Aisles – “Hawaii”

aislesI found out about Chilean prog rock group Aisles’ new recording “Hawaii” by doing normal internet stuff: searching Bandcamp for progressive rock bands, reading Twitter, having that circle of friends constantly on the lookout for new music.

Ideas to consider regarding studio recordings which you probably already realize, but just in case:
1.  Some recordings are better if you listen from start to finish; as a matter of fact, some are written with that intent. The way a song ends can help set up the context of the next song.
2.  Just because a song starts in one key with one tempo doesn’t mean it’ll end that way. (CD 2, Track 3 into track 4 for example).

Writing this review reminds was like peeling back an onion. First I heard the music, then I really tuned in to the presentation of CDs 1 and 2, and finally I acquired the lyrics which also include notes regarding the concept; each song is from a different non -chronological period in time which spans thousands of years. Here is some background:

“Before the final extinction of all life on Earth, a secret project was mobilized to ensure the survival of the human race and other species.

A group of scientists, technicians, and philanthropists successfully completed several colonizing missions into space.

Within decades, a number of habitats had been established between Mars and the Kuiper belt. The last launch occurred at a time referred to as year 2300 in the archaic year numbering system. Colonists named the beginning of the new era ‘Year Zero’ “

Being firmly placed in the “neo-progressive rock” genre it is fair to mention Marillion as I hear influences in music and vocals; this is a compliment! These songs are given the chance to go where they go, never being forced to shove “that crazy instrumental part” or “cheesy ballad” where it doesn’t fit. Listening through the whole CD helps me understand why certain parts end up where they are, musically or conceptually speaking. Kudos to the band for placing hooky vocal lines throughout the songs. Re-listening is like an Easter egg hunt. As a concept album, there are plenty of sci-fi aspects, but not to the extent of turning off the listener with too much tech stuff. The humanity comes through as the more important aspect which is also a bonus.

Referring to note 2 above, multiple songs do begin with a slower tempo and sparse accompaniment but don’t let that fool you into the “meh, all the songs sound the same” trap. Now refer to note 1.

The guitars of German Vergara and Rodrigo Sepulveda are very tasteful, opting to support the song with color, warmth and melody instead of blowing us away with shredding. Likewise, the drums of Felipe Candia Bass are precise but never attempt to steal your attention from the music (his performance on the track Club Hawaii is fantastic). Sebastian Vergara’s vocals fall in the Geddy Lee wheelhouse; not overtly powerful but emotional and melodic. Juan Pablo Gaete’s keyboards adeptly tackle atmosphere, support and some solo lines. Bassist Daniel Baird-Kerr knows how to stay in the pocket and works well with Candia Bass.

Another noticeable factor is the overall length of 83 minutes. Each CD could hold 80 minutes but instead of superfluous exposition we have a relatively concise statement (Genesis’ Lamb was 94 minutes while The Astonishing is 130).

CH-7 (Track 5 of CD 1) would still be pretty cool standing alone, but after the dynamics of tracks 1-4, the end of the track is quite an exclamation point on the first CD. This is an example of when the tricky odd time-signature adds to the whole instead of being an afterthought.

Rather than going track by track, allow me to suggest you head to “Hawaii.” I hear shades of early Magna Carta artists like Cairo and Enchant, parts of Rush and early Porcupine Tree, and a few spots of Pain of Salvation. This double CD is carefully crafted, expertly produced and should be a happy surprise to those just discovering Chile’s Aisles.

Rating: 8/10

CD 1 (38 Minutes)
1. The Poet Pt I: Dusk
2. The Poet Pt. II: New World
3. Year Zero
4. Upside Down
5. CH-7

CD 2 (43 Minutes)
1. Terra
2. Pale Blue Dot
3. Still Alive
4. Nostalgia
5. Club Hawaii
6. Falling
7. In The Probe

Label: Presagio Records

About Ryan Good

Formerly: Host of "Strong PROGress", college radio music program Director of Loud Rock Department WSUM in Madison, WI On-Air Host 105.5 WMMM in Madison, WI Drums/songwriter/vocals Runga Kutta Host "So Jam Good" in Nekoosa, WI
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