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Palace of Ether

Prolusion. The US band TRANCE LUCID was formed back in 1993, and released their debut album "Arise" back in 1996. A second studio effort followed in 2000, a third in 2005, and a live production saw the light next in 2007. Since then band activities cooled down for a bit, but in 2013 Trance Lucid returned with their fourth studio production, "Palace of Ether", released through their own Lucid Moon Child Music label.

Analysis. Instrumental progressive rock is a style of music rather more diversified than what most people expect, and Trance Lucid is among the bands that do add a bit extra to this type of music. Not in terms of dramatically groundbreaking material or innovative excursions that attempt to break down conventional perceptions about what music might be, but by producing an album's worth of material that tends to shy away from any obvious specific style descriptions more accurate than instrumental progressive rock. Although one might add that the guitar has such a central position in the sound of this band that guitar-driven might be an apt description, the specific sound explored is very much at odds with the associations most people will have when that expression is used. Trance Lucid's material is consistently careful in sound and expression. There's hardly ever any dramatic instrumental details; the overall mood and atmosphere are ones defined by gentle details and careful excursions, and the overall tone used in the compositions tends to be a light one, giving the disc a positive and uplifting spirit. Structurally the compositions, even the majority of the shorter ones, revolve around multiple themes and arrangements with a fair bit of diversity in intensity and construction, and as such fit most progressive rock definitions quite nicely indeed.

Opening track TM is one of the few creations here that can be singled out as deviating somewhat from the norm, not due to structure or arrangements as such, but because the song appears to revolve around a variation of a fairly well known guitar riff by space rock band Hawkwind. Very different in tone and intensity in Trance Lucid's versions admittedly, but long time Hawkwind fans will find the similarities between TM and ‘Brainstorm’ interesting indeed. The next few songs see the band exploring compositions with an intriguing blend of jazz rock and blues-tinged guitar details, frequently with multiple guitar layers and occasionally combining subtle details from each of them. The end result is hard to define, but a sheer pleasure to listen to for the avid listener. The Crossing ends this part of the CD on a high note, tossing in some careful yet harder edged riffs that gave me distinct associations towards the legendary Canadian trio Rush.

The majority of this disc is used for the title track Palace of Ether which, as I experienced, comes across more like a 10-part long cycle than a 10-part epic-length composition. Be that as it may be, but as this half hour long creation unfolds the aesthetics from the opening five compositions are expanded with gentle, oddly toned guitar details that at times gave me associations to early 80's Robert Fripp, occasional dips into a more psychedelic oriented landscape as well as some instances of material with more of an exotic, Eastern timbre to them. Dampened cold synths are utilized effectively throughout to contrast the always warm guitar textures of Halverson, and some odd but intriguing percussion details appear now and then to add tension to the material. A few of the 10 parts also incorporate some possible nods in the direction of the aforementioned Canadian outfit. All done with finesse and elegance, and always within calm, reassuring landscapes without any major dramatics or sharply contrasting details either. A smooth ride, if you like, but one with more than enough details to keep the attention of avid listeners who enjoy this specific type of music. Final track Remembrance concludes the title track and album in a neat manner, referencing back to the opening track TM with some nice guitar details and otherwise transporting the listener through a nice, multiple themed construction that revisits a few other moods previously explored.

Conclusion. Instrumental progressive rock that combines jazz rock, some blues details, occasional psychedelic rock aesthetics alongside Frippian guitar details and harder edged progressive rock is one way of summarizing Trance Lucid's "Palace of Ether". All done within a framework of careful, dampened moods and arrangements, smoothly made and performed material easy on the ears and the mind but with plenty of details and subtly quirky maneuvers that will satisfy the avid listener. An album well worth checking out if you like instrumental progressive rock obviously, and especially if you tend to enjoy bands that stick to careful, smooth arrangements, no matter how many details and layers are utilized.

-Olav M. Bjornsen, ProgressoR

©2020 TL