Eddie Lascu 10-Mar-2008 Days Between Stations

When I received this album in the mail I looked at the cover of the CD, still shrink-wrapped, and I said to myself: “Oh great, another one of those unlistenable techno/industrial-noise albums”. The name of the band did not look familiar so I put the CD on the pile of things without a definitive playing timeframe. A few weeks later, while sorting through new material, I found it again and decided to give it a try. Boy, was I stunned. My jaw dropped instantly and I couldnít move until the album made it to the final seconds of the last track.

Days Between Stations is a project of two musicians established in California: Sepand Samzadeh (guitars) and Oscar Fuentes (keyboards). The name of the project was taken from a novel written by Steve Erickson. The band was founded in 2003 and released the debut album in 2007. The album was delayed by numerous unexpected events, some tragic, that have influenced, nonetheless, the dark, moody feeling of the music.

The music is described by the founding members as something between art-rock and post-prog. This is a very large area, so let me narrow it for you by saying that it sounds very Pink Floydish to my ears, maybe early Porcupine Tree, as the songs are mostly instrumental, with very few vocals here and there.

The duo of Samzadeh and Fuentes does employ a slew of musicians to help them on this project, some notable ones being Jeffrey Samzadeh, Sepandís uncle, a professional traditional Iranian classical music singer which adds some heart-stopping laments on the first track, “Requiem for the Living”, singer Hollie Shepard or the wonderful saxophonist Jason Hemmens.

Things are opened up by what is, undeniably, the best song of the album, “Requiem for the Living”, a 13-minute piece that will take you on a trip through several musical styles, from ambient, electronic music and soundtrack for a non-existing movie to guitar-driven psychedelic rock. Although the song starts off with some low drones, that is quickly replaced by a piano theme, a background for Jeffrey Samzedahís wails. Here is introduced the rhythmic section that will allow for the constant intersection of guitars and keyboards that follows.

The second track is “Either/Or” and here the highlight is the wordless vocal contribution of Hollie Shepard. This sounds a lot like what Claire Torry did on “The Great Gig in the Sky” - yet another parallel with Pink Floyd. The song is closed by a very long synthesizer solo that can only prove the versatility of Oscar Fuentes.

The third and sixth songs (Intermission 1 & 2) are short etudes, both including dialogs from what sounds like movies. In fact both tracks could easily be part of a soundtrack, fuelling to the general feeling that this guys could also write music for film.

“How to Seduce a Ghost” is up next, another gem on this album. It is Sepandís turn to shine, his dreamy, spacey guitar solos are chilling and haunting.

The fifth song exhibits the “lighter” side of the band. Somehow this new-wave song doesnít fit along the profound ideas in the other tracks and for me represents the low point of the album. However, the band chose “Radio Song” to be their lead-off single. The song was also included in the accompanying soundtrack for a recently-released independent movie.

And this leads us to the last song, Laudanum, a 22-minute epic in 4 parts. Jason Hemmensís impressive jazzy sax takes command allowing the intermission of numerous sonic effects, yet always returning to lead the song into the next intricate phase. There are so many things going on in this song, but we tend to stay close to the emotional, melancholic dreamscape that is so present throughout the entire album. Guitar and piano are continuing their dialog within the hypnotic space created by the surrounding spiralling drones.

Days Between Stations is a wonderful discovery. It will please every sophisticated or casual Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Djam Karet and Marillion fan. Paraphrasing Zappa, this is the best album of 2007 no one has heard about.

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