Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sound Of Contact - Dimensionaut

Sound Of Contact
Dimensionaut
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Being the son of a world famous musician can’t be easy. For most, it’s a double edged sword. And a perfect example of this is the case of Simon Collins – the son of former Genesis/Brand X front man/drummer and solo artist Phil Collins. Despite three solid solo albums to his name, Simon Collins has always been referred to as the ‘son of Phil Collins’, which more often than not tarnished his music output, regardless of how good it is. In other words, it’s hard for many to put aside their preconceptions and judge Simon Collin’s work on its own merits.
So with that in mind, I looked into Sound Of Contact’s debut effort without knowing anything about the group. But to my complete surprise, I found that the Collins (Who provides vocals and drums) was indeed associated with the said group, and alongside the likes of Matt Dorsey (Who was a member of Dead Mechanical and a member of Collins solo band, and who provides guitar, bass and backing vocals), Kelly Nordstrom (Who’s played with Sass Jordan and Toni Childs, and performs guitar and bass here) and Dave Kerzner (Who played alongside ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, and provides keyboards and backing vocals to this project), have released their debut effort ‘Dimensionaut’. And in short - after giving the album a thorough listen, Collins has clearly made an attempt to reinvent himself as a progressive rock artist that has a voice of his own.
The band get their conceptual album off to a start with a short piece titled ‘Sound Of Contact’, which is essentially is a mix of sound effects, piano, orchestration and some mesmerising harmony vocals from Collins himself. In a lot of ways, the song strongly reminds me of Porcupine Tree at their best, and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s just a shame the song barely breaks the two minute mark.
Next up is ‘Cosmic Distance Ladder’, which is an instrumental track that allows the band to show off their progressive tendencies to full extent. Not surprisingly, Collins’ drum work brings to mind some of his father’s work on the classic ‘Duke’ album (Which was released by Genesis way back in 1980), but the song is anything but a clone. Outside the drumming, the rest of the band give the band their own sound, which is along the lines of modern progressive rock in the vein of Porcupine Tree, Spock’s Beard and Dream Theater, albeit without sounding exclusively like any one of those mentioned.
Collins doesn’t officially step out into the limelight until the third track ‘Pale Blue Dot’. And it’s on this track where comparisons to his father are unmistakable. But while Collins may sound like his father, he does have a slightly deeper and rougher edge to his vocals. Song wise, there’s no denying the pop edge to the composition, but there’s also an underlying progressive edge to the track, which means that on the surface it’s melodic and catchy, but complex and edgy at its core.
‘I Am (Dimensionaut)’ may start off in ballad form, but it soon transforms into one of the album’s real gems. Collins sounds great on this track, and the way the song moves progressively into heavier and darker territory only showcases the depth of song writing within the band. Sounding a bit Marillion-like in the middle section of the song, and wrapped in heartfelt choruses that are as clever as they are memorable, ‘I Am (Dimensionaut)’ is a truly stunning effort, and a personal favourite in the early part of the album.
‘Not Coming Down’, the first single from the album, is perhaps the most straightforward sounding track on the album, but still features enough twists and turns to keep things interesting for progressive rock fans, while the Beatles tinged ‘Remote View’ adds a touch of ‘60’s psychedelic pop edge to the band’s core progressive rock sound.
Initially, I wasn’t all that keen on ‘Beyond Illumination’ with its synthesised/reggae influenced introduction, but I was eventually won over with Collins’ captivating soaring choruses and the guest vocal appearance from Hannah Stobart. The same could be said for the follow up track ‘Only Breathing Out’ too. But once the song actually kicks in beyond the ballad like introduction, Collins shows that he can write some great melodies, and the band can more than match with some great instrumental work creating the perfect mood and setting, albeit with a progressive edge.
The brief instrumental piece ‘Realm Of In-Organic Beings’ (Which sounds like a mix of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ and Genesis’ ‘The Waiting Room’) is little more than a filler piece that’s interesting, but hardly my favourite on the album. But the same can’t be said for ‘Closer To You’, which is another personal favourite. Sounding very much like a lost IQ track, ‘Closer To You’ is a beautifully crafted mid-paced ballad that boasts some excellent melodies from Collins. Again, his vocals bring to mind those of his father’s, but back when he really was at his best (I’m thinking around ‘Duke’ once more).
‘Omega Point’ marks a return to the progressive side of the band’s sound, with the lengthy track focussing more on intricate musicianship alongside Collins’ melodic choruses. But the real star of the latter half of the album is the near twenty minute closer ‘Möbius Slip’. And it’s here on this track that the band really gets to show the listener what they’re truly capable of within the progressive rock sound. The track is broken up into four parts, with the slow building instrumental piece ‘In The Difference Engine’ leading the charge. Moving with constant ebb and flow, this first part is full of atmospherics and intricate instrumentation, and a fitting introduction to the second part ‘Perihelion Continuum’. Taking on a bit more of a Pink Floyd meets Porcupine Tree feel, this part is somewhat different in style for the band (Particularly the very Led Zeppelin sounding drums in part), but it works exceedingly well. The third part ‘Salvation Found’ is an instrumental section that’s decidedly heavier and more guitar and drum dominated (Kind of Dream Theater in places), and is finished up with ‘All Worlds All Times’ – which again is a mix of everything the band are capable of stylistically crammed into one grand finale.
Overall, ‘Dimensionaut’ is a hugely satisfying album. Part progressive rock and part pop, Sound Of Contact has a wide and varied sound. But what’s really important is the band’s ability to craft songs.
If you overlook the whole ‘son of a famous musician’ cliché, and judge Sound Of Contact’s debut effort ‘Dimensionaut’ on its own merits, it’s not hard to conclude that the band not only have their own sound, but a very bright future ahead of them.

For more information on Sound Of Contact, check out - http://www.soundofcontact.com/

© Justin Donnelly