Last year the debut from LA-based Perfect Beings rightly impressed many here at Prog and elsewhere, and we were very keen to hear more. Barely 18 months, some live shows and much crafting of new material later, and Perfect Beings II is upon us.
The elements that made the debut such a rewarding experience are all here – the late 70s Yes vibe, the 80s pop, Jellyfish influence, the lovely vocals, along with a wide palate of keyboard sounds and instrumental strength.
The two opening tracks contrast in a manner that reflects much about the band. Mar Del Fuego is a swirling, majestic, largely instrumental statement melding dancing bass with Crimson-esque guitars, driving piano and a hint of flamenco. This gives way to Cryogenia, which is slow, contemplative and spacious, with a sonic landscape of keyboard textures and reverb-heavy drums.
This contrast of instrumental/vocal, up-tempo/reflective, strident/soft is repeated in various forms throughout the album. The role of singer Ryan Hurtgen is key – his warm, mellifluous and occasionally wistful tones provide the album’s central consistent character. Playing with a variety of styles, Hurtgen shapes some very pleasing, yet occasionally unpredictable melodies. With barely more than voice and piano on most of Rivermaker for example, his lines mesmerise and captivate. However, his vocals rarely coincide with the band’s big, punchy moments. The Love Inside is typical: quiet bit with vocal, then a full-on band instrumental work-out (vocal-free), the dynamic level drops and the vocal returns. Evocative and characterful as it is, there is a minor question about whether Hurtgen’s voice has the power and heft to rock out when the band get into top gear.
They continue to build an impressive body of work.
But what a band they are, and they’re on terrific form here. Johannes Luley’s guitar impresses again, serving up angry, angular blues soloing in Mar Del Fuego, coming over very Steve Howe during Volcanic Streams, and injecting clean jazz comping to The Yard. Chris Tristram’s bass bubbles away in Squire-mode in many places and Fliszar’s drums provide both restrained support and/or chaotic pounding as required. Then there is Jesse Nason’s multifaceted keyboard work, providing texture and sound effects to Volcanic Stream and the decidedly late 80s beefy synth-pop backbone to Go.
The concluding pairing is fittingly loud/quiet: Cause And Effect features a rather bonkers middle section and final track The Thrill Seeker provides a spacious, unhurried and slightly downbeat moment to close out the album. With hints of what has gone before yet still very much of the moment, Perfect Beings are certainly building an impressive body of work.