For many modern day proggers, a mash-up of Haken and Between The Buried And Me will equate to something of a musical wet dream. The two bands, distanced geographically by the mighty blue of the Atlantic Ocean, have been blazing their own trail in the scene over the last number of years, but in more recent times, it feels like there’s been a growing common thread. While the former have been tumbling down a more nostalgic path, with nods to Yes and Gentle Giant, and the latter are historically noted for delving into death-leaning distortio and breakneck beats, there’s a weighty mutual appreciation, with the two acts touring touring in 2015.
Nova Collective was already in gestation then, however, with Haken axeman Richard Henshall and BTBAM’s bass behemoth Dan Briggs secretly conjuring up tunes like mad scientists in the year prior. Matt Lynch, Briggs’ octopus-limbed drummer in side project Trioscapes, was recruited, while ex-Haken keyboard player Pete Jones – last featuring in the London based group nearly 10 years ago – also signed on.
The result? Nova Collective’s instrumental debut album The Further Side shoots far beyond their day job groups, yet it still subtly and smartly snatches snippets from their vibrantly colourful palettes. The intriguing, fresh element here though, is jazz fusion, with the genre’s warm exploratory haze glazed all over the record’s six sweeping songs as the quartet bow to the likes of godfathers Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever.
Opener Dancing Machines is an eye-popping way to reveal the dizzying realms of Nova Collective, with the near 10-minute tune gushing with wild musical gymnastics, notes being zapped around all over the shop. If you think of Haken’s most bonkers instrumental salvos getting intimate with Trioscapes’ warped-jazzed bombast, this is what would probably arrive into the world nine months later.
The following Cascades brings BTBAM’s most daring licks into play – think 2015’s Coma Ecliptic but rejuvenated – while Air packs some serious key-driven groove. Then there’s Ripped Apart And Reassembled, which shines with some floaty, Dixie Dregs-esque luminosity once the clouds part, before the title track draws the curtains with some of the best moments of the record as Henshall and Jones let rip just like the old days, no doubt.
Nova Collective’s virtuosic debut album is at times darkly demonic but utterly uplifting, challenging but cohesive, zany but zoned in. But it’s also almost certainly one of the most exciting prog releases of the last few years.