Review: Vinyl Floor “Peninsula”

Vinyl Floor “Peninsula”

06 Mar, 2012 Gary Hill

With Peninsula Vinyl Floor seem to have managed quite a feat. In fact, perhaps one could argue they’ve achieved several accomplishments. For one thing, they’ve produced an album that feels modern but has numerous ties to older progressive rock. Since the concept of the album (the fact that it’s a concept album is one of those links in itself) relates to the yin and yang concepts of Utopia and Dystopia and their interlocked relationship, that makes sense. It’s all about dichotomy. That dichotomy is expressed not only by the varying eras referenced in the music, but also by the fact that the set is split into  two sides (how’s that for a nod to the time of vinyl) with the first side representing Utopia and the second side referencing Dystopia.

“Frames and orchids” rises gradually with a scope and sound that calls to mind both Pink Floyd and Radiohead. Around a minute and a half in it takes on an energy and swagger that is closer to punk rock, but the modern progressive rock still dominates. There’s a drop back after a time and a melodic guitar solo soars overhead in fine fashion. It works through a number of changes. Other than some non-lyrical vocals, it’s an instrumental.

There’s a bouncy sort of arrangement to “Ghost of England.” It has horns and seems to combine something like old school Genesis with post punk and some Beatles. It’s a catchy tune that’s both accessible and a little left of center. “What Lies Ahead” doesn’t have the horns, but in a lot of ways seems to exude the same basic musical identities. It’s more punk oriented than the previous tune, though.

The sound changes quite a bit with “Written in the cards.” It certainly retains that modern prog leaning, but is a mellow balladic tune that’s got a lot of folk music within it. The intensity doesn’t increase with “Car in the sky,” but it seems to have more of a 1980s alternative rock texture. There’s some symphonic progressive rock later in the piece and they create some beautiful musical passages during the instrumental movement that brings it. “Diverging paths” features a keyboard sound that is very much set in 1970s progressive rock, but some of the other elements of the piece feel closer to post punk or modern prog in the vein of Radiohead. It’s an intriguing tune that works through some definite changes and at points calls to mind Nektar.

There’s a definite old school rock and roll sound that opens “Force you through.” The guitar riff seems to have some hints of the Dave Clark Five along with some Ventures. The shift is appropriate because this is the first tune of the conceptual side devoted to Dystopia. While there’s still some modern progressive rock in the mix, it has a definite punk rock vibe. Imagine combining Squeeze with early Genesis. That combination is pretty close to the blend on “In the air.” “Baton Rouge” is a slow moving and very mellow ballad. It’s a nice change of pace. The only complaint is that it feels a little long considering the small amount of growth contained within it. Post punk is the main impetus on “Dumbfounded.” It’s a good cut that works pretty well. It seems less involved and intriguing than a lot of the stuff, though, feeling more like something that could have been released in the 1980s (think of the Cure as one example).

“King of Dystopia” is a mellow and poignant ballad. The progressive rock returns in style with the tune. At times it feels like the mellow side of early King Crimson. Another valid reference is Procol Harum. There’s still a modern prog element to the sound, too. “Frozen moon” is very pretty and very delicate. It’s a mellow ballad that’s symphonic. It’s probably not the best choice for disc closer, but it’s reasonably effective.

The musical mix of the album is intriguing, but sometimes the sound gets a little too tied to one end of the spectrum over the other. Still, this is complex music that still manages to be compelling. It’s a link back to the days when an album was more than just a series of singles and music could make people think.

Review by G.W. Hill
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)