Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Between the Planets - Parallel World (2021)

Country: Czech Republic
Style: Post-Rock/Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 18 Sep 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Here's another submission from the Czech Republic and it's an easy one to fall into because it's an immersive listen. Between the Planets is a solo project for multi-instrumentalist Martin Spacosh Perina, with a few studio guests here and there and an expanded line-up when playing live. This is Perina's third album under the name and, even though it features guest vocals on three tracks, I keep thinking of it as an instrumental album. Part of that is that only one of those three features lyrics; the others use the voice of Bara Liskova entirely as an instrument.

The majority of it is Perina doing interesting things with his guitar against a variety of backdrops also conjured up by Perina. None of the instruments in play sound unusual to me, though I should emphasise that keyboards are definitely one of them, sometimes the most prominent one, so this isn't a post-rock album in the strictest sense. The Twin Paradox is a fantastic soundscape, one that conjures up comparisons to seventies Krautrock, but I don't think there are any instruments on it except synths, so this is definitely not a band emulating that sound with guitar, bass and drums.

The most obvious way that Krautrock doesn't fit the whole album is that one of the guitar sounds that Perina is fond of is a modern djenty palm muting sound. I've never been much of a djent fan, but that's mostly because I think it's a limited style that works as a form of rhythm but not as the default sound for riffs. It works here, because Perina acknowledges its limitations and uses it as a rhythmic element for the drums to improvise around and a soloing guitar to soar over.

I bring this up specifically because Perina's influences include a lot of djent bands, including the genre's progenitor, Meshuggah. However, while I can hear bands like Meshuggah, Tesseract and Animals as Leaders in Perina's broader palette, this album doesn't really sound like any of them, making any comparison to them a little misleading. It's more post-rock than it is post-metal, I think.

For instance, the djent sound comes into play on the first track, Metamorphosis, but it's not there all the time and there's a lot more going on even when it shows up. It's used on Time Dilation as a sort of punctuation to the flow of musical language. By the time we get to the title track and hear the violoncello of Karel Zdarsky, we've almost forgotten that there was djent here. It's just one of a number of ingredients in this musical stew and it's noticeable in some bites but not in others.

I like the title track a lot, partly because it's so introspective but still enticing and partly because of the sounds that it conjures up. That violoncello is one, plaintive and haunting, but there's what sounds like a muted electronic xylophone too and some interesting drum beats as well. I'd call The Twin Paradox my favourite piece of music here, but it's very short at only a couple of minutes and this is a lot more substantial and has more of a growth arc.

The song with lyrics is Hungry Eyes, at the very heart of the album, and it stands out because we'd got used to instrumental exploration and words just weren't part of that picture. The guest singer here is Martin Schuster from the prog metal band Mindwork, who are also in Prague and who also sent me their new release for review, an EP called Cortex back in January. He's versatile here, in a couple of different clean voices and a harsh one, each matched by Perina's music. He also provides a guitar solo and his bandmate Filip Kittnar contributed to the drums throughout and is also one member of Perina's live version of Between the Planets.

The most obvious other guest is Sam Vallen of the Australian alt prog band Caligula's Horse, who lends his considerable guitar talents to Sleepwalking and Waves of Consciousness, shining on the latter with a searing solo. There's a distant voice behind the music on this one that I presume is a sample, but it's deep enough that I can't understand it; it just adds to the progressive nature of the material. The one downside to the album is the use of static early in this song and also on the closer, Distortion of Reality. I presume this is there to add texture, but I wasn't fond of it at all. Fortunately, it's a rare and minor intrusion.

It's good to hear more music from Prague, especially music that connects to music I've reviewed at Apocalypse Later before but sounds very different. Thanks, Martin!

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