Album Review: NOVA COLLECTIVE The Further Side
The fact that Nova Collective penned a debut album which masterfully sums up modern progressive rock and metal into six succinct songs, for the genre, is no surprise. The group consists of prog masterminds Dan Briggs, who you know as the bassist in Between The Buried and Me and Trioscapes, guitarist Richard Henshall of Haken, former Haken keyboardist Pete Jones, and drummer Matt Lynch, who drums in Trioscapes and has recently filled in with Cynic amidst its murky semi-breakup. Essentially, Nova Collective boasts an infallibly interesting lineup whose collective ability as songwriters is exceedingly high, and who meet the expectations of a supergroup with ease.
The power of Nova Collective's debut album The Further Side lies in the reappearances of overarching themes throughout each song, and the differences between each composition. "Dancing Machines" continuously returns to its opening, spicy samba-flavored grooves and semi-dramatic organ riffs, while "Air" keeps things loose and coolly insouciant with a recurring theme played by both a clean guitar and marimba-sounding keyboard patch. The remaining four tracks share a similar trait: no matter if the track is 5 minutes long or just about to break into 10 minute territory, there's a very clear theme and feeling established right from the start.
So what's the importance of concisely stating the musical thesis and revolving the entire song around it? Because this is instrumental music, where every single note you play is laid out bare for dissection by the listener, and meandering around for a whole track gets boring extremely fast. Nova Collective states right up front what it's going to accomplish with each song, and then does so wonderfully.
"Dancing Machines" is a perfect example of the composition skills displayed on The Further Side. The song starts off with its proverbial thesis, and despite flirting with Middle Eastern themes and broken machine-sounding keyboard patches in quieter, more rigid sections, always manages to come back to that main idea at just the right time. It also helps that each offshoot and mini-tangent Nova Collective goes off on from the main theme always has some element of that main narrative, however subtle.
Just take a listen to "Ripped Apart And Reassembled" to get a sense of that sentiment. The track is consistently mutating through different jazz fusion progressions, though there's almost always one instrument in the mix that retains a very chorus-heavy, almost amorphous sound that becomes identifiable as the 'Ripped Apart And Reassembled" sound. Frankly, it's brilliant.
All told, The Further Side is a great album. It retains the controlled spastic madness of Between The Buried And Me, the eternally strange and semi-ethnic musings of Haken, and the always bombastic and jazz-heavy punches thrown by Trioscapes, yet adds a thematic and very fusion-influenced element into the mix that can only be classified now as Nova Collective.
Here's hoping these guys have a plan for a sophomore album.