Progress Band – “Shadows in the Shape Of”

TBI’s Dawson White doesn’t think much of Progress Band’s “Shadows in the Shape Of.”

Dawson White

out of 10

Progress Band
Shadows in the Shape Of
November 29, 2013
Self Released

Let it be known and noted that my musical prowess doesn’t extend far past the odd bath-time-aria and a rockin’ flute solo in my fifth grade Christmas program. While I wasn’t chosen to be whacked with the music stick, I intensely envy those who were. I say this that you might understand how deeply I respect anyone willing to stand vulnerable with their art before friends and critics. That said, I am obligated by my devotion to music, itself, to be forthright with my opinions. I fear the boys (Men? Man? Zarko?) of Progress Band might not be too pleased with that conviction.

I had a hard time finding any decipherable information on the enigma known as Progress Band. I was, however, able to dig up the lead singer’s name (Zarko) and am still unclear as to whether he’s one of several or a one-man singer/songwriters who just didn’t want to miss the fun of naming a band. The band’s website touts their (his?) work as “the ultimate folk rock experience.” Any trace of folk rock is completely overpowered with the Experimental and I say with a heavy heart, that Progress Band’s Shadow in the Shape Of experiments are failed ones. As we know from our high school chemistry classes, it only takes one miscalculation to run an entire experiment into the ground, so this album is chock-full of wrecks. Sure, each song begins with promising instrumentation, but each loses its footing as the complexity increases. Three or four measures into the music, pauses plot themselves between chords like our musician is struggling to find the next link in his carefully planned progression. Layer that choppiness with discordant harmonies lacking in “harmony” and vocals so-close-thus-so-far from the appropriate pitch, and you’ve got the almost-bearable works of Progress Band.

Each element is almost right, but put together the almost doesn’t translate. Take one of the album’s early songs, “The Devil.” The lyrics and instrumentals sound like two completely different works from two completely different students being played from two different boom boxes in the same room. Separated and with more practice, each might hold some promise, but together, hope doesn’t have a chance. Before its mid first act demise, “Mouthblood” bears resemblance to a Conor Oberst b-side and the confusing “Boat to Japan: Part 1” (must have been quite the boat ride) opens with Violent Femmes style vocals. But both derail early with shocking, nonsensical lyrics and an unidentified purpose.

There’s hope in “The Compartment.” It comes closest to resembling a fully formed song, but it is still miles from getting to be so-called. And while the album and its maker both have some semblance of potential, perhaps it was too ambitious an undertaking for Zarko’s skill level. Maybe after getting back to basics and polishing the necessities, Progress Band could make some progress. But until then, their only momentum will be in the wrong direction.

-Dawson White, November 26, 2013