(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
The lines between prog and jazz rock fusion are rather blurred. There are lots of acts who straddle that line, but none quite so finely as Asaf Sirkis, or at least that seems to be the case when he's working alongside his Inner Noise project. Sirkis is pretty well known and well respected in jazz circles (which may explain why I'd never heard of him before this album) as the drummer for Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble. He's known as something of a powerhouse on the drums, something which he regularly displays on this album, but he's also a composer and he shows off his compositions on this, his second album with his Inner Noise trio (which includes keyboardist Steve Lodder and guitarist Mike Outram).
The album's title, the cover art work (which features an asteroid), a quote from Sun Ra, and the titles of some of the tracks might lead you to think that the music is going to be spaced-out jazz but no, this is jazz rock fusion with a strong prog rock feel to it, with influences that could be King Crimson, Keith Emerson, National Health, Brand X and Allan Holdsworth… and with influences like that you won't hear me complaining.
In another review, of the album by Polish group Robotobibok, I defined a new sub-genre, exorcist jazz; well, this may not quite be exorcist jazz but it comes close – apocalyptic prog jazz might be a more appropriate term, particularly with those eerie church organ style keyboards (apparently on the first Inner Noise album a church organ was actually used but here Lodder utilises a midi keyboard that provides a similar effect). This is dark instrumental music, but it doesn't consist entirely of relentless soloing and pointless noodling… far from it in fact, the compositions and the musicianship are tight, lyrical and energetic.
The three musicians work very well together and this means there's real cohesion and a strongly organic element to the sound of the album. But there are solos and when they do happen they show off the invention of the writing and the skill of the performers. These solos, and the musicianship in general, are highly proficient, sometimes even showy, but never at the expense of the pieces of music. Outram particularly impresses on guitar, though there's no doubt that Sirkis and Lodder are ably supporting him throughout, acting as the glue that holds everything together.
Track 1, “Another Being”, reminds me of King Crimson… not that it sounds like any particular Crimson track but the vaguely Fripp-like guitar, the gothic keyboards and the organic percussion give it that feel.
I mentioned Robotobibok earlier, well track 2, “Life Itself”, comes closest to sounding like them. I'd be interested to know if the two bands have heard each other because although their general sounds are quite far apart, on this track they're remarkably similar. I think it's that fat analogue keyboard sound, combined with the busy, dark, frenzied and complex nature of this track. I could do with a bit of a lie down after this track, to be honest, but I mean that in a good way!
Track 3, “Galactic Citizen (part 1)”, is a fairly short (nearly three minute long) keyboardy introduction to the second part and strikes me as the only 'filler' track on an album that is otherwise timed perfectly. But the second part of “Galactic Citizen”, picking up where the first part takes off, develops in much more interesting directions.
The title track is probably my absolute favourite on the album, which is perhaps not surprising given that it's probably the most obviously prog rock-like, and really wouldn't sound out of place on a National Health album. Outram's guitar is particularly prominent and he gives an amazing solo which leads me to take my air guitar out of the cupboard every time I hear it, but there's also an equally impressive keyboard solo, and the whole piece just drips with apocalyptic energy and quality.
Track 6, “The Bottomless Pit Surrounding You”, is another short, atmospheric bridging piece but it's much less of a filler than “Galactic Citizen (part 1)” seemed to be.
Track 7, “Spirit”, starts with fine acoustic, almost classical guitar from Outram that fans of Steve Hackett would be comfortable with, but it soon explodes into an Emerson, Lake and Palmer style freak out, which you've just gotta love (well, if you like that sort of thing and I certainly do!).
And the album ends with the track “Ida & Dactyl (& ghost of dactyl)”, which I believe are the names of asteroids. This is a nice way to end the album, a dreamy piano-filled piece that is beautiful and soothing, particularly after the impact of the previous track. Oh, yeah, there's a tiny bit of synthesizer at the end of the album, a sort of noodling extra track, which doesn't have a title and serves no real purpose, but it's not unpleasant either.
So is it jazz, jazz rock fusion, prog rock, or apocalyptic prog jazz? Well, it's all four and none of them really. The labels don't matter, except as a general point of guidance. Crucially, this is an excellently performed and entertainingly inventive 21st Century spin on some old genres, and if you have even the slightest enthusiasm for any of those genres then you're gonna love this. I'm gonna get my air guitar out and listen to We Are Falling again…
Best tracks: “Another Being”, “Galactic Citizen (part 2)”, “We Are Falling”, “Spirit”, “Ida & Dactyl (& ghost of dactyl)”.