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Proud Peasant — Communion
(Basement Avatar Records BAR011, 2023, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-12-01

Communion Cover art

The second full-length studio album from Proud Peasant sees the band honing their style and expanding their sound. Leader and composer Xander Rapstine plays a wide variety of instruments, including guitars, keyboards, ukulele, mandolin, vibraphone, and more, as well as singing — yes, singing. The other band members are David Hobizal (drums), David Houghton (guitar, backing vocals), Millicent Hughes (keyboards, backing vocals), Mark Poitras (keyboards, vibes, percussion), and Clif Warren (bass); I count 20 other musicians who contribute woodwinds, brass, vocals, and more on the album’s six tracks, most of them on a single track only. Full of complex structures and elaborate orchestrations, Communion is clearly progressive rock, though it is much to the credit of Rapstine and company that it sounds like no other band. The inclusion of vocals may surprise those who’ve grown used to Proud Peasant as a purely instrumental concern, but the overall feel of the music hasn’t changed. All the tracks but one are listed as having multiple parts with such names as “The Schism I (The Perfidious),” “March of the Ouroboroi,” “Canticle of the Risen,” “The Descent II (The Maelström),” and “Apocatastasis,” but the music is not at all what I would call pretentious, unless the simple presence of bassoon, oboe, and French horn signals pretense. The recurrence of section names like “The Schism” in multiple tracks speaks to the album’s thematic unity, and the liner notes speak of learning to communicate and the often difficult proposition of maintaining relationships. One of the standouts is “A Web of Shadow,” which starts with a lovely jig-like section for acoustic instruments led by mandolin. A brief vocal section that reminds me of a quiet early King Crimson tune then develops into a punchy rock song with overdriven guitars. Proud Peasant’s Communion is a wonderful example of ambitious musicians having the requisite abilities to realize their big ideas and pull listeners into a lushly imagined world.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Proud Peasant

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