Independent release, 2014

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Whether one is attracted to the music of Seattle’s Gumshen or not, it certainly cannot be denied that this music is at least interesting. And the reason couldn’t be more succinctly and literally expressed than in title of the group’s seventh release Progtronica: the amalgamation of classic prog rock and electronica is the foundation of Gumshen’s music. Now if a band was to carry this combination out correctly, then the outcome could be something amazing. But if they do not, then the music will at least sound unique and different. Although Progtronica has all the attributes of the former, it sadly is closer to the latter.

It is only the prog rock moments of Progtronica where Gumshen shines and excels. For instance, on the eight-minute long “Fragile We Are Castles,” the band plunges into a very fine instrumental jam session right from the outset for six whole minutes, sounding like a resurrected ‘70s prog rock outfit. Similarly on “Bell Ringer,” the band goes into another great retro instrumental jam trip during the final three-and-half minutes, starting with an almost Emerson Lake & Palmer-like synth solo, followed by a guitar solo that carries the song to its finale. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And it’s not just the prog rock influences that spawn the best songs on Progtronica. The folky “Fine One To Talk” is the one anomaly where the band deviates from the prog/electronica formula, but ends up creating a pretty good song; it starts off almost like a simple folksy number, and very smoothly and beautifully transitions into a psychedelic space-rock dream.

However, on one hand, where Gumshen gets the “prog rock” part of Progtronica right, on the other, it is the “electronica” part where the band doesn’t quite hit the mark. The most obvious culprit is “Bait & Switch” with its grating synth noises and annoyingly comical song structure. It seems like the band here is trying to mimic Devo or someone similar, but they end up making a total fool of themselves in the process.On “Stipulation,” the group tries its hand at electro pop, but ends up making a mere dull pop song out of it, apart from the one-minute electro instrumental jam towards the end, which concludes the otherwise bland track on a high note.

“Liquid,” which is one of the best cuts here, is the only exception in the collection of unexceptional electro-leaning tracks on this album. But even this song, alongwith the rest of Progtronica, including the other album highlights­ – “Fine One To Talk,” “Bell Ringer,” and “Fragile We Are Castles” – have a rather anemic sound. And this is probably the main reason why this album isn’t as good as it should be. The production is rather dull, and the energy in the music doesn’t really get translated into the final product, even on some of the excellent jams; all in all, this makes what could’ve been a pretty good album just a mediocre one.

Rating: C

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