Kinetic Element – Powered by Light

By Eduard Antoniu

Virginia-based Kinetic Element (KE) started about three years ago as a keyboard-based trio, to play the music of keyboardist-vocalist Mike Visaggio. The band’s original bassist relocated, so he couldn’t continue with the band anymore. But Mike Visaggio and drummer-vocalist Michael Murray found a replacement just in time for a festival appearance. And, about one year ago, that trio version upgraded to a quartet, with the addition of versatile guitarist Todd Russell. He gets his classical/acoustic solo spot “Meditation” on this 68-minute debut album.

Sadly, shortly after its release, bassist Tony D’Amato had to leave, after one year and a few months in the band, due to changes in his life. Too bad, because, with this lineup, the other six tracks on the album sound as if written and performed by one of the strangest groupings you could ever imagine: Keith Emerson, Jan Akkerman, Renaissance’s former bassist Jon Camp, Phil Ehart, Rousseau’s former singer Dieter Müller, with lyrics written as if by Peter Hammill and Derek Shulman. Again, a replacement was found and will be announced soon, so hopefully the band can continue. This album is too good to remain their only one.

In about 9 minutes, “Riding in Time” changes tempos about as many times. An ethereal introduction gives way to the Hammond-driven main theme in 4/4, which is reprised twice later. A short recitative is cut by a surprising harpsichord, prelude to a vocal-driven bridge in 9/8, also to be reprised in the end. The middle section dilutes into funky cafe jazz,  then into a slow ambient floating.

The 1-2-3-2-1 drum pattern you hear in the beginning of “The Ascent”, makes you think it’s an Aaron Copland cover. But no, a short moment of textural keyboard and the reprise of the same pattern on bass brings you to a Hammond-driven hymn, superbly counterpointed on guitar. Catchy vocal melodies alternate with instrumental tension building. The coda is like a cocktail of all these.

“Now and Forever” starts jazzy but immediately turns into a synth-dominated march. Yet Mike Visaggio also creeps in equally beautiful parts on the piano and then on Hammond. A violin-like lamenting on guitar, sustained by the rhythm section and augmented by mellotron washes, is the misleading intro/outro to/of the 12 minute, anthemic “Peace of Mind, Peace of Heart”. Really, I can imagine a place and a time in a day in a week where and when I could hear that splendid vocal part doubled on piano and on organ.

The 16 minute “Reconciliation” is slowly built on guitar, textural synth and percussion washes. This suddenly turns into an instrumental madness in 17/8 only to calm down to a slower part with guitar and bass in 9/8, piano in 4/4 and enrichment in 9/8, drums in 5/4. With vocals floating majestically, this stabilizes into fancy 4/4 rock. After a quiet middle section, what follows makes you once again think, “But this is a band from Virginia, not Kansas anymore”. The previous parts are then reprised in reverse order.

“See the Children” starts almost like “Riding in Time”, albeit making you reach once more for the CD liner notes, in search of a cello credit, if there was one. Guitar floats over, as if in the midst of a spectral morning. Suddenly, all but drums do a unison in 9/8, then all another one in 11/8. The guitar’s maybe only second fully solistic intervention on the album leads the band into an uplifting march.

We’d better wish the band good luck with pursuing their artistic vision. Otherwise, treasure the gem you’ve got by buying the CD.