Iako Bei, Pursuits in 1ife, 2018,
Tracks: We’re Building Our Own Monument (5:58), A Way To Oppose (3:52), Living In Fear (4:54), Pilgrim In Doubt (5:33), Missing Colours (8:57), Fake (The New Kind Of Beauty) (4:36), Don’t Give Up That Dream (4:48), Cortex Labyrinthus (14:50)
Slovakia’s Iako Bei takes a unique and somewhat gutsy approach in making a rock album: they completely abandon the guitar in favor of a saxophone. Listening to Pursuits in 1ife, you’d never miss the guitar. The songs are well crafted, the bass lines provide a needed crunch, and the saxophone adds that gentle soothing touch that I’ve always appreciated in the bands that make use of the instrument.
While the band is a five-piece group comprising a saxophonist, bassist/lead singer, keyboardist, drummer, and backing vocalist, it is primarily the project of bassist and singer Roman Jakobej. The instrumental sections really stand out. The arrangements are interesting, and the saxophone really soars in these sections. Because it can be such a loud instrument, it naturally has to take more of a back seat when Roman is singing, even though it does remain present. Nevertheless, the interplay between the saxophone, bass, and drums is particularly strong during instrumental passages.
Even though there is no electric guitar present, the different effects used on the bass guitar create a really unique sound that fills in for the guitar at points, particularly on “Missing Colours.” The piano work on that song also adds a nice touch. Even though the saxophone largely replaces the guitar throughout the album, the bass shines on this song. This track is particularly melancholic, and the bass contributes to that. When the saxophone finally comes in, it compounds that feeling. It really draws everything together.
Lyrically, the band fits in with many European bands’ recent call to action regarding the direction western societies are headed. This is more Marillion’s Fear than Andy Tillison’s “A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road.” The opening track acts as a call for all of us to wake up and see what our society has become. The band sees arrogance, selfishness, and greed as driving forces of destruction. Indeed, the band precisely identify our society’s main ills in the lyric “Flames of lust and flames of greed” in the opening song.
Overall I hear no glaring weaknesses in this project. It is a solid album that takes a unique approach at rock music. Definitely check this group out. The band excel musically and lyrically, and the songs are well-crafted.