In case you hadn’t noticed, the last quarter of 2018 has put paid to any perceived drought of new releases & reissues. Capsule reviews of what I’ve been listening to since the first of this month follow the jump; albums are reviewed in descending order on my Personal Proggyness Perception (PPP) scale, scored from 0 to 10.
It took me a few listens before I truly found my way into Vector, the new studio offering from Haken.
And then I realized:
It’s the musical blot!
Genesis pun intended. Allow me to explain…
I was really looking forward to this album, because as I listened to L-1VE, their brilliant live album from earlier this year, I became convinced that, with Rush now retired, it is Haken that reigns supreme.
Haken’s ability to play with such complexity and virtuosity live, in such a compelling and spirited way, embodies that living “spirit of radio” that Rush had been able to offer live for so many decades.
L-1VE reminded me of Exit… Stage Left, in that it was a perfect overview of the band’s career, as well as definitive proof of their being today’s live band without equal.
At any rate, I was baffled by Vector at first, because initially it didn’t seem to be musically or lyrically coherent.
But the breakthrough came for me when I read the Man of Much Metal’s review of it, wherein he put forth the thesis that Vector is “an understated and clever homage to every single previous incarnation of the band within the music.”
In illustration of this thesis, he averred that Affinity can be heard within “The Good Doctor,” The Mountain within “Puzzle Box,” Aquarius within “Veil,” and Visions within “Host.”
This immediately rang true for me, as I realized each song indeed marked a “vector,” or definite trajectory, in fact audible in previous manifestations of the band.
In my mind, I added my own perception of the teleological spirit of Restoration in “A Cell Divides,” and of the jaw-dropping response induced by L-1VE (with its dazzling live display of unmatched technical musical ability) in the instrumental “Nil by Mouth.”
While the Vector album, on the one hand, thus didn’t have the overall coherent feel that comes from a spatio-temporally undivided live performance (which is what the career overview of L-1VE records), on the other hand, its fragmentary studio snapshots of discretely engineered musical styles did supply quantum musical “blots” of a Haken offered via a more scattershot distribution.
Thus, like the “ink blot” on the cover, you can see the Haken you want to see, if only you look more closely.
As for what Haken is overall, who knows; it is as if the band is saying, “It is up to you to perceive it; we are not going to decide it in advance, to fit some marketing categories or any other reductive schema.”
Look within the music, and you will see what is there.
And as I understand the point of this exercise, it is not so much “to project your own meaning” onto the music, but rather to be an active participant in the music itself, along with Haken.
Just as they themselves won’t reduce the musical experience in advance, so too do they invite you not to insist in advance that your musical experience be able to be put in a nice and neat little box.
So, instead they have given us quite the little puzzle box on Vector.
I believe I have solved it.
Not a musical box, but a most satisfying musical ink blot.