Dave Peña is an American musician whom I encountered on the Built For The Future’s latest release, the splendid 2084: Heretic album. While there is little doubt that I have specialized in researching progressive rock albums that have a strong melodic content, whether crossover, symphonic, neo or folk prog, I rarely delve into the experimental side, simply because its not really my comfort zone. Yet, curiosity and human nature can occasionally flirt with contrarian, at times even absurd extremities, as being open to art in any form is always at the very least available.

Kid Rainbow certainly falls into the experimental prog category, as it’s a demanding, perhaps even harrowing experience, requiring an uncomfortable zone in opening an inner door that generally is only occasionally ajar. Ideally, the listener needs to be in a specific mindset and mood, which can flutter between intense frustration and calm serenity, but certainly beyond both their respective outer edges.  The first three tracks are extended pieces where the oblique sounds can be initially soothing and then suddenly jarring, as on the opener “Permanently Busy”, a mechanical essay in shuffling rhythms, panes of urban noise, futuristic in its unyielding intemperance, depicting a reality of unending chaotic anxiety, as expressed by the title “DataNoiseFloor”. I am suddenly awakened from my torpor.

The sombre reptiles once evoked by Eno appear on the tumultuous rasp of “Dark”, a heady concoction of shrivelling guitar flicks, automated thrash beats galore, hushed vocalizations that come across as a hectic 21st century version of Roxy Music’s highly avant-garde for the time classic “The Bogus Man” (the real adventurous readers should play the two tracks back-to-back and see what I mean). The smooth starkness and hypnotic revelry are actually very attractive, though it would surely drive the neighbours crazy, especially at high volume. Dave gives his fretboard quite the workout, raising the angst to impossible levels of urgency.

The troubling title track becomes highly cinematographic, I daresay even eerie, as if a soundtrack to some horror movie that threatens the heartbeat with spasmodic interference. Buzzsaw slopping guitars carve nastily, thudding electronic drums infuse turmoil and irrational voices provide the obligatory consternation. Tortuous synth loops drive the lunacy to proud heights, and I now need a rest.

The next trio of tracks are a bleak assemblage of sonic fluctuations, slivers of commotion and psychiatric interviews, as the City, the Subway and the Man Unknown combine to challenge the audition’s imagination, running at times rampant in psychotic delirium. The minimalist confusion of “Subhuman” has nevertheless a sweet vocal line, though the subject matter is disturbing. Control mechanisms, obedience and passive acceptance are all evoked with unforgiving surrender.  The interrogated subject is briefly “Crippled by Society” before becoming “Broken”. Hello, the Ministry of Truth has issued another new directive. Orwell looks up from his animal farm and smiles. The rubbery bass synth flurry welds perfectly with the charging electro beats, as if calculating exactly the number of pieces destroyed, all entered on the clattering keyboard and inputted into the ‘system’.  This traumatic fragment segues into the frightening “Seven Eight”, a synthetic kindergarten rhyme of abject acceptance. The Peña axe grinds impervious to sanity, adamant, and psychotic as the white flag of surrender beckons. Challenging music to say the most!

“Nothing Is Random-I Need You” and its two companion pieces finish off this overwhelming release, encompassing all the preceding trauma into an ultimate file (or is it a vial?), a sonic kaleidoscope of arbitrary sounds that serve a potential purpose, though not necessarily a solution with a rosy outcome. By now, the stern electronics and the repetitive twists screw deep into the deeply wounded psyche, and the yearning for some eventual normalcy becomes paramount, hence the “I Need You” allusion. The finale “Fields of Yestermorn” softens the blow and seeks to medicate the soul back to a certain, perhaps still illusionary reality.

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, only because I prepared myself with the appropriate protocol.  No, I did not follow the sadly departed Hawkind poet Robert Calvert’s famous suggestion on the 1974 Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters classic: “Largactil 5 milligrams, check…Valium 10 milligrams, check… Haloperidol 5 milligrams, check…Phenobarbitone 5 milligrams, check…Disipel 5 milligrams, check…. Glass of water…Cheeeeeeck” . I just used …patience and an open-mind.

4 puerile arcs