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Music Review: Hour of the Shipwreck – The Hour Is Upon Us

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Hour of the Shipwreck is a group out of the Los Angeles area, and they do a genre-defying mix of prog rock, alternative (whatever that means these days), symphonic, and soft rock. The nearest I can come to describing them would be 16th-century experimental-classical-Goth-art rock, which fits. Sort of. Their premiere CD, The Hour Is Upon Us, contains seven cuts and totals out at 45:18. For simplicity, I’ll refer to the group as Shipwreck from here on.

Shipwreck is a very ambitious group in many ways, and rightfully so. No slouches in this group of musicians. More on them below.

The opening of The Hour Is Upon Us, put me in mind of the dramatic scene in an action/adventure movie. After the action, or during a break in the action, the protagonist looks around him, the camera panning in slo-mo for effect, and the scene is one of bodies and mayhem, whether a gladiator in an arena or an act of terrorist carnage. The background chorale adds depth and emotion. In this scene, the hero looks around and is overcome by emotion, while at the same time steeling himself internally to the coming, even more difficult task. And that’s just the first 13 seconds of this CD!

From there, it gets even better. Following the chorus, an acoustic guitar comes in quietly, and Richie Kohan, the lead singer and master wizard of the entire CD, follows, with a slight falsetto to his naturally high tenor. Then the drama and the intrigue march noisily in, emphasizing the hero’s resolve. The remainder of the opening cut, “The Chandelier Suite,” takes us on an indescribably wonderful musical journey.

This music is for dreaming, the dream being your choice, your cast, your plot. But whatever comes bubbling up from your brain, whether romantic, fantastical, a hero overcoming impossible odds, gory, or downright kinky, the music fits. Perfectly. Does this make sense? Probably not. But it does make damned good music, and damned good theater. The orchestration and chorus of the first cut of this CD put one in mind of the old, 1950s and early 1960s film epics, such as El Cid, or Ben Hur. Or in the modern era, Lord of the Rings, or The Chronicles of Narnia. The first two movies are markedly different than the second two, but the music would be complimentary to both.

Following the first selection, the CD moves into different tempos and genres of music, which, in the hands of a less skilled composer, might end up as tedious and directionless. With Kohan’s fingers at the controls, however, it turns into a masterpiece of epic proportions. As mentioned, it’s genre-defying but it also incorporates traces of many different genres of music. It goes from near-philharmonic to a plain, acoustic guitar, to a jazzy riff, to a prog rock blast, to you-name-it. And the instrumentation is punctuated by different voices, from the chorale to high tenor.

Oftentimes, music is used in a movie to add character, proportion, emotion, depth, and many other feelings and qualities. But this music was written for a movie, an epic that needs to be written, and that would deserve to feature this music. Kohan mentions that his dream is “to turn The Shipwreck into a theme park.” The music’s already done, now it’s those pesky minor details that need to be worked out.

According to the liner notes, the core group is a sextet, consisting of Richie Kohan, Marcel Camargo, Barbara Gruska, Aaron Arntz, Gabe Noel, and Bram Inscore. All have experience playing with noted musicians from a variety of genres, including Kenny Burrell, Inara George, Beck, and Dweezil Zappa, and also including film soundtracks.

To date, the group’s done a West Coast tour, LA to Vancouver. Until now, they’ve restricted their live performances to mostly the California coastal areas, from what I can piece together by looking at their website and the limited press they’ve received. But I doubt this will remain the case much longer, if any longer. Once the word gets around, don’t get caught standing in front of them or you’ll liable to be trampled in the mad rush to get them signed.

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About Lou Novacheck