District 97 — Screens
(Cherry Red MindScan D97-004, 2019, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-03-10
With so much music coming out every year, there’s no way to keep up, so when I saw District 97 play at Seaprog 2019, I’d never really heard them before. Their stock in trade could be described as hard rock with progressive elements, but not fitting into the progressive metal style. At first skeptical of their slick presentation (I’m used to more casual artiness), they won me over with both their musical skills and the quality of their compositions. Screens presents a lot of the music they played live, and gives me the chance to dig into how it ticks. In many ways, I’m reminded of Living Colour with a female vocalist and more keyboards — when they rock, it has the same kind of rhythmic feel and tightness that Living Colour was known for. That being said, District 97 ventures outside that mold frequently, with quiet interludes and other twists to add variety. The other thing that’s really prominent is a distinctive melodic sense in singer Leslie Hunt’s parts. Her powerful voice is used to great effect, and her parts are not simple or predictable, and would no doubt sound really awkward if attempted by a lesser singer. As I mentioned, the rhythm section is really tight, with tricky variations on the riffs where bass, drums, and guitar come together for unison lines. Andrew Lawrence’s keyboard work is especially noteworthy, with piano, organ, and synths used creatively and with great facility, including some out-of-the-box weirdness that really spices up the arrangements. In short, Screens hits a sweet spot between accessibility and artistic expression that should appeal to a wide range of listeners, from fans of more mainstream prog to those who favor the avant side of the genre.
Related artist(s): District 97
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