isobar - Isobar - 2020

albumcover

    

“... an interresting mix of musical styles ...”

intro

Isobar is a progressive rock band based in San Jose, California. The basis of the band is formed by three members of the band Metaphor, which released four critically acclaimed prog albums (Starfooted - 2000, Entertaining Thanatos - 2004, The Sparrow - 2007, The Pearl - 2019). You can find a review of Metaphor's debut album Starfooted here on progVisions. Isobar's self-titled debut album is comprised of all-instrumental, intricately crafted songs, covering a wide range of musical territory. Overall the album has a mix of progressive rock and jazz fusion atmospheres.


line-up

Jim Anderson - bass; Malcolm Smith - guitars; Marc Spooner - keyboards with Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, White Willow, Molesome, and others.) - drums . Featuring: Evan Weiss - trumpet [2, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13]; Ben Bohorquez - saxophone [2, 6, 8, 10, 13]; Lonnie Cory - trumpet [4, 5, 7]; Tony Abena - saxophone [4, 5, 7]


review

The album "Isobar" consists out of thirteen pieces with a length between 3 and 9 minutes each. The first track is called "Weekend of Mammals" and this is one of the tracks that has a strong prog vibe with nice melodic guitar and keyboard work. And do I hear a little Gentle Giant reference on keyboards? A fine opener of this album. "Control Mouse" is one of the many tracks with guest performances on trumpet and saxophone. So you expect a more jazz-fusion influenced sound but surprisingly there is a little tribute to the debut album of the band UK on this track. In "Major Matt Mason" the bass part has an important role and is supported by the typical drums of Mattias Olsson. Besides this and the guitar parts, this track is keyboard dominant. You will find lush organ and Mellotron parts in this uptempo track with interesting rhythm signatures. "Off the A6" is one of my favourite tracks. It has great diversity and although it has a little bit of experimental character the end has some great melodies. You can find this combination of complex and melodic parts also in the next track "Dinky Planet". And all this while Olsson is doing his thing on the drums. Sometimes you think "what is he doing" but in the end all make sense. Great track with a beautiful ending. "Mais Daze" and "New Math" are two short uptempo tracks. "Mais Daze" has a more jazz fusion vibe and "New Math" has great drum work and nice guitar and keyboard melodies. This one is the better one of the two for prog lovers. "79 cents" has after an intriguing opening again some jazz influences by the use of that trumpet and saxophone. It is an interesting choice for a "prog" band. Love the keyboards and keyboard orchestration of the next track "Dinner Ain't Ready". Marc Spooner is showing off his excellent skills on this fine track. Another favourite track of mine. The interplay of guitar and keys is great. "Elves are Go!" opens with tasteful Mellotron strings which are followed by uptempo jazzy guitar parts. In the end, the wonderful keyboard melodies are returning. I have a few mixed feelings about this. The middle section is more like another song to me. Maybe I say this because I love that first part so much. In the next composition "A.P. Alchemy" which is the longest track (9:22) of the album, the band has more time to develop this kind of diversity. There is even a slow trumpet solo in this song. After all the shorter uptempo tracks this song is a welcome rest point for me. After the first part with some classical influences, the band comes with some nice melodies. The song has great diversity and has for me some Yes influenced structures. Those are followed by that jazzy and slow trumpet solo. Those references to the prog bands of the seventies are delicate so the music that Isobar is making on this album stays original. The short track "The Uncanny" opens mysteriously and develops into a slow piece in where the angular guitar parts are placed opposite to the melodic keyboard parts. The album closes with the title track "Isobar". Also in this song the trumpet and saxaphone are present. Slowly the track becomes more complex and more jazzy oriented. Like in the first track some of the keyboard parts does think me slightly of Gentle Giant. So the circle is round.


conclusion

The self titled debut album of Isobar is an all-intrumental album with two faces. You can find some great often keyboard oriented prog music on this fine album. Just listen to the opener "Weekend Of Mammals". But on the other side there are a lot of jazz and jazz fusion influences. I like the delicate tributes to the prog bands of the seventies. For instance in the second track "Control Mouse". You can find also great drumwork from Mattias Olsson on this album ("Major Matt Mason" and "Dinky Planet"). Further highlights for me are the tracks "Off the A6", "Dinner Ain't Ready" and "A.P. Alchemy". Isobar stands for an interresting mix of musical styles. 


author - date - rating - label

Douwe Fledderus - July 2021 -  - Independent Release