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Magnesium Fireflies
Artist: Dallas Orbiter 
Label: Princess Records
Time: 8 tracks/40:59 min:sec

Yes, you've been here before, haven't you?

This is so clichéd, but it must be said this is original and unique music and something that you definitely have not heard before except perhaps in your own private dreams.

Let's see, there are bits and pieces of what you perhaps have heard before the influences run deep and wide. Vocals are at once Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, then Neil Young, with a touch of Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The dreamy mixture of tones in Magnesium Fireflies comes from Yes, Pink Floyd, Flaming Lips, Mars Volta, that garage band down the street from you, King Crimson, CSNY, BT, Moby, etc. But you've never heard these mixed into a coherent soup of sound that seems at times to be a little audible Deja Vu weirdly strange and familiar at the same time.

There is absolutely nothing to be bored with on this offering from Minnesota based Dallas Orbiter, their third commercially available release. How one band manages to combine Trevor Rabin-proud rising guitar solos, electronica blippy synths, trippy Pink Floyd Rhodes electric piano, lo-fi garage band drums, bowed saw (yes, like the kind you can cut a tree with), lap steel guitar, old-school farfisa organ, flute into a coherent and approachable soundscape is a little hard to imagine and describe. Dallas Orbiter pulls this off, somehow and you most likely haven't even heard of them before.

There are only eight official tracks on the CD, and even though this is a bit grandiose to state, this disc is not unlike the Pet Sounds and Smile offerings from The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, in that each song contains sonic vignettes that take you sometimes into some tripped-out places, all while sounding pretty and other worldly at the same time; like your familiar lucid dreams. You know they are not for real, but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable or deniable that they are part of you.

This isn't to say that all is happy-go-lucky with the Orbiter. Some of the lyrics are quite dark 'You look so pretty when you're digging my grave' for example. Then later there is a repeated interlocked pairing of 'synapses are just molecules kissing / I want to touch your pretty little brain'. Undeniably intimate. The liner notes by Stephen McCabe describe Dallas Orbiter in a stream of scary mechanical insects. Shameful, really. What presents itself is a much more human effort.

With only eight tracks, it might seem like each song might grow a little long in the tooth. However, with the variety and tasty sonic nuggets around each corner, only once in the entire disc is there a point where you might wish the Orbiter had pressed the stop button on their ProTools rig and called it a track. This occurs at the end of '73rd and Something'; well near the end it's at 3:50 into this track, which goes on for another two and a half minutes or so, where the same phrase is repeated over and over. It's in this track also, where the only profanity on the CD occurs. (which will bring down a ding in the final # of tocks rating) Yet in this track there is also one of the most majestic guitar hooks on the CD sounds straight out of something that Steely Dan's Dean Parks would toss in on the end of a phrase then couples in with a double harmony line that seems like Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin from Yes got called into the sessions. That's all in just one track. Long live independent music.

The aforementioned bowed saw seems to be featured in the initial track, "Bed of Stars." A band that wanted to first draw in a broad range of listeners would never pop such a sonic surprise on the listener in an opening track, but this is no average band, and the sound compliments the filter-happy bass line that percolates throughout this track. There it is, and yes, it works. Then again, it could be a wild vibrato synth line it's hard to tell.

"Arise" contains likely the most radio friendly and terribly unforgettable lyrics of the CD '"Arise Magnesium Fireflies." Hear this track once, and you will be singing it to yourself, guaranteed. Here singer Mark Miller sounds most like Neil Young doing "Keep on Rockin in America." The drums sound like a poorly recorded kit from the next room, but that lo-fi nature completely fits this nearly guitars and drums-only track. But those synths creep in with a hint here and there even on this rocker until finally you can hear the fireflies buzz around between the speakers (and your ears if your sporting headphones). The Magnesium Fireflies have arisen and overtaken the sound.

"Shoot the Lights Out" sounds most like Dallas O have put on their electronica suit but with plenty of live drums and guitars and a jazzy chord progression. Filtered synths burble in the background, leading to the short-lived delicious harmonies of the chorus hearken to more of a Queen symphonic number.

The last track, "The Kids," lasts a full twelve minutes and some change. It actually could be considered to have three movements each with their own character. Movement one lasts several minutes and intersperses jangly guitars with a nice '70's trippy electric piano. It lasts for 3:45 before some vocal harmonies come in a layer to usher in another majestic guitar solo and then movement two, which starts around 4:30. Very dark lyrics here, be forewarned. Movement two continues the melodic and chord structure of movement one, but replacing instrumentals with vocals. Movement three begins at about 6:20 and centers on a stupefyingly simple bass theme which repeats every five seconds or so, while buzzes and chirps, drum machine beats and that ever present electric piano take you back to your memories of falling asleep while riding in the back of your parents station wagon watching the stars above and the reflected lights of passing vehicles curve around the surfaces above you.

Yes you have been before, haven't you?

Scott Lake 5/12/2005



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