PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Aisles: 4.45 AM

The real variance between a band of sophisticated copycats and this bunch is indeed intelligence.


4.45 AM

Label: Presagio
US Release Date: 2013-10-29
UK Release Date: Import

Virtus in medio stat (“Virtue stands in the middle”) is a moral tenet of our times and, like most of the ethical dogmas, it loses most of its emphasis when it becomes a mere adage. Our society has the questionable ability of transforming “median” into “mediocrity”, therefore one would be inclined to think that an album like this 4.45 AM is a bluff. It is intricate but not complex, progressive but focused, old-fashioned and current, bold and yet catchy. Aisles is probably one of the best rock bands hailing from South America at the moment. I know nothing about music, but the idea that -- for once -- the fuss surrounding this Chilean combo manifested itself as soon as the title track kicked in. Yes, I hear you: there are more traces of Rush and Marillion on this album than hands on Lady Gaga’s mixing desk, but you may be wrong. Because there is some Gentle Giant, Pallas, Spock’s Beard and Yes as well. But they are so finely mixed that you don’t get to see them individually. Which is why this album deserves the attention it’s receiving.

The real variance between a band of sophisticated copycats and this bunch is indeed intelligence. Take a tune like “Back My Strength”, for instance. The guitar work is the backbone of the song’s changeable mood, but its presence is discrete, called in by the sense of necessity set off by the vocals and their melancholic pace. There is no friction in “Gallarda Yanura”. Good progressive music is that which manages to take you places without you realizing it. It is the sudden change of tempo that becomes an unavoidable development in the course of a song. “The Sacrifice”, “Intermission” or even the closing suite “Melancholia” manage to maintain a notably high level of attention, and one does not have the impression of witnessing nothing more than a bunch of nerds showcasing their talents.

The fact that all tracks (apart from the aforementioned “Melancholia” and the cleverly constructed “Hero”) clock well under the seven minute mark is itself a distinguishing sign of how Rodrigo Sepúlveda (Guitars), Sebastián Vergara (Vocals), Felipe Candia (Drums), Germán Vergara (Guitars), Alejandro Melendez (Keyboards) and Daniel Baird-Kerr (Bass) mould their inspiration, leaving aside the frills which have contributed to making most of progressive the laughing stock of the rock family. 4.45 AM is a concept album revolving around the dark energy that makes people leave the comfort of their sleep to go to work. And to work, for that matter. Once again, this is a game of precarious balances and mediations. It is darkness battling the rising gaze of daylight and the alarm that comes with it. It is the elegant path followed by the acoustic guitars in “Sorrow” and the obscure flow of consciousness that is “Hero”.

It is indeed an archetypical form of progressive rock, but one that doesn’t smack of vintage records and (by now) aged fairies. This is the epic facet of hyperrealism in music, in a post-industrial society in a big city in Chile, or Asia, or Europe. And the music follows suit. If there is a downside in all this, it is that Aisles make great music that re-elaborates the existing canons without trying to push their boundaries and challenge the listener in a vertical, rather than a horizontal way. It combines a variety of ingredients but it doesn’t attempt a rejection of the dynamics that keep them together. Despite all this, 4.45 AM remains a brilliant example of where contemporary progressive is going, regardless of the cyclical proclamations of its ultimate death. There are disasters and masterpieces in art, and 4.45 AM stands right there: one step away from excellence and genius, but at a safe distance from the depths of the mundane bureaucracy of prominent rock music. The future looks bright but, for now, virtus in medio stat. And beautifully so.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.