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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Album Review - The Gabriel Construct - Interior City

Sitting here on a swelteringly hot British-summer afternoon, watching the world pass by and having your face gently tickled by a summer breeze should be the perfect time to take in a high-concept album such as The Gabriel Construct's Interior City. Yet for every beautifully layered synth adding to the ambiance, there's an off-sounding vocal or an instrumental interjection that conjures a feeling of confusion, instead of anything more grandiose or worthwhile.

City is a concept album; the brainchild of avante-garde mastermind Gabriel Lucas Riccio, a man of Devin Townsend-esque effervescent qualities, but seemingly without the self-awareness. Whereas Townsend can go from sprawling, expansive, trance-inducingly beautiful tracks such as 'Ki' or 'Ghost', through to refined anthemic soul-stirrers like 'Where We Belong' or 'Addicted!', his personality always shone through as a man so full of charisma he could twang an elastic band for 2 hours and there'd be some artistic merit.

Here the average track length is around 7 minutes, and with three breaking the 10 minute mark, Gabriel Construct are in no way writing accessible tunes. In fact like Anathema's sumptuously gorgeous 'Weather Systems' from last year, the idea was to write musical 'experiences' more than sticking to particular structures or established genre tropes.
Tracks like 'Languishing in Lower Chakras' feature almost ten minutes of incoherence, including long stretches of crickets at night, and a man repeatedly shouting 'get me out of here!'. Whilst you could insist that it's contributing to the overall 'feel' of the album as an experience, it has to be said it's allowances for such things that really hammer home the notion that Riccio lacks refinement in his approach to these ideas.

However the end result is an album that does grow on you if you're willing to invest the time in it, as progressive bands like Anathema and Opeth always reward those who attentively listen to each and every track multiple times, making sure it's only a select few who truly 'get it'.
As is also usually the case with experimental music such as this, a song can live and die by its lyrics, having no other discernible 'hooks' to fall back on. As Subway Dwellers nears it's climax, the protagonist in our story is questioning the life he finds himself in, and with an extended section focussing on this plight, you'd expect to be moved by what you're hearing.
However with lyrics as stayed as "Why should we be trapped by our making?/ Why should we let this happen?/Why should we stand back and let this happen?/Who's idea was all of this?/Someone tell me/Tell me please", it only prompts sighs instead of contemplation.

The production throughout is stellar, and the musicianship extremely solid, yet there's a certain something lacking in Riccio's more intense deliveries. When Anathema's Cavanagh brothers sing about losing someone or struggling to find yourself on the likes of 'The Beginning of the End', or 'Untouchable (Part 1)', there's an immediate bond you form through hearing someone verbalise tearing their heart out. Whilst closer 'Curing Somatization' is the most Townsendian of the album, it still conjures up the notion that every idea Riccio came up with has been crammed into each song, instead of being more carefully thought out, removing a lot of the intense fire that fuels the aforementioned artists.

There are moments on Interior City where the orchestrated backing, piano-led rhythms and overlong segments tie up into something truly memorable as on 'Retreat Underground', yet they are few and far between. This leads to an overall feeling of an artist BURSTING with wondrous ideas that must be told, yet at the same time needs to be somewhat controlled.
An external producer is what's needed to throw away the incongruous bursts of instrumentation that break an otherwise solid song, and tie the entire project together with a stronger focus.
The world's most luxurious galleries must first be entered to be fully admired, and with a few more miles travelled, Riccio and his esoteric approach to songwriting would surely have no problem letting people in.

Recommended track:
Retreat Underground

Check out The Gabriel Construct out over at their official site or grab Interior City on iTunes over here.

S.T \m/