Review Summary: It doesn't always make a hell of a lot of sense, but Separate Realities is still quite the journey anyways.
It was inevitable. Perhaps we should have seen it sooner than now, but looking back upon Dan Briggs’ work it seems only obvious that the man would eventually dabble with jazz. From the swing of Between the Buried and Me’s “Laser Speed” to the jazz-tinged progressive passages of ORBS’ “Eclipsical”, Dan’s side projects have always displayed hints of what was to come. Predictably, Separate Realities
is everything expected from a Briggs side project and more. It’s evident that he and his cohorts have spent much time listening to unstructured progressive, for example, because while Separate Realities
has so much going for it its ultimate downfall is its songwriting choices.
Much of the music is thrown together in ways that just don’t make sense. The album ends with “Gemini’s Descent”, which comes together through a brooding bass part repeated for longer than two minutes. One has to wonder why the build-up is completely thrown away at the end, only to go into a randomly placed passage that fails to satisfy. “Wazzlejazzlebof” is sometimes as much of a compositional mess as its title implies, and this is most evident in its awkward beginning. Across the album there are uncomfortable tempo changes abound, forced progressions and overall questionable songwriting. Decisions like this one plague Separate Realities
, and ensure that it isn’t quite as potent as it could have been.
However, the album certainly isn’t a failure. For all of its blemishes, Separate Realities
is beautiful when it shines. As a Shyamalan twist, the album’s longest track is easily its most coherent. “Separate Realities” builds up marvelously, and then goes in a direction in which it was meant to go. Moments like these are refreshing, and are reminders that we’re dealing with guys that know how to sate their fans. While it’s true that there are downfalls on Separate Realities, it’s also impossible to forget how many positive attributes it bolsters. For instance, the most accessible song on the album is its opening track. “Blast Off!” has an evident goal, multiple refrains, some very tasteful soloing, and a clear endpoint. The track successfully introduces listeners to the idea of saxophone alongside contemporary rock instruments, and bolsters what exactly the odd trio can accomplish when utilized correctly. And while there are many reasons to get frustrated with the album, there exist just as many reasons to be infatuated with it. This comes as no surprise, seeing as many of the most ambitious albums create such polarizing responses. After all, ambition is what creates many of the true masterpieces in the world, and this indicates that Trioscapes are heading in the right direction.