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Frame Shift

Unweaving the Rainbow

Review by Steve Alspach

I'm never sure where to classify albums like this - is it a concept album, a thematic album, or what? With Unweaving the Rainbow, Frameshift (or Henning Pauly, the guiding force on this project) uses as its springboard the work of Richard Dawkins, a scientist who has studied DNA while still maintaining his sense of wonder at it all. (I suppose this CD may come with a disclaimer warning in Georgia - "This CD is based on theory.") Henning Pauly, along with drummer Eddie Marvin, guitarist/bassist Nik Guadagnoli, and Dream Theater's James LaBrie, have put together a very considerable piece of work that tackles a dense subject.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Above the Grass - Part 1
This is a 43-second acoustic prelude that gets revisited at the end of the album.
The Gene Machine
In a rather abrupt change, the song gets off to a fast-paced start and mirrors LaBrie's home unit, Dream Theater.
Spiders
Funk meets power metal on this track. There are several good moments, such as the a cappella vocal passage and a well-placed guitar solo that burns while keeping a good sense of melody.
River Out of Eden
One of the softer tracks here, but not too soft. The backing synth adds a hypnotic arpeggio as the backing riff, and the song balances between acoustic piano leads and lead guitar.
Message from the Mountain
An intro like early-80s King Crimson starts this song, and short but nimble orchestral accompaniments appear throughout. Nik Guadagnoli's bass solo punctuates the proceedings. At 9:56 this is the longest song on the CD, and one of the tracks most influenced by the writings of Prof. Dawkins.
Your Eyes
Perhaps the most conventional song in structure, "Your Eyes" is acoustic-based and has a very catchy hook in the chorus, showing LaBrie's excellent vocal range.
La Mer
The softness continues on the start of this one with LaBrie accompanied primarily by a piano before unleashing itself at the end. One doesn't find too many songs about examining the origins of life in a shell found on the beach, but Prof. Dawkins was a neo-Darwinist, and the song keeps to that.
Nice Guys Finish First
This is a lively cut where drummer Marvin gets to show his considerable chops. The middle section offers a bit of a respite before going back to the chorus and LaBrie's multi-layered vocals.
Arms Races
A rather semi-gothic feel is the basis throughout this piece, but there are parts of bold metal strut here as well.
Origins and Miracles
This is a mid-tempo piece, quite a bit relaxed. There is a slightly jazzy feel in the break, and the lyrics give a nod to the "infinite number of monkeys" theory.
Off The Ground
A Hammond organ kicks this one off, and Frameshift kick into high gear. Though the song is a high-tempo rocker, the use of acoustic guitar and tambourine in the chorus take a little of the edge off the song.
Walking Through Genetic Space
Another restrained song here, and LaBrie's vocals, rich in harmonies, are the real driving force.
Cultural Genetics
Frameshift kick it back into high gear with crunch chords and staccato rhythmic backup.
Bats
We have another muscular rocker here, and LaBrie's growl is in full force. A soprano sax solo, courtesy of Steve Katsikas, adds a bit of a twist.
Above the Grass - Part 2
There is a majestic opening to this, like a grand march. The song, though, returns to the theme found at the beginning of the CD. There is some good acoustic guitar work. The composition is developed a bit more on this melodic theme.
 
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