Friday, March 16, 2007

Music Review: Free

Writing an album review is a departure for me. I guess the music I like hits me in ways that are so personal and subjective that I find it difficult to express my opinions about it in any meaningful way. But I'll make an exception in this case. Because it's that good.

That band is called Office of Strategic Influence, or O.S.I. for short. It approximates one of those supergroups that coalesce every so often, following what I would call "electronic prog." Consisting of Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) and Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, former Dream Theater), the band's latest album Free also recruited the talents of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) and Joey Vera (Fates Warning).

This album is far from an exercise in virtuosity. Its genius lies in its composition - made of thick layers of unique electronica, alternately subdued and driving percussion, and brooding vocals. Throw in some dashes of heavy guitar and strong melody, and a masterpiece is born.

In nearly every song, there are so many elements, tones and voices to hear that it's a real pleasure to experience how they all fit together. One of the strongest pieces, however is the completely stripped down song "Our Town," which relies solely on vocals and a variety of guitars (including a banjo).

Okay, so this is about the lamest review in the world, which is probably why I rarely do reviews. Free is best heard with some high-definition headphones, but it's compelling even through car speakers.

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