Product - Aire

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Cyclops
Catalog Number: CYCL 134
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

If ever the term moody could be used to describe a piece, or suite, of music, it is now with Product's second release, Aire. At least, that's the initial impression. The sonic palette is dark, the mood mostly somber and at the end you aren't sure if you like it or not. While the music occasionally breaks out of its musical malaise, you are left with the feeling that you have spent an hour in another world that never becomes fully formed. That is, there is a dream-like atmosphere that permeates the entire release, perhaps reflective of the internal nature of the concept. Part of moodiness is due to the understated - and often dreary - vocals from Product's driving force, Arman Christoff Boyles. Whereas On Water bore striking resemblance to Marillion (and "Memory Of Water" specifically), there is significantly less of that here, so little that it bears mention only for comparison purposes between the two albums. In a very general and non-specific way, Pink Floyd came to mind. By that, no one specific track comes to mind, but rather a mood or effect.

Aire is a concept album based on the life of Galileo "outlining the basic struggle between church and science in a somewhat personal manner?" writes Boyles at the band's website. Galileo was an inventor of many things, one of which was the telescope - at least, a better telescope, which magnified at 20x (other telescopes invented in Europe at the time were 3x). This led him to make astronomical discoveries: "With this telescope, he was able to look at the moon, discover the four satellites of Jupiter, observe a supernova, verify the phases of Venus, and discover sunspots. His discoveries proved the Copernican system which states that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun. Prior to the Copernican system, it was held that the universe was geocentric, meaning the sun revolved around the earth."[1] It was his theories that brought him into conflict with the Catholic Church, and The Inquisitions. "[H]e was warned by Cardinal Bellarmine, under order of Pope Paul V, that he should not discuss or defend Copernican theories. In 1624, Galileo was assured by Pope Urban VIII that he could write about Copernican theory as long as he treated it as a mathematical proposition. However, with the printing of Galileo's book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was called to Rome in 1633 to face the Inquisition again. Galileo was found guilty of heresy for his Dialogue, and was sent to his home near Florence where he was to be under house arrest for the remainder of his life. "[2] Galileo died in 1642 at the age of 78. This provides the backdrop against which Boyles lays out his concept, and yet, it isn't a straight narrative. As Boyles writes, "Act one of the album is mostly about the basic frustrations of just trying to be someone of significance in a material world void of answers. Act two is the internal and external conflict between church, science and politics. Only in old age and death do the barriers finally dissolve."

The dynamics between somber and explosive is given right in the first track, "City Of Gold," where a sparse opening suddenly gives way to crashing percussion and bass. "Age Of Reason," which follows, is one of the livelier pieces and one of the few that recall Marillion, complete with crying guitar that evokes Afraid Of Sunrise-period Steve Rothery. "The Mighty Maze" contains some superb chiming, shimmering guitar work from Boyles on a surprisingly upbeat piece, and lyrically, it's positive, too, as the central character looks forward to the following day. If Boyles' vocal performance weren't as restrained, this song would really take flight. The rumbling percussive drive on "Here Comes Tomorrow" is palpable, reflecting the nervous energy the character feels, maybe Product's most energetic moment. It gives this moment an urgency the rest of the album doesn't have -- and our character is ready, and anxious about, presenting his theories. "Still Here" is the most beautiful moment, especially the tinkling piano that is featured in this piece. Though the pace is very relaxed, you can almost imagine the character (and pianist) alone on the darkened stage, only a spotlight on. Boyles here is accompanied by guest Bob Young on a particularly warm, yet subtle, violin. Haunting, this piece is. Though much more sparse, "Wonderful Dreamers" is just as haunting.

Another rockier piece is "The Value Of Gold," (that we're all weighed down by our reward for keeping silent is the theme here). Tom Petty came to mind (or the Byrds) at the beginning, though thicker, darker in tone. Hmm? Petty by way of Evergrey maybe, jangly guitars but dark, emotive vocal delivery. Or maybe a darkwave band? Plucked acoustic and atmospheric keys provide the sparse backdrop to "Other Worlds," another haunting track, that at about 2 and half minutes in, explodes with a waterfall of sound - guitar, percussion? and it is this element that recalls Floyd, at least for me (and Marillion, but mostly Floyd). And Floyd will also come to mind during "Beyond All Reason," dark as the rest of the album, but the prominence of percussion and bass make this much heavier than the rest of the album. Actually, King Crimson also come to mind here, only the edges are a less angular. If every piece were like this, we'd be describing Product as a more metallic Crimson with keyboards.

As I said, at times Boyles' understated delivery comes across as very dreary, but it also gives it a haunting effect, especially given the deepness of Boyles' voice. Especially on "Fall," which may be Boyles' best vocal performance here. Instrumentally it's sparse, violin and percussion mainly, before the piece opens up, expands outward with keys, guitar filling out the mix.

Joining Boyles are Scott Rader on drums and bass, plus guests Bob Yang on violin (as mentioned), Chana Rothman and Melody Carpenter on vocals, Barry Smith on harmonica and resonator guitar, and Eric Gaskell on strings. That harmonica appears on the second to last track "Last Word" and seems overly lively compared to the rest of the piece and the rest of the album, though Smith doesn't' let loose on it. It does add a bluesy element to the piece, which, with its use of acoustic guitar, has a tinge of a western feel to it.

Aire is not an album you will necessarily like on the first or second listen, but something about the music draws you in for longer looks and much of it will appeal to progressive rock fans (and some sections are very "neo" in sound). The weakest element is how Boyles sings, though I think he has a great tone. I just find I want something a little less dreary, since it makes it seem as if he's off key.

Act I: City Of Gold (5:44) / Age Of Reason (3:59) / Mighty Maze (4:35) / Here Comes Tomorrow (4:17) / Still Here (4:00) / Value Of Gold (5:16) / Wonderful Dreamers (1:40) / Other Worlds (5:31) / Act II: Everyday Business (4:00) / Autumn (3:46) / Beyond All Reason (4:47) / Angels (2:11) / Black Is The Day (4:46) / Fall (5:29) / The Calling (4:43) / Last Word (3:39) / Breathing (4:57)

Arman Christoff Boyles - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Scott Rader - drums, bass


Bob Yang - violin (6, 14, 17)
Chana Rothman - vocals (6, 15, 16)
Melody Carpenter - vocals (7)
Barry Smith - harmonica, resonator guitar (11, 16)
Eric Gaskell - strings (1)

On Water (2000)
Aire (2003)
The Fire (2005)
Earth (2009)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: March 22nd 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1212
Language: english


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