Stop Motion Orchestra - Lightworks

5 songs
33:46 minutes
***** ***
Knock'em Dead / Megaphone


Four years ago, Texas based art rock band released their unconventional debut album Instant Everything, and since then it became quiet about them. Now they are back, grown from a quintet to a sextet, without having to rely on guest musicians so much anymore. And why should they? The typical rock instruments of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards are augmented by saxophone, violin and cello.

Where the debut offered eleven rather short tracks, Lightworks only contains five mostly long songs, although the concluding Ocťano De Leche contains four and a half minutes of nothing, maybe to pad the album to over half an hour? Not the nicest trick in the book, if you ask me.

But apart from this cheat, I have to say that I really like the new album a lot, as the longer songs give the band more opportunity to build up tension and momentum. The opener Serafiniís Cat shows right away what to expect from Stop Motion Orchestra. Chamber prog meets complex rock patterns, and even though the violin and the saxophone make for a weird avant folk flair, itís eventually bandleader Mohadevís subdued yet utterly delightful guitar playing that will remain with you. I also love the tight rhythm section and the discreet electric piano. Way To Sarov is at nearly nine minutes the longest track on the album and continues in the way of the opener: oriental saxophone melody, a little heavier guitar playing this time, with all of the musicians getting together to create a sonic painting between your ears. Nerve Hurdle is at five minutes one of the shorter tracks, and also the most straightforward piece, despite the rhythm section that seems to hobble its way to crazy 7/8 or 9/8 patterns, although it might still be something way more unusual. The violin lays down a very mellow carpet, thus contrasting the otherwise more rocking nature of the track. Metal Pants is only two and a half minutes long and crystallises the bandís avant folk prog mťlange into the most digestible way. The album ends with Ocťano De Leche, a seven minute track that once again highlights the bandís many virtues.

I am a bit torn when it comes to Lightworks. It feels more accessible to me than its predecessor, and I donít know if thatís only due to its increased quality or also because itís a shorter and thus easier to follow album. The band cites among others Henry Cow, Cardiacs, Anthony Braxton and Thinking Plague as their influences. All of these are incredible avant prog innovators, and if you like your progressive music brainy and delightfully listenable at the same time, then you really have to listen to Stop Motion Orchestra. One more long track and two additional shorter tracks could have given Lightworks a more common length. I only hope that we wonít have to wait another four years to get more music from these strange Texans.

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