Pattern-Seeking Animals is an American prog-spinoff group formed in 2018 by Ted Leonard, Dave Meros, John Boegehold, and, Jimmy Keegan, all of whom are members of, or have worked with, Spock’s Beard. Prehensile Tales is the band’s second album, keeping up a promise from members of the band when they started out to release an album every year. No mean promise for any band these days, let alone one whose members have other band responsibilities plus session work to juggle.
Having such close affinity with another band must cause some problems, not least as to how you make yourself different to the ‘other’ band. Well, in truth there’s still some similarities between the two bands. That’s perhaps not surprising when you’ve key players in both bands, who will display their signature sounds as a matter of their musical being. On a first listening, it is perhaps the keyboards that sound most different. They are clearer and less fuzzy in a way. The sounds are not all digital by any means, but the keyboards do have that slickness about them. But there are other differences. There is more than a touch of AOR, not necessarily a bad thing, and perhaps more of a pop ear too. This band is, arguably, more modern prog-sounding than Spock’s Beard’s more traditional one. Nothing wrong with either of those stances, in truth.
Prehensile Tales finds the band reaching an agreeable balance between the more poppy side and the more progressive. ‘Raining Hard In Heaven’, the opening track, sets the pace with a compelling and driving piece of prog rock. The songs in the middle of the album are probably the more poppy, particularly the very catchy ‘Elegant Vampires’. Perhaps they’re just prog rock in short form though. Songs don’t need to be expansive to be progressive. The album closes with two longer form prog pieces, the multipart Lifeboat which throws the band into close proximity to Spock’s Beard territory, although with added sax, woodwinds, and a touch of cello. The closing track, ‘Soon But Not Today’, is a piece that becomes quite emotional at times.
Lyrically, the album takes in a wide variety of subjects from vampires, ship wrecks, facing mortality to the human condition. Quite the full Monty then! “I started writing for the second album right as we were finishing up the first one” says Boegehold, who is again producing besides playing keyboards. “I wanted to change around some of the song-writing approaches I’d been using and draw from a few different musical influences while not straying too far from the overall vibe of the band. Adding a few new instruments to the mix was part of the equation.” “This album is another collection of lush arrangements and infectious melodies. I mean REALLY infectious.” Says Leonard. “There are certain lines that are the last thing going through my head at night and the first thing in the morning. I think it’s actually furthering my insanity.”
Overall, then, this is quite a refreshing listen. The band are obviously top-notch musicians and they know their way around tempo changes and dynamics. The balance between the pop-side and the prog-side is a delicate one to handle but it works in this band’s hands. This release sounds like a band effort too, without one musician or another stealing the limelight. The inclusion of various supporting instrumentalists brings in varied flavours, such as violin, saxophone and cello, which aren’t that uncommon in prog, to the less common piccolo and flugelhorn.
1. Raining Hard in Heaven
2. Here in My Autumn
3. Elegant Vampires
4. Why Don’t We Run
I – Nearer Now to Heaven
II – Fitful Dreams
III – Dull the Sword of Damocles
IV – Never More Than Human
V – What Happens When You Die
6. Soon But Not Today
John Boegehold – synths, mellotron, guitars, mandolins, autoharp, vocals
Ted Leonard – vocals, lead & rhythm guitars
Jimmy Keegan – drums, percussion, vocals
Dave Meros – basses, vocals
Rini – violin (2,3,6)
Susan Craig Winsburg – flutes & piccolo (2,5,6)
John Fumo – trumpet & flugelhorn (4,5,6)
Michelle Packman – cello (4,5)
Jeff Miguel – baritone & tenor sax (5)
Daniel Fernandez – backing vocals (3)
Rich Mouser – additional guitars & pedal steel
Produced by John Boegehold
Limited Edition CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP (incl. the album on CD), Digital Album
Released: 15th May 2020