Although I really don't care for traditional progressive rock much at all (OK, actually I hate almost all of it), there are certain bands who have pulled different elements out of that wanky genre and turned them into something quite cool. Trans Am poured on the rock and pulled off the gem of Futureworld before dropping off into 80s cheese on their newest release TA while Parlour turned layers of synths into a lovely, swirling mass on the recent Octopus Off Broadway.
Delicate AWOL is a side group of the already hugely enjoyed Rothko, and somewhat like the aforementioned Parlour, they use synths and keyboards mainly for atmospheric effect. As the title may or may not suggest, Heart Drops From The Great Space is an album that rocks at some moments, sways at others, and is downright ethereal at others. The group pulls a huge variety of sounds and influences into the 10 tracks on the disc, and the result is a downright excellent album that seemingly came out of nowhere and surprised the heck out of me.
Opening with "Here Come The Armed Guards," the group layers gurgling synths on a downright marching drum beat while throwing in other odd effects and the fractured guitar melodies that feel like someone trying to tune in Island music on a radio that doesn't quite get the station. It's a little too disjointed to be dreamy, but "Time And Motion Studies Deep Underground" drifts into a downright Chicago-area feel. Somewhat between The Sea And Cake and Stereolab, the alternating male/female vocals and hypnotic combination of guitars, vibes, and keyboards define cool.
On "The Rolling Year," they step it up again, tossing a horn into the mix for a touch of a jazzy feel on the front end before raising the ruckus with loud guitars and pummeling drums. While it's one of the looser sounding tracks on the release, if "For The Afternoon" doesn't get your booty at least slightly shaking (with a godammn infectious rhythm section groove and more great horns), then I'm not sure what will. Mixing up things even more, the group even throws in a string quartet on several tracks for an even more rich feel, and the closing track on the release pops along as the most electronic-sounding track on the release, all skittery beats behind a desolate guitar melody and some chimes. In the end, it's an interesting little release from a group that I'd honestly never heard of at all. I mentioned it above, but it has a definite windy-city vibe, so if you're down with Tortoise or any of that incestuous (in a good way) music scene, you'll probably dig on this.