DISTRICT 97 – Trouble With Machines (2012)

DISTRICT 97 - Trouble With Machines (2012)


DISTRICT 97 debuted in 2010 with an album which received more clamour for the fact that the band’s singer Leslie Hunt had competed as a finalist in 2007’s American Idol, than the excellent music it contained.

However in the cold light of day it wasn’t merely Hunt’s voice, or the prog-idol crossover shock that made the album stand out, the clash of traditional prog and a modern approach ensured that the music itself made the CD a worthy contender for time on any prog lovers playlist.

So two years later and District 97 are back with their second album “Trouble With Machines”.

While not much has changed, neither has much stood still, with Hunt still leading much of the music from the front, but only because what she is backed by is pretty damn impressive in the first place.

As many prog albums do, “Trouble With Machines” splits into two types of songs. The long, meandering, jarring mini-epics and the shorter blasts of melody that offer light relief for those fatigued by off-kilter time signatures, vocal melodies that intentionally work against the keyboards / guitar lines and long drawn out arrangements.

The effect is one where the album feels challenging and technical, while simultaneously being quite immediate and memorable, catchy even.

Although when you revisit it, somehow the commercial sheen you imagined remembering isn’t quite there, with more of the bristling riffs, keen piano forays and pounding drum adventures revealing themselves to be not as simple and straight forward as first thought.

Every spin reveals more, with “The Perfect Young Man” howling through a guitar and Hammond battle that results in a bloodied tie, before the nuancing hi-hat patterns and vocal harmonies between Hunt and guitarist Jim Tashjian come along to trounce all that have come before them.

Talking of Tashjian, he really is a mighty talent, but then so is Rob Clearfield, who provides keyboards as well as the odd touch of six string magic.

From the shorter tracks, “Open Your Eyes” lets the vocals really stretch out in a more accessible way, but the ever on the move percussion from Jonathan Schang stops the bouncy riff from becoming just too straight ahead. Although stinging burst of harmony guitar, which are almost laughingly bright and jolly also knocks you out of any comfort zone you’d attempted to settle in.

Then bassist Patrick Mulcahy brings the bottom end rumble to the District, with his forceful attack on the funky and moving romp of “Who Cares?”, illustrating his importance to the band to the full.

Much though these shorter blasts are convincingly good fun, it really is where things become more extrovertly introverted that District 97 really make their mark, with the unsettling vocals of “Read Your Mind” leading you into a dreamy, yet threatening setting, before the ever evolving and often spacey “The Thief” brings a subtlety to the album that is only really hinted at elsewhere.

“Trouble With Machines” is a mature and really interesting album from District 97’s, a band planted in the Prog field but never afraid to explore new territories. It is no surprise that the band has earned praise from some big names in the Prog world such as John Wetton (who also guest vocals), Bill Bruford and Carl Palmer.

However, it is actually quite difficult to place this band into any particular sub-genre, as it presents a unique blending of styles with some Neo Prog, Melodic Hard Rock, Symphonic impressions, and even some Prog Metal style guitar riffs.

District 97 music is playful, clever, exploratory, enigmatic, and a whole lot of fun. The compositions are wonderfully well thought out and present many twists and turns, good grooves, complex rhythms but also easy melodies, and some excellent musicianship.

Far from being a flash in the pan prog band with a media back story, “Trouble With Machines” proves that District 97 are in it for the long haul.

On the evidence of this album, they’ll have a lot of people interested in their journey. I am one of them.

1. Back And Forth

2. Open Your Eyes

3. The Actual Color

4. The Perfect Young Man

5. Who Cares?

6. Read Your Mind

7. The Thief

Leslie Hunt / lead & backing vocals

Rob Clearfield / keyboards, guitar

Jim Tashjian / guitar, backing vocals

Patrick Mulcahy / bass

Jonathan Schang / drums, percussion

Guest musicians:

John Wetton / vocals (4)

Katinka Kleijn / cello (6)

DISTRICT 97 - Trouble With Machines (2012) back cover



3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you
    Finally I got this one
    Márcio Giacomini
    from Brasil

  2. 0dayrockz says:

    @ Marcio:
    Thanks for the kindly words.
    Try this one:

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you again for all great music you post here.
    I tried, but I can´t download from Rapidgator. Could you please, repost on Depositfiles??
    I´m a big fan of John Wetton.
    Márcio Giacomini
    From Brasil

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