Album Review: Vinyl Dial – The Flight of the Crown Hawk

vinBand: Vinyl Dial | Album: The Flight of the Crown Hawk | Genre: Progressive rock, Space rock | Year: 2009/2019

From: Bedford, UK | Label: Seaside Tapes

For fans of: Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Pulsar, Tool

Buy/Listen: Stream Bandcamp

Vinyl Dial has had an unusual creative trajectory. The Flight of the Crown Hawk was originally recorded and released on MySpace in 2009. However, in 2019 it got a remaster and was officially released on Seaside Tapes, a label focused primarily on DIY-electronica and vaporwave. In the intervening years, this one-man project has put out a handful of electronic and vaporwave releases, in addition to other space rock/prog rock releases.

The Flight of the Crown Hawk is not shy about just how much of the music is inspired by Porcupine Tree’s early work. The first proper song, “Shapes in the Clouds”, begins with spare acoustic guitar, airy synth pads, and murky, effects-laden vocals. It slowly slithers along for its first half, and the guitar solo sounds like it’s straight off Porcupine Tree’s Signify. The song’s second half plays with stranger rhythms, heavier guitar tones, and cosmic synth leads.

Next is the title track. It opens with bouncy rhythm driven along by what sounds like a keyboard’s marimba setting. In contrast to this foundation are languid guitar licks, which transition seamlessly to a propulsive, yet smooth and catchy chorus. This rather relaxed song is followed by the most metallic riff yet with the opening of the 7-minute instrumental “Phobos”. On “Phobos”, the music deftly moves between metallic bombast, space-folk gentleness, and syntheses thereof.

“Took Away the Pain” plays with post-rock-influenced walls of indistinct distortion and contrasts those textures against grandiose Mellotron-style strings and flute. Following that is “Reoccurring Dream”, the gentlest song on the album. It’s built around acoustic guitar and piano, with some synthesizer and electronic-percussion embellishments. Though a strong song overall, it is a bit longer than it needs to be. Ninety seconds likely could have been trimmed off to make it feel more focused.

“Cockroaches Have a Nice Day” is a baffling piece, but in an engaging, charming way. It sounds like it could have been a bizarre, late-’90s one-hit wonder. Clocking in at under three minutes, it’s full of wonky, off-kilter sequenced synthesizer lines and vaguely dark lyrics. The hook in the chorus is also quite memorable.

The Flight of the Crown Hawk ends on the 17-minute epic, “The Drift of the Nautiloid”. Its opening slowly builds from an unassuming, echoey bassline to something bright and bouncy, akin to (good) ‘90s Yes. Once the intro section ends, about five-and-a-half minutes in, pitch-shifted narration transitions the song to a heavier movement. Tool influences loom large in this section as guitar and bass leads battle it out over a dark, driving rhythm. The last two-thirds of the song follows a similar pattern: metallic instrumental voyaging, punctuated by occasional narration. Despite its length, it never drags.

The music on this album is fantastic. It’s inventive and immediately engaging, and only on “Reoccurring Dream” does it ever feel like it’s overstaying its welcome. The production is certainly murkier than I’d like, but I’m sure only so much can be done to refurbish an old MySpace release. Vinyl Dial demonstrates their compositional chops on this album. It’s varied, engrossing, and nothing short of masterful.

Score: 93/100

 

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