Pelagic Zone are basically a kind of jam band that hails from Hamburg, Germany. Every time the band played live on stage the compositions got some fine tuning in order to become the ultimate version to be recorded. That's one of the reasons why it took so long to finalize this eponymous album. The four musicians of Pelagic Zone blend soft rock elements with slight progressive parts, which can be noticed especially during the improvised keyboard parts, the jazzy elements and the pop-like vocals.
In a way this album is suitable for everyone who likes to go beyond the usual standard of radio-friendly rock and easy listening. The compositions sound nice and not that complicated. A song like Trees contains some female vocal parts as well and is even applicable to be broadcasted. Other songs like Fast Or Far have a certain touch of Little Feat, although it doesn't reach the same level as this old American band. However, if you want a comparison with other bands, I think Little Feat probably comes closest. As a musician, I like the guitar parts of Bernd Ubben. During the vocal parts his German accent can be noticed, but it's never annoying. While listening to the instrumental parts, I enjoyed the fine combination of a well-experienced rhythm section consisting of bass player Julian Bohne and drummer Peter Urban. They provide Pelagic Zone a playful background.
In How Up I heard some funky passages as well. In this piece the Fender Rhodes piano, played by Martin Mundt , is combined with electronics and with vocals that won't be liked by all prog heads. Well, I guess I'm not the funkiest man around, but I do like the guitar play and the instrumental parts. After several spins, I concluded that the instrumental parts are great and well-balanced improvisations. On the other hand I think the vocals are mediocre and basically I could do without them. During the harmony singing sometimes Crosby, Stills & Nash crossed my mind, which is a band I don't like.
For me this album has two sides: on the one hand the impressive instrumental parts but on the other vocal parts that I can't get into. This is an album you can play when some friends, who get nervous of progressive rock music, visit you. They will just ask you to press the fast forward button during the longer instrumental, improvised parts I guess. If you like Umphrey's McGee this is an album you need to listen to. For me, the best song is Too Fiddy, which sounds like pure improvisation and, luckily, has no vocals.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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