Persephone’s Dream – Pan: An Urban Pastoral

Whether it was my lackluster review of Pyre of Dreams, the increasing irrelevance of web sites like the GEPR, or just an oversight, Persephone’s Dream didn’t send me a promo when their new album Pan: An Urban Pastoral was released. So, when I saw it on sale from ProgRock Records as a “Christmas Special”, I decided I needed to order it. Maybe it’s just that you appreciate an album more when you buy it. Maybe it’s that Persephone’s Dream has just outdone themselves on this album. Maybe I was just in the right mood. But I have to say Pan: An Urban Pastoral is far and away the best thing PD has ever done.

Though the band members have remained fairly stable since Pyre of Dreams (with the exception of yet another new female vocalist, Ashley Peer and new bassist Roman Prokopenko), Pan sounds very little like the previous albums. Gone is the reverb and goth feel. Gone, too, is what I was calling the “Classic Rock” feel. This album is certainly prog rock, though of a unique kind. It’s a concept album about a young man who lives in the gray, overpopulated city. Sad and depressed, he encounters the god Pan in a series of … uhm … visions? Hallucinations? Teleportations? Even he’s not entirely sure. The encounters with Pan and his wild Maenads in nature settings are odd … just when they become obviously homoerotic, the lyrics appear to step back from this and females become involved … somehow. I’m guessing they were afraid of putting their audience off if they were too transparent on this “touchy” subject (he says with tongue in cheek). The story is chaotic and lusty, and perhaps the primary message that comes through clearly is that we’ve become so mired in our daily controlled techno working lives that we’ve forgotten how important it is to feel the grass between our toes, dance naked in the sunshine and abandon ourselves to pleasure. Surely, this must be Pan’s message to us in the 21st century.

Musically, the instrumentation is stark and crystal clear. There isn’t much of instruments playing simultaneously or washes of string or horn sweetening; instead each instrument stands out individually in sharp relief against the musical equivalent of a black background. Synth passages tend to be single-note lines, perhaps with some crunchy electric guitar chords to set these off, or picked acoustic guitar patterns. In several places, a bass, drum and chord sequence starts, but when the vocals come in they seem to be singing the lyrics to a different song in a key only vaguely related to the chords. On a more poorly produced album, I would say the singer can’t find the right pitch, but here both the male and female vocalists sing with compete authority and control … it’s very clearly supposed to sound this way. I imagine in a few more listenings, the harmonies will “click” and I’ll be saying, “Oh, of course! It’s not wrong, it’s just not what I was expecting.”

Time will tell whether this album will be judged a masterpiece by the prog rock community. It’s already on the top-5 album list from the ProgRock Records label, so it’s doing well as far as sales go. As for my opinion, it’s by far the best Persephone’s Dream album thus far, and is also way better than the vast majority of prog releases, in this year or any other. I’m still getting used to the sound on this recording, which is both extremely professional-sounding and also very odd-sounding in its starkness. I read in an interview that the whole thing was recorded on Mac PC’s using Garage Band (the free recording software that comes with a Mac). If so, I must say this album is a fine example of what can be done with this free software, and makes me want to try it out myself.

In conclusion, Pan: An Urban Pastoral is likely to make my top-10 list for 2010, and is a must-hear for everyone this year. Great stuff, and a giant step for Persephone’s Dream. — Fred Trafton



Click here for Persephone’s Dream‘s web site
Click here for the Persephone’s Dream page on the ProgRock Records web site

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2 Responses to “Persephone’s Dream – Pan: An Urban Pastoral”

  1. lafingpooh Says:

    Hi Fred! Thanks for the fantastic review! I’m glad that you like the complete turn around of the band music! The new CD came with a lot of pain and suffering, but was well worth it. I’m sorry that you didn’t get a copy of the CD to review and had to purchase it, but if you would have asked I would have graciously sent you one! Thanks again! -Jim Waugaman Persephone’s Dream

  2. gibraltarepr Says:

    Jim, thanks for the response. I think that most art benefits from a bit of pain and suffering, don’t you? A friend of mine once said, “You can’t play the Blues on a full stomach”. Thanks for a great album, and keep up the good work.

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