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Aisles

The Yearning

Review by Gary Hill

I just now discovered this album, the debut release from Chilean band Aisles. It was released in 2005, and while I don’t really remember what the mass of discs to come out that year were, I am willing to bet that if I had heard this CD then it would have made my top picks for the year. Yes, that’s how strong this album is! Prog purists should really enjoy this because it’s well rooted in the progressive rock of the 1970’s (and some early Marillion). I hear a lot of classic Genesis here, but also make out a lot of that Marillion sound and the occasional burst of UK and other acts. All I can say is that it’s a shame I didn’t find out about this one when it was first released. I’m in love with this disc!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Wharf That Holds His Vessel
A keyboard texture starts this one off. As the guitars and other instrumentation enter the tone is very much in line with vintage Genesis. This mode holds the track for a time before they shift it out into something more akin to UK or ELP. A stuttering, guitar driven mode takes it from there as they move this extended instrumental introduction along. At about the two-minute mark this crescendos and then drops to atmospheric sounds. Hints of melody emerge gradually rising up from this cavernous sounding arena. Then a dramatic balladic sound, still quite a bit like early Genesis, takes over. This runs through for a short time, then they shift out into a new melodic segment, still with those Genesis leanings to herald the first vocals. I’m reminded of Fish era Marillion quite a bit on this segment. They pull this through a series of intensifications. It drops back to sedate and works through with a segment that’s simply full of emotion – and again feels a lot like old Genesis. This moves upward, this time through symphonic texturing and becomes quite lush and even more emotionally powerful. This moves through a series of changes and reworkings, but the general musical textures and evocative qualities remain. It moves out eventually into another new mode that again has that early Genesis feeling written all over it. They turn it toward more energized sounds, but still hold true to their inspirations. Next up is another shift towards the more sedate. As they move out from there the keyboards take a solo that feels a lot like something Keith Emerson would have put together. Then they traverse into a guitar solo section before dropping back to a playful melody. This then gives way to a soaring, triumphant sounding swirling segment that’s again quite in the vein of Marillion. Still not content to remain in one place for too long they move this out into a series of changes and reworkings. This eventually gives way to more atmospheric keyboards that eventually end the piece. At nearly eleven and a half minute in length this mini epic is one heck of a ride.
Uncertain Lights
This is a much shorter and less dynamic piece. At around four minutes in length this beautiful balladic number also calls to mind early Genesis quite a bit, but I also hear influences from as far away as Simon and Garfunkel. Rather restful, but still emotional and potent, this serves as a nice breather after the powerhouse that preceded it.
Clouds Motion
Sound effects start this, but as the guitar and keyboard textures enter it’s obvious that we’re about to get another dose of the same flavor of progressive rock as we’ve heard all along. They move through the energized introduction then drop to a piano dominated piano section for the first vocals. As they move this forward it really calls to mind the first UK album to me quite a bit. They move through a series of ups and downs and create some wonderful musical moments. After the work this path through for about all the mileage they can pull from it they drop it back to more sedate and mysterious sounds for the next set of vocals and begin building it back upward in a new (but still quite Genesis-like) sound. This runs through, then ends and more atmosphere replaces it. Then a short keyboard solo segment takes over from there and the whole band join back in with another killer musical exploration. Eventually guitar lines take over and the group move this through in another new movement. They drop it back down for more vocals and then proceed through another powered up segment. Eventually this morphs out into a bouncy sort of portion. More variations on this theme are introduced before they eventually drop it back to atmosphere that leads to the sounds of the wind to end the cut.
The Rise of the White Sun
More sedate, atmospheric sounds that feel like Genesis start this. As they move out from there, though, this time we get a sort of bouncing, pop sound for the first vocals. As this segment finishes, they move the cut back out into more Marillion-like music – in a powered up mode. Then they drop the intensity back down for the next vocal segment and seem to work toward merging these sounds together in an ever-changing tapestry of related sounds. The resolution segment, with the nearly catchy and extremely uplifting chorus is pure wonderment. It eventually drops back to exceptionally mellow territory after this point, and that sound finally ends the track.
The Shrill Voice
The introduction on this track is both incredibly catchy and quite odd. The off-kilter riff that presents the central themes is brilliant, but they interpose it with these odd falling away segments. Mind you, this works really well, it’s just rather disorienting at first. They move out from there into more of the mellow sounds that the band create throughout the disc. Then, after some sung vocals, a spoken recitation takes over. This runs through for a while then the music drops away to be replaced by a climbing guitar part. As this builds up with vocals and other layers over the top it becomes quite powerful. There is a dark and mysterious element to this jam, but also beauty and majesty. They move through a series of changes before a short choppy segment ends the track abruptly.
The Scarce Light Bulb
More melodic balladic tones begin this and serve as the backdrop for the early vocals. They eventually ramp up the intensity without really altering the musical themes. Then it moves out into an acoustic guitar based instrumental section and then a new musical theme emerges for a time. This only lives for a short period, though and the group return with more mellow tones, these calling to mind some of the more sedate Yes resolution segments to me. After this works through for a time they bring in more drama and musical changes through another instrumental segment before they drop it back to piano and voice for another gentle verse. Eventually this works up into another powerful and beautiful section, this one again calling to mind Yes quite a bit. As they continue on their path of reinventing and reworking their sounds a number of changes ensue, but all of them are extremely passionate and beautiful.
Grey
At nearly 17 minutes this epic is by far the longest cut on the disc. Piano begins in with an intricate and beautiful solo. Then the group launch out into a rather crunchy turn of events that is quite effective, but also quite short lived. They drop it back to more mellow Genesis/Marillion-like sounds. Once again, this serves as a launch point for a number of powerful changes and segments. They work through sedate visions and more soaring concepts, all within the length of this dynamic piece of music. This is without question the most dynamic and inspiring piece on the album. There are a couple things that really showcase what makes this band great on this. First, no matter how much they change and reinvent the musical themes the track never ceases to feel whole or organic. Secondly, they never seem to lose the human element in flashy, but unnecessary jamming. These two aspects show that the band have a talent for creating complex and challenging compositions, but the honesty and humility to keep those creations grounded and accessible. There aren’t a lot of progressive rock bands that achieve both of those as well as Aisles – and the ones that do are among the greats (Yes and Genesis are the first two that come to my mind). I would liken this track to a long trip taken on foot. While the scenery never changes dramatically all at once, if you look over your shoulder and remember the point where you began you realize just how much distance you have crossed. You also notice just how different your surroundings really are. Isn’t that type of journey what the best progressive rock really does for you?
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