Of The I - Balance Instars
Self-released
Progressive Rock
10 songs (59:27)
Release year: 2008
Of The I
Reviewed by Goat

As far as impulse purchases go, shelling out the £8 plus postage for Balance Instars was one of my better ones. Progressive Rock isn’t a genre that you automatically think of as having an underground in the same way that, say, Black Metal does, but of course it does and there are many bands out there that are trying to make it in a musical sphere that has an inbuilt resistance to Prog’s unwieldy musical expansiveness. Of The I, based in London, are one such band, playing their own distinct take on Prog that is somewhere between the neo-approach of the likes of Porcupine Tree and the more commercial sounds of, for example, Muse. The first band that you’ll think of, however, and a band that is used as a comparison far too often these days, is Tool, and whilst moments like Stopping The World are reminiscent of Tool’s complexity, all in all Of The I are a step closer to Indie territory than many reading will be familiar or comfortable with.

Yet don’t let that put you off, O brave auranauts into the musical unknown. The one aspect of Balance Instars that may cause chafing are the vocals, which admittedly do seem more suited for some modern Punk band than anything Prog-related, but give them a chance and they certainly grow on you, giving an individual melody to tracks like Cold. There’s no doubting the untraditional songwriting or skilled instrumentation at play, this definitely taking a few plays to get to grips with yet revealing enough each time to keep you listening. Complex guitar lines over the catchy vocals of Single Units, developing into a percussive whirlwind of melody – imagine Incubus if they were really, really, undeniably good and you might get something like this.

What really impresses is the thought that’s been put into this. Of The I is apparently made out of psychology and philosophy students, and they describe Balance Instars as a ‘sixty minute journey through our collective mind’ on their rather impressive website. Moments like the gentle build-up of Between Being & Ego don’t belie this intellectual approach, introducing careful Jazzy elements with taste and style, adding samples of a rushing brook before taking a more Modern Rock approach on following track Cathexis, complete with wild soloing, not to mention the Dub-influenced Instars or the Eastern touches that close Mercenary. It’s all expertly put together, one of many things about this album that makes me suspect the band are independent of label because they want to be, not due to a lack of talent or publicity.

Of The I are certainly worth supporting; you can download a three-song sampler from their website before buying, and it’s worth mentioning that the CD version contains some interlude pieces that the download version doesn’t, making it more of a single, album experience for those (like me) that like that sort of thing. Balance Instars isn’t perfect – some tracks sound a bit too similar to each other, for one – but as an debut full-length it’s excellent and does many things better than their older peers. Any fans of individual Progressive Rock who don’t mind taking time to fall in love with a band will enjoy this a lot.

MySpace
Killing Songs :
Between Being & Ego, Instars, Stopping The World
Goat quoted 79 / 100
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