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Launchpad Review

by Hal Horowitz

The long-awaited studio debut from these jam-happy road veterans does what it should for the band. It captures the quartet's indescribable all-instrumental concert vibe -- "space-porn" as they call it -- in a more controlled environment. Co-producer Tom Rothrock (Beck, Foo Fighters) slims down the band's tendencies for extended improvisation -- somewhat -- but keeps the juices flowing on an album that works apart from the trippy visuals and audience participation that enhance the band's notoriously long five-hour performances. Led by Steve Molitz's bubbling, psychedelic electronic keyboards and Darren Pujalet's surging drums, the group finds a groove and rides it. The "porn" aspect of the music results from a loose '70s feel that mixes elements of Pink Floyd's prog rock and Return to Forever-styled jazz fusion with insistent dance beats that shift from funk to near disco ("Metropolis" features disco drumming and knowingly schlocky '70s-styled synths). There are certainly no ballads, which creates a swirling tornado of sound that, like the live show, shape-shifts throughout the songs. The approach is at once contemporary and dated, recalling the experimental art rock of the '70s in "7 Minutes to Radio Darkness, Pt. 1" and then moving to a funkier driving rock for the following "Pt. 2." And although the pieces are condensed from their extended live lengths, the majority of the tunes still run over seven minutes, with one maxing out at ten. Certainly any fan of the foursome's mammoth live shows will appreciate how well their sound has been harnessed in the studio, and for those new to the Particle experience, Launchpad is an excellent primer for the group's strengths and distinctive sound.

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