Farmhouse Odyssey – Rise of the Waterfowl (2016)
Rise of the Waterfowl is the second album by the talented northern California progressive rock band Farmhouse Odyssey. What’s so attractive about this band is that it has developed its own style of progressive rock incorporating European symphonic progressive rock and Canterbury influences along with characteristically American jazz-rock fusion and jam band elements. Furthermore, the vocals don’t pretend to emulate the usual suspects. And best of all, there is no hard rock or heavy metal pandering.
The opening piece ‘Daybreak’ begins with superb guitar interplay and jazz-modulated vocals but halfway through the track, keyboardist Alex Espe surprises and delights with a knockout pitch-bending keyboard solo that would make National Health really proud.
On ‘Slumberless Sun’ the band delivers an exquisite mix of jazz-rock and classic progressive symphonic rock featuring more outstanding guitar work, vocal overdubs and electric piano/synths.
The progressive rock fest continues with ‘Brain Song’, with great time signature changes, excellent lead and backing vocals, and guitar and keyboard interplay and an epic guitar solo.
Another notable aspect of Farmhouse Odyssey is the fact that the transitions and time signature changes work seamlessly. This band has excellent arrangement skills.
Track 4, “Calligraphy” combines prog rock guitars with jazzy keyboards and admirable creative drumming. Thatcher Holvick-Norton is one of the best progressive rock drummers I’ve heard in recent years. He is subtle and highly inventive. His captivating style of drumming borrows from skilled jazz techniques, moving away from pop simplicity and hard rock pounding.
The long instrumental ‘Space Revealed’ begins with a remarkable jazz-rock-style piano and guitar interchange. The piano at times sounds like it has tango inspiration. This instrumental track continues with a delectable piano and Steve Hackett-style guitar progression. The electric bass stands out here as well. As the piece continues, the band takes through jazz passages and Canterbury-style sections with electric piano, synths and symphonic keyboards. Drummer Thatcher Holvick-Norton, keyboardist Alex Espe and the band’s guitarists give way to a spectacular jazz-rock section that connects with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and National Health as well.
Track 6, ‘Shipwreck’ mixes jazz-rock stylings with striking symphonic mellotron. Can’t get better than that.
The suite ‘Speedbump Catalyst: Upon the Wheel, Blessing in Disguise, Energetic Tides, The Road Alone’ starts with mesmerizing piano and vocals with a dreamy Genesis-like sensation. This is the longest piece on the album, featuring terrific piano and keyboard work. For those who like comparisons, the vocal work reminds of Echolyn, but I find Farmhouse Odyssey much more interesting because of their classical, full blown prog rock and jazz influences. This is the longest piece and as you would expect it has an impressive epic guitar and keyboard conclusion.
Track 8, ‘Safe Passage’, is a delightful short piano and mellotron gem.
The last track, ‘From the Night Sky’ treats the listener to more of the wonderful combination of vocals, electric piano, mellotron and jazz drums and bass.
The lineup includes Alex Espe on vocals and keyboards; Thatcher Holvick-Norton on drums; Aaron Laughlin on guitar and vocals; Alex Pepe on guitar; and Ian Taylor on bass.
Farmhouse Odyssey’s Rise of the Waterfowl is a brilliant album by one of the emerging talents of American progressive rock. Highly recommended.
Buy Rise of the Waterfowl (only available in digital format for now).