There isn’t that much to say about prog supergroup Translatlantic that hasn’t already been said, re-said, cut and pasted, analysed, re-analysed and, just for fun, analysed once more. Granted, when a band has so much talent and history there is a level of inevitability that the opportunity to stroke the proverbial beard and digest what it all means in the canon of progressive rock will doubtless be taken. You can’t blame anyone. However, the flotsam and jetsam of what other projects this band have been involved with and what they might do next can sometimes get in the way of actually listening to the music that the band have made and, you know, whether it is actually any bloody good. You can rest easy: it is.
Kaleidoscope is Transatlantic’s fourth album and an exuberant and happy beast it is too. Having lived with this record for the best part of a month now, I’m struck by three things. First, Mike Portnoy‘s percussion is utterly extraordinary. I must confess that sometimes I have found him to be just about on the right side of massively irritating, but only just on the right side. I should have known better. His drumming here is the drive and the heartbeat of the entire record: it provides the architecture and infrastructure for the way the record ebbs and flows, lifts, soars and dives. There’s subtlety and nuance too; it’s not just a festival of paradiddles and, as you know, this is a very good thing.
Second, the band make complex and involved music sound like something they’d dashed off like a Saturday morning shopping list. Underneath, you know that there is a sincere dedication to their collective craft, a precision and professionalism that is hugely admirable; this is a band that know that they are good and don’t hide away from this fact in some kind of self regarding false modesty. Look, it takes a serious feat of quality to keep you engaged across a twenty five minute piece of music like Into the Blue. That they manage it with consummate ease and make it sound like its half the length gives you some idea just how much this band understand narrative and aural dynamics.
Third, this is a happy record. Not in the grinning loon sense of the word but there seems to be an inherent warmth and compassion and simple contentment across the five pieces of music here. Take a dip into the lovely ballad Shine and I think you will instively know what I’m getting at but it’s on the expansive and majestic thirty or so minutes of the title track that it all makes clear, heartwarming sense.
So: a fourth album, three points to encourage you to buy it, but if that’s not enough, know this: Kaleidoscope is the prog equivalent of getting into a warm bath after a long day; and a bath that knows just when to top itself up with a bit more from the hot tap. Normal service resumed, then.