|The Endless Looping Game - Reviews:|
"Somewhere between the industrial metal of Nine Inch Nails, the electronic surge of IDM, and the dreamy spacescapes of vintage Pink Floyd, are the mad scientists of Boston's Specimen 37. Or if you like, they are the US cousins of Porcupine Tree, only geekier, darker and stranger, fiendishly gluing thumping power-metal to bluesy jazz, electronica and found sounds/field recordings.
This is their second album, a fully-fledged concept album built around a heroic everyman (specimen) struggling to answer the important questions about life, when his existence is filled with a succession of mundane chores and events. Given the muttered vocals, distorted effects and poetic feel of the vocal presentation, I'm often reminded of Robert Calvert. Indeed, much of The Endless Looping Game would fit quite nicely into the post-techno, post-trance brand of space-rock on the new Hawkwind disc - if the Hawks were willing to be weirder. Alternating between agitation and dream state, frequently mesmerizing, always challenging, Specimen 37 invites us to join them in the daily struggle against alienation. Worth investigating."
- Steven Davies-Morris
Progression - The Quarterly Journal of Progressive Music
Issue 49 - Winter 2006
"I know I am getting old, but I really felt it when I was trying to remember the first time I heard Animals and failed. It isn't that the new Specimen 37 will remind you musically of the Pink Floyd classic, but stylistically you can feel the similarities. The Endless Looping Game was written as a theatrical piece meant to chronicle a week in the subject's life trying to make sense of the world we live in. This isn't so much a story as a sonic imprint of this quest.
Many of the songs on The Endless Looping Game have a Talking Heads meets Thomas Dolby impression. There are pop sensibilities hidden behind many of the tracks, but the edgy snippets that interlace the album keep you on your toes and aware that this is not an ordinary CD. Specimen 37 does an excellent job of changing their sound and styles. The CD progresses nicely from the avant-garde 'What Is Life?' through the piano driven 'Logging On' and through the most progressive track 'The Endless Looping Game.' The album then ends with the silly, but aptly placed 'Randy and the Gogzies'.
My favorite track is the Bass driven tune 'Thursday Morning Jogger'. Specimen 37 do a good job of blending the noise tracks and ambient snippets with the powerful guitar playing of Empathy and the hypnotic bass playing of Sketch Element. This song does the best job of capturing the entire feel that the band is going for.
Specimen 37 often are compared to Pink Floyd. Heck, I even did it in my first paragraph. But musically, this is more like if Scott Miller of Loud Family started using crunching guitars and progressive drumming. If you are a fan of experimental song writing, you can not go wrong with The Endless Looping Game. You have to give Specimen 37 an A for effort.
- Steve Ambrosius 2/25/05
"Boston based Specimen 37's second release The Endless Looping Game conceptualises one man's week of experiences dealing with the trials and tribulations of everyday life, from the simple and tedious, to the contemplative machinations of life itself. Our man (specimen) fears "he'll never find meaning in a world that seems to turn on an axis of meaninglessness, and in this chapter of the specimen's life, it's never clear whether or not he finds hope". To pursue this 'week' musically the band employ not only their chosen instruments, but an array of sonic and atmospheric sounds along with a multitude of sampled effects (radio/tv announcements, telephone conversations, weather reports etc). The band also craftily merge many musical genres - Techno grooves - NuMetal - Ambient textures - Electronica - "Post grunge aggression" - and all of these mixed together gives Specimen 37 their unique sound. To cover the varied programme of material on the album would be nigh on impossible as each track seldom stays with the same idea from start to finish (not something you might expect from the album's title). So instead I have chosen to isolate one block of songs that appealed to me.
So to look at the diversity of the tracks we will start with the longest piece Logging On. A repeated piano motif opens accompanied by atmospheric sound effects, then followed by a melodic Satriani-esque guitar solo over quirky variations in tempo. Next phase of the track is the vocal sections interrupted here by a "conversation" before returning to the chorus. The outro is comprised of tremeloed guitar and psychedelic spacey vocals reminiscent of early Floyd. Phew! Logging On is then segued into Downcast which after the opening "noise" moves into a grooving rock track, with effected vocals. The lyrics are particularly biting here, well befitting the song. Once again the track is segued, this time into the more ear-friendly Thursday Morning Jogger a gentle keyboard backwash is the setting for the whispered spoken vocal and the almost continuous laid-back guitar fills.
So at the end of the day the burning questions for me were - is it progressive, is it rock and does it combine the two cohesively? Overall I would have to say yes it does, but certainly not in the traditional sense of progressive rock as I have encountered in the past.
...So if you are searching for something different, challenging and distinctly modern in its feel, but not forsaking originality, then The Endless Looping Game could be the one.
Dutch Progressive Rock Pages
2005: Volume 11
"Sounding a bit like Pink Floyd, Specimen 37 utilizes the concept rock motif as well as strains of psychedelic ‘70s rock to get heads hooked. Dark themes mixed with industrial beats and hard-hitting grooves incite comparisons that range from Iron Butterfly to Nine Inch Nails. Their music’s a lot like life: at times very spooky, often humorous, sometimes desolate, always interesting. And I hear that if you cue it up so the album starts the moment the second lion roars at the beginning of Wizard of Oz, you hear backwards messages telling your teacher to 'leave us kids alone.' For real."
What's Up Magazine
"This is a full-fledged concept album depicting seven days in the life of the nameless "specimen", one man locked in an existential struggle to find meaning in the mundane acts of everyday life. The eternal question, it will ever be topical (at least on this earthly plane) despite the fact that the matter seems to be standard, as many artists appeal to it in their works. As is historically quite typical for a classic Space Rock album, the pauses between tracks are filled with generated electronic effects, natural sounds, etc. Indeed, Pink Floyd much influenced on our heroes' creation, but it's not the only band that Specimen 37 drew their inspiration from. Each of the last five tracks points Porcupine Tree out as their other major benefactor, though of course, those English guys themselves are followers of Pink Floyd; at least they were initially. In any event, "The Endless Looping Game" a bit more often calls up "The Sky Moves Sideway", "Signify" and "Stupid Dream" by England's contemporary Space Rock stalwarts than classic Pink Floyd. While listening to the album the names of Hawkwind and Tangerine Dream may also come to mind, on the associative level. Enough for comparisons; it's time to highlight the key points of the material. The second Specimen 37 effort finds its creators approximately at the same stage of maturity as Porcupine Tree were in the second half of the nineties, which means that the band's original thinking has not only taken shape already, but also has become the main driving force in their creative investigations. There are no direct borrowings on the album, and the music is usually complicated, possessing a pretty strong mesmerizing power. Besides, the band often shines with exceptionally innovative approach, when going heavy specifically, and a whole new direction is paved on some of the tracks here. The songs: Blow Things Up, Logging On and Downcast are largely instrumental, but what's most significant, they're absolutely unique, just incomparable, and are wonderfully intricate and intriguing. Following one another right in the middle of the album, these are its true centerpieces indeed. The band managed to combine symphonic and psychedelic Space Rock manifestations with avant-garde Cathedral Metal. No, this is neither a slip of the pen nor a misprint. Just lend a keen ear to the angular structures that are throughout the former, which is the heaviest, and you'll have to admit that these brave experiments are hardly much inferior to those King Crimson did on their revolutionary "Starless" and "Red". The other outstanding compositions: What Is Life, Helix and the title track are in places notable for the like maneuvers, though the heavy component reveals itself this time out a bit less frequently and in different forms, Thrash included.
Many of those working in the field of this genre today should envy Specimen 37 for their ability to make music complicated and bright at once. This is a fine progressive band that will certainly continue to advance. Fans of all of the aforementioned bands, except Tangerine Dream, and those into Space Metal definitely shouldn't let this CD pass them by."
ProgressoR - Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages
"Specimen 37 walks a skewed line, taking advantage of the precedents set forth by Pink Floyd, Beck, Sun Ra, Nine Inch Nails and others who write according to whim, and adding it all to their latest buffet-style opus. "Awake With a Shock" opens the set with a soaring electric wash, which soon crossfades into a mix of trance and IDM, squirrelly bass lines slinking beneath filtered melodies, spliced beats and vocals. As a startling contrast, "What is Life?" picks up the previous track's acid bass and pimps it to metal guitars and double-bass drum rolls. Contrasting verses of geeked-out Max Headroom-style motivational vocals ("What is life? Prison walls and shopping malls / where you are is a reflection of where you have been, is a stepping stone of where you will be.") reign until the track is enveloped by church bells, counting down your wakeup call. Power ballad "Monday" follows; it's reminiscent of '80s top 40, though its message is similarly upbeat -- "give up what you believe, the power tie is not who you are." As the album continues, the band continues to blur genre lines, creating a variety of unlikely combinations -- processed field recordings with jazz and blues guitar solos, dark metal with pulsing drum machines, downtempo trip-hop with a Queensrōche tinge consumed in Egyptian scalar riffing, and so forth."
"Grand rock orchestrations, heavy themes, passages of fragile beauty and acres of fascinating ear candy make up Specimen 37's sophomore release, The Endless Looping Game.
...the extremely skillful guitar playing of Empathy (I don't name 'em, I just write about 'em). He has terrific range, playing with tasteful vibrato and clean, bluesy sustain one moment, then crunching loud and hard like a monster stomping toward the Japanese shoreline the next. This is my favorite thing about Specimen 37, and it goes for all the players. They're beyond capable. They're creative, they all have great range..."
Cosmik Debris, June-July '05 issue
"A concept album, which interestingly follows a certain 'Specimen 37' individual through a week of life and his quest to find meaning in meaninglessness, or perhaps just to live and try to understand it. Smartly interjected real-life sounds & scenarios help to flavour the almost 70 minutes of music.
As you may expect there is a wide variety of sounds & styles and also tempo changes, which suits what the average person may experience as 'moods' in an average week. The overall sound is heavy and dark, ripe with guttural guitar and floating space-synth. A very solid foundation is laid on drum & bass, allowing guitar & synth the freedom for open expression. The importance of this cannot be understated, as too often a project such as this meanders all over and loses focus, thus losing the listener's attention at the same time. Specimen 37 have managed to stay focused and provide us nice, basic grooves to hold onto while the story drifts above and entertains.
The tone is futuristic and dark with vocals being mostly glorified spoken word. The lead voice suits the theme of the music perfectly - very human and very real within the soundscape of inventedness.
This project is very interesting and well put together. Songs flow together well, just like the days of the week. It's almost like listening to a movie, as there is enough information and character development to draw you in. And, of course, you can listen over and over.
... you won't hear anything else quite like it out there today."
The Muse's Muse
Home | Music | Bio | Shop | Links | Contact
© 2004 - Chronic Pink Productions