The term “progressive” seems to be so broad a description of the music found within its sonic realm as to be pretty unhelpful, and this is undoubtedly the case with Tobin Mueller‘s music. It might be a helpful springboard or first stepping stone, but it can only ever be that. If most music exists in three dimensions and progressive music perhaps in four, the music found on Prog Fusion is more than a bit quantum, seemingly pushing everything further, to more profound places, higher, and beyond the normal limits of music making.
It is perhaps the “fusion” part of the title that I should be concentrating on here, for although the usual progressive musical tropes are present – fluid structures and ornate deliveries, supple time changes and subtle instrumental weaves – it is the fusion of other sounds and styles which takes the music to pastures new.
For every song such as Puzzle City, whose skittering drum patterns and staccato deliveries, spiraling riffs, and rich harmonies seem to hark back to such masters of the progressive form as Yes, then perhaps the natural progression is found when the generic lines are truly blurred, when worlds collide, clash and compliment, meld and merge into truly new forms.
Dare To Sing, for example, owes as much to an alt-pop vibe as it does to the more expected, cleverly woven styles. This is more akin to Peter Gabriel after he jumped to solo exploration rather than him in the progressive confines of his former band. And, if I may be permitted a pun, Tobin Mueller makes music that moves the prog vibe from the sound of its genesis to revolution—or at least evolution.
There are tribal-jazz grooves, with My Heart Still beats, a song made of wandering, explosive brass salvos, and dark close harmonies – chants would be a fine thing…and they are. Chaos is a Ladder runs from Bach-ian ornateness to the understated, chiming, and charming piano line, and Whale Talk is a squalling, squealing slice of dense rock guitar attacks. And finally, Toyland Fantasy tips its hat to the past while looking to the future.
And so it goes on. Twenty-Two tracks redefining what prog even is, what it might be…ironically leaving it less defined than ever due to the album’s sheer adventurousness and exploratory nature. Which is an excellent move. But that is the trouble with genres and labels; they will always fall short and let you down. None more so than prog.
Labels aside, you are left with a masterful array of music that takes you on unexpected journeys to the heart of music, to the nature of possibility and potential. An album forged of classical grace and rock groove. Pop accessibility and jazz complexity. An album that disregards rules and demarcations. A truly post-genre suite of music!
[…] already been delighted by Tobin‘s masterful odyssey through the more progressive realms, I have at least some understanding […]
[…] of this collection, is less than comprehensive. But having found my way here by using his previous prog fusion and jazz standards arrangements as stepping stones, I feel that I know Tobin’s music well […]