As much as I have always been a music guy first and foremost, I have also been a gamer. It is in my blood as much as anything else. I can distinctly remember sitting at my Xbox in 2005, and firing up the latest Tony Hawk game. Between kickflips and nosegrinds I was greeted by a song on the official soundtrack that was strange for an extreme sports game in the mid-aughts. The song was a noodly instrumental prog number, and the band was An Endless Sporadic. Fast forward 11 years, and apart from vaguely remembering that I really dug that song from way back when, I haven’t kept up with the band in the slightest. As such, I had no idea what to expect when their new record came up on the review queue. Going in with an open mind, I hoped that this band had grown in the intervening years since I had last heard them. I am happy to report that they have. This record quite literally blew me away.
What we have here is a meticulously crafted collection of 10 songs, songs that always feel ambitious and epic in scope despite the rather reigned in track lengths. Passages of dense orchestrations and wispy, nimble electronic elements break into absolutely breathtaking guitar playing and bass work. True to name, sporadic bursts of jazz and fusion come out of nowhere. A vintage Hammond, or some Vangelis inspired synth come into view before a flute takes over the melody line. Then violin comes screaming from the depths. Then a trumpet. The efficacy and effortlessness of this genre hopping is admirable. None of it seems forced, and it all works. The sound this collective conjures up is strange as hell, and an absolute blast.
This record is alot of fun. Sure, it encompasses 50 minutes of absolutely monstrous instrumental prog, but it is simultaneously an airy affair. There is so much diversity on display that the listen is never less than interesting. The compositions are brief and tight, never feeling noodly or overwrought. For, in my opinion, An Endless Sporadic avoids the cardinal sin of instrumental prog (or instrumental music in general), in that they build strong songs that function on their own. Solos feel deserved and necessary, and when they do appear they aren’t too long or drawn out. The composers build on themes and dynamics, and aren’t overly focused on how many arpeggios they can play (I have to assume based on the facility on display that its a pretty large number of arpeggios).
Mixing such a concise knack for composition and unapologetic exploratory streak seems like a conjunction of things that would be mutually exclusive, but An Endless Sporadic pull it off in spades. It truly is hard to compare it to anything, although upon my initial listen I heard shades of a jazzier Liquid Tension Experiment or a more liquid and less stiff Quantum-era Planet X. But those comparisons do a disservice to these guys. So many elements are unique, including the penchant for full blown orchestral interludes, with the track “The Assembly” sounding like an Ennio Morricone score, if he happened to play in Dream Theater. What a wacky combination of words that sentence is, yet that’s what I just listened to. Beautiful, cinematic, and multifaceted compositions abound on “Magic Machine”. This is great prog, and does what great prog should: ignores any preconceived boundaries and aims for the stars. They just about get there.
It should be noted that the record includes guest spots from Jordan Rudess, Rione Stolt, and an absolutely phenomenal Jonas Reingold on bass. Ultimately the buck stops at the feet of Zach Kamins, the mastermind and multi-instrumentalist/composer behind this project. What a record to hang your hat on, and what a way to go into the end of a year that has already brought so much great prog for us all to devour. I surely cannot wait to hear where this strange and genre eschewing group goes next. The Tony Hawk days are long gone (for myself and the band), but the future looks as bright as ever for An Endless Sporadic. Truly a must listen and one of my favorites this year, simply for how different it tries to be. I still can’t believe we don’t hear more about this band, but I think that is about to change in a big way.
1. The Departure
2. Magic Machine
3. Galactic Tactic
4. Finding The Falls
5. The Assembly
6. Agile Descent
7. Sky Run
8. Through The Fog
9. Sea Voyage
10. Impulse II