I guess we should get the PR hype out of the way first. Chicago's District 97 includes American Idol finalist (2007) Leslie Hunt and Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Katinka Kleijn. The gals are featured prominently in the images for promotion and within the CD's print materials. Nevertheless, Hunt and Kleijn are late to the band formed by drummer Jonathan Schang, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy and guitarist Sam Krahn (eventually replaced by current guitarist Jim Tashjian). They began District 97 as a Liquid Tension Experiment type instrumental progressive rock. With their debut, Hybrid Child, District 97 speaks to some of these origins. This work sounds more like early Yes meets the height of Kansas' melodic accessibility with a strong current of innovation that easily invokes things from LET to Meshuggah (without the confused darkness).
Fine musicianship and creative compositions are at a premium across Hybrid Child, making the work uniformly balanced. Production is crystal as well. Clearly Ms. Hunt is in fine form, undaunted and compelling when singing within the complexity of prog. Kleijn cello can move within brisk to somber to thunderous, often within a song (note Don't Want to Wait Another Day or the opus Mindscan). While mention is made of the PR stars, Hunt and Kleijn, the rest of the band are quite formidable in their own positions. For instance, keyboard player Clearfield bends away from typical synth notions with greater contributions both provocative and nuanced.
But the whole is what matters here, meaning the whole song made from its parts and performances. Every song on Hybrid Child is truly a 'band' effort. While this is abundantly clear throughout, Termites excels with every member pushing boundaries in a song heavy, melodic, and challenging. That latter word, perhaps more than the others, best describes District 97's magnum opus Mindscan, an engrossing and entertaining piece of modern prog rock in 14 movements.
With genius and talent to spare, District 97's brings us the brilliance (and the future?) of American progressive rock with Hybrid Child. Equally ambitious and dynamic, entertaining and challenging, Hybrid Child is first rate stuff.
With genius and talent to spare, District 97's brings us the future of American progressive rock with Hybrid Child. Equally ambitious and dynamic, entertaining and challenge, Hybrid Child is first rate stuff.
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