Canada has a lot of Prog bands held within its massive borders yet so much of it is never heard and ends up in the bins of wasted time and tape. Such is the case with this band, “fracKtal” an Etobicoke/Scarborough collaboration that failed to make any scene but managed to make a demo album that needed a fair bit of work yet and had some great ideas that sadly never saw the light of stage or much of a distribution back in 2011. The album contains a lot of Prog elements and also a fair bit of contemporary rock/Prog concepts as well. There are some songs with vocals and spoken words as well as instrumentals and some flubbed notes along the way. Eleven songs in a quasi-conceptual album that has a lonely feel to it as it somewhat regales the life of a girl named Audrey who was supposedly a patient at Cane Hill Asylum(long since closed, Coulsdon in the borough of Croydon, UK) in a round about way through the conceptual idea of her life and what she has seen and finally her exit/return to society from the rabbit hole in which she fell down originally.
“The Lines Between the Lines and Everything Else in Between“, the opening song or piece of music is longer to say than it is to listen to. That said it does contain a good Prog element within it, sound effects, smashing glass and a large wooden door that gets slammed shut at the end of the piece giving us the feeling of being locked away. The guitar tone is discordant and creates the sense of unease here as it envelopes the use of flange, distortion, delay and multi layered repeated notes that allow us to enter the world of the insane and unstable mind in less than a minute before everything shatters and falls apart. Next is the first of a couple of longer pieces, “Sitting on the Hill Watching the Trains Go By” that is unfortunately plagued by a drum machine where the bass, guitars, and keyboards are real. Coming in at just over ten minutes it begins with a straight forward drum pattern and drops a heavy Em chord with what sounds like a dark chorus of monks in the background. A walk down bass line, clean and uniform is accompanied by a clean guitar tone that does the same pattern with a few extra notes to give it flare. We then do another Prog ingredient and shift the tempo/timbre to a groovy bass line that if slowed down sounds a lot like the Beatles “Come Together” riff. The guitar lets loose around the two minute mark with a very Pink Floyd “Echoes” lead and the song dives in to sound effects a la guitar pedals and continues for most of the track. The David Gilmour-esque inspired guitar work here is obvious as the familiar Gilmour guitar shuffling is ever so present as the guitars continue to battle it out to represent the movement of large train components as Audrey watches from the hillside at the asylum if one can imagine so. At times one can forget the hideous drum machine playing and focus on the guitar work with synth inflections of ad lib in to it. The song does fall apart around the six minute mark as it dwindles and tries to make do with some noodling and effects compiling in order to stretch the song out longer as this seems to be the pattern for the remainder of the song until it begins its descent in to a fade away with almost two minutes to spare as we finally hear the sound of a “real” train passing by to close out the song. It’d be a good jam song live that could go on for longer but we’ll never know now will we?
“3:58” is the first song with vocals in it and the song’s title comes from the time in which the lyrics were written and the music came after. More contemporary than Prog but the solo gives it a hint of Prog nonetheless. This time around we have a real drummer but he’s playing on an electric kit to make it easier to plug in to the recorder and quicken the recording process. An acoustic type piece in minor chords with a delay solo attached giving it strain and collusion that it’s Prog, which it is to a point because c’mon now I’ve heard people argue that “Wish You Were Here” is a country a song so if that’s Prog, so is this! Vocally one is lost at first as to who it reminds them of then Ann Wilson of Heart pops in to mind. A catchy tune to say the least and one of the more memorable songs on the album. “Silent Whole” loosely based/inspired off the Black Sabbath song from 1970’s Paranoid Lp, “Planet Caravan” this track was one of the better songs to come out of the recording sessions. A funky groove for the vocal sections and Eastern type drumming makes way for this short two and a half minute track. The bass follows the guitar here to give more depth and groove and even the vocals follow the guitar track. It flows and also incorporates a bit of tribal drumming in the somewhat pre-chorus riff. The guitar solo at the end has flare and bending dynamics to it to create the effect of hallucinatory drugs on Audrey as she is given “medication” during her tenure at Cane Hill. “For a Thousand Years” a psychedelic/Prog attempt at mind altering imagery is played out here through a droning note on the far left end of the keyboard run through a guitar pedal and singled out notes played to add to the strain of sitting in the common room of the asylum while the television is on in the corner. In the middle we hear a snippet of the last known recorded speech of Adolf Hitler before the channels are changed and static fuzz has interrupted the broadcast and we segue back in to the drone note before the songs eventually fades away. A conceptual piece that really goes nowhere unfortunately but had good intentions to begin with. “Eyes of Men” the second of long pieces on the album opens up with a low E bass note that rings out for a while then another hit and another for two minutes until we begin to get a series of notes sliding up and back whilst the sounds of war play over top the notes. This facet of the song goes on for too long as it takes up almost half of the song before we get actual music in the form of heavy distorted guitars and a semi heavy metal take on the heavier side of Prog that falls short vocally, flubbed drumming and sloppy bass notes in the middle that is given a spoken word poem treatment that is said much too fast and the song snaps back in to the metal angle trying to reprieve itself from failure to much saddened attempts. The ending of the song has the air raid warning with the bomber overhead flying in to a quick shut out making it the best part of the entire song. It doesn’t flow with the album’s theme at all. “Blind“, probably the best bass line and produced song on the record here, is another acoustic track with an electric guitar double tracked solo that has Audrey almost giving up and winning at the same time. Vocally, Ann Wilson reincarnate shows up again doubled up singing tracks to add oomph to it giving it another added facet to make it more a pronounced song on the album and its only downfall is that damn electric drum kit again! Curses, foiled again on a good drum track! “Epitaph For Happiness (and Audrey)” our sort of main piece here is a short 2:28minute piece that seems rushed as there are quite a number of flubbed notes throughout and has another spoken word segment over it in that is better executed than in Eyes of Men and spoken at the right pace in accordance to the song. The added fake choral section in this piece we could have done without but it gave it some extra moodiness. “Sleep Stained Reason” is the last track with vocals on it and has a swing groove to it vocally and rhythmically, even the drum tracks are doubled up here to create that big wall of sound. Odd chords and a two note guitar solo that has you appreciating the short sharp burst that keeps this song on an upbeat mood and fairly well put together. The added in humour at the end of the song makes it more a rough take than an official track but this is what making music is all about right?! These things sometimes get left in for kicks and giggles.
“Backwards Through The Rabbit Hole” is the longest piece on the album at 13:31 and has plenty of Prog elements in it and tries to sustain them for the most part. It opens up with rainfall and the ringing of a large temple bell with eerie effects swaying in and out as it gathers up a cerebral effect of isolation in a far off land in the vast mountain ranges of some ancient sect. This section of the song carries on for just over five minutes before we are swept in to the dripping of water like that in a cave with a drone note that fades out as a strange guitar effect segues in to aerate a very Dr. Who moment with its discordant notes of randomness. Fans of Krautrock’s more eclectic side of the genre would approve definitely. We are then walked down a series of notes in this tone to a final drop off note and drums fade in almost the same pattern as the first long song, Sitting on the Hill… does but with a few more fills as the swirling guitar notes take over with a very iffy bass line(not sure if it’s in key with the rest of the song!) and tremolo guitar that often misses its cue to come in on time. By the ten minute mark the song begins to fall apart on itself self absorbed with effects swirling and abounding all over and guitars that are now thrown in to make an attempt at the warbling effect present and useful to no avail to a final fade away with the sound of a Shinto group chanting and the ringing of their temple bell and then cut with finally an underwater current sound clip, disaster. “Nowhere, You Are” the last song on the album is a slow burn that has almost that Volga Boat Man song ring to it. A three note repetition and swirling synth sounds to make it a grand exit here is more cluttered by the synths trying to come in at the third note every time not allowing it to fade away properly. A heavily distorted guitar in the middle playing the same three notes like metal blades of paddles swooshing the electric waters for a few bars before disappearing then back to the last remaining notes then we leave the rabbit hole and walk back in to the world as Audrey enters a street scene and roadside cafe with cars and trucks going by and she is let back in to society to try and resume her life. A Prog-like way to end the album but this journey becomes more painstaking than pleasure. Somewhat grateful it never made it to mainstream distribution but can be found online on the download share site such as Soulseek NS.
get the original version of it here and you’re halfway there!
P.S. incase anyone is wondering why this was somewhat of a scathing review this was a look at the last album I made, I found it in a box while cleaning up and forgotten most of it so I put it on to relive it one last time and close it out for good and decided to write about it. Yes I was THAT critical about my own music but listening to it I was able to let it go which was relieving for me in a way.