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Archive for July 12th, 2011

TRACKLISTING:
1. Calling Out (4:55)
2. Still Water (5:04)
3. Unity (1:59)
4. Another Day (4:36)
5. Water Of Life (10:00)
6. Live For Him (5:26)
7. Indian Summer (2:38)
8. By My Side (3:55)
9. Vacant Halls (6:44)
10. Freedom Road (6:05)

LINEUP:
Dave Auerbach – guitars
Dean Hallal – lead and backing vocals
Kevin Jarvis – keyboards, guitars, dulcimer, vocals
Jennifer Meeks – flute, lead and backing vocals
Frank Tyson – bass, vocals, whistling
Rick Walker – drums, percussion

With:
Jeff Hodges – additional keyboards, percussion, samples and loops

Hailing from Sumter (South Carolina), where they were formed in 1997 by keyboardist Kevin Jarvis and drummer Rick Walker, Farpoint have 12 years of live performances and 5 studio albums under their collective belts. Their recording debut, First Light, appeared  in 2002, though with a different line-up than the one appearing on this album.  Kindred is also the band’s first release for Georgia-based label 10T Records, while their previous albums had all been released independently.

Farpoint are part of a group of mostly American bands and artists that are openly Christian in inspiration, which is bound to alienate some listeners. To be honest, Farpoint are not as heavy-handed as other acts (Neal Morse comes to mind) in the way they handle the religious content of their lyrics. Moreover, the generally upbeat, positive nature of their musical offer may come across as refreshing in an age of often somewhat contrived misery and navel-gazing. Rather than concentrating on complex theological issues, Farpoint’s lyrical universe is simple, almost naive, their unabashedly optimistic songs revolving about ideas of love, hope and trust, both in God and mankind.

On a personal level, even if I am not religious, and would rather not see music turned into a vehicle for any ideological manifesto, I do not see anything wrong with delivering a positive message. The main problem, at least to my ears, is that quite a few of the songs on Kindred (right from opener “Calling Out”) remind me of the music that would be played during a service, back in my days as a good Catholic girl and a member of the local church choir. Associating this kind of music with progressive rock can be a tad awkward, and indeed Kindred is only marginally related to prog as we know it. On occasion, the instrumental interplay allows glimpses of greater complexity, but on the whole the majority of the tracks featured on the album are rather conventional, mainstream-sounding songs with a heavy emphasis on vocals and plenty of catchy hooks.

In any case, the members of Farpoint show excellent musicianship, and their songwriting skills are none too shabby either. Production-wise, Kindred can boast of outstanding clarity of sound, which allows each instrument to shine without overwhelming the others. Farpoint are very much ensemble players, each of the members contributing to the final result. The album is also quite well-balanced, clocking in at a very reasonable 51 minutes, with two shorter, mostly acoustic instrumental interludes (“Unity” and “Indian Summer”) and most of the other songs between 4 and 6 minutes – with the sole exception of the 10-minute “Water of Life”. However, those expecting a towering effort in typical “prog epic” tradition will be disappointed, because the song – in spite of some noteworthy instrumental passages such as the lengthy, flute- and guitar-driven introduction, with some sterling bass work by Frank Tyson (whose flawless performance is one of the best points of the album) – becomes quite lightweight every time vocals are involved.

On the other hand, the prog references are few and far between, and mostly concentrated in the uncharacteristically meditative, downbeat “Vacant Rooms” (in my view the highlight of the album, a heartfelt reflection on the loss of loved ones), with its spacey keyboards and lovely, Gilmour-influenced guitar solo leading to an intense crescendo in the final part of the song. “Live for Him” displays some lively classic rock touches, especially in Dave Auerbach’s excellent guitar and Hammond organ passages that bring to mind early Deep Purple, as well as an interesting drumming pattern in the bridge – but is somehow let down by the country-meets-church-music flavour of the vocal parts. A couple of other songs – notably “Another Day”, with its jangly, bluegrass-style guitar – reminded me of the alt.country slant of The Decemberists’ latest album, The King Is Dead,  though minus Colin Meloy’s distinctive vocals. Indeed, Dean Hallal’s smooth, well-modulated voice seems quite well-suited to mainstream, country-tinged pop-rock; while Jennifer Meeks’s ethereal soprano is quite underused, her only solo spot being the rather cheesy “By My Side”.

Clearly informed by strong faith and a positive worldview, Kindred is likely to appeal to those listeners who lean towards the melodic, more accessible side of prog, as well as those who like a well-crafted mainstream song delivered in a pleasing manner. Personally, I found the instrumental passages far more interesting than anything featuring vocals, though I am quite sure that  a lot of people will find the album as a whole to their taste. Needless to say, anyone who objects to religious or other ideological messages in their music will do well to steer clear of this album.

Links:
http://www.farpointband.com/

http://www.farpointband.com/

http://www.10trecords.com

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