Band: K’mono | Album: Mind Out of Mind | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2023
From: Minneapolis, USA | Label: Ephemerol Night Terrors
For fans of: Yes, Genesis, Wobbler
When I posted my Best of 2022 list, I noted that the central US had an especially strong showing on it, with five of the top 25 hailing from either St. Louis or Minneapolis. One doesn’t normally think of the Midwest as one of the major hotbeds of prog, alongside southern England, Northern Italy, and (more recently) Scandinavia. But the band Kansas (from Topeka) was a major success in the mid-to-late ‘70s, and smaller bands like Zerfas (Indianapolis) and Yezda Urfa (Portage, IN) have since received cult acclaim. Even in the two years I lived in Kansas I found a couple of great local prog bands: Flight/Dirigible Squared and The Last Glacier (both long defunct or disbanded, sadly). So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a group from Minneapolis has put out another great progressive rock record.
Coming two years after Return to the ‘E’, Mind Out of Mind is this trio’s second full-length album. The eerie, Sergeant Pepper’s-meets-They Live album art is an excellent complement to the music here. It’s flashy and attention-grabbing, but there is a lot of subtle weirdness that gradually unveils itself, too.
The album opens on its longest song, the almost-10-minute title track. A diverse array of keyboard tones bounce, glide, and skitter to create a rich textural backdrop for the subdued vocals. There’s a strong sense of urgency and anxiety to this track, and it’s driven along with a halting, nervous guitar line. Around the four-minute mark, the song moves into a slow, quiet passage. The folk elements add a bit of warmth, and I’m especially fond of the vocal arrangement. The third part of this song draws from more modern prog sounds, such as Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief. There’s a restrained but menacing atmosphere about it, and it builds to a fantastic climax that revisits themes from the song’s opening.
“Good-Looking” follows, and it’s a much more straightforward piece. There’s a relaxed, funky backbone to this song. The chorus is a bit awkward, but it’s still got charm.
Those funky, lightly jazzy vibes continue with “In the Lost & Found”. Synthesizers and electric pianos build an outer-space atmosphere, and the brief piano solo sounds like it was played by Billy Preston. As much as I like this band’s use of low-mixed vocals, there are points on this song where they’re mixed a bit too low. The midsection has a bouncy, propulsive feel fueled by an energetic guitar riff and more interstellar synths.
“Time Will Tell…” is a gentle interlude primarily focused around multilayered vocals. This piece leads into “Tell Me the Lore”, the opening of which channels some of Yes’s folkier moments. The organ and synth on this cut are buoyant, lending this whole piece a sunny, optimistic feel.
Wah-wahed keyboards and rubbery bass thump under languid guitar tones in “Millipede Man”. The arrangement is more minimal than elsewhere on the album, but it works out well. I also appreciate how prominently the bass is mixed. The lyrics mention a “return to the ‘E’;” I haven’t scrutinized the lyrics for conceptual throughlines, but there might be something there to interpret more closely.
Mind Out of Mind closes on “Answers in the Glass”. Speedy, sequenced synths and a buzzy, Chris Squire-sounding bass-and-synth line propel this song. The vocals are unusually dramatic and expressive here, and it works wonderfully with this piece’s amped-up feel. The final few minutes are ascendant, and some great psychedelic effects are applied to vocal and instrumental parts alike.
This new album from K’mono is exactly the sort of retro-prog album I love, though I do hesitate to use that label with this band. They unashamedly draw from key players of the 1970s, but they also have their own twists, and more modern sensibilities are evident too, especially in the mixing and arrangements. It’s recognizably “prog” with an engaging musical throughline, and there are lots of lovely little twists and surprises. I really liked the band’s increased inclusion of funk influences in this album. Definitely give this a listen if you’re a fan of the classic prog sound.