Box Of Shamans is the Los Angeles based trio of Michael Matier (instruments - well, that's rather specific, isn't it...), Jerry Beller (drums - which evidently are NOT instruments) and Scott Jones (vocals). Apparently this is their first album and they are a side-project of a group called Heliopolis that I am sad to admit to never have heard of before. Shame on me. At least Beller is a familiar name that I know from Mars Hollow. Actually, checking the information, Matier played with Ten Jinn, which is a band I played quite a lot a decade or so ago. Time to dust off these CDs and find out what happened with that band!
Anyway, my job is to discuss Box Of Shamans, so let's do that. Belief And Illusion is a loose concept on beliefs and how those beliefs may turn out to be illusions. The opening track Belief reveals some King Crimson influences, turns folky with lead singer that sometimes sounds like Geddy Lee - and soundwise I'm reminded of the Counterparts period.
All For You is a short beautiful piece with strings and keys - here Scott's voice rather reminds me of Jon Anderson. Optical Delusion is a clear contrast to this song. Here we get some nasty, complex and dazzling prog that clearly sounds like King Crimson jamming with Relayer-era Yes until Scott's “da da” vocals twist things finally over towards Yes. A total contrast again is the short Circumstances Divide that would have fitted very nicely on Yes' Fly From Here. Deliciously layered vocals and a soaring melodic guitar that gives goosebumps.
The album contains mostly short tracks (under 6 minutes, some even 1 or 2 minutes) except for the 10:30 long The Search that is the central piece in the album. This starts Yes-like with layered harmony vocals. There is a complex and abstract middle part with Howe-like guitars, vague percussives, cosmic keys and Scott's harmonies before speeding up.
May Daze very atmospheric floating piece that at first makes one think that this is what Enya's music might have sounded if she had been a man. After that we turn again towards Fly From Here-era Yes, thanks to the lead and harmony vocals that sound a lot like Benoît David. Intruder brings a totally different sound. Very mechanic and industrial with a pounding rhythm at first, but much looser and symphonic with some tasty keys in the middle before ending menacing and darkly. Tune In aptly starts with the sounds of tuning a radio. From this cacophony emerges an edgy Crimson-esque guitar coupled to Scott's heavenly Jon Anderson like vocals. The final track An Illusory Ploy is a partly chaotic and dark closer with some uncomfortably feeling chords, twists, patterns and changes, but at the same time there are also triumphant keys and guitars sprinkled in here and there.
I think that this one is going to be in my Top 10 for the year 2015. Highly recommended!
**** Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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