Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase (2022 remix),
It is incredibly rare for me to review an album more than once, and generally there needs to be something very special for that to take place. Given that this is, in my opinion, one of the most important progressive rock albums to come out in the Nineties by one of the most innovative and important bands ever to surface in the States, this is not something I do lightly. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this incredible release, the guys convinced Terry Brown to undertake a new mix, and that is what I am now playing. In this heavily connected world of ours it is often difficult to remember that it was not that long ago when music only existed in physical form, the internet was new and not many people had email. Although by 1999 I had already built a reputation in the UK for writing about progressive rock music, and was well-known by various European labels, it was more difficult to get material from the other side of the Atlantic just due to geography and cost. However, at some point that year I was contacted by Matthew Parmenter (vocals, keyboards, violin, sax) and been sent this album which had been released a few years earlier. This was their third album, and three years on from ‘Push & Profit’ they had settled down as a quartet with the departure of keyboard player David Krofchok, with the classic line-up of Jon Preston Bouda (electric and acoustic guitars), Matthew Kennedy (bass) and Paul Dzendzel (drums, percussion).
The four songs are epics, with a total running time of 65 minutes, and here we have a band who are heavily influenced by VDGG, while also bringing in some elements of Gabriel and Fripp, with the result being an album which is very American yet is looking deep into the Seventies with some classic sounds and influences. Looking back at my Discipline reviews in TPU Vol 1 I say at one point that they produce “Prog that is dangerous and exciting, harkening back to the past but very much looking forward to the future”. There is no doubt that when looking back on many Nineties releases, they have not aged particularly well, but that is not the case here. It is a few years since this graced my player just because I am always trying to catch up on my reviews, but as soon as “Canto IV (Limbo)” kicked off I was transported and transfixed, taken back to when I first heard this all those years ago and soon wrapped back under its spell. There is no doubt that if in 2000 someone had asked me to list my favourite progressive rock albums from the Nineties then this would have made the cut, and if someone asked me in 2022 to undertake that exercise again there is no doubt this would still be very close to the top.
This is music which is exciting and vibrant, still with plenty of space but with complex and layered arrangements which Brown’s remix has revitalised. There is just so much going on in this album, and one never knows where it is going to lead or what is going to happen next. It truly is a progressive rock album in all its facets, one which has not succumbed to banality or commerciality but rather was written and recorded just because the band had no choice, this is what they were all about. Remember, there was no ProgArchives back in 1997, it was a mere twinkle, and certainly no-one ever imagined glossy magazines devoted to the genre, it was hard enough to produce fanzines and standing over copies to reproduce them! It is direct, diverse, yet goes off at tangents so one must listen to hard to ensure nothing is missed and the journey can be completed.
25 years on from its debut, and this album is still one of the most important to have ever come out of the underground scene, from a band who should have been massive and known by all. Since this we have only had two more studio albums, but perhaps this will provide some impetus for the guys to get back into the studio. No progressive collection can be called complete without this.