CD, Nu Jazz Europe, 2011
Past the Mark is a collaboration that delves into the traditions of rock music, filtering them through a fine mesh of contemporary electronic production. The two composers involved share Italian roots that perhaps go way back to a demo album produced in the mid-‘90s under another name. Vince Pastano is responsible for the solid guitar work on “Hakhel Tribulation”, while (Grammy award-winning) sound engineer and producer Marc Urselli impresses with an array of electronic sound manipulation and good judgement. The album sees electronics combine with guitar in harmonious balance, covering a varied mix of styles that range from dub/reggae to downtempo, from funk to progressive rock.
Primarily, Past the Mark is a post-rock undertaking, and “Hakhel Tribulation” its shoegazing, wonderfully psyched-out trip through both sentimental comforts and out-of-body experiences. Compositions are similar in duration (between four and five minutes, though none longer than five-and-a-half) but could easily stretch limitlessly, judging by the content. Opening with breakbeat-driven “Oz on the Moon”, the album swells with exuberant guitar and bluesy grooves, revisiting the electronic rock and psychedelia of decades past.
Not everything here is flamboyant expression, however. Tracks like “Yell Low & Good By” and “Dawn Moon Glow” attest to the collaborators’ prowess at taking it down a few notches and concocting peaceful lullabies with twinkling melodies and crackling transmissions from space. Chill out numbers “Tablasity”, with its rippling tabla drums and twanging guitar slides, and the reggae-flavored “Raggedy Beet Salad” play counter to the plentiful distortion and sunset guitars of slow-paced “Abutting Dissident”, or the assertive 4/4 beat and ‘Pixies-esque’ delivery of “South Drowning Boot”. The wispy electronics threading through the latter track are a prime example of Urselli’s gift, as not once on this album does the electronic production seem misplaced or overwrought.
Pastano certainly has plenty of opportunities to jam in his element as well, favorites being the splashy, classic rock burner “Big Red City Apple Souls” and album closer “The Twelve Threads Tailor”, with heavy guitar, soaring chords and chunky beats – a psych-rock instrumental for the open highway.
As hinted previously, Past the Mark’s proficiency in marrying these prominent guitar riffs with electronic accents and layers lends itself to longer compositions, something which this reviewer hopes for in the collaboration’s future. Post-rock, after all, can get away with being epic.
— Dutton Hauhart