I’ve always found progressive rock fascinating. It always walks hand in hand with virtuoso players that know their craft back and forth, but, like any genre, there are quite a lot of duds. The problem is that a technical player that is very fast and soulless will leave you with a technically flawless album with a lack of soul and passion. The solution is having someone who is not only technically gifted, but also with one hand clearly in their heart.
Master & the Mule knows this and relish a smouldering pace in the astonishing The View from Nowhere (cool artwork, btw). We talked about them before, when we reviewed their singles ‘6ixty 5ive’ & ‘Kingdom’ before and somehow, both songs hit stronger in the context of an album. A few days ago we mentioned that the new Smashing Pumpkins album, Oceania, was very cohesive. The same can be said for The View from Nowhere.
A loud opening in the form of ‘Penton’, with a masterful display of bass (a constant throughout the entire album) and 5 delicious minutes of pure, undiluted rock, a genre sorely missed in this days of overcompressed pop songs littering the airwaves. The atmospheres laid out by Master & the Mule are plentiful, expansive and with great aural range.
Enough technicalities; it’s a given the band are good at their craft. ‘Fing’ is relentless and unforgiving, brutally upstaging any other actors on scene. Slightly slower, but probably far more dangerous is ‘Exchange Expression’, the track that might get you hooked if the others two failed their mission. With a slow burning atmosphere (feedbacks, reverse echoes) that finally explodes like a backdraft, it is prog, but also gloomy and almost gothic. ‘Eyesore’ practically runs on feedbacks and heavy, deep bass lines, firmly tilling the soil and planting the seeds for what would grow to be a fantastic choice of a single, ‘6ixty 5ive’.
Now, the band sometimes goes and flexes other muscles. ‘Kingdom’ abandons the guitar lead for a synth-heavy atmosphere that builds another room in the darkened Victorian Estate where Master & the Mule have led us to fates unknown. Heck, on that Victorian simile, the band sounds perfectly steampunk-ish in ‘Mekanum’, the most atmospheric piece, deep in gloomy intentions and pulsating dark waves of Gothic phantasmagoria.
Carajo, this is the good stuff. I see no point in splitting the last two songs, ‘Camouflage’ and ‘Rudey Montgomery’, as they crossfade just right and complement each other perfectly, think of that intertwining Ouroboros knot and you’ll understand how closely related these two are.
Master & The Mule know their prog perfectly and, even better, understand that there is a fine line between being self-indulgent (and alienating) and being crafty and challenging. The view from nowhere is the band having their very layered cake and eating it too.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López