Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Poly-Math – Zenith

Poly-Math are a Brighton based band who’ve recently expanded into a five-piece, and Zenith is their first release which incorporates the use of saxophone. This album features no vocals whatever, it’s just a series of eight relatively short pieces of music, with only two extending beyond five minutes, all of which draw heavily on the influence of bands like Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, amongst others. I’m using the term ‘pieces of music’ rather than songs because only a couple of these pieces come close to conforming to what most would refer to as a song. This isn’t intended to be a major criticism, and there’s no denying the overall quality of the musicianship involved, it’s simply to state Zenith is an album you really have to be in the right frame of mind to listen to because the music is occasionally dense and heavy, and what they play isn’t free form jazz or probably not prog. Whatever it is, it isn’t easy listening.

As a band their influences are right out there in the open .. you can’t miss them .. and they use different instruments regularly in their songs. ‘Canticum II’ is one example. The first couple of minutes draws from early Dream Theatre, and the guitar work is good, and then as other instruments are added, a different feel emerges. ‘Proavus’ features some fine guitar work, again hinting at a familiarity with the early work of Dream Theatre. ‘Charger’ begins quite atmospherically before moving into a middle eight which is straight out of the Van der Graaf Generator songbook. Similarly with ‘Metam’, which opens with a synth before sax comes to the fore.

For this reviewer the two standout pieces are ‘Velocitor’ and ‘Mora’. Both tracks feature the band staying inside the same song structure, with neither sounding like pieces with other instruments being added randomly. ‘Velocitor’ is pure 1970’s King Crimson and Zappa while ‘Mora’ in particular is a delightful piece, slow and atmospheric with restrained sax blowing plus some gorgeous touches on guitar.

Onstage, with the scope offered for improvising, they can doubtless give a good account of themselves, and there’s little doubt these guys can play. But, for myself I think, on an album, I’d prefer something with a little more song structure.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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