Review: Time and Space, by Lobate Scarp
Over 50 musicians were involved in this progressive space-opera rock extravaganza. Guitars, Drums, Synths, Organs, Trumpets, Saxophone, Viola, Violin, Cello, Theremin, Glockenspiel, and a Latin singing choir were all recorded on this one. Peru Percussionist Alex Acuña (Weather Report) appears as a special guest percussionist and Rich Mouser (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Tears For Fears) mixed and mastered the album.
Imagine having that many people involved and managing to keep things together! There sure is a lot going on in this album but whether that’s for better or worse is in the ear of the beholder. I think the decision to use so many instruments worked some of the time, but sometimes not so much.
The eponymous 15-minute opening track is a great example of a surfeit of variety. It opens with a moody cello, which adds some nice gravity (hur hur, space rock, geddit?) and eventually leaps, Latin-esque into what reminds me of V-era Spocks Beard. Brass, congas, funky! Soon the instrument tally is rapidly increasing, and past the 9 minute mark I actually lose count. Most of it works well but a few choices are somewhat jarring to my delicate ear. Sometimes less is more and…well…more is too much. But it’s still a great opening track. Could it have been a bit shorter? Yes, they could have brought things to a close at the 9-ish minute mark after the wonderful soaring synths, and as most of the instrumentation super-sizing seems to be post-9 minutes I’m not sure the track would have lost much if they had chopped it off then. Anyway it’s still a very strong opener.
And this is where things get a little disappointing. Between tracks 2 and 6 the album has too much of a recurring “Ooh baby I love you and miss you” theme, disguised with some proggy flourishes. Granted, many of those flourishes are pretty nice – symphonic, melodic, blood-pumping (you name it, they have it – and of course they certainly have the instrument inventory to pull it off…) but it leaves me with an overall feeling that there is nothing lyrical I could enjoy. Lyrics-wise, I’m of the opinion that too much of the same thing soon becomes stale, especially when it comes to the ‘L’ word. As I am sure William Holden would tell you, were he able to speak any more, “Love is a many-splendoured thing,” (although he would omit the ‘u’ but I am English I so will spell it properly,) and maybe I’m sounding like a 9-year-old, but when every song is about luuuurve things get a bit…well…icky. This sort of thing (at least this sort of thing when repeated 5 tracks in a row) doesn’t float my boat. I look for higher themes in my prog, or at least lower themes dressed in frills. Or subtle clothing. The raiment on display here is neither spandex-clad and expensive-looking nor sufficiently-subtle and heartstring-tugging for my personal adulation. It has pop music lyrics. The astronaut (assuming that’s what he is) sounds like he should have failed his NASA psych evaluation.
So that’s quite disappointing for an album that started off pretty well.
And then the last track comes along, and I’m bemused once again. It has a great, atmospheric opening, and is really interesting to listen to. There’s some great guitar work, a full choir, and it nicely builds the momentum, eventually returning to some of the themes from the opening track. It’s a great way to end the album. It’s as if all of the banality of the middle 5 tracks didn’t happen. Damn!
In short, Time and Space is an album bookended by great tracks, but the middle is, for me at least, too weak to justify a purchase.
And if you are wondering about the band’s name:
Lobate scarps are widely distributed over Mercury and consist of sinuous to arcuate scarps that transect preexisting plains and craters. They are most convincingly interpreted as thrust faults, indicating a period of global compression. The lobate scarps typically transect smooth plains materials (early Calorian age) on the floors of craters, but post-Caloris craters are superposed on them. These observations suggest that lobate-scarp formation was confined to a relatively narrow interval of time, beginning in the late pre-Tolstojan period and ending in the middle to late Calorian Period. In addition to scarps, wrinkle ridges occur in the smooth plains materials. These ridges probably were formed by local to regional surface compression caused by lithospheric loading by dense stacks of volcanic lavas, as suggested for those of the lunar maria.