Style: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 18 Mar 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | YouTube
I've been slammed with convention work and Phoenix Film Festival coverage over the past week and the soundtrack to a good part of that has been this album of instrumental prog rock from Brazilian trio Maybe. By this point, it has seeped into my bones and most of it still feels vibrant.
It starts really well, with a few neatly playful tracks that underline how the underlying feel here is seventies prog rock, even if the title of 88mph can't fail to conjure up the eighties instead. It's patient stuff and it's deceptively simple stuff too, given that nobody seems to want to be flash.
I came to realise that 88mph is kind of like someone writing a book in words of only one syllable. That would be easy to read but appear really basic and, in most hands, it would be. However, a clever writer can get across just as much meaning in words of one syllable as words of ten and 88mph demonstrates that Maybe know how to create a heck of a lot with, well, not a heck of a lot (there are only four instruments, played by three people). This feels like a song that should be taught in every music class.
Milazzo is much more complex but it took me a while to realise why it felt a little odd. Generally, it's remiscent of a Focus instrumental with phrasing that reminds of Genesis and King Crimson. It features a heavy organ behind guitarwork that's still patient but much more adventurous than anything on 88mph, while the bass is a very audible companion. And the reason it felt a little odd? The first ten seconds (reprised at the end of the song) sound like they're introducing a Mario Kart level. What felt odd is that I was using a keyboard not a game controller.
Jenga Sobre Gelatina is a good progression (pun not intended) from Milazzo, as it has a similar approach but with new tones, starting out rather funky and then adding Child in Time era Deep Purple. I love this middle section, with a vibrant guitar over achingly patient organ backing.
Compared to these three playful conversations between instruments, Corvette is a little more conventional, especially through the straightforward rock drums and the driving bass. It's like a jazz band decided they wanted to try a rock song for a change, although they couldn't resist mixing things up a little at points because it's who they are.
Maybe III (there's nothing like track names to underline that Focus influence) merges those two approaches into one. It's like that jazz band enjoyed their dalliance with rock conventions on Corvette so much that they decided to play with them some more, but within their usual framework.
So far, so fantastic. I've lost track of how many times I've run through this album but it's in the dozens by now and all five of these tracks are as fresh and as delightful now as they were on the first listen. The three musicians (Matias Villalba on guitar, Osiris Lescano on drums and Juan Alisiardi on bass and keyboards) are very talented individually but they come together joyously as a trio.
Unfortunately, up next is Club Glorias, which is the longest track and easily my least favourite, not because I don't like it but because it doesn't play in the same sandbox as the others and it feels rather notably out of place. It's a solo piano piece for three and a half minutes and it sounds rather like the soundtrack to a silent movie. That doesn't really change, even when the other instruments kick in, unless the experimental nature of the second half means a different silent movie.
I should emphasise that it's good stuff but it marks a pretty severe stylistic shift after a set of five tracks that play far more consistently together. Its second half gets a little closer, but it mostly sets the stage for Bubba Gump, the nine minute final track, which combines that approach with what we heard earlier.
I thoroughly enjoyed this attempt by three young gentlemen from Brazil to play in a musical style that was probably past its heyday by the time each of them was born. Sadly, their Bandcamp page suggests that this is "Maybe's debut and farewell album" because I definitely want more of this.