With 'Vier' being the third album from these LA-based prog rockers, I'm guessing the title isn't German for 'Four'; rather, the English word meaning "to struggle or compete for something". If that's the case, I'm not entirely certain what that might be, but seeing as Perfect Beings were left without a rhythm section after their 2015 album, I'm guessing they're competing for survival and continued progression as a band, in one sense.
'Vier' sees guitarist Johannes Luley assume bass duties alongside his primary instrument, while Ben Levin is credited as drummer. But, it seems the band are still in a transitional period and ever-evolving as it's been widely reported that ex-Cynic sticksman Sean Reinert now occupies the drum stool for them. Due to the timing of press releases for both the forthcoming new album, and recruiting Reinert, post-recording, I guess it could prove misleading for some in believing the widely lauded drummer performs on 'Vier'. Particularly as his addition to Perfect Beings' ranks is quite a coup and people might naturally presume such. And, bizarrely, at the time of writing, clicking on the photo of Reinert on the band's website links to the site for onetime Bruce Dickinson sticksman Dicki Fliszar, one of their previous drummers, whose bio states he currently "records and writes with Perfect Beings". Hmmm...
Drummer confusion aside, let's get down to the crux of it, the album itself, which really is rather good. Press blurb states their plan was to craft "a double vinyl album, with each of the four sides capturing one continuous long-form composition." Thus, the four 'main' tracks are split across 'Guedra', 'The Golden Arc', 'Vibrational' and 'Anunnaki', clocking in at 70+ minutes. But, each of these is split into either four or five subtitled pieces, that do not segue from/to each other, so I'm not entirely sure how "one continuous long-form composition" comes into play. The distinct feeling is that of individual, isolated compositions, despite some degree of aesthetic interconnection between them. It seems Perfect Beings are proponents of misleading press blurb!
Okay, so drummer confusion aside, and album constitution confusion aside... 'Vier' works just fine as a series of tenuously interconnected songs. A fairly laidback listen, we're talking about wistful, twee and occasionally jazzed-up prog here (the latter courtesy of not only some rhythmic choices, but the inclusion of brass elements embellishing the instrumentations here and there). Retro in many places ('Guedra - Patience', for example, has a strong vibe of The Beatles about it during the intro, before developing into a Floydian-swayed piece), and more contemporary here and there, 'Vier' provides a nice listen... at least when I've been in the right mood to engage with its sonics. As such, I would have to assert that this is not an "anytime" album; rather, one where it feeds rather than creates a particular mood, and one where it's about the overall affect of the whole, rather than individual tracks (despite their disconnected nature).
Vocals are generally nice. Ryan Hurtgen's voice is very likeable and his 'gentle' delivery works well for the wistful vibe that characterises much of 'Vier'. I'm not so sure about the deathed-up screams midway through 'Everywhere at Once', though... it's just a bit naff. If you're going to introduce death growls into your predominantly growl-free music, then do it with conviction. It's a refined skill.... one that's lacking here.
I've found myself describing elements of 'Vier' as "nice" and "good" throughout this review... as that's precisely what it is. There's nothing outstanding here, but it is a solid album, nonetheless. I doubt it'll make any end of year lists, but 'Vier' is still worth checking out.
Review by Mark Holmes
19th January 2018
1) A New Pyramid; 2) The Blue Lake of Understanding; 3) Patience; 4) Enter the Center; 5) The Pesimmon Tree; 6) Turn the World Off; 7) America; 8) For a Pound of Flesh; 9) The System and Beyond; 10) Mysteries, Not Answers; 11) Altars of the Gods; 12) Everywhere at Once; 13) Insomnia; 14) Lord Wind; 15) Patterns of Light; 16) A Compromise; 17) Hissing the Wave of the Dragon; 18) Everything's Falling Apart
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...wistful, twee and occasionally jazzed-up prog..."