Thursday, July 23, 2009

Album Review: Karma Lingo, "Breath of God"--A FANTASTIC Debut

"All of us, a feather flying on wings of grace...This spirit wind, the Breath of God..."
I came across this CD as the result of attending performances of another local Atlanta band, The Lost Boys. (More on them in another blog!) As it turns out, The Lost Boys were formed from another band called Karma Lingo. The lineup has changed through the years, but this CD is the first one released by the group and contains six members: Matthew Trautwein (multi-instruments, notably guitar and violin), Kelley Yearout (guitar), Michael Guss (drums/percussion), Charles Holmes (bass), Sarah Onsager (keyboards), and Nancy Myers (keyboards). All of the members sing as well. (The men in the group formed the original Lost Boys troupe...again, more about them some other time.)

On the whole, this recording would best be described as "progressive rock," and I'd say it's one of the most inventive progressive rock albums I've ever heard. Though Trautwein wrote or co-wrote most of the material, there are fine contributions both in composition and performance from the other members of the group. Holmes gives a suitably anguished vocal performance on the relatively simple "Run Down," Onsager is seductive in "Power Over You" and endearing in "Bad Sky," Yearout is uplifting on "Open Door" and "She Is Afraid" (hearing the current KL lineup perform this song is what convinced me to buy the CD). "Hand to the Flame" sounds like a cross between 70's-era Styx or Kansas and Hungarian gypsy music. A prog rock opus like this one would be the last place you'd expect to hear the driving blues of "Ain't Nothin' But A Thing," but surprisingly it fits right in. Trautwein opens and closes the album with his songs "A Point of Departure" and the epic, 11-minute meditation on existential angst "Feathers On the Breath of God," the latter of which he has claimed as the finest thing he's ever written. He possesses an incredibly wide vocal range and these songs showcase his skills as a powerful singer.

Despite the relatively simple packaging, the production quality of the recording is excellent. It certainly shows no sign of being recorded in someone's basement like many independent productions. The instrumental skill of the performers is also evident throughout, with many long interludes that propel the music forward rather then seeming self-indulgent. Originally released in 1999, this music has aged far better than most of the popular music of ten years ago. I highly recommend it, especially if you favor the music of Kansas, Rush, Styx, Yes, or Emerson Lake & Palmer. The CD is available online at and the band's website is here.

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