The album Chalk Lines is no doubt a more composed production (produced by McStine, co-producer Kerzner) than first album from Lo-Fi Resistance (A Deep Breath also highly recommended!). The often contemplative lyrics of Chalk Lines goes very well together with the surreal cover art put together by Thomas Ewerhard . Altogether it brings into mind artwork and conceptual albums from past times great bands. Chalk Lines also uses the passages between the songs in a very effective way where passage between songs are illustrated by creaking doors as if you’re passing into different rooms of mind and realms of memories once lost. Although the lyrics are in a serious setting where loss, grief and the preceding life is a main theme there is also hope throughout. Diving into the whirlpool of tracks; Chalk Lines already from the start of the track Isolation Tank is showcasing a progressive palette of great vocal harmonies, tempo shifts and sounds reminding the listener of more high-profile groups like Genesis, Pink Floyd, Zappa to name a few.
This is a great album to wind down to. But I’m also aware that Chalk Lines is an album that requires some effort to appreciate. The album is beautifully executed by excellent musicians throughout. Unfortunately I believe there is a limited audience that will buy this album as it is not musically aimed at the hit lists (although miracles sometime happens!). Despite those opinions Chalk Lines is one album that undoubtedly will stand the test of time. I know I will appreciate it in 10 or 15 years to come. Given time this one could be remembered as a late progressive classic. And it is a great piece of work from a musician (McStine) who is still quite young. So there will hopefully be plenty of great music in the future from where this album came from. I know I will show this album off to friends and those I know appreciate good, and not always easy-listened, music. So a final tip if you’ve got some of that X-mas money to spend and perhaps already are a fan of progressive music: Surf yourself into the Burning Shed shop and buy yourself a treat!
1. Isolation Tank : A track expressing thoughtfulness about news just received in the lyrics. The music takes off building from a gloomy backdrop of keyboard, vocal harmonies and guitar-delays in the verses up to the full-out rock cries a la Evanescence in the chorus: “in Pieces – I will Magnify”.
The middle part of the song showing more of the progressive features of creativity going through tempo shifts and bringing more instruments and sounds into the scene.
2. Chalk Lines: The title track of the album starts out with a riff, as an announcement to the second track being more guitar-based than the previous. This track is also more elaborate in the progressive parts. Every few bars the song features new rhythms and sounds eventually going back to the initial riff. The slower parts of the song/verses sounds like being influenced by The Police. Chalk Lines song and album also feature strong vocal harmonies common for progressive/metal rockers King’s X, represented later on the album by bassist/singer Dug Pinnick on the track Fading pictures.
The end of the title track is a powerful buildup with a solo piano eventually being relieved by strings and a march-beat snare ending in the climaxing repetition of the title lyrics.
3. Fall: The third track melody is introduced by a spaced out keyboard which sets a very contemplative almost dreamy ambience, the chorus though being a powerful and catchy rock phrasing with high tone guitars ringing above as glistening stars of the night. In the mid breakdown of the song Gavin Harrison on drums take commando for a while, leading up to a buildup through the last verse and into a guitar solo.
4. The silent war: McStine writes in his newsletter: “I wrote 90% of this song on keyboards, which was a different approach for me. Influences tend to sub-consciously seep in, and I hear a lot of different things on this one. I hear shades of Pink Floyd, Tears For Fears, and Peter Gabriel to name a few, brought into a more modern rock approach. My role on this one is more in line with what a lot of Lo-Fi Resistance is in the studio. I’m on vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards. Gavin is a powerhouse on this one (well, he always is), and Dave adds some nice keyboard textures into the mix throughout.“
All in all it’s a dreamy rhythm-driven track with a similar murky repetitive guitar riff as on the title track.
5. I move on. This short but honest track can be seen as a statement from the singer not to linger on what has past but to move on. To put the past behind. “I’ve held on to things and they just don’t belong”. It’s a short track with acoustic guitar and song as the main features.
6. Fading pictures: This track starts out with a lone piano eventually being joined by slow drums/guitars and a keyboard texture. The song eventually has two tougher parts with the thundering bass of Dug Pinnick laying down a massive groove, the lyrics sounding like exhortations to a third-party. The track switches back and forth a couple of times between the rougher parts and a more gloomy, dream-like ambience.
7. No Readmission: If I hadn’t heard of Lo-Fi Resistance. I would probably have guessed from just hearing the song/keyboard intro ambiance to this song that it would have been a new track released by Massive Attack. Listening some more the song changes going into a build-up slow-rocking groove but still leaning to the keyboards as dominant instrument like in a Pink Floyd song. This song also enters into the next one in a great way. First off there is the last line of the lyrics and then there is the way the keyboard/ambient end to the song smoothly passes into the last song on the album.
8. Face Another Day: Is the final, longest, and most epic composition of the album. Again a breathtaking (90 second) intro that I can only imagine would be great in a live-setting. The more aggressive slow-rock tempo introspective text of the song delivering an explanation and contemplating on doubt and feelings hard to put word to in a non denunciative way:
“but who fuck am I to say
that what you do is not the way?
I only knows what works for me”
About the artist:
Once guitar-wonder-kid; Randy McStine (still only 24 years old), is the creator of the Lo-Fi Resistance project. It’s an american alternative/progressive rock music project starting out 2009, releasing the debut album A deep breath in 2010 on which he got help recording by King’s X frontman/singer/bassist/ and personal friend Dug Pinnick and also drummer Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s beard, Genesis). The debut album ranged many styles, mostly grounded in the prog/metal-spectra, notably are the influences of King’s X and The police, the singing characteristics of McStine on the first album reminds me to some extent of those of Jeff Buckley going from soft, calm passages into more heavy and dense parts of the songs.
With the new release Chalk Lines, starting out as a DIY project via the fundraising site Kickstarter, Randy has taken one more step in exploring the world of modern progressive music, keeping the album even tighter in composition. Once again teaming up with friends from more notable bands such as drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Trees, King Crimson), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and bass player John Giblin (Phil Collins, Kate Bush) and Dave ‘Squids’ Kerzner (of Sonic Elements and founder of Sonic Reality inc.).