Berklee attendee Michael Couch’s track from last February opens with an ethereal, hymn-like vocal and synth combo that sets the stage for the raucous instrumentals to come. The eerie opening melody returns midway through the track, but only after our ears have been blessed by what sounds like a marimba player having the time of their life (although I’m not certain – it could be vibes run through some kind of filter? The track info doesn’t specify.)
What we’ve got here is your classic vocal+wild instrumental+vocal+wild instrumental+vocal deal. Couch gives us the kind of prog ear candy that I fell in love with when I discovered Zappa back in high school. The melody is there, undoubtedly – but it comes so thick and quick that your brain forgets what a melody is, deciding instead to sit back and enjoy the onslaught. Eventually a squealy alto sax joins in. Love it.
The vocal sections temper the instrumental bits, when they reappear. I’ve always advocated “rules in madness” – we’ve all rolled our eyes at those structureless, 22-minute way-out avant garde pieces. Sure, those songs have their place. But when a musician can reign themselves in and give us just a little tasty taste of what’s going on in their head, that’s when I’m impressed. Couch clearly knows this and walks the line well.
The track ends with a majestic reprise of the original melody, couched (ha!) in a militaristic march rhythm. MC wears his influences on his sleeve – the vocal part is exactly the kind of madrigal that Tim Smith of Cardiacs (my absolute favorite band in the world) would have written in the 90s. This is a good track, especially if you’re into wild synth-prog, and I’m interested to hear what Couch does next.
Editor’s Note: This song came out in 2019