by Jason A. Bermiller
Formed in Los Angeles in November 2003, Days Between Stations is a duo: Oscar Fuentes-Bills and Sepand Samzadeh. The band was formed in Los Angeles after keyboardist Fuentes-Bills replied to guitarist Samzadeh’s ad in Music Connection. Both of the
Los Angeles artists experienced their first successful attempt to form a professionally-recording band through an international connection. They sent Bruce Soord, the leader of UK Progressive band Pineapple Thief, a demo of nearly one hour’s
improvisations. The duo were honoured to see that Soord used some of their work on “Saturday”, a track from Pineapple Thief’s album 12 Stories Down. The duo has continued to work at their brand of Progressive Music. Giants is their third full release.
This album resounds with a slightly heavier approach than their 2013 album In Extremis. Once again joined by Billy Sherwood, bassist for Yes and the songwriting-producer-musician extraordinaire for such projects as The Prog Collective and Circa,
Days Between Stations have crafted a welcome addition to 2020’s Progressive Rock spectrum. Sherwood has apparently even more influence on the sound of this album. Not since Karamakanic’s Who’s The Boss In The Factory or The Tangent’s The Music
That Died Alone has a Prog band opened with such a forward nod to their Prog heritage.
“Spark” crackles with the excitement that powers such notable musical pioneers as Yes, Genesis and ELP. Inid Abiza provides ethereal vocals to the track while Fuentes-Bills and Samzadeh deliver precision punches. No excessive noodling here. The track
feel much shorter than its almost-17 minute hike through traditional Prog landscapes. That is due to an attention to composition, and a devotion to disciplined soloing. Reminiscent of the brilliance of Polish Prog-Metal heroes Riverside, Days Between
Stations’ song-crafting carries the listener through their pieces with a seeming effortlessness. But don’t be fooled: this music is hard-won. At the same time, both key musicians have ample room to display their virtuosity.
“Witness The End Of The World” boasts vocals by Durga McBroom, the extraordinary backing vocalist who toured and sang in all of Pink Floyd’s shows from 1987 to 1994. A rich, lush, beautiful piece, “Witness” persists in an ethereal sound, enhanced by rich,
orchestral melodies. The production is exquisite. “Another Day” proclaims the struggles of living in challenging times. While this song could easily be applied to our current situation in a worldwide pandemic, the lyrics leave for a more wider interpretation:
The endless burdens
When others let go
Raise the Final Curtain
Head into the storm
Define the laws of Patience
Deny the weight"
These series of statements are what one would expect from a hero, from, yes, a giant. Who is the giant in this song? It would appear to be Sisyphus. That’s right. Days Between Stations has a classic Progressive element in their music beyond their classic
Prog sound: an intellectual, literary reference. The classic tone of Sherwood’s Rickenbacker bass combined with the keyboards and piano work by Fuentes-Bills lends this track a scope that usually is found only on classic Prog albums such as Relayer by Yes.
Once again, the discipline of not overtaking the song with undue intricate patterns while still presenting an engaging Progressive piece lends “Another Day” power and strength.
Co-written and sung by Colin Moulding, “Goes By Gravity” has that classic lilt associated with a Moulding composition. Floating along a dreamy foundation of keys, “Goes By Gravity” even has some background vocal “Woo-Woo’s”, quite reminiscent of the Psychedelia
in some songs by Dukes of the Stratosphere. Moulding’s lyrics and vocals fit into Days Between Stations’ sound seamlessly. This track has that musical levity (pardon the pun) blended with profound lyrical content that hallmarks Moulding’s past work:
Meteors will fall out the sky in Siberia
Frauleins will drop trays of beer in Bavaria
Boulders will roll down Michigan hills
Keen fighter pilots will drop for a thrill
All knew their name when their falling
Six floors to oblivion… aaaaaaaaaaaaa"
“Goes by Gravity” is a gem on Giants, much like “The Man Who Died Two Times” is a gem on In Extremis, with one major difference: the song does not depart from the overall sound of the whole album. Could this be a recurring event on Days Between Stations’ releases? We’ll see.
The title track opens with a piano riff enhanced by a series of harmonic synths, expanding into a full rolling epic sound, a sound that is classic Prog circa 1973 or 1974. “Giants” would be a welcome track on either Relayer by Yes or Foxtrot by Genesis,
depending on the segment of the song you’re listening to. The album continues in the same classic Prog territory. “The Gathering” is a welcoming instrumental, giving the listener a pause from ingesting demanding, cerebral lyrics. That pause is followed by
the conclusion of Giants, an all-out Progressive rocker titled “The Common Thread”. By the time you reach the end of this final track, you realize that you have been taken on a ride through some of the best musical ideas from the heyday of Prog.
But have you heard something entirely new? It’s arguable that when a band expresses their love for past recordings and stylings that the band runs the risk of sounding derivative. Now, while this album is not derivative per se, it certainly has strong
connections to what some Progressive Rock “purists” would proclaim as “Real Prog”, whatever that is. And there’s the danger: Days Between Stations runs the risk of being hemmed in. If in the future, let’s say that Days Between Stations would like explore
musical vistas outside of “Real” Prog, what then? Will the band suffer the wrath of some of their more stodgy fans? It remains to be seen. The point is that once a band puts out a full album of what can only be called a wondrous and well-executed homage
to a certain musical genre from an iconic musical era, then that band can find itself limited. I hope that plenty of attention will be given to Fuentes-Bills and Samzadeh’s songwriting and performances as they continue their journey. Maybe through that focus,
these two brilliant musicians will find open vistas ahead, free of limiting expectations from their developing fanbase.
In all, Giants is a fantastic addition to Days Between Stations’ discography and a welcome addition to any Progressive Rock fan’s collection.
Artist: Days Between Stations
Release Date: September 21, 2020
Label: Station One
Oscar Fuentes-Bills: Keyboards
Sepand Samzadeh: Guitars
Billy Sherwood: Drums, Vocals, Bass Guitar
Inid Abiza: backing Vocals on “Spark”
Durga McBroom: Vocals on “Witness The End Of The World”
Colin Moulding: Vocals on “Goes By Gravity
Music and lyrics by Oscar Fuentes-Bills, Sepand Samzadeh and Billy Sherwood, except “Goes By Gravity”, lyrics by Oscar Fuentes-Bills, Sepand Samzadeh, Billy Sherwood and Colin Moulding
1. Spark, 16:53
2. Witness The End Of The World, 3:57
3. Another Day, 9:38
4. Goes By Gravity, 4:51
5. Giants, 12:58
6. The Gathering, 4:07
7. The Common Thread, 7:46