Nova Collective is:
Richard Henshall – Guitar
Dan Briggs – Bass
Pete Jones – Keyboards
Matt Lynch – Drums
So. What happens when you take the talents of ranking members of three, very heavy hitting Progressive Metal bands, like say, Between the Buried and Me, Haken and Cynic and throw them in the blender with the Modern Jazz sounds of a band like, oh I don’t know, Trioscapes? To sweeten the deal even more, add the engineering wizardry of Jamie King (for readers that follow my musings, I seem to end up covering just about everything this man produces and needs no introduction from me) and have everything mixed by Rich Mouser (Neal Morse, Transatlantic). Guesses? Honestly, I would have guessed something very technical and heavy in a minor key that drive on 7ths instead of strictly 5ths, done on extended range guitars and maybe a fretless bass. Nope. Not even close! What you get is a supergroup that call themselves Nova Collective and they are about to release their debut album entitled The Further Side on the Metal Blade record label March 10th, 2017. Upon receiving this pre-release, I was on this thing like white on rice! Oh man, what an absolute treat these guys have for everyone!
This whole sorted affair started a few years ago in 2014 when the bass player for BTBAM/Trioscapes, Dan Briggs and Haken guitarist Richard Henshall started a friendly email exchange across the pond. Once demos began to start changing hands between the pair, they discovered that what was transpiring had legs and should be further pursued. Upon developing a few full arrangements, Trioscapes/Cynic drummer, Matt Lynch and ex-Haken keyboardist Pete Jones were recruited to assist on finishing what would ultimately become The Further Side. With members exchanging session recordings on both sides of the Atlantic, it was not until 2015 that the band was able to finally unite at The Basement Recording Studio in North Carolina to bring their creation to life. In the press release included with the album, Nova Collective’s resultant sound is that of Fusion, but bringing influences from Progressive Rock, World Music, Jazz and Classical along for the ride. If you are looking for something completely different to listen to and have an ear for top-shelf Progressive Rock and Jazz, I highly recommend this Nova Collective labor of musical love!
Alright. This looks great on paper, right, but does this translate into palpable music that does not go off in some strange direction that few will understand? Uhh, no! The Further Side is an absolute joy to listen to and wonderfully accessible to anyone listening. With talent and technical prowess reaching critical mass, Nova Collective have produced something very unique and extremely special; a true gift of music that stands well above the skills of any of the uber-talented, individual artists. This album completely transcends the shallow classification system that remains the status quo, so I am going to throw it into a new genre of precisely one, and call it “Maybe”. Maybe Rock, Maybe Jazz, Maybe Classical, Maybe Progressive… The entire album can be succinctly summed up in one word, however: wonderful! Starting off with their first single/video release with “Dancing Machines” we are welcomed with a rather terse and mechanical keyboard that changes ever so slightly to mimic physical movement. Bass and drums lead us through the next movement that is punctuated with unusual guitar playing and progressions. Once this track really takes off, it comes apart at the seams and even gets a little mathy guitar along with organ-like keys as we are thrown about like a sock monkey in the dryer. Very cool and tight musical structure are the glue that keep this opening song on course and clue us in for the rest of the album. Like its name suggests, “Cascades” is a very pretty track that gets funky really quickly. The neatest thing here is that the seemingly simple groove is deceptively complex. Great fun song in passing, but a lot to get one’s head wrapped around once taken in intently. Polymorphic rhythms swim just below the surface of a wildly diverse harmony that, every now and again, align before heading off onto another plane. Took a couple of listens to figure out what precisely was going on, but well worth the effort. Would have loved to be a fly on the wall as this was being written. Really incredible. With a unique, organic feel, “Air” circles and dances for our aural pleasure. Eastern influences are even appropriately pulled into this one without being obnoxious or cheesy and contrasted with heavier, more Rock driven vibes; much like the atmospheric presence this track successfully emulates. Using the bass to direct the melody also adds a level of flavor that is not often used but really interesting when pulled off correctly. Using this same cagey method but under the auspice of almost pure Fusion, “State of Flux” builds to a hard-ish, Rock pace that is ingeniously tempered by acoustic piano. Eventually, cleanly played guitar ebbs and flows with mildly distorted guitar. Mid-song, one of the bitchin’-est bass lines lay the Funk under harmonized keys and guitar before a heavier direction is taken. Even Space Rock is used to further this song’s stunning diversity. All artists get to shine very, very brightly, particularly here. Any fan of John Scofield is going to flip after hearing my favorite track, “Ripped Apart and Reassembled”. Guitar chops, bass riffing, clever keyboard harmonies and the, now trademarked use of poly rhythms absolutely dazzle. Again, made to sound so effortless while being impossibly complicated. This song alone could be listened to all day and still not be fully internalized. “The Further Side” continues at a dizzying pace to conclude this unbelievably good body of musical artwork. Once settled into a mildly slower vibe, strict structure is thrown to the wind. Quick turns to shred-worthy guitars playing into Classically played piano drive directly into sections of pure Jazz goodness or World Music euphoria. There is even a bridge of borderline Metal that beautifully blend to ethereal guitarwork over blistering drums. There is something here for every genre purist over the entire spectrum of music while miraculously remaining cohesive and structurally organized. I sit in a state of awe listening to this song. Hell, my hat is off for the breadth of the entire album…
Nova Collective is shockingly good. What I was expecting and what The Further Side actually represents sit on polar ends of the musical spectrum. Even with the ill conceived prejudice going into this album, I found it to be incredibly easy to take in; leaving me smiling with uncontrollable head bobbing or sitting breathless and stunned at the complete, technical overkill these artists have managed to successfully pull off. I cannot honestly come up with one single thing to ding these guys on and highly recommend to anyone looking for something completely different to clean their musical palettes with. We can only pray that this side project continues for many, many years into the future. Nova Collective is just stoopid good!
Tracklist for The Further Side:
“State of Flux”
“Ripped Apart and Reassembled”
“The Further Side”