Sound Of Contact

InsideOut, 2013


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Neo-prog quartet Sound Of Contact grew out of a collaboration between drummer/vocalist Simon Collins and keyboard maestro Dave Kerzner (Kevin Gilbert, Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett and many others), that was expanded to include Kelly Nordstrom (guitar/bass) and Matt Dorsey (guitar/bass). These roots play out across this very strong debut album, which spotlights the drums and keys on most tracks, with the guitars often treated as accents or counterpoints rather than lead instruments, and the bass barely present at all.

This dynamic gives these tunes an interesting sonic balance; they are often big and airy, full of warm and sometimes bold keyboard tones, yet feature a hefty bottom end thanks to Collins’ powerful drumming. (And if the latter bit of description feels a bit familiar, it should; Simon Collins is indeed a second-generation drummer-vocalist-prog-band-frontman and the son of Phil. But try not to let that bit of trivia distract you.)

Sound Of Contact’s debut release Dimensionaut is almost two separate albums. The first one is roughly 54 minutes long, and has 11 songs, most in the 4:45 to 6:30 range. That description doesn’t immediately shout “prog,” nor should it; while there is a good flow to this part of the album, the songs are more in the realm of a collection of intertwined short stories than of the sort of epic tendencies for which prog is known.

The tracks do run together in places, though, and the moments and themes—very sci-fi stuff about space and time and isolation and connection—come together like a jigsaw puzzle, each shape fitting seamlessly into its neighbor. The opening two-minute intro/overture, fittingly titled “Sound Of Contact,” in fact pushes directly into the heavy, almost prog-metal dynamics of “Cosmic Distance Ladder,” which frankly had me worried for a moment that the band might be heading into Dream Theater territory (my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 shudder). But no, they were just exercising their prerogative to play big and loud for a few minutes, and why not? The members of Sound Of Contact are all terrific players, no doubt about that, though they thankfully focus more on melody and dynamics than speed or flash.

Through the rest of the first three-quarters of this album, Collins, Kerzner and company explore a series of vignettes, some quite proggy, like “I Am (Dimensionaut)” and “Omega Point,” and a few with a more melodic, vocal-driven, almost prog-pop feel. The latter category includes the pulsing, infectious “Pale Blue Dot” and the somber, soaring “Only Breathing Out” and “Closer To You,” the latter pair somewhat inevitably reminding of latter-day Genesis ballads.

The boys do experiment a bit here and there, though; for example, “Beyond Illumination” opens in fairly typical SOC fashion with an airy drums-keys duet, but then takes a quirky turn as they give the verses a reggae feel. It’s an odd match, reggae rhythms with sci-fi lyrics, but it works, and then on the pre-chorus and chorus, Kerzner delivers warm, sweeping tones that feel like pure Tony Banks. The track then morphs in its second half into a duet between Collins and guest vocalist Hannah Stobart that reminds a bit of Peter Gabriel’s memorable 1986 duet with Kate Bush on “Don’t Give Up.”

After 54 minutes of strong stuff, the exercise is capped off in epic style by the nearly 20-minute, four-part closer “Mobius Slip.” Opening with the requisite atmospheric sound effects, Part I quickly moves into a big, airy, booming instrumental, again highlighting drums and keys. Part II opens around 5:00 with a supergroovy guitar-drum duet and Collins’ vocals coming in over the top of the rather Eastern-sounding chords, sounding more than ever like his father’s son. Building steadily through Part III, around 10:45 the increasingly heavy guitars detonate a slamming jam. The lengthy closing section resolves all of these threads, moving through a series of sharply drawn vignettes to an appropriately grand and spacey conclusion that again spotlights the talents of Kerzner and Collins.

The lyrics here do occasionally fall into cliché, and Collins and Kerzner’s super-clean production feels almost too pristine at times, but these are minor quibbles. Taken as a whole, Dimensionaut is a very impressive debut from another band to watch among the newest wave of neo-prog visionaries.

Rating: A-

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© 2013 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of InsideOut, and is used for informational purposes only.