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

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Tony Levin - Pieces of the Sun – Tony Levin’s newest release is a true band effort, the direct result of touring after his previous CD, Waters of Eden (previously reviewed). He remains on the Narada label, though (even more...  (2002) » Read more

Martin Gordon - The Joy of More Hogwash – Bassist Martin Gordon has spent the better half of his career backing a wide array of established pop stars from the lesser known Mael brothers (in Sparks) to Robert Palmer and Kylie Minogue. The Joy...  (2005) » Read more

Genesis for Two Grand Pianos - Volume 2 – Norwegian duo Yngve Guddal and Roger T. Matte have returned with another collection of old Genesis songs rearranged for two pianos. All their performances were made on Steinway Model D Grand Pianos in...  (2006) » Read more

Esagono - Vicolo – Here’s a little Italian gem rescued from obscurity. Esagono apparently only recorded this one album as a group, but members of the band were involved with many other projects, including Arti e...  (2004) » Read more

Arto Lindsay - O Corpo Sutil - The Subtle Body – Lindsay has been a fixture of the New York "No Wave" scene and beyond since the early 80s. His most notable projects have been as vocalist and guitarist for The Lounge Lizards (faux-jazz),...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues