An impressive, immersive musical experience that comes as an unexpected Christmas present for progressive rock fans everywhere…
The Cycle Undone
The Twenty Committee
8 tracks / 56 minutes
Whew. Some ten years after their fine debut album (A Lifeblood Psalm), The Twenty Committee returns with The Cycle Undone, an impressive and totally immersive musical experience that comes as an unexpected Christmas present for progressive rock fans everywhere. The music manages to sound big and symphonic without sounding pretentious. The playing is impeccable and elegant but manages to keep one foot planted quite viscerally on the ground. The solo vocals are passionate and the back-up and harmonies are intricate and precise without losing the human touch. Lyrically, the songs evoke mystery but inspire at the same time, poetically weaving phrases that imply deeper meanings worth seeking out.
There’s less pop influence on The Cycle Undone than there was on its predecessor. The album starts off sounding like a space opera, with a decidedly ‘spacy’ ambiance - this sets the scene for the twelve minute plus “Recodified” - a jazzy/proggy piece with strong melodic elements and stunning instrumental soloing propelled by strong bass and drums. The intensity of the composition ebbs and flows, and is multi-facetted, showing some occasional Zappa influence – and you can’t get much more impressive than that. Once again, the fragility of Langley’s vocal tone is surrounded by perfect background voices just before the song nestles into a jazzy rock jam featuring some wild guitar and synth lines.
The ensemble vocal arrangements on “Sparks in the Mind” are an absolute delight. A wonderfully-structured composition, ‘Sparks’ combines the best elements of progressive and classic rock.
A short piano solo piece brings us into the dramatic “Embers,” which features a stunning, heartfelt vocal with Langley effortlessly slipping in and out of his fluid falsetto. The melodic quality is strong and Jeff Bishop’s guitar work is strikingly visceral, reminding me of the power of Robin Trower’s early work with Procol Harum (strong praise here). This quiet but powerful emotional vibe is typical of what The Twenty Committee does so well.
“A Star in the Eye” features an emotional vocal by Geoffrey Langley: “Digging deeper, I will press / Sublimity to find / Pushing forward, no regress / To know the Unmoved Mind / I was made in image of / the palimpsest revealed / I must seek this…” Yes, you might want to check your dictionary for words like palimpsest, empyrean and rectitude because these lyrics dive deep and might take a few passes to decipher. The vocals are sometimes a bit deep in the mix and hard to decipher (for me, anyway) but are worth the effort to grab hold of. So what’s it all about? Humanity vs. technology, Artificial Intelligence, the intersection of soul and the intellect…. probably all of these things. In an interesting turn, similar themes are explored in the recently released project, Arise, by progsters Glass Hammer, although Glass Hammer approached the subject with a more decidedly sci-fi vibe.
“Forevermore” is a multi-textured piece with changing tempos and layers of interrelated vocals and impressive synth work. This is seven and a half minutes of prog gold.
The epic piece of this project is “The Cycle Undone,” coming in at just shy of fourteen minutes, it starts off with a powerful solo piano prelude and before it ends gives you everything from powerful, growly, visceral guitar work to the ethereal vocals of Renaissance vocalist Annie Haslam. The multi-part epic is a cornucopia of prog and rock – a powerful showcase of what this band is capable of.
“Robot Death” follows – a track with great melodic quality (some stated by a wordless vocal) and a strong, building melodic chorus that grows more powerful with each pass – once again conjuring early Robin Trower/Procol Harum.
The final, very human note in this musical story is stated by the solo piano piece, “Dust Returned,” which closes the album. The Cycle Undone not only proves that the first project by this band was not a fluke, but that the ten intervening years has produced depth and musical maturity that points to a bright future – and hopefully shorter intervals between albums!
Geoffrey Langley: lead vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, organ
Justin Carlton: background vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, additional keyboards (track 1, 2, and 5)
Joe Henderson: background vocals, drums, percussion (track 7)
Jeff Bishop: lead guitar, additional background vocals (track 3, 4, and 6)
Richmond Carlton: bass, harp (track 4), additional background vocals (track 2 and 4)
Laura Langley: autoharp (track 4)
Annie Haslam: vocals (track 6)
Music by Geoffrey Langley
Lyrics by Geoffrey Langley and Justin Carlton
Produced by Geoffrey Langley and Jeff Bishop