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Isobar — Isobar III
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-01-21

Isobar III Cover art

One might be wondering when this San Francisco Bay Area instrumental progressive rock band is going to stumble, but it certainly hasn’t happened yet — and with the trajectory they are currently on, it doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon. The core compositional team of Malcolm Smith (guitars), Marc Spooner (keyboards), and Jim Anderson (bass) has an idiosyncratic and adventurous style that defies the standards of the rock idiom while capturing all of the energy, vigor, and muscularity that moves the imagination. Their style is expressive and unusual, forever changing from one idea to the next in wholly unpredictable ways, yet with satisfying results. Melodies and arrangements are tightly interlocking with plenty of changes afoot from one measure to the next, never a dull moment anywhere. Their music is, in a word, what progressive rock is and should be all about, with plenty of imagery, color, and ever-shifting ideas gripping the listener’s imagination. Joining the aforementioned trio is none other than drummer Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, White Willow, Anima Morte, Necromonkey, others) whose drumming is a perfect match for Isobar’s style. Violinist Joanne Wu plays on the high-energy opener “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been” and one other, while the horn section of trumpeter Evan Weiss and saxophonist Ben Bohorquez offer their services on “The Trouble with Buttons,” “4th Leg,” and the lamentful “Objet,” dueling with the mighty Mellotron. Other standouts include the gentle and dreamy “Face in the Blue,” the turning and twisting “Shadow Green,” which is a bit reminiscent of Happy the Man, and the sprawling ten-plus minute epic “The Mimus Polyglottos Alarm Clock,” a seeming river of constant changes that move through the listener’s psyche and soul. Isobar III is another engaging, masterful, and satisfying instrumental endeavor.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Isobar

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