REVIEW: PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS – “Prehensile Tales”
Within every community of music, there is a monarchy of respect and paid dues. For progressive rock, you have the Pink Floyd/King Crimson/Genesis tier that paved the way for generations, followed by the heavier 80s wave of experimentation and, frankly, blatant wizardry. Then there are bands like Spock’s Beard, who have a lot of similarities to their predecessors, utilizing both atmospheric synth and orchestral bursts. In July of 2019, three of their members joined forces with composer and keyboardist John Boegehold and released Pattern-Seeking Animals’ self-titled debut. Now, less than a year later, they have returned with ‘Prehensile Tales’.
First and foremost, this is an album that grows on you, with more to be discovered in each revolution. Specifically with lengthier tracks such as “Soon But Not Today”, but also lyrically in songs like “Here In My Autumn”, which essentially sounds like the contemplation of one’s own mortality. While the opening track, “Raining Hard In Heaven”, takes a while to get going, the 7/8 bassline and light ride work that kick in put a smile on my face and groove in my step. “Elegant Vampires” also contains some 7/8, this time in the form of an enchanting keyboard lick.
The most entertaining part of ‘Prehensile Tales’ is “Why Don’t We Run”. That statement in mind, the best way to describe it is that it was written for a Ricky Martin musical and covered by a prog band. Which means I love it. Complete with trumpet solo turned guitar wail, Latin percussion, and an echoing background chorus. And although I am not usually a huge fan of Leonard’s voice (or the general 80’s prog vocal style), I find that it lends itself well to this side of Pattern-Seeking Animals. The seventeen-minute “Lifeboat” also stands out. It has deeply catchy vocal and sax melodies, classic proggy keyboards, guitar solo, a steady bass pulse that sounds like Frankie Goes To Hollywood in the renaissance, muted trumpet, flute, cello… what more do you need? Oh, an eerie surfer riff that becomes big band ska with violin and an emotional twist? That would be the following track, so sit tight.
Pattern-Seeking Animals has an incredible way of creating fluid, articulate movements within individual songs, weaving multiple styles and an array of instruments into a classic progressive rock sound. Being a fan of Dave Meros’ bass playing for a while, it’s great to hear even the lowest lines coming through clearly. In fact, the entire album is balanced and crisp in a very natural-sounding way. Some of the epically sad sections I could do without, however, they do provide contrast to the intricately executed instrumentals. ’Prehensile Tales’ is quite the bottom-heavy record, but in these times of quarantine, everyone has time to sit and appreciate an hour’s worth of tunes. “Everyone on the lifeboat. The ship is going down.”