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Music Review: DeeExpus Project – Half Way Home

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The only thing that didn’t splutter or misfire during the creation of DeeExpus Project was Andy Ditchfield’s focussed determination to deliver. After all the ups and downs and trials and tribulations involved in the difficult process of the band’s formation, he can now look back and soak up the plaudits.

Half Way Home is the debut album from the County Durham prog rock band whose very formation seemed to take on a life of its own. Guitarist and keyboard player Andy had just about given up on music, until he saw Porcupine Tree. They provided the spark of inspiration for him to begin to lay the foundations of what became the DeeExpus Project.

Andy was originally planning a solo project, but while he was busy setting up his studio he bumped into singer Tony Wright at his local pub. Andy describes the subsequent events on the band’s website as being a period of ‘frustration, passion, dedication, and sheer hard work’.

That belief has paid off, and Half Way Home represents the aforementioned passion with an album of solid, well written, and sometimes epic prog.

Andy’s self described ‘epiphany’ moment at the Porcupine Tree concert is even referred to in the track “PTtee”. A tee shirt bought at a gig sounds like a dubious subject for a song. That is, until you hear the first few lines: ‘I couldn’t take in what I saw, couldn’t believe my eyes. Stage set, effects, the mixing desk were set to blow my mind’.

Fortunately Andy woke up the next day with the inspiration still strongly implanted in his mind. The result is an album that whilst paying homage to the Porcupine Tree influence also takes on its own personality and delivers a powerful and impressive debut. Tony Wright gives the band the perfect vocal presence, whilst their ability to write some dramatic and absorbing prog shines throughout.

The fact that this is a debut album is more than just surprising. However that fact alone represents a huge achievement that highlights just what can be produced through all that aforementioned ‘passion, and sheer hard work’.

A key element is that Andy’s vision never becomes overblown or overstated. Instead every track is built upon the solid foundations of well-written music and contains some memorable melodic moments delivered with massive wedges of excellent musicianship.

Half Way Home opens strongly with “Greed”. That position of strength is one that they embrace and keep hold of throughout. Sure, there are peaks, but absolutely no troughs. Confidence radiates from “Pointless Child”, a track brimming with melodic rock styling and excellent production.

“PTtee”, the unashamed acknowledgment of all things Steven Wilson and PT, unfolds in a way that has you believing that DeeExpus Project is a band that has been around for a lot longer. The keyboard work and its intertwining with the guitar are exquisitely done. Like the entire album, this track is both expertly paced and finely balanced.

“One Eight” underlines the band's ability to create memorable moments seemingly at will. It’s always tempting to make comparisons, but I can resist in the knowledge that any such ‘sounds like’ observations should quickly become redundant. I have little doubt in saying that soon we will be reading reviews containing the phrase ‘sounds like the DeeExpus Project’.

The lovely piano-led “One Day” gently introduces a sprawling key-soaked “Seven Nights”. Built around a central hook, it is yet another example of the solid craftsmanship on offer. This is one that could have fallen into that overblown trap, yet it doesn’t. As the track opens out, its discipline finally draws it all back together before returning to that central hook.

As if to underline the point, the album ends with the huge, epic, yet perfectly formed title track. Clocking in at just over seventeen minutes, “Half Way Home” is an excellent piece of prog majesty set amid a tragic love story. The need for those redundant comparisons has me thinking vaguely of H-era Marillion, particularly Mark Kelly’s keyboards and Steve Rothery’s guitar, and yet there is far, far more to it than just that. This track confirms everything that has gone before on the album. It completes the picture, satisfies any desire for the epic, underlines the band's intentions, and leaves you wanting a lot more.

When Andy Ditchfield walked into that Porcupine Tree concert it was clearly meant to be. That magical inspiration provided the spark that led to this exceptional debut. I am sure that this is a band we will be hearing a lot more of, and, I hope, a lot more from.

In the meantime all I can do is press play again and lose myself once again in the DeeExpus Project.

Catch up on just why DeeExpus Project have created some waves on the UK Prog scene by visiting their official website. Look out too for a DVD called Far From Home which is due for release this summer.

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About Jeff Perkins

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Jeff… You totally had me going with your review.
    I was thinking,”Wow,some new music to look forward to!”. That was until I heard the tracks on their myspace page. I don’t mean to be offensive. They list a lot of cool bands as influences yet their music doesn’t offer the curious punch that those bands delivered for their time. I mean, I think it is pretty good rock music but,imho, I wouldn’t categorize it as Prog Rock. Their material doesn’t have the twists and turns or the envelope pushing that I expect from that genre. Unfortunately, it doesn’t capture me the way their history or your review did.

  • Jeff in Calif.

    Gotta disagree with Commentor #1 Brian…I downloaded this album a couple of weeks ago and have not stopped listening to it. There’s really no need to label music this good, but if forced I would say this is definitely Prog Rock. But much like Porcupine Tree can drift into different areas and is hard to categorize, DeeExpus Project’s first album goes into different territory with each track, or even within each track. It’s well-produced and has hooks that you will be humming for days. If you like PTree, Marillion, etc., definitely check these guys out.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “There’s really no need to label music this good”

    But, if you’re (in general) going to use that label in a review to describe the style of music to people who may have not heard their CD then you(in general)should use it accurately.

    “But much like Porcupine Tree can drift into different areas and is hard to categorize.”

    No….That’s why they call it Prog Rock because it progresses through different movements or can have many parts influenced by many genres.

    I was trying not to be offensive but it seems that bands can be labeled progressive as long as their music contains some slow passages that move into “heavier” passages supported by a keyboard player. There aren’t any memorable moments on this album that really push the envelope. In my opinion,the ideas are rather bland. It’s an ok Rock album but it is definitely not “Prog”.

  • Marco

    Classic Rock magazine in the UK listed this under Prog rock too and remember this is the bands debut album ….a 17 minute progressive closing track and inspiration drawn from PT and Marillion would seem to justify Classic Rock calling it Prog….

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    So, I guess “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” from Iron Maiden should also be considered Prog?

    My contention is that their ideas are not progressive,again,In My Opinion. Track length has nothing to do with it….

  • Jeff in Calif.

    Brian, IMO it doesn’t really matter what you call it…most fans of PTree, Marillion, etc. will probably like DeeExpus Project. I’ve played the album for others and they have agreed with me. And the point of my original comment (and this one, too) was not to try to convince you to like the band, but to give other readers an opposing viewpoint. If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s cool; but I think a lot of Prog Rock fans will like DeeExpus.

  • Marco

    You’re right the length of the track has nothing to do with it – but the style of the track has. That last track is prog. Anyway re the last from Jeff in Calif. he’s totally right – fans of Porcupine Tree and possibly Marillion will probably like this – whatever it’s called. I think this is a very fair review, it has to point the people who would like it towards it and equally steer those that won’t away. How else was the reviewer to summarise it? Marco

  • Paul Roy

    I had stumbled across their website a few weeks ago and liked what I heard from the song samples. I almost forgot about them until you reminded me with this review. I downloaded the album last night – only $6.93 on Amazon – and I am liking what I hear. I’ll stay out of the prog or no prog debate as I have probably been guilty of using that label a little to loosely. These guys could go either way.

  • Jeff

    Thanks everyone for the comments and healthy debate re- is it prog or not prog. I must admit it is a hard album to categorise (not something I always enjoy doing) but I guess I wanted to point people who like Porcupine Tree etc in their direction. Prog is an overused term, but hey ‘rock’ is pretty wide ranging too ! Either way it’s an impressive debut and thanks for taking the time to read about it. Jeff.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Hey Jeff… Didn’t mean to get so “passionate”. I just think,nowadays, people forget that Rock doesn’t have to be just 4/4 with basic riffs. I agree, the term “Prog” is way over used and I wasn’t trying to belittle or disparage DeeExpus’ work.

  • Jeff

    Thanks Brian – no problem…. What you said didn’t come over that way at all. Anyway passion is what music is all about – lose that and we might as well pack away our speakers and give up ! I am grateful that some people have read this and then went off and had a listen. That’s important to me (and the band of course !) best wishes from France, Jeff