Thank You Scientist - Terraformer - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Thank You Scientist - Terraformer

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2019-06-19
Thank You Scientist - Terraformer
Thank You Scientist - Terraformer

The sign should read: Caution! Dinosaur Crossing! (More about that later)

This is, quite frankly, expansive rock music. This band of seven serve up experimental sounds that include the usual menu of bass, drums, guitar, and vocalist; but they also employ trumpet, sax, violin, and then add sitar, bouzouki, shamisen, guzheng harp, plus the odd erhu into this strange brew.

The band say they play progressive rock, progressive metal, and jazz fusion. And they should know. But that’s like saying, sure, there’s life on Earth, perhaps there may have been a microbe (or three) on Mars, and just maybe there’s something swimming around in the waters of Titan, one of the moons of Saturn--and then not even mentioning the rest of the exploding and expanding universe. And, speaking of expansion, several songs on this album far exceed the eight-minute mark.

Although the group hails from New Jersey, the brief opening tune, “Wrinkle,” has Canterbury prog stamped all over its passport, with a sound not dissimilar from the stuttered melodies from late 70’s bands National Health and Hatfield and the North. And, quite frankly, the entire ethos of this band has that wonderfully eclectic and very eccentric English rock flavor. I mean, the band’s website includes pictures of their pets. (Gotta love them for that!) Not only that, but this rock band with horns and violin does echo the great sound of Canterbury’s finest, Caravan, with their hectic For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night album.

But then the album bursts with full prog beauty. “FXMLDR” (fans of X-Files take note!) ignites with William Blakean Glad Day joy. Vocalist Salvatore Marrano arrives with a tone pitched just a bit lower than (the brilliant) David Surkamp of Pavlov’s Dog. This song is, like good prog, a journey of sprints, drama, a quiet respite, an intense vocal, and wonderous violin and sax that both bleed and blend. “Swarm” gets rough and metal rocky. But, thankfully, it never grates like so many progressive metal bands. (Haken comes to mind.) Sure, the guitar, bass, and drums are a tough ride, but the vocals and jazzy touches sing to the heavens.  And “Son of a Serpent” glides, albeit in misty weather, with a low gear orbit. There’s a really nice jazzy guitar bit (by main man Tom Monda) that injects the song with humanity, while that Ben Karas’ violin still searches the stars.

“Birdwatching” is quiet and enchanting. It was inspired by a band member’s dog, Kimi, who likes “butt scratches.” (Once again, gotta love them for that!)

And my expert with all things jazz-fusion-prog, Mr Radue (aka Jazz Guy), really likes “Everyday Ghosts.” Yeah, the song erupts into an extended guitar solo that sort of boggles the brain. And its abrupt tempo changes attempt to match Greenwich time to the Deistic universal clock so as not to miss the latest tennis match on Alpha Cygrus IX.

Now, Me, I’m just a lawnmower (to quote Genesis), but I love the instrumental, “Chromology.” It bounces all over the solar system, fires on a burst of (wild) violin-sax-trumpet-guitar-engine room bass and drums fuel, and then sort of leaves gravity to its grave. Sure, this is prog jazzy guys showing their chops, but that’s all right every once in a while.

Truly, with 80 plus minutes, a review like this only briefly touches the wood and the many magical rings of this music.

Oh, about the Dinosaur Crossing Caution sign: this album is positive proof that multiple universes manage to co-exist, perhaps, in the very same space. This record superimposes the cosmos of jazz, rock, and metal into one unified moment. And years ago, while teaching my students about multiple universes (with at least one in which dinosaurs rule as the still dominate species) existing in complete communion with all other universes at the very same time and in the very same space, one lovely student spent her class time listening, and then drawing a Dinosaur Crossing sign that she pinned to my classroom door.

I still have that artwork.

And this record is like that cautionary sign because it juxtaposes so many different sounds, emanating from so many different universes, all at the very same time. As said, this is expansive rock music in which the past is always present, while everything else will always be an exciting prologue.

There are more songs. But they all continue in the same unexpected vein. “Geronimo” is acoustically pulsed. It’s also a lovely piece of music that gets urgent and dramatic. “Life of Vermin” wobbles, and is jazz-rock personified as it recalls the sound of the tenor sax and flute driven band If from the 70’s British scene. “Shatner’s Lament” is slow (and brief) laconic jazz. “Anchor” drifts with a spooky vibe and a really lovely melody, where, perhaps, previous songs soared. But the excitement of the tune still raises a Lazarus (or two) from the dead. Despite all the jazz-rock-fusion stuff, this band is very vocal orientated. The lengthy tunes usually frame a really nice melody.

And then “New Moon” drips with Eastern beauty. Wow! The song is a tender oasis, an acoustic eye in the storm that welcomes, with a really nice violin bit, the fire and ice intensity of the title track, “Terraformer.” This is prog deluxe. It’s tough prog deluxe, sort of like the fury of (the great) Gentle Giant and their Glass House album or the rushed jumble of Yes’s Relayer.  Weird harmony is, indeed, a very strange creature.

This album is also a very strange creature. So, gamble a bit on a batch of songs by (in their own words), “a bunch of weirdos” who are “making music for weirdos who still care about weird music.” And then roll with a few punches because the universe throws its punches, and great music boxes (with fisticuffs!) in very strange melodic time. So, yeah, approach with caution, because rock music dances here with jazzy violin, sax, and trumpet, and dinosaurs cross the very modern path of this music that still echoes with the sonic roar that still, even after all these years, is deserving of a very beautiful Caution! Dinosaur Crossing sign.

The poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “So instead of getting to Heaven, at last--I’m going, all along.”

This album does just that.

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I thank Bill G for turning me on to this group! Thank You Scientist is an amazing group of musicians creating exciting, wonderful music! This new album sounds awesome! I can't wait to get my hands on the CD! TYS's earlier work is also...

I thank Bill G for turning me on to this group! Thank You Scientist is an amazing group of musicians creating exciting, wonderful music! This new album sounds awesome! I can't wait to get my hands on the CD! TYS's earlier work is also outstanding! Great review, Bill!

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