Saturday, November 8, 2008

CD Review: Project Moonbeam

Originally published in Scene Magazine, November 2008

Immersive at best and boring at worst, progressive rock is often considered decades past its time, particularly when based in the synthesizer style that gave nerd bands like Rush an unexpected place in pop culture. As cutting-edge as it was then, listening to Project Moonbeam’s self-titled debut makes it pretty obvious that some sounds are best left on classic rock radio.

The man behind the Moonbeam is Loveland musician Chris Fournier. Project Moonbeam, as he writes in the liner notes, was a three-year learning activity to get his high-end music studio, Earth Shaper Audio, “understood and operational.” Fournier self-produced the final product, and considering the elegant layering and flawless effect placement, it’s apparent that he has learned much. However, the music itself doesn’t quite hold up in comparison.

It’s not that the pedal-heavy guitars or poky rhythms feel a few decades late, it’s just that there’s little fun to be found in listening to the same tawdry track over and over. Project Moonbeam’s album has a tendency towards that: an intergalactic assortment of rising Satriani solos melded together with crunchy riffs (“Air,” “Quarkz”) and soft-shelled keyboard melodies (“Depths Unknown,” “Man I Was”).

Also to be stressed is that in this day and age, drum machines are only permissible when they’re buried deep in the audio layering and don’t resemble a drum machine whatsoever, a rule that Fournier has regrettably chosen to break in “Reality Is.” The opening electro-percussion kick in that track caused me Baltimora flashbacks. For that, I say shame on you Project Moonbeam.

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