Three Wise Monkeys are an experimental fusion band from Sydney, who have just released their prog tinged fifth album Progetto Arte.
More often than not, when I opt in to review an album, I’ve listened to a song or two. I might listen to it once through before I sit down to study and write about it; when I’ll play it two or three more times. After being offered Progetto Arte I had gone through the whole album before I’d even opted in, and had listened to it three times fully before I sat down to consider it. That’s how interesting this album is.
RELEASE DATE: December 10, 2015 LABEL: Self-released
Progetto Arte can be roughly translated as ‘Project: Art’, or art purely for the purpose of art, which appeals to me greatly. Artists focus on the material world with increasing regularity, striving to produce cultural hit after identical hit in order to capitalise on whatever is cool at the current time, resulting in music that has devolved into formulas and trends. Three Wise Monkeys are far outside the genres this usually applies to, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be commended for creating art. The world certainly needs pure art now more than ever. And it does sound like art for art’s sake; the mood and sub genre changes song by song, floating from wild experimental prog tinged fusion, to something resembling solemn guitar god ballads; it’s unpretentious in the extreme.
TWM have arranged an hour of almost-jams into workable songs that span styles and influences, without obviously trying to imitate any one artist, or even stay within one genre, for more than a minute at a time. It’s impossible to be totally original, but Progetto Arte doesn’t sound at all contrived. For example the breakdown in ‘Vanitas’, which features an awesome Tool-esque bass sound, dissolves into a chill groove that sounds like a totally different band. The only slight downsides to this approach; songs aren’t very memorable, as they often choose not to repeat sections, and the album doesn’t flow as well as something more intentionally composed.
There are easy comparisons to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Tool, Primus and the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex (the songs ‘Asomatous’ could be straight off ‘Life Begins Again’); the amount of technical competency on Progetto Arte is staggering. But you don’t get the feeling that they are shoving it in your face, it’s more subtle than that, songs focus on feel and progression over showboating. Just. All three members are super-shredders, equally competent and equally humble enough to allow the others moments to shine. Soaring Satriani style guitar noodles, Claypool worthy bass quirks and Chamberlin fast fills, it’s almost a look into a could-be super group.
Progetto Arte is mainly led by the drums, and they take centre stage in the mix most of the time. Drummer Brendon Waterman often chooses to accent uncommon beats in each bar to make something like a fairly common 6/8 time signature sound diverse and interesting. That’s not to say the drums are strictly the strongest element; the guitar and bass work is often gorgeous, the three elements really do make a whole.
The one thing that puzzles me about Progetto Arte is that TWM have gone to the trouble of recording at 192kHz, which means limited tracks and processing, among other hurdles of recording at such a high sample rate. The recording is good, but a high sample rate doesn’t guarantee a quality sounding record. The problem is, they haven’t gone to the trouble (or expense maybe) of recruiting a comparable mix engineer; opting to mix it themselves. The result is a good record that lacks a comparable mix.
Overall Progetto Arte is a huge achievement for a very skilled band. I must be on my 10th listen by this point and am still thoroughly enjoying it.