It’s 13 years since Simon Collins released his debut album. Far from shying away from the fact he was the progeny of prog giant Phil, he’s actually embraced the fact during his career, by way of Genesis covers, guest appearances from Steve Hackett and, on third album U-Catastrophe, a ‘drum duet’ with Collins Sr. Dimensionaut has been three years in the making, and it should rightly establish the band Collins has assembled to play it beyond the studio as a new prog outfit in their own right.
And prog this very much is. From the Storm Thorgerson-meets-Tubular Bells artwork to the concept (the journey of multi-dimensional space traveller Dimo to expand the boundaries of human experience) and onto the music, this is genre distilled down into its purest form.
Ah yes, the music. Sound Of Contact can play. The instrumental Cosmic Distance Ladder is built on shimmering synths and enough riffs to conceivably appeal to those fans finding prog by way of Muse and delivered with dextrous aplomb. The elegiac, string-laden I Am Dimensionaut meanwhile isn’t a million miles away from Biffy Clyro’s softer, arena-filling moments. Existing fans will already know the frontman’s singing style is inarguably similar to that of Phil Collins, but as with post-Gabriel Genesis, it’s the scope and musical arrangement rather than Collins Jr’s vocals that are of real interest.
Meanwhile that concept is as much in the music as it is in any linear narrative because Sound Of Contact do things on a grand scale. Here, high-concept space rock, prog dynamics, soaring atmospherics and even occasional shades of West End musical dramatics combine. Epic is the buzzword, though there’s diversity on display too: Realm Of In-Organic Beings is a weightless, emotive instrumental piece; Mobius Slip is the almost obligatory (for prog) epic closer.
Moving through pop to a mid-section ablaze with jagged alt-rock guitars, and a full-on ambient-prog conclusion, it’s just about as ambitious as anything the band member’s wizardly forefathers conjured up, even if, at a hefty 18 minutes long, it does slightly overstay its welcome.
Collins is aided here by a highly adept cast of cohorts, including Porcupine Tree/Fish guitarist John Wesley, Sound Of Contact are newly signed to InsideOut (home to Devin Townsend, It Bites, King’s X), and all these factors suggest that Collins has found his true musical home.
Dimensionaut is not without its faults, but it’s difficult to imagine any purists arguing against this debut taking its place in the modern prog canon.