Thank You Scientist – Terraformer
Progressive Rock | Jazz Fusion
Really Terraformer should come with a disclaimer: this record is not for the faint of heart. An album that’s nearly and hour and a half long is a foreboding prospect at the best of times, but an album that goes full throttle for nearly that entire run time is just ludicrous. Here we have peak prog, some of the most talented technical players around going all out, each playing a solo at once and somehow weaving them together seamlessly. If you tried to even just play air guitar to some of these tracks you risk spraining your wrist, and air drumming may cause your arms to drop off entirely. It’s not just the musicianship though. While technical playing can often feel clinical, here you can find a wild, passionate energy at work. Settling in to listen to this album is the musical equivalent of being a basketball at the mercy of the Harlem Globetrotters.
TYS have upped their game musically, but their greatest asset is the ability to remain grounded. No matter how deep down the progressive rabbit hole they delve they always manage to drag you along for the ride with their incredibly addictive hooks. Tracks like ‘FXMLDR’ and ‘Anchor’ have the kind of singalong choruses and infectious melodies that even most pop acts would be envious of. The band have also matured lyrically with this latest release. The almost superhuman musicianship is juxtaposed nicely by writing that feels very honest and vulnerable, perhaps most notably on the record’s longest track ‘Everyday Ghosts’.
While most of the album refines the winning formula hit upon in 2016’s Stranger Heads Prevail, a record this long has plenty of time to dabble in other ideas. The band channel their inner Radiohead on ‘Birdwatching’ as they experiment with electronica. And while on paper the chilled out Eastern excursion of ‘New Moon’ should seem horribly forced and out of place, the band do it so damn well that it ends up being a refreshing change-up, both in pace and style.
Most double albums fail to justify their length, but Terraformer is a rare exception. Granted the brief lounge interlude ‘Shatner’s Lament’ doesn’t really add anything to the record, but besides that the only track I’d be rid of is the lengthy instrumental ‘Chromology’. It’s the only time that they feel complex just for complexity’s sake; it lacks purpose and the transitions are pretty jarring throughout. For the rest of it’s lengthy run time however, Terraformer is a brilliantly bonkers journey that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone brave enough to take the plunge. It will take time to process it all, but believe me when I say it is worth every second.