Algorhythm EP (Album Review)

With the release of their new song “Pull the Trigger” on July 12th, Montreal-based prog rock/fusion band Algorhythm concluded the release of their debut EP. The band was founded by vocalist and keyboardist Alexander Lioubimenko, and includes woodwinds player Hugo Leclerc, guitarist Ilya Pechersky, bassist Marc Scott, and drummer Greg Kustka-Tsimbidis. Taking inspiration from jazz and prog rock giants, with just 3 songs in their EP, the band clearly defines who they are: jazzy melodies, awesome improvised lines, fun beats, and lyrics trying to find the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Track List

1. Heat of the Moment (8:40)

One of Algorhythm’s core principles is improvisation. The band says that “the concept of improvisation liberates the musician’s mind to interact with anything and everything at any given moment allowing for profound creativity.” Their EP’s first song, “Heat of the Moment” seems like the embodiment of this principle.

The song starts with an incredible minute-long bass clarinet solo that includes lines we are used to see in 60s bebop recordings, and in addition some modern fusion-like sounds. According to the band, this song is “a depiction of the compositional process and constraints [their] leader Alexander Lioubimenko experiences, veiled under the image of the heat wave [they] experienced in Montreal last year.” In this sense, the clarinet solo is almost like the approaching heat wave, which creates a nice transition into the song and the EP.

After the audience is warmed up with these sounds, by joining all the instruments in a simple 3-note riff, the “heat wave” finally approaches and the song transitions into a bluesy shuffle melody. While the band is getting ready to get back to a simpler 4/4 funk beat, the saxophone shouts “Hey, I am not done yet!” Melodic yet technical saxophone lines accompany the band’s intro until Lioubimenko starts singing about his experiences when writing this EP. In between the verses, the saxophone and guitar/keyboard back-and-forth continues. After the second verse, we are met with a distorted keyboard solo that is reminiscent of Gentle Giant’s instrumental breakdowns.

Every piece of writing contains traces of the author, and the lyrics of “Heat of the Moment” is no different. After taking a look at them, there is no doubt that the EP was written in many conflicts. Firstly, Lioubimenko has an inner conflict in which he considers to give up and stop on his music. The line “It’s too cold, give me a break!” for example, shows that he sometimes could not continue with the struggle. The cold represents his struggle in multiple places in the song. He talks about a “cold and somber empty room” in which he probably wrote his songs. However, during this struggle there were also people counting on him. He conveys this by saying that the cold room is the “root of faith.” The faith may represent the faith he has in himself, or the faith his bandmates and fans have in him. Because of this faith, he constantly prompts himself to continue, as seen when he says “Shut the door, there’s no escape.” This inner conflict also is projected outside. Lioubimenko says that there are “faces, places watching [him] crack.” This means that his struggle also has apparent effects on his life seen by others. “People know,” he says, as if he must keep the struggle a secret. And among these people, are some that “laugh,” and some that “grieve.” Those who laugh at his struggle, he must prove wrong, and those who grieve, he must comfort. Thus, others’ view of his struggles also has an effect on how he acts against it. Perhaps, the soulful backing vocals throughout the song are representations of this outer influence. How he acts against it can also be seen in the song’s title, as it comes from the fact that his desire to give up is only a temporary thing that happens “in the heat of the moment,” and he must continue anyways.

With its jazzy saxophone and bass clarinet parts, funky and bluesy rhythm, and rock-influenced melodies “Heat of the Moment” definitely brings a new variety of sounds to the modern prog rock/fusion scene, and helps the band make a strong introduction to their first EP.

Lyrics

Rise and shine in disbelief
Some they laugh and others grieve
Do you, want to, need to, go out?
Momma, no
She told you so
In the heat of the moment

Drinking water is the key
Whiskey leads to misery
Had you, set to, outright, back down
Papa, no
He told you so
In the heat of the moment

Shut the door there’s no escape
It’s too cold, give me a break!
Keep that, blazing, hot spell, outside!
Brother, no
He told you so
In the heat of the moment

Cold and somber empty room
Root of faith and full of doom
Faces, places, watching, you crack
People know,
The truth’s been told,
It’s yes or no!
In the heat of the moment

2. Why Now (4:02)

Opening with nature sounds (mainly wind and thunder), “Why Now” creates an illusion of safety from the beginning. We, as the listener, are placed in a landscape that we are very familiar with. But then, with a quick transition and one hell of a catchy bass line by Marc Scott, we find ourselves in the middle of a jazz fusion/prog delirium that transcends the physical barriers of time and space to welcome us into a fast, slick rhythm where counting with the bass notes feels like an innate instinct.

But in order to really grasp the musicality of the intro, we have to leave ourselves to the mercy of Hugo Leclerc and his saxophone that can somehow sound improvised and brave yet still delicate and thoughtful. When it combines with Scott’s bass, the result is a one of a kind sound that both carries a resemblance to the old giants of the genre and a new touch to the style that distinguishes the band from its counterparts.

Alexander Lioubimenko’s vocals for this song is sharp and has a sarky flair to it, which fits perfectly with the song’s topic, which according to the band itself is “corruption and wrongdoings in our day to day lives and how such actions deserve punishment.” The lyrics starts by painting a dark picture with lines like “Time is running out” or “The creature is awoken”. A world full of destruction, where there is nothing left to salvage(considering the word’s religious connotations, this may be a reference to corrupt religious figures and preachers) or seize(this may mean a lot of things, a basic explanation can be the idea of property or even privacy losing its meaning in today’s world). The rushing tone of the vocals signals that something, a “cleanse” according to the lyrics, is fast-approaching; and the sinners and corrupt people, that cause this In the first place, should be “shivering of fright” because of this punishment. “Vanishing bravado” is an example of the wit and sarcasm of Lioubimenko’s lyricism. From this perspective, the question that the track’s title asks might have the answer in the lyrics itself.

Greg Kustka-Tsimbidis’s drums, especially in the middle section accompanied by Lioubimenko’s jazzy chords, is on point with the snare and has the perfect amount of swing to continue that free-style feeling from the beginning of the track.

After a fast build-up by the drums, we start to really hear the rich sound of Scott’s bass. His technique combined with the groovy feel creates a great opportunity to propel the track forward and transition into Ilya Pechersky’s simple yet very effective chord progression on the guitar.

And in the end, after a funky little build-up and some repetitive chord changes, the listener returns back to that feeling of safety as the song starts to fade away. But this time, with an irreplaceable musical experience and an enlightening visit to the band’s collective mind. The track, don’t be deceived by its length, is full of small solos from each member and many details that demonstrate a collaborative effort made by the group.

“Why Now” may be the shortest track in the EP, but it doesn’t fail to catch up to the innovation and creativity that the other Algorhythm tracks brought to the table. It, instead, does this in a much shorter time and apart from the professionalism of the band, this proves that music, and especially prog, is not about how long you make a song’s length, but about how much emotion and thought you put in that limited space of time. With “Why Now”, Algorhythm shows to the world that they are aware of this and are ready to implement it in their own music.

Lyrics

Grimacing, destruction –
Time is running out
The creature is awoken
His sanity worn-out

The waiting game is over
Welcome the disease
There’s nothing left to salvage
Nothing more to seize

Why now?
Why? Why?

Vanishing bravado
Are you all so weak?
Bathing in deception
From thou which you reek

Summoned to the gallows
Shivering of fright
The cleanse is underway
Hope you’re not afraid of heights

Why now?
Why? Why?

3. Pull the Trigger (7:56)

The last but surely not the least song of the EP, “Pull the Trigger”, starts with rewinding tape sounds that lead us directly into the melodic yet strange instrumental intro of the song. We are able to experience and taste a prog-fusion feast at the beginning of the song with the harmony of the instruments, and of course, with a crazy walking bassline. Then the fast tempo is followed by a funky groove and a short sax improv by Hugo Leclerc, while the piano and the bass are also showing off.

After listening to all 3 songs from the EP, we can definitely understand that being in perfect unison while playing irrelevant lines is one of the signatures of Algorhythm sounds. After the instruments blend into each other, the lyrics kick in, which, according to the band, are about “seizing the good opportunities in life and getting rid of all the negativity that surrounds us.” If we pay attention to the overall lyrics of the songs, we can interpret that the EP focuses on the particular issues/subjects present in their lives. Lyrics start cynically and continue that way throughout the song. They put the listeners at ease since they have become aware that they are not the only ones facing challenges in their lives and if someone can make fun of those challenges, ”Who cares?” Besides the cynical voicings of the first verses, the chorus has a disturbing sound – which supports the lyrics that want to direct people towards awareness and encourage them to fight against their obstacles: ”Harm wins again, If you don’t fight, Losing ain’t no fun, So get things right”.

After the chorus and highly jazz-influenced improvisation of the band, we get to hear the melody that we heard at the beginning of the song again, but this time with lyrics. In this part of the song, we are able to hear the influence of Gentle Giant and King Crimson on the band with the chord progression, harmonizing back vocals and the duet of the sax with Alex’s voice. With the same tempo change, improvisation and resolution we are now back at the first verse of the song.

Unlike the other songs, Pechersky gets to say his words with his fluent bluesy guitar solo with a Hendrix-style distorted guitar tone. You must listen to this solo section once more for the sweet underlying bass of Marc Scott. Even after the solo, the song continues to surprise the listeners and bring back the main melody of the song with a settling flute, and then it slowly builds up for the grand finale of this mad instrumentation.

Considering the overall sound of the band, one of the things that makes them special is the freedom that they offer to their instruments while improvising, and they show it as if it was something easy to do. However, even after the first listening experience, you can hear the complexity of their songs and how much effort they have put into their instruments throughout their lives.

The Canadian neo-prog rock/fusion band undoubtedly brings a whole new dimension the the modern prog scene with high inspiration from jazz, which they professionally studied at music schools. It is an EP that certainly needs to be listened to more than a few times to appreciate every instrument forming the overall harmony. As they said, they are more like a prog-jazz band that reflects the energy of rock, than a prog-rock band.

Lyrics

High tide
Drown
Worthwhile
Breakdown

Bear trap
What’s that?
Plane crash
Blood bath

Harm wins again
If you don’t fight
Losing ain’t no fun
So, get things right

Hot stove
Burn
End Road
Your Turn

No air
Who cares?
Heart stop
Dead drop

Harm wins again
If you don’t fight
Losing ain’t no fun
So, get things right

Fire your gun
Enter the storm
Take matters into your own hands

Back in the race
Auctionless bidder
Now’s the time to pull the
Bottomless trigger

Turn to the man that is within
Rid yourself from this world of sin

Bar brawl
Bleed
Night squall
Misdeed

Dark lair
Who’s there?
Bright light
No sight

Harm wins again
If you don’t fight
Losing ain’t no fun
So, get things right

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