Are you supposed to grow out of your prog phase? I’m not sure, and I’m sorry to say that my need for keyboard wankery and ever-shifting tempos, time signatures, and 20-minute long songs continues unabated. Finch was another band I discovered listening to episodes of Sea of Tranquility, but resorted to YouTubes clips to hear then since they’re not available on streaming platforms. A Dutch instrumental prog band that briefly existed from about 1974-1978, their second album Beyond Expression cater to everything that was popular in prog at the time: long, symphonic structured songs, a heavy emphasis on keyboards and changing tonal shifts within the songs. Your mileage may vary, there’s a lot here I found that really works, both as great background music and when you dig in deeper for that classic prog headphone experience.
I made a lot of the keyboards, but the guitar playing is phenomenal, thanks to Joop van Nimwegen who also served as the band’s primary composer. The whole of Side A is devoted to “A Passion Condensed” which is about 20 minutes long and filled with the grandiose gestures that make 70s prog such a delight to dig into. Accompanied by Peter Vink on bass, Beer Klaasse on drums and Cleem Determeijer on keyboards the song is really guitar driven, with van Nimwegen laying down the primary theme in the guitar. Vink’s bass playing is superb traveling in all the empty corners of the track, never content to simply follow the melody or the rhythm being laid down by Klaasse’s drums. When Determeijer comes in with his keyboard solos about a third of the way into “A Passion Condensed” it’s a welcome break from the guitar power, and nicely carries the existing themes through to the next section.
The second side kicks off with “Scars on the Ego” and it solidifies the classical, YES bend the band is shooting for on the album. Without vocals to guide you through the songs you’re left attending to specific instruments as they carry the tracks forward, and here I really found myself focusing on the keyboards, Determeijer using a fair amount of Hammond organ and synths to bring the classical instruments to the fore. Like ways I couldn’t tear away from Vink’s upper register bass playing. But ultimately it all comes back to the guitar playing of van Nimwegen, and I’m fine with that: he’s capable of some great rock soloing, and at the same time can really work through an arrangement without a lot of histrionics. In other words, he’s ridiculously versatile as a player and a composer, and I’m good with how the song bobs and weaves through its moods.
Finally we come to “Beyond the Bizarre” and despite being over 12 minutes long feels like their most concise song. It doesn’t have the grand bombast of “A Passion Condensed” or the sway of moods like “Scars on the Ego” but its melodies are really strong, and like the rest of Beyond Expression everything is stupidly tight in execution. There’s a Broadway musical feel to the song, and I can see that turning some people off, but I’m 100% here for it, even as I can hear a little of the glossy facade the song puts out.
This was my first exposure to Finch, and from what I’ve read their previous (and debut) album Glory of the Inner Force features the same lineup but has a more jazz inflection to its tracks, taking bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra as a point of comparison. I have no idea, but rest assured I’ll be tracking a copy down to see if that holds true and will let you know. In the meantime I’m completely okay with Beyond Expression and think it’ll be hitting the turntable a lot over the coming months to lay down some interesting lines while I’m working or writing or reading or…well, doing pretty much anything.