The Projection People take the enormous talents of The Cemetery Improvement Society and combine them with the Minus-the-Bear-like progressive pop/rock of Dafino. If you don’t know CIS then you don’t know what you’re missing. And if you don’t remember Dafino, you haven’t been in Madison very long, or been paying attention. CIS guitarist Marc Claggett also played for progressive metal band Middleworld as did bassist Kevin McDonnell. They bring this force to bear as well, giving the band a metal edge (McDonnell has since left the band but a replacement is sure to be forthcoming as new material has been recorded over the summer). Guitarist/Keyboardist Scott Canaday played in Mahp (who were fronted by Mark Harrod) but also Revolving Doors, a group that also had future CIS drummer Brad Hawes in it. The bands expound on their commonalities by virtue of the Analogy record label. Suffice it to say, these Projection People chaps have chops, and a lot of them, with decades of combined experience in making music. They, along with CIS and Orphan Bloom , are making a strong case that Madison is currently a hotbed for modern progressive music.
TPP come out of the blocks like Rush on “Spacefest” with floaty, sustained keyboards hovering over syncopated rhythms and power chording. But that lasts about thirty seconds before the real Projection People sound comes forward, one that is complicated, fluid and defies easy categorization. If progressive music means taking turns where others would reiterate, then there are very few repeat signs in the Projection People’s musical manuscript. The songs weave in and out of rhythmic patterns. Things can stop on a dime and turn introspective or even spacey before erupting into something vaguely resembling a chorus. They do all this with panache and authority. I spent a long time with this album, gave it probably twenty or more listens, and I’m still trying to nail it down; hearing new things with every revisit.
The guitar interplay is especially intricate and you can hear this best on “Repent,” an instrumental track that brings Djam Karet to mind. (I know that’s obscure but really – look it up – they’re great!) “The Spring” sports a cool guitar figure and is probably the most graspable song. It’s not overly angular or brainy; a nice four-minute piece of progressive pop with an engaging instrumental section. Keyboards take the spotlight on “La Familia” and “Headlights,” The former brings out vocalist Tyler Commo’s talents while the latter sounds like the Beatles at their progressive pop best. “Etienne” experiments with acoustic instruments while flirting with symphonic pop, courtesy of guest violinist Naomi Hasan. The slower tempo is a welcome respite and the song has a dramatic climax. The album ends on a high note with “Glass,” approaching the grandeur of Muse before descending into chaos and fragmentation.
The Projection People is a band for the twenty-first century. There are sophisticated elements of so many different styles and influences; as if they put the past forty years of popular rock into a blender and came out with something completely new and very, very tasty.