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Band: District 97

CD Title: “Hybrid Child”

Band Website: www.district97.net

Label: Laser’s Edge Records

Label Website: www.lasersedgegroup.com

Release Date: 2010

 

Having roots that go back to 2006, Chicago based District 97 really gelled as a cohesive unit a year later as all the key members came into play. The unique combination of complex prog rock musicality is spiced up with a cellist from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and vocals provided by an American Idol finalist. It’s a rather unique combination of elements and it really works. The band consists of Jim Tashjian (guitars), Rob Clearfield (keyboards), Patrick Mulcahy (bass), Jonathan Schang (drums), Leslie Hunt (vocals) and Katinka Kleijn (cello). This is the band’s first disc and it’s a very accomplished effort that puts a somewhat unique spin on the progressive rock genre.

 

This debut disc has five tracks, the last of which is the epic 10-part “Mindscan” which clocks in at 27:36. The overall tone of these compositions is pretty aggressive but avoids lapsing into prog-metal. Naturally the inclusion of cello throughout lifts these tunes into a different space, but it’s also the vocals. Hunt stays away from forcing her voice into some stereotypical contortions and instead relies on a more florid tone, which provides a wonderful contrast to some of the edginess of the music. The CD opens with “I Don’t Want to Wait Another Day” [7:18] which gets underway with some staccato guitar riffs and Hunt repeating the songs title over all sorts of musical change-ups. The cello enters the picture a little after the one-minute mark, while the tune itself maintains a very up-tempo drive. The guitars and cello trade-off the spotlight for a while, then at the four-minute mark the tune shifts down a couple of gears with the cello playing the melody and things become soft and melancholic. From here the song builds in theme and arrangement till at the end it returns to the opening riffs. It’s a powerhouse of playing.District 97 have created a very unique sound; it’s hard and aggressive and yet balanced with other elements to provide a kind of tonal counterpoint. They’re not afraid to start and stop and change the musical dynamics; in fact the songs are all pretty long so they’re able to display their musicianship but because of either the vocals or the cello they avoid going over the top. All the playing serves the song and this is best heard on the massive “Mindscan” where the band is able to incorporate the maximum amount of musical diversity. 

 

Hybrid Child is a great debut disc. You recognize the talent on display pretty quickly. The compositions are complex, changing all the time, moving in different directions and yet it all comes across effortlessly. District 97 is a band that will appeal to lovers of hard-edged symphonic prog, but it has a lot to offer to the prog-metal crowd as well. This was a pleasant surprise and it’s just the “ticket” when you want something a little more crunchy and yet grand in scope.

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