu Lobo CD by mistake, 'cause this rambunctious 16-man sonic army takes no prisoners. You're going to be dancing with dark, stomping, demoniac abandon, eyes blazing and mouth grinning, as the concept cycle proceeds on this boggling debut work.
No, neither Smith nor anyone else claims the concept formula for this date, but I'm telling you from a tried and true prog heart that this is instrumental bliss in the hoary old one-thing-leads-to-another mode narratively all of a piece. You won't be able to stop after just a few cuts, will be glued to the stereo until the dying moments of the last movement, Carrington Super Flare, echoes back from Orion and the Oort clouds, and…oh geez, I just noticed! The drummer is Jared Schonig, who put in such a dynamic performance in Chris Biesterfield's Phineas (here). Well, hell, that explains a lot too. Schonig's a powerhouse, a percussionistic thinker par excellence, and Smith displays rare insight having grabbed the dude for the skinswork. I'm talking top level jazz/prog/avant/neo work, y'all, the which you'll find few, if any, will top: Christian Vander, Daniel Denis, David Kerman level, maniacal but, God, so beautifully calculated!
Fog Over East gives us a breather, an incidentalistically ambient cut slowly working up horn and melodic coherences, as though a dark starchild waking, reaching to the skies but doomed to a Faustian enthrallment, Prometheus glowering, horns aquiver. The 13-piece woodwinds / trumpets / trombones section is tight and dense as hell, pervading almost every micron of the charts, from which squalling, screaming, tintinnabulating solos fly off into space and bounce satellites out of their orbits, make spacewalkers run for cover, Martians heading back to the much safer dead planet. Smith, if I'm reading rightly here, doesn't play a damn thing but composes all his 'heavy metal jazz' as though a master of all the axes, a sonic blacksmith who knows how to pound the anvil for all its worth.
2015 has only just begun, yet there's no way on Earth this CDs gonna be outdone, and if FAME weren't closing down, Not Dark Yet would grab a prime slot on my Year's Best Of come December. That, however, won't much matter, 'cause my 'compeers' over in the prog sites are gonna loose their minds over this cat, and if he doesn't appear on at least 30 Top O' The Mind-Pops lists, then I'm calling a jihad. Fellow inkslingers, you've been warned. Get my back or watch your own.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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