So I’ve got my hands on a copy of the latest The Resonance Association album, Return from Dreaming. Having been friends with the band for a few years now, and with that being full disclosure of my relationship with them, I’ve decided to review their album. So, here goes.
The first track, Signal Lost, is very different from their usual stuff, being a piano intro. Not normally the instrument that you associate with TRA, Signal Lost is a rather interesting introduction to the newest album, definitely signifying a change from the usual guitar and synths that have marked previous albums. It’s highly reminiscent of Steven Wilson’s piano work during Insurgentes, or potentially more akin to some Faunts work, if Faunts actually used piano in their songs. As an opening track, it’s highly experimental from the band.
The next track, Silver Falls, opens with more piano and some additional textures, and if I’m being honest, I had to check to see if I’d downloaded the correct album at first. This was quickly replaced by what I can only really describe as a haunting bassline which plunges into a fuzzy textured soundscape that is very akin to old TRA stuff. But on a much sinister scale than before, and with added piano. The song then branches out to synths which are fairly similar to some Storm Corrosion-esque layers, before dipping fully into Steven Wilson-style keyboards, and then returning to TRA’s signature soaring guitar, for lack of a better term, and then ending with the piano again.
The third song, New Theories in Astronomy, starts with samples and bouncy synths very akin to We Still Have The Stars-era synths, which seems to be a nice throwback to the old-style music that TRA used to make, before returning to a funky bass and theremin that mingles well with the samples. This then goes to a prog rock hybrid mixed with chillout guitar breakdown section that could have potentially come from These Hopeful Machines by BT, based on how chilled out it is. Drums add a gentle counterpoint to the song before it all fades out to a single guitar and keyboard playing counterpoint melodies and gradually fading out. Definitely one of the standout tracks of the album for me.
Recursor is very Storm Corrosion-esque for me. There are parts of it which also remind me of latter Opeth, which is no surprise given that one half of Storm Corrosion is Mikael Akerfeldt. It’s probably the darkest and most haunting song on the album as the piano kicks in again, which continues on with its haunting theme with a driving guitar solo that is very similar sonically to early Porcupine Tree, mixed with some early Oasis in terms of guitar tone. This may sound like a bizarre mix, but it actually works surprisingly well. This is probably my favourite track off the album, as strange as that may be for some.
The fifth track, Space Race, carries on the darkened theme and feels like a very claustrophobic song. Multiple dense layers of noise, synths and drums combine to provide a pounding track that could easily be in a horror film set in the winter, with guitar also joining in after a while. A keyboard solo section does break up the feel slightly, and does let the track down a bit, but it does return to form after it ends and wailing guitar picks up in its absence. Sadly, the keyboard does return and it does feel out of place on this track in this reviewers opinion, so it’ll be interesting to see if this track works live, assuming it ever does get played live.
The epic track of the album, An Exit to Stars (We Are) is a bit of a strange beast. On the one hand, it doesn’t sound like it’s actually all that long, despite being nearly eighteen minutes long. On the other hand, compared to previous epic tracks by TRA, it doesn’t sound like it belongs in the same category as them. Starting out with ambient textures, it starts to add layers here and there, such as slow, pulsing drums and a winding synth which may potentially be a theremin that’s been disguised under different effects, before the ubiquitous piano makes another return and the song changes style abruptly, dropping a lot of the layers in favour of minimalist piano and drums and a single background layer. This is why I say it doesn’t feel like it’s nearly eighteen minutes long, as it feels like smaller songs that blend well into each other, as there’s no overarching recurring theme to the song. The piano also doesn’t work well here, which I’m sad to report, as I’d enjoyed the piano in other TRA songs, but it’s well worth praising them for stepping out of their comfort zone and trying new instruments.
The piano fades out, to be replaced by menacing synths and the song takes on a darker feel to it as more layers are added, before fading out completely to a wintery synth sound. Considering that I’m listening to this in December, this is making a surprisingly good winter soundtrack, providing a great texture to the imagination. The wintery synths are then slowly layered with guitar, before adding in more of the menacing synths and some drums that sound like they should be building up to an epic conclusion. Unfortunately, the song kind of loses its way and never does deliver on an epic conclusion, which is slightly frustrating to say the least.
The final track, Return from Dreaming, doesn’t feel like an ending track to start with. Starting with the usual slow synth and ambient build up that this album features, it does build up more and more as the track progresses, adding in duelling guitars that wind around each other and do sound suitably spacy, as well as drums that drive the song along. Just over halfway through the song, it does change tempo and does start sounding like it’s building up to an epic climax, and it does actually succeed at this with screaming guitars and blistering drums crashing into abrupt ambience to mark the close of the track.
Overall, this is a fairly experimental album. It’s got some cheeky nods and throwbacks to previous efforts We Still Have The Stars and Clarity in Darkness at times, and there are some excellent standout tracks, as well as some parts that don’t stand up too well, so if you’re a long-term TRA fan, this will fit nicely in your collection. If you’re a newcomer to the band, then you’ll be sure to get a taster of their previous albums with this one, as well as hopefully a taster of any upcoming work they may have planned out in the future.
To get your hands on a copy of this album, head to here and grab it yourself. Highly recommended!