“Can you get jaded as a music reviewer?” I was asked this recently, “When you listen to so many new albums does it become somewhat monotonous?” Good question I thought and went away to let my thought processes perambulate. I can only talk for myself in saying, I find that, because I review many different genres, it rarely happens and, the fact that, the music I listen to and review, is not mainstream means it is varied and always interesting. However, every now and then, even if I was feeling like I was listening to a never ending stream of similarity, there are always little gems that arrive, like an inspiration particle, and pique my musical curiosity. “What is he going on about now?” I hear you cry “what musical seed has blossomed into an undeniably beautiful flower?” Step forward Aisles and their latest release, 4.45 AM. Upon first listen, this cosmopolitan smorgasbord of musical ideas and directions had me hooked and, like many of the best albums, you find new and interesting things every time you listen to it, like a musical slow release patch.
Originally hailing from Santiago, Chile, the band are made up of Sebastian Vergara (vocals), German Vergara (guitar), Felipe Candia (drums), Rodrigo Sepulveda (guitar), Alejandro Melendez (keyboards) and Daniel Baird-Kerr (bass). Aisles have been considered one of the most interesting Progressive Rock bands of recent years and have just released their third studio album ‘4:45 AM’. Their soulfully crafted combination of rock, progressive rock, art rock, fusion, world music and other styles illustrates the band’s unique liberal and eclectic music vision. Aisles have been regarded as Neo-Prog, but their approach to music goes far beyond that while creating a very powerful and unique type of music and sound.
4:45 AM is about pain, blood, resilience, and strength. The most extreme hour of the day, the time in which you either get up or get completely lost, an hour shared by a soul in decline and one ready to rise. Without further ado, let’s have a listen and I’ll let you know what all the fuss is about.
Title track, and first song on the album, 4.45 AM has an indie rock vibe from the off with the staccato guitar and vocal delivery. It is a very catchy song, the chorus especially and, despite the inference of the time, is decidedly upbeat in delivery and feel. It is delivered with zest and vigour and with a polish that, at first, leaves me feeling a little bit put off but, as you will see, the whole point of the album is that you listen to the complete record and let each track influence what you have listened to and not individual sound bites. That way of looking at things is enforced by the second track, there are no two tracks the same on this eclectic album and, if you are after a record that contains individual tracks that stand alone and do not complete a bigger picture then, move on my friend, you have got off the bus at the wrong station. Gallarda Yarura enters the equation with a spoken word introduction that transforms itself into a clever instrumental, the way the instruments overlay each other and convey something almost spiritual is really rather clever, an effects heavy guitar leads you on a haunting trail through a bewitching musical landscape, the repeating melody that follows is impish and carefree whilst occasionally taking a more serious note, like two different personalities.
To say that the album is eclectic and takes direction from many varied influences would be something of an understatement, Shallow and Daft could have come straight from the 80’s with its seductive and addictive keyboard and guitar note and the clipped tones of the vocal, anyone who remembers Depeche Mode or Howard Jones would feel that era’s influence over the whole song and, for me, it is genius. It is obvious we are dealing with a very intelligent group of musicians here, able to weave a complete canvas from some disparate sources. Like a journey through a musical wormhole, we move into another contrasting musical arena with Back My Strength, a gentle paced, balladesque track where the vocals are the focus, superb and full of pain and emotion. The guitar is powerful whilst leading a leisurely pace and the piano and soft percussion complete the mournful backdrop perfectly. The laid back and discordant guitar solo fits in perfectly with the somber notes of the song heavy with feeling.
The Sacrifice has a feeling that is ethereal and semi-translucent, very gentle acoustic guitar and angel like vocals bringing to the album a note that has a strong folk and world music edge to it. It might just be me but, I even sense a return to their South-American roots on this song, the rhythmic acoustic guitar note that takes over and the general meditative atmosphere that comes across, all adding to a mysterious, hypnotic effect. Sixth track, The Ship, is a minute long interlude and consists of sounds of the sea, waves rolling, birds calling, it’s almost as if it was intended to cleanse the aural palate.
We go down the instrumental route again with Intermission, this track has a strong technical feel to it, a repetitive and short guitar note underscoring another distorted guitar that lends a trance-like note to the track. It could be an ambient soundtrack that leads this album into another level of evolution, ever changing but always keeping a slither of the DNA than connects everything together. It feels almost alive, organic if you like. The gentle guitar note that heralds Sorrow links the song with The Sacrifice and, for the first time on the album there appear to be two tracks that stem from the same initial musings of a musical mind yet, retain their own individuality. The vocal is passionate and forceful and the harmonising is particularly good. I feel a strong Latin influence with the intricate acoustic guitar and gentle percussion which fits perfectly with the feel of the whole album, the tranquil strings adding another layer of complexity and giving this track its own distinctive style.
The diversity and uniqueness of Aisles is driven home even harder by Hero, another instrumental that starts off somber and melancholy with a distinctive, echoing and jarring guitar overlaying the patient drumbeat. The guitar note takes on a lighter note and increases in tempo, the track taking a much more progressive edge to it. It is complex and divergent as it moves through multiple phases, even taking on a hint of space rock in one of its more earnest sections, 70’s style Hammond organ and polyphonic guitars rising to prominence. It was like the musical equivalent of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The final track on this divergent pilgrimage through the unique entity that is Aisles is another singular musical experience. Melancholia has a deliberate introduction, a placid and genial guitar note taking you on an unhurried jaunt toward the body of the song. The guitar then becomes more heartfelt and is matched by the intensity of the vocal performance which drips with warmth and sentiment and stirs the soul. I can’t say that this is a song that leaves you smiling and laughing but, there is an honesty and acuteness to the whole record that is concentrated to its maximum in this exquisite and graceful piece of music. The way the song comes to its conclusion is inspired and it leaves you with a yawning emptiness inside when it’s gone.
There is an emotional intensity to 4.45 AM that is delivered with aplomb, I feel drained of emotion after listening to this album and it touches you to the depths of your soul. Like a fine wine, you will not want to experience this album every day but, keep it in some place special so that, when the mood arises, you can bring it out and enjoy it all over again. I applaud Aisles for producing something that is as unique as they are, long may it continue.s far beyond that while creating a very powerful and unique type of music and sound.