I’m a sucker for elaborate packaging. Take, for instance, one of my favorite record labels, Not Not Fun. Early cassette releases often came in homemade, tie-dyed, draw-string bags, with shells or feathers tied together, or a CD tied to a bird’s nest. Or a tape that comes in one of those beer koozie things (that came with a beer when bought at shows, or root beer for the kids buying it on the internet). This very well could be the way to keep the record industry from going completely digital.
Deluge Grander‘s Dan Britton must have sensed this, because I found a large, strange box sitting on my front porch just a few days ago. After hacking through the US Post box, I found another large box, this time with a strange, Tolkien-esque scene drawn onto the top. Inside this box was a collection of four CDs spanning Deluge (and it’s founding member)’s recording career, along with bags full of shredded magazines and hand towels and a manifesto of sorts, explaining the music’s progress from Rush-loving prog rock to the more loopy, atmospheric swoop of their new album, “The Form of the Good”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still wager that the dudes love King Crimson and Pink Floyd, but, thanks to the elaborate packaging, it’s clear that the music has grown over time to branch further away from the standard pitfalls of prog rock. They still heap on the Rhodes-y synth tones and the stuttered, mathematical guitar lines, but with an interesting twist. The addition of cello, oboe, saxophone, flute and several other more classical-leaning instruments give the album a more pastoral, orchestral feel than your traditional prog rock.
The album is somewhat of a concept album, as well, though I couldn’t for the life of me explain the concept. From the art on the box to the album cover art, to the matching song titles and repeating musical motifs, there are several threads running throughout the album. There’s something about nature fighting back against industry and pollution, repeated use of “the common era”, and cavemen. Also, a “tree factory”. After a few listens, the concept in and of itself still isn’t hitting me, but the fact that there is a concept is readily apparent.
That being said, this isn’t for everyone. It’s hard to find “prog” that isn’t just a group of kids who love The Mars Volta. Nearly entirely instrumental, the screeching guitar solos readily replace the screeching vocals of so many modern prog bands, and where the other prog bands would put their screechy guitar solos, Deluge Grander utilize their so-called “DIY Classical” aesthetic, substituting a clarinet or a violin.
All told, the group’s best moments reveal a softer, more intellectual side to a genre that I’d often assumed was relatively soulless, focused on intensity, technical skill and not much else. If nothing else, Deluge Grander is a good band to recommend to friends that argue that nothing good has been made since the 70’s. What’s more, the dude’s are putting some serious thought into their music and their packaging, a serious and important time commitment for any band to make.
“The Solitude of Miranda”