Instrumental prog-rock neither rocks nor progs
Instrumental music is tough to pull off, and this record is a fine example of that. In the absence of vocals to convey emotions or clever lyrics to engage the listener, the instrumentation itself must do all the heavy lifting. Akron’s 32-minute, nine-song offering Voyage of Exploration is a fine example of why this form is so darn difficult. Billed as “an interplanetary voyage of exploration through new worlds and civilizations,” the set offers little that would suggest otherworldly experiences, apart from a number of Star Trek shout-outs in the song titles (“Tricorder”, “The Corbomite Ritual”). There’s a good bit of guitar noodling, plenty of gurgling synth effects, some varied percussion and a vaguely Middle Eastern cadence on “Rabbits in Orbit”, but what is lacking is the unexpected. Songs are short and fairly pedestrian, doing little to live up to off-the-wall titles like “Funeral for Euclid” and “A Glimpse of Hell”. The liveliest number here, “Robot Grind”, sounds like a lost surf tune, or possibly a polka, or maybe a mashup of both. In any case, it sounds pretty darn earthly—if these nine songs are supposed to represent a trip to other planets, it would seem that things in outer space are an awful lot like they are back home.
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