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Liquid Tension Experiment 2

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★★★★½
(102 Reviews)

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  • Liquid Tension Experiment is the affirmative answer to anyone who says progressive music is _pretentious_. Err, on second thought, that word might be entirely impotent when it comes to this band. _Hyper-indulgence_ is the name of the game here; the band would probably embrace the word _pretentious_ and a wealth of other epithets associated with “prog.” Apparently people think bands should write music with the listener in mind rather than just doing as they please. Liquid Tension Experiment kicks that idea out the window and makes a great album precisely for that reason.This album, Liquid Tension Experiment’s second, brings together a bunch of _self-indulgent_ players: guitarist John Petrucci, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, bassist Tony Levin, and drummer Mike Portnoy. Given the hectic schedules of these four musicians, the LTE projects have called for instant chemistry and songwriting inspiration. Both of which the band has by the ream.Was there ever a more riveting and _bombastic_ instrumental than the slaughtering mix of catchy speed metal, undeniable grooves, insane shredding, and sheer electricity that is “Acid Rain”? When the band drops out of the initial metal charge into the wicked groove, watch our for Tony! On the opposite end of the intensity spectrum is the closer, the lovely “Hourglass”. It’s just acoustic guitar and piano — stately, gentle, pure. _Self-indulgent_ they may be, but you won’t see many other bands tackle such variety with equal songwriting craftiness. And that’s just two songs. “Biaxident” is a treasure as well, mixing up Latin influenced piano bits and chomping rock.The two longer tracks (that weren’t improvised) are great and good. “Another Dimension” is obliteratingly heavy at times, but playful at others — from the techno-like opening to the Parisian accordion fun. “When the Water Breaks” is the _excessive_ 16-minute epic that is little more than a musical amalgam of different rhythmic phases without unity. With more time and focus, the band probably could have made a stronger composition on the whole. It’s entertaining though, with some fabulous _epic_ riffs and persistently impressive interplay. “Chewbacca” is often the song people say they don’t like, but I think it’s quite good. I’m blown away that this, “Liquid Dreams”, and “914″ were all improvised (save some guitar overdubs on “Chewbacca”). “Chewbacca” is almost a therapeutic distraction, an hypnotizing cycle of ambiance and misty enchantment rendered in immaculate detail (whack guitar noises too). And remember…it was improvised! “Liquid Dreams” impresses even more — again, its excellence belies the fact that the band is playing off the top of its head. As impressive as Jordan Rudess is normally, when you consider that his beautiful piano playing is effortlessly pouring out of him, you’ll be even more amazed. Portnoy and Levin lay out some great grooves throughout, but I’d say the star of this one is the keyboard. “914″ is another improv jam with keys, bass, and drums. Tony Levin proves yet again that he is a true Paragon of the Groove Force, and the astoundingly versatile Portnoy proves he can fit into myriad styles easily. Where was Petrucci? His daughter was born during the LTE2 sessions, and he had to leave for a while. (This event gives “When the Water Breaks” its name.)Let’s hear it for self-indulgence. Unselfish songwriting is overrated.

    Posted on December 30, 2009