CD Review – Pattern-Seeking Animals Only Passing Through

Pattern-Seeking Animals has returned with Only Passing Through, the band’s third album in fairly hot pursuit of the groups previous one, Prehensile Tales from 2020. That is pretty prompt by modern standards although the band’s hope had been to release an album every year. The group’s eponymous first album was released in 2019. The original intention was to have released this album a little earlier, as lead composer, keyboard player and producer John Boegehold explains: “I started writing for the new album in early 2020 right after we finished mixing Prehensile Tales which came out that May. The original plan was to release a new album a year later in mid-2021 but events in 2020 threw a few roadblocks in our way just like it did many other musicians and artists. So, the process ended up taking about six months longer than planned. The end result was since there was more time to write, we ended up with more material to choose from. I wasn’t going for any specific theme lyrically or musically other than coming up with energetic, good songs that sound like they belong on the same album.” The wait was well worth it for any fan of modern progressive rock.

Quite a few people seem to consider Pattern-Seeking Animals as little more than a side project for four musicians who are linked with Spock’s Beard. But this band has enough nous and quality about it to stand away from that narrow view point. There are inevitably some similarities, given the nature of the band and its members. The group consists of Ted Leonard on guitars and vocals, Jimmy Keegan on drums and vocals, with Dave Meros playing bass, who are all members of Spock’s Beard, while John is a long-term contributing songwriter, producer and keyboardist. As well as the Spock’s Beard parallels there are doffs of the cap to Kansas (particularly with the violin) and maybe Enchant now and again. There are inescapable hints of Genesis and Yes too. AOR makes the odd appearance.

Only Passing Through is a bright sounding and appealing album, full of a modern prog approach and feel. Although some of the songs are quite concise by prog standards, they are beautifully arranged and feature many proggy twists and turns in a relatively short space of time. Everdark Mountain has frequent shifts in timing, tone and style yet hardly reaches three minutes in length. There is room for expansiveness though, with the epic Time Has A Way breaking the thirteen-minute mark and features some excellent orchestration, great soloing and is populated with odd time signatures. The album also benefits from the inclusion of less obvious instrumentation including brass and strings. John explains; “I got to play charango, ronrocco, ukulele and vihuela which added a different flavor in a couple of the tracks. Also, a real bassoon part in one of the songs as well as violin, trumpet, cello, etc.” This allows the songs a certain exotic flavour at times with quite often a Latinesque air, as with the trumpet on Time Has A Way. But the sound never becomes overly dense or overcrowded retaining clarity and space on each track. John sounds justifiably proud of the album, saying; “Only Passing Through picks up where Prehensile Tales left off but soon takes several stylistic detours as it progresses. Everyone involved made this album a lot of fun to make and we’re all looking forward to it finally being heard.”

Lyrically, the songs encompass a wide range of subjects that can be loosely termed the human condition. Often, they are quite philosophical and may even veer to the cinematic in some cases having sections that would equate to scenes of a film.  Each musician excels and the vocals are top notch, not just from Ted Leonard, who is very good, but also in the harmonies as on Here With You With Me. The tones and choices for the instrumentation bring the songs to life and could be considered an essential feature in themselves, not just the way they are masterfully played. There are two bonus tracks available in some formats which maintain the high standards. These are a little more straight ahead rock in style than much of the other material but, they do not seem out of place on the album.

Whilst decidedly classic prog in many aspects, there is plenty here that sounds fresh, making it a very modern sounding release rather than purely retro. The production is very careful not to be too overly thin, which can happen with some modern prog albums. It has a poppy atmosphere about it because of that, and a suitable sheen to go with it. The song writing is one of the great strengths and ally that with some phenomenal playing then you should be on to a winner in the prog world. Pattern-Seeking Animals has certainly gone a tremendously long way to having an identity all of its own. Complex and often beautiful.

1. Everdark Mountain (02:50)

2. I Can’t Stay Here Anymore (06:05)

3. Time Has A Way (13:15)

4. Rock Paper Scissors (05:01)

5. Much Ado (04:49)

6. Only Passing Through (04:19)

7. Said the Stranger (07:07)

8. Here with You with Me (08:14)

9. I’m Not Alright (Bonus) (03:32)

10. Just Another Day at the Beach (Bonus) (06:11)

John Boegehold – keyboards, programming and production

Ted Leonard – lead vocals, guitar

Dave Meros – bass, vocals

Jimmy Keegan – drums, vocals

Release date: 1st April 2022

Label: InsideOut Music

Formats: 2LP Gatefold (Etching on Side D) + CD , Ltd. CD digipak , digital album

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