Lobate Scarp, You Have It All (Indiegogo/Bandcamp) ★★★★★ A+ 10/10
What kind of band would you get if you combined Keith Emerson on keyboards, Steve Hackett on guitar, Chris Squire on bass, Neil Peart on drums, and Robby Steinhardt on violin? That’s the best way I can try and communicate to you what the sound of Lobate Scarp is like. But don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean to suggest that Lobate Scarp is simply a pastiche of familiar sounds from ELP, Genesis, Yes, Rush, and Kansas. Not at all. What I mean is that the sound of Lobate Scarp is like some impossible dream come true.
As if it burst forth from the dream world of their cover art, Lobate Scarp does indeed have their very own unique sound. That’s the wondrous fact now firmly established by You Have It All, their second full-length album. It is a truly magnificent achievement. It instantly secures You Have It All a permanent place in the celestial upper echelon where my all-time favorite records rotate in eternal bliss.
Back in 2012, Lobate Scarp’s first CD, Time and Space, contained exquisite intimations of greatness. I am forever grateful to Adam Sears himself for boldly going where no band had gone before and introducing his work to me. I was simply floored. This band was offering something new: yes, their own sound; and who cares about fashion, we always want bravely epic prog with unlimited daring. Helmed by Adam’s visionary hand, that courageous debut album also hinted at a future greatness, because right away there was debate about the merits of the CD on this site. That’s a small clue a band just may be very special.
That kind of debate does not happen for a band that is a mere copycat nostalgia act trying to replay the glories of the era of the birth of prog. No, a band with their own sound, and doing something new and interesting, will inevitably provoke different and polarizing responses. First, Progarchy published a negative assessment, and then a positive assessment. Finally, I tried to break the deadlock at Progarchy, by myself declaring the album one of the very best albums of the year.
Over the years, I was delighted to learn of the band being quietly at work, with an occasional burst of beautiful light in 2016 and 2019. And now the patient work of a decade has come to fruition. You Have It All is an apt title for an album of such staggering ambition that actually and successfully attains all the moonshots it takes.
The first thing that has to be said about this record is just how good it sounds. It is absolutely one of the best sounding audio experiences of my life. Steven Leavitt and Rich Mouser and Michael Bernard have all done amazing work with this CD and created an audio paradise. The production and engineering investment of talent that has been lovingly poured into this record is indisputable in every note. Every penny that was crowdfunded has been spent to dazzling effect.
The startlingly immediate surround-sound of the drum kit on every track is a marvel to behold, whether it is special guest drummer Eric Moore (of Suicidal Tendencies, and Infectious Grooves) on the two epic tracks “You Have It All” (14:31) and “Flowing Through the Change” (17:25), or Jimmy Keegan (of Spock’s Beard, and Pattern Seeking Animals) or Mike Gerbrandt on the other tracks. And the various guitar tones will have you doing double takes… who is that? Is Steve Hackett on this album, or what??? And Adam Sears can be likened to Keith Emerson for his uncompromising pursuit of sound for the sake of glorious sound.
Usually, Lobate Scarp is Adam Sears (vocals/ keys), Andy Catt (bass), Peter Matuchniak (guitar), Evan Michael Hart (drums), and Christina Burbano-Jeffrey (violin), as when they performed most recently at RoSFest in April in Sarasota, Florida. But the impressive parade of studio musicians appearing on the CD recording is a testament to Lobate Scarp’s unrelenting pursuit of excellence by any means necessary. I have the impression that they will record and re-record, and collaborate and re-collaborate, again and again, in any permutation and combination of talents, regular or extraordinary, as they pursue the perfect sound and the perfect record. And gosh darn it, their diligence of a decade has paid off mightily with this release.
You Have It All has the effect of a typical Yes album on me, in that it unfailingly elevates my spirit and transforms my mood for the better just by listening. This is no small musical miracle. Yes is a band prized as rare on this earth for just that reason. Operating in that same prog tradition of making intimate contact with the listener, Lobate Scarp uses their magic power to do what only the rarest of musicians have the power to do.
As far as I can discern the story tying the album together, it goes something like this. The hero of the story is Everyman, so let’s call him Adam, since that is what the word Adam means. Adam is jamming with his prog band on “Conduit,” the opening instrumental track, with his band endlessly practicing in pursuit of perfection. But people think Prog Adam is crazy for loving to spend his precious time practicing prog music like this. This instrumental: It’s so long! Over five minutes long and there aren’t even any lyrics yet! The people are criticizing Prog Adam for his super-proggy instrumental. So, he replies in track two, telling them there is “Nothing Wrong” with his life. He’s doing what he wants to do. But just telling the haters to stop it is not enough. Prog Adam therefore goes in search of spiritual sustenance, looking for a spiritual “Life-Line” on the next track, as sustenance for his prog, and finding it. With this spiritual enlightenment attained, Prog Adam goes back to his band, and then they communicate the spiritual enlightenment by expressing its lesson in the epic track, “You Have It All.” Jon Davison even makes a guest appearance on this track, making a cameo as the voice of the universe that teaches Prog Adam what he needed to learn, so that he is then able to communicate it with the epic musical power of “You Have It All” (14:31). End of Part One.
Part Two begins with “Beautiful Light,” with Prog Adam viewing the universe on a daily basis through the mystical lens he learned about in Part One. But then, with “Test Tube Universe,” Prog Adam, either back in his day job as a scientist, or simply by making an analogy on the basis of considering a scientist in his lab, considers the thought that maybe the universe is just like an experiment that, although beautiful and supportive to us (see Part One’s lesson), does not really matter to its creator. But then in “Flowing Through the Change” (17:25), Prog Adam makes spiritual contact with the transcendent creative force behind the universe and taps into its deepest essence: namely, love. This final spiritual awakening to the fullness of love is foreshadowed with “In the Night I” and “In the Night II” which are threaded between the earlier tracks on the album, since “In the Night III” is the second movement within “Flowing Through the Change,” wherein Prog Adam sees the face of God, and thereby finds his way to the path of love.
If all this sounds a bit woo to you, what can I say except that, I’m probably making this all up, or else, if you listen to the music, it will make you into a believer in prog and love and light, and so on. The radiant power of the music on this album magically transforms whatever it comes into contact with. Unless your heart is made of stone. Or, maybe even then, too; that’s how good this music is.
So, what are you waiting for, Bandcamp Friday? It’s already here! You Have It All has everything you need.
Reviewed by C.S. Morrissey for Progarchy.com