28 Sep 2021 - Knut
Progressive Rock/Jazz Rock/Punk/Psychedelia | Sentient Recordings | Release date: 24 Sep 2021
”If you listen carefully, we will prove our ability to transfer our thoughts to you.” A sampled voice begins the first full-length release from Los Angeles-based quartet Kesem that way. This concept album not only tells a story about leaving an uninhabitable Earth, it also transfers you back and forth between present time Progressive Hard Rock and to the early 70s Jazz-Rock and Psychedelia scene. It makes for an exhilarating listen.
Following the sampled voice on the first song, aptly named ”No Future, the preparation for leaving planet Earth starts and the listeners start the 40 minutes-long musical journey back and forth in time. The soundscape immediately transfers you to the beginning of the seventies when bands like Hawkwind, Gentle Giant and Yes ruled the Prog-Rock scene. The proggy music at the start of the album takes us fast forward to a tempo shift which brings us back to the present music-wise with a swirling organ. Now you spot how the deep bass licks and bass groove drives the music forward. The music becomes heavier and darker towards the end of the song with an inventive guitar solo over a deep bass and some dystopian cinematic synths reflecting the themes of this concept album.
As each member of this band also treats a couple or more instruments other than their main instrument, the listeners get treated to a myriad of sounds. The second song ”We will be ready” kicks off with a fast bass accompanied by the cymbals. After a few seconds a powerful trumpet transfers us once again back to the 70s, to bands like Chase and Blood, Sweat and Tears. But we are soon time-travelling back to the present day with hard hitting, almost Punk-like music with vocals over the fast riffs. There is a tempo shift initiated by Gong-esque psychedelic sounds before the song enters a slow and thoughtful pace. A very low-tuned bass guitar ends the song amidst sound effects together with some slow drumming.
The third song ”Let Go” indicates the departure from Earth, floating slowly through space. It is very soft, very relaxed and there is a beautiful piano melody playing among the bass, guitar and drums. It is like the travelers let out their breath as they have left the uninhabitable earth. The solo guitar hovers over the other instruments with a soothing melody before we are transferred back to that 70s music again as the guitar turns to a glissando sound for which Steve Hillage became famous. It is remarkably well done and keeps your attention rapt. The song ends the first part of the story with sound effects swirling around in space.
With the rest of the songs we are in space looking for a new place to live. The album´s second part begins with the song ”When The Stars Cave In” - a song which shifts between vigorous and floating elements with an organ that appears as a prominent instrument throughout the song, giving strong nods to the 70s giants Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, always accompanied by the ever-present bass leading the melody together with a heavy riffing guitar. We continue the journey with ”Headfirst into the Void” as it goes faster and faster. The guitar in the background is playing another mind blowing solo-part and more than one voice is joining in with the trumpet, before we are thrown into a Psychedelic soundscape once again.
We are treated with a short intermezzo by an acoustic guitar over synths in ”Starbirth” right before the next song ”The Tyrant”. This is a dark song, reflecting on what has happened, and reflecting living on an asteroid ready to explore and exploit more of the universe. This is heavy Progressive Rock and comes out more powerful with a prominent melody played on a grand piano. The next song ”Drifting Through Time” continues the modern heavy Progressive Rock lines with guitars swirling around in the soundscape. There are tempo shifts, heavy drumming, deep bass-lines and sound effects that emante an almost dizzying feel.
The last song, ” The Light From Distant Moons”, begins with synths and a Douglas Adams-like sample quote ”Planet Earth are about to be recycled, your only chance to survive or evacuate is to leave.”. The deep bass together with the drums leads up to the vocals soaring over the music and the glissando-like guitar in the background. Then there is a tempo shift leading to a heavy riff, faster and faster, the heavy guitar-line leading the way with strong sound-beams from the synths indicating warp speed. The band builds up a heavy crescendo paving the way for the trumpet that soon blends in with the soundscape before it all ends in a distant echo.
This is a stunning release from experienced musicians. It grows on you with every listen. There are so many layers perfectly laid out for you to explore while you reflect on the dystopian message behind the music. It clocks in at 40 minutes, but with all that is going on in Kesem´s soundscape it seems a lot longer. The band name means “magic” in Turkish, and magic it is. They magically transfer you back and forth between the 70s Psychedelic Progressive Rock and today’s diverse music scene, immersed in Progressive Metal and Punk.