The Extreme Pleasure of Listening to Days Between Stations

days between stations

2013 has already shaped up to be one of the most bountiful years ever for prog. Consider a few of the outstanding albums that have already been released: Big Big Train’s English Electric 2, Cosmograf’s The Man Left In Space, Bruce Soord/Jonas Renkse’s The Wisdom Of Crowds, KingBathmat’s Overcoming the Monster, Sanguine Hum’s The Weight of the World, Sound of Contact’s Dimensionaut. Add to that list Days Between Stations’ In Extremis, which has taken up permanent residence in my home CD player and my iPod.

Days Between Stations, based in Los Angeles,  is Oscar Fuentes Bills (keyboards) and Sepand Samzadeh (guitars). In Extremis is only their second release, but it possesses the maturity and excellence of a far more experienced group. Their 2007 self-titled debut consists of five extended instrumentals with some wordless vocals (plus two “intermissions” of sampled conversations), and is top-notch prog in its own right. The opening track, Requiem for the Living, begins with a beautiful yet mournful theme on synths and piano, which eventually develops into a slide guitar workout that would do David Gilmour proud. According to Samzadeh, it was inspired by Gorecki’s Third Symphony, also known as his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The album concludes with the epic Laudanum, which never loses focus or power over the course of its 22 minutes. It includes ambient textures, jazz fusion, and, of course, lots of prog guitar!

While Bills and Samzadeh were ably assisted on their first album by Jeremy Castillo (guitars), Jon Mattox (drums), and Vivi Rama (bass), for In Extremis, they have taken things to an entirely new level. Billy Sherwood (Yes) is sharing production duties with Bills and Samzadeh, Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, and many others) is on Stick and bass, Colin Moulding (XTC) lends his voice to a song, and Rick Wakeman (Yes, etc.) contributes some mellotron and minimoog. In a fitting way, the late Peter Banks (Yes, guitar) adds his magic to several songs. As a matter of fact, these are Banks’ last recorded performances.

In Extremis begins with a massive fanfare featuring the Angel City Orchestra that becomes the overture for the album. The most obvious difference with this set of songs is that we now have vocalists singing lyrics! Billy Sherwood sings in the Floydian VisionaryEggshell Man, and the title track. Thematically, the lyrics convey the loss and regret of someone near the end of his life:

There’s no replacing what’s been left behind

There’s no returning to that place and time

In sight were all the distant horizons

In flight were all the dreams alive

(From Visionary)

A high point is Colin Moulding’s marvelous vocals on the wry pop of The Man Who Died Two Times. Set to an irresistible, bouncy ’80s vibe, Moulding sings of

All the angels cried

For the man who died two times

And they wiped away tears of laughter

And helped him survive

Going station to station

Always ready to revive

Next up is a touching string quartet piece dedicated to Peter Banks, which is followed by the crowning glory of the entire album, Eggshell Man. It features a delicate accoustic guitar intro with gorgeous vocals by Sherwood and a mellotron flute solo by Wakeman. It soon picks up speed and intensity, including a section with some Middle Eastern flair. The tempo ebbs and flows over the course of twelve minutes, Wakeman has a terrific minimoog solo, Levin is rock-solid on bass, and Sherwood sings of “best laid plans” and empires returning to dust. It’s one of the finest songs released this year.

Believe it or not, there is still the title track to come, and it’s a monster, clocking in at 21:37. In Extremis is a requiem for a man (the Eggshell Man?) who realizes too late the brevity and preciousness of life:

Images upon the screen

Recanting all the memories

From the first breath

To the last goodbye

Dust dancing on beams of light

Most groups would give anything to achieve a track like In Extremis. Days Between Stations pulls it off with ease, and manages to precede it with seven other tracks that are its equal.

There have been some extraordinary releases in prog music this year, and Days Between Stations’ In Extremis is near the top of the heap. This is an album not to be missed.

Here’s the official trailer:

15 thoughts on “The Extreme Pleasure of Listening to Days Between Stations

  1. eheter

    Great review, Tad – and you are not kidding about 2013 being a bountiful year for prog. I am having a wonderful time not keeping up with it all!

    Like

  2. John Deasey

    Listening to the opening track now – ‘No Cause for Alarm’ – blimey, it;s good. This is as good a scene setter and an opening track as ‘Evening Star’ from The Underfall Yard – goodness me, it’s that good ……

    Like

      1. John Deasey

        Thad
        I’ve shared this album with several of my Prog friends on Twitter today – all of them are blown away by it, as I am. A definite contender for Album of the Year.
        If not for your review this would have been yet another one slipping under the radar.
        Thanks !!

        Like

  3. Tobbe Janson

    Fine review Thad!! I really like this album too! It’s in my book in a totally different league compared to their debut! And you describe its merits perfectly! 2012 and 2013 are the best years since 1972-1974 progwise!!

    Like

  4. John Deasey

    Thad
    This is simply stupendous ……. how these guys manage to pull it off I don’t know.
    I hear Big Big Train influences as well, or is that the Genesis influence, or is it them just being bloody brilliant.
    Who cares ?!

    Like

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