Ayo Jegede
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July 12, 2004
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El Cielo

from 1993 to 2003 the Prairie View Panther football team accumulated--and i use that term lightly--a record of 10 wins and 107 losses, or winning 9.3% of the games played. it's also known that Blackshear Field holds 6,000 people, though theories of home field advantage seem to be entirely jettisoned in Prairie View's case. still, of those 6,000 (mostly unoccupied) seats, there must exist one person apart from the football team who believes in the team's ability, even if such belief possesses only a modicum of strength against the records. he wears the Panthers gear, foam "#1" hands, and guzzles cheap beer all the while doing his best to deride the opposing team. he's probably old and terribly bored, and his risible zeal benefits the Panthers, who would otherwise be entirely despondent at yet another game lost. let's call this maverick Jim.

while watching the Panthers get demolished during every home game, Jim likes to listen to Dredg's El Cielo. his friends dismiss his musical tastes as silly, for his musical bases are the same as his sports: he enjoys the attempt and not necessarily the success. Jim says that the Panthers, though perennially hopeless, at least play with a motivation entirely absent from their more successful ilk. he sees Michigan State and Ohio State, saying that they are indeed good teams. but in question is whether or not their successes are based on talent that needed little rarefaction or an unfathomable team will. Jim knows that the Panthers are trying because they're frustrated at every fumble, turnover, and 4th down. he knows they lack the necessary skills and experience, but he appreciates the effort.

Jim enjoys Dredg for what they attempt to express and the unrelenting detail they put into it. his friends call them an over-affected art-metal band, but their critiques do not dissuade. their last effort, Leitmotif, was a crude but promising introduction; a great experiment for a genre that certainly and desperately needs some. on El Cielo the group starts off with the common artistic paradigm of a concept album, this one dealing with dreamscapes. Gavin Hayes and the rest of the band make perhaps one of the greatest strides between two albums i've heard in a while; almost better than Manitoba's switch from Start Breaking My Heart to Up In Flames. El Cielo portrays this sweepy, sleepy musical whitewash with vocals that are slightly dimmed, smooth and operatic (including some esoteric chanting).

the band's performance is especially noteworthy on the latter half of the album as they efficiently manage grating metal textures with delicate harmonies and sound more erudite about it than other groups who try. 'Of The Room' is equal parts restrained darkness and concentrated metal edge while 'Whoa Is Me' sounds like a truncated, softer version of Tool's 'Third Eye.' the first half of the album, though certainly still good, is also more reticent. Hayes's lyrics are prosaic, singing, "Watch it explode/While it's not impossible/For flowers to bloom and grow next to graves/And babies are born/In the same buildings where people go/To pass away/Pass away" on Triangle. Jim's a Panther's nut, but he's not dense. he understands artistic expressions of life's paradoxes. nonetheless those pieces are enjoyable, even if below expectations.

no one knows how long Jim has been watching the Panthers play. some say he's been there since the 70's--a period that bore greater expectations and where Pink Floyd, King Crimson and others were kings. some say he's entirely new and only attends the games to accompany the music, just an attempt to visualize the latent abilities he hears on El Cielo and other works. yet others say that Jim is a figment, jabberwocky spread through campuses meant to embody unrealistic fidelity. seems today that people don't listen to music simply because it has possibility, which is true i guess. but know that every team in every sport was at one time sub-par and obscure before surging into something great. the Panthers may regain that greatness one day and everyone will want to be Jim.

Release date: October 8, 2002
Label: Interscope
Rating: 7.0 / 10