1. Schizoid & Guntrip (2:46)
2. In the Movie of You (7:57)
3. Devotee (7:24)
4. Ambiance for the Active Mind (6:40)
5. Fantastic Dreamer (6:26)
6. Releasing (5:21)
7. Fading in the Rain (6:29)
8. Upon Further Review (4:26)
9. Vision (13:50)
Henry Tarnecky – vocals, keyboards
Blake Tobias – keyboards, bass
Jack Wright – guitars, drums
Glenn Arpino – keyboards
Tom Shiben – bass
Nicole Tarnecky – vocals
Temporal Chaos Project (TCP for short) are a trio based in different states of north-eastern USA, who initially met on the Internet and started a collaboration that resulted in the album The Way, released in 2009. Their second album, Fantastic Dreamer, followed in April 2011, with the core group of Henry Tarnecky, Blake Tobias and Jack Wright augmented by three guest musicians. Both albums were released on Georgia-based label 10T Records, one of the most interesting independent labels for progressive rock.
In spite of their name, there is nothing chaotic about TCP. Fantastic Dreamer, which has garnered a lot of positive critical attention since its release, is one of those albums for which the definition ‘solid’ seems to be tailor-made. Though studio-only projects can often be hit-and-miss, formally perfect but somewhat lacking in the soul department – therefore producing an overall unsatisfactory impression – TCP’s sophomore effort comes across as a mature, well-balanced album, with excellent instrumental performances, enough compositional complexity to appeal to fans of traditional prog, and more than just a smattering of contemporary flair. While some bands or artists show a more or less clear direction (as in symphonic, neo or prog-metal), TCP are unabashedly eclectic, with roots in the great progressive tradition and some recognizable classic influences, yet no fear of dipping their collective toes in more modern waters. While TCP’s eclecticism is of a different kind than the one displayed by bands of a more innovative disposition, the end result is definitely worthy of attention.
Running at about one hour (in my opinion, the almost perfect length), Fantastic Dreamer features 10 tracks, most of them between 2 and 8 minutes, with the exception of the ‘epic’ “Visions”, an ambitious yet cohesive piece that wraps up the album in fitting fashion.. Though, like many modern prog albums, Fantastic Dreamer is very much vocal-based, TCP achieve admirable balance between the singing and the lush, varied instrumental sections. Keyboardist Henry Tarnecky is in charge of the vocals, and does a fine job of it. His voice brings to mind the husky, slightly rough around the edges tone of Peter Gabriel, with some hints of the dramatic power of Peter Hammill or Fish, and fits the material perfectly.
Though clocking in at under 3 minutes, opener “Schizoid & Guntrip” already sets the tone for the whole album – a melodic yet assertive number, evoking a vintage hard rock vibe, with a subtly catchy quality and sleek instrumental interplay. “In the Movie of You” blends suggestions of early Pink Floyd (down to the use of recorded ambient sounds) with heavier tones, the sharpness of the guitar tempered by the gentleness of the piano. Pink Floyd references also crop up in the aptly-titled “Ambiance for the Active Mind”, where the atmospheric surge of the keyboards climaxes in dramatic rifferama before loosening up in a lovely guitar solo amidst waves of mellotron; while the mid-paced “Releasing”, with the faintly eerie tone of the guitar solo, points rather to the later output of the seminal English band. The catchiest number on the album, “Devotee” pushes keyboards and vocals to the forefront, with plenty of drama and melody in the vein of crossover/art rock bands like Queen or Supertramp.
With the title-track and “Fading in the Rain”, TCP tread similar territory, displaying their grandiose, even bombastic side, though without overdoing things; the latter song in particular, in which Tarnecky is assisted by a female guest vocalist, Nicole Tarnecky, clearly references Genesis, with airy guitar soloing and masses of stately keyboards. The folksy, mainly acoustic “Upon Further Review”, embellished by harpsichord and Mellotron, acts as an introduction of sorts to the 13-minute “Visions”, a powerful keyboard-driven extravaganza composed by guest musician Glenn Arpino, in which a climactic crescendo somewhat reminiscent of Supertramp’s more ambitious pieces is bookended by rarefied, understated passages and fluidly melodic guitar leads.
While I would not go as far as to call Fantastic Dreamer a masterpiece (as other enthusiastic reviewers have done), it is undoubtedly a very well-crafted album, with all-round excellent performances, and an interesting compositional structure. The occasional bouts of heaviness do not disrupt the melodic, nicely knit fabric of the music, and Henry Tarnecky’s expressive vocals tackle the often ambitious lyrical matter with assurance and aplomb. The very detailed CD booklet, enhanced by striking artwork and photography, adds visual interest to a substantial musical package. Even if TCP are, at least for the time being, a studio-based project, I hope they will consider taking their music on the road in the near future, because they sound like a band worth hearing in a live setting.