Exposé Online banner

The Aaron Clift Experiment — Outer Light, Inner Darkness
((Not on label) Aaron Clift Productions, 2015, CD)

by Jon Davis, 2015-10-17:

Outer Light, Inner Darkness Cover art

Well, apparently, there’s still more life in the old beast we call Progressive Rock. Aaron Clift and his cohorts have a take on music that has no hints of Neo-Prog, doesn’t really sound like any of the 70s innovators, and also doesn’t fall into the post-Porcupine Tree variety of modern progressive that is so prevalent. Just as more complex machines have more ways to break down, the more complex your music is, the more there is to go wrong. At every corner, there are decisions to be made, and messing any of them up can lead to disaster, or at least lameness. The Aaron Clift Experiment makes consistently good choices. The music on Outer Light, Inner Darkness is complex, but the complexity is not a fetish – it’s done in service of a musical vision. It’s melodic, with unpredictable chord progressions and sections that change mood, tempo, and nearly anything else. There are sections of polyphony, massive, majestic harmonies, and quiet, moody sections. Clift’s voice is clear and expressive, and never slips into the breathy tone so popular in prog these days. His keyboard playing generally centers on piano, though other sounds appear from time to time. Much of the time, the role that might normally be played by synthesizer or organ is filled by the string ensemble, and it is their presence that provides another major positive factor. Eric Gutierrez’ guitar playing is fluid and tasty, flashy but never overwhelming the rest of the band. Bassist Devin North gets a nice solo spot in “Kissed by the Sun,” but he’s excellent throughout. And Joe Resnick holds it together from behind the drum kit, providing superb cymbal work and navigating every odd meter without ever sounding like he’s doing anything out of the ordinary. It’s an outstanding album from start to finish, and my only complaint is that the lyrics on “Aoide, Goddess of Song” tip over the edge into pretense – writing a paeon to a Greek goddess is a difficult choice, and perhaps impossible to pull off in this day and age. That’s a minor misstep, and shouldn’t be taken as reason to avoid this excellent release, sure to be in the running for progressive rock album of the year.


by Henry Schneider, 2015-10-17:

The latest album from Austin’s little secret, The Aaron Clift Experiment, has hit the streets and what a gem it is! Aaron is an intelligent, literate, and consummate composer. Outer Light, Inner Darkness is a giant step forward from his 2012 album Lonely Hills. Each song is perfectly orchestrated and performed. Today the band consists of Aaron Clift (vocals and keyboards), Eric Gutierrez (guitars and mandolin), Devin North (bass), and Joe Resnick (drums and percussion). Each musician contributes equally; the result is not a wall of noise, but carefully constructed interactions that allow each to shine. The opening song “Kissed by the Sun,” which also happens to be their first single from the album, is an energetic progressive metal tune in the Porcupine Tree mold, but in style only. Devin’s exceptional bass work is a noteworthy accompaniment to the complex shifts in tempo, harmonies, and melody, as well as Eric’s beautiful guitar solos. The second song, “Locked,” is a bluesy-jazz song that turns a bit melodic, propelled by Aaron’s vocals and Eric’s guitar. “Fragments of Sleep” takes you in a different direction. Aaron’s keyboard work is prominent and out of nowhere a string quartet enters the mix, which is so much more enjoyable than listening to synth string patches! The music takes a dark turn on “Your Arms Hold Them to the Dark” with its eerie Gothic mood that somehow conjures the darker moments of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. “Aoide, Goddess of Song” is Aaron’s paean to creativity. And everything up to this point is a prelude to the exquisite chamber music/progressive rock opus of “The Last Oasis.” Aaron’s compositional talents shine on this song, integrating a pseudo-classical string quartet with prog rock elements. “The Last Oasis” segues seamlessly into “Moonscape,” a WWI anti-war song in three parts. Then “Moonscape” segues into the album closer “Bathed in Moonlight.” These final three songs share some common elements with Roger Waters and David Gilmour, subject matter and guitar work. “Bathed in Moonlight” is also very visual music. It is simply beautiful and perfect for a balmy night under the moon. As a bonus there are two additional tracks, an acoustic version of “Your Arms Hold Them to the Dark” that is more sinister than the album track, and the single version of “Kissed by the Sun.” The band played this entire album at their release party in late August, but even thought they gave an outstanding performance, they could not recapture the magical subtlety of the music on the album. The Aaron Clift Experiment is deserving of notice of more than just the local Austin music scene. Highly recommended.


Filed under: New releases , 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Aaron Clift

More info

Latest news

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the ago of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon – This is a very different turn from last year’s The Great Leap, but that’s what Phideaux does – a different sound with every new release, but one can always count on excellent compositions, great...  (2008) » Read more

Albert Marcoeur - L Apostrophe – With numerous albums out going back to the early 70s, Albert Marcoeur can always be counted on for something unusual, though he’s never predictable. On this, his ninth album in about 32 years, the...  (2007) » Read more

Phil Mercy - Fear of Fantastic Flight – I don't know who Phil Mercy is, but, if I had to guess from what's in the CD booklet, I'd say he's a gifted English guitarist who has always wished for a chance to record the kind of...  (1999) » Read more

Cheika Rimitti - Sidi Mansour – Cheika ("crazy") Rimitti began her musical career in about 1936. The horrors of war and the epidemics that ravaged her native region of Oran in Algeria gave the inspiration for her first...  (1996) » Read more

Rik Wright - Isomorphism – Rik Wright is one third of Seattle’s Jackhammer Trio, and in this solo outing he is joined by various players in a decidedly jazzy context. Cohorts along for the ride include saxophonist Dan...  (2003) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues