VAST is the project of San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist Jon Crosby.
Visual Audio Sensory Theatre (Elektra, 1998) is an exercise in
indiscriminate melodrama and pretentious arrangement.
Here opens with Moody Blues-style symphonic strings but is soon
overcome by crunchy
guitar riffing and a heavy industrial rhythm mutating into a tribal drumbeat
and into a middle-eastern groove. The emphatic singing and the recurring spasms
of thick orchestration evoke
an everyman's version of Nine Inch Nails
or the natural evolution of 1970s' progressive-rock (Yes, E.L.P., King Crimson).
revel in the same ambiguity.
The method is best represented by Dirty Hole, that boasts an organ
building the intensity of a requiem and backing vocals that recall an
Equally compelling, I'm Dying and The Nile's Edge mix gregorian
chanting and spiritual-like crooning by Crosby
(U2's Bono fronting Deep Forest or
Enigma) over a thundering beat.
Touched couples a looped sample of Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares with
a forceful hard-rock attack.
The balance between rock and synthesized music is broken by
Pretty When You Cry, a hypnotic beat-driven track
aimed at the dance-clubs,
by the facile middle-eastern groove of Somewhere Else To Be,
and by Flames, a mournful string-driven madrigal.
The tenebrous soundscape of You evokes a gothic atmosphere
and marks the zenith of Crosby's arrangements: not bombast but sensibility.
Crosby uses all that technology allows him to concoct a new kind of pop
Whatever stylistic ambiguity remained, it was routed by
Music For People (Elektra, 2000), an album that smells of
U2's dance-rock from the one-two punch of
Free and The Last One Alive.
Strings drown the heartbreaking ballads I Don't Have Anything and
We Will Meet Again,
bombast overflows from Land Of Shame.
All in all, the
disco-beat of What Else Do I Need (with samples of medieval choir)
and the syncopated shuffle of My TV and You fare much better.
Crosby has opted for a polished and accessible sound that dispenses with
the cacophony and focuses on the melodies.
As an experiment in radio-friendly arena-rock, the album is certainly
stunning; but it is still radio-friendly arena-rock.
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