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Opinions...


From: John Patterson, Progression Magazine:

Dave Wexler on guitars and freaky vox teams up with Paul Williams on keys, electro-percussives, vox, and freaky vox to make space-trance rock magic. Serious cool, head-trippin' tunes here. They hit the T. Dream/Hawkwind/improv rock nail, squarely on its cosmick head. Quality cerebral voyages? Inquire within. This CD is the ticket. Williams' electro-mayhem zapped me into Tim Blake spaces wherein dwelleth the happyvoid. Wexler's guitar and Williams' atmospherics on "Orion" and "The Sutler" brought to mind little-know Bark Psychosis and Spaceman 3. "The Third Wheel" is deliciously ominous improv suitable for any cyberpunk, sci-fi flicktrack. Well done, robotically speaking. "Ode To Death" is a Larry Fastian behemoth
rising from the depths, the stars of forgotten millenia coalesce, its frame glistens as a freaky vox incantation of doom proceedeth. "In The Caverns Of Spacezilla" is Synergy battles Rubycon. "Alfred's Flashback" is echoes,
drones, phased psycho-chatter, channel-to-channel ping pong as in a W. Carlos nightmare. Pinhead of Hellraiser would enjoy this as he oils the Lament Box. Wexler waxes Oldfieldish as Williams lifts Maxfield Parrish soundvisions all around the epic/saga, guitar voyage. I could've stood another 10 minutes of this one. Of 11 tracks ranging 1:39 to 10:03, many over 7:00, there is plenty of material to satisfy any spacerock/ambient synth fans.
-- John W. Patterson

 

From Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations Magazine

On the heels of two cassette releases National Steam introduces its first full length CD. A companion project to label mates Quarkspace, the band consists of Paul Williams on percussion, loads of keyboards, effects, and vocals, and Dave Wexler on guitars and effects. This self-titled debut offers up eleven tunes, six of which are improvised space journeys and sound experimentations. [Editor's note: The reviewed CD was a pre-release and the final product's tracks may differ slightly.]

The opening track, "Pennsylvania Special" is a reworking a the same song from their Steamdreams 1 cassette. At the heart of the tune is the repeated pounding piano melody and the competing keyboard and guitar work that accompanies it. A much fuller sound on this version transforms the train journey feel of the original into a galactic Siberian Railway.

"Orion" and "Ode To Death" both feature vocals by Paul Williams. "Orion" with its funky head bopping beat and wah wah guitar also has some great mellotron sounding work. "Ode To Death" opens with an intense orchestral sound and screaming guitar lines and then is accompanied by the most Peter Hammill vocals I've heard since Peter Hammill. A powerful tune.

"The Sutler" is somewhat different from the rest of the CD and will appeal to prog rock fans as much as space fans. Guests Pat Wise and Teresa Owsley's sharply contrasting vocals styles make for welcome variety througout the song. Wise's vocals are dark and perhaps somewhat evil sounding while Owsley has a style that is operatic and not unlike Kate Bush. An intense, hard driving song, the music takes a turn during the last two minutes during which Dave Wexler's guitar takes front and center. His solo finale is speedy, soaring, and beautiful in a way that will make prog fans drool.

The remaining tracks are all instrumental and mostly improvised. For those who are new to the Quarkspace / National Steam camp you should know that all the Eternity's Jest musicians have been playing together for a long time and it was an affinity for improvisation that lead to Quarkspace's development. On this recording, Williams and Wexler offer space soundscapes that are subtely busy in that I could easily close my eyes and be carried away, but close listening often reveals many layers of interesting experimentation with keyboards and guitars.

One of my favorites is "Cavern Of Spacezilla", a cosmic journey that combines industrial space soundscapes and dreamy guitars and keys. This tune is followed by "Alfred's Flashback" which is much like the former but a galaxy or two to the left. Across all the improvisations on this disc I sometimes felt like I was in a small underwater craft crawling along the ocean floor, and at others felt like I was floating through space all alone.

 

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