Every once in awhile you take a chance on a totally unknown band (to me at least) and you get lucky. This recording by a young band from Ontario just knocked my socks off. A two-person band (since this recording they are now a true, touring and recording four-piece), they sound like, well, like a full band. Nick Karch plays all guitars, bass and keyboards while Mat Keselman handles drums, percussion and flute. They both do beautiful harmony vocals, with Nick doing most of the leads. And they are both totally involved with the writing and arrangements (with contributions from past bassist Richard Frankel). So what do they sound like?
Bolus has taken many influences to heart, but does not sound like copies of anyone. The opening track, “Those Who Saved Us” has a real Rush vibe; “Outside” follows with a gentler song that reminds me of Genesis around Selling England by the Pound complete with lovely flute. “Instructions” would fit nicely in with Ambrosia’s Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled” with some heavier elements but not Metal).
Karch plays intense guitar throughout the tracks, matching runs on his keyboards. They also have a lot of Kansas influences as well that pop up here and there, especially with the vocals. Keselman is my favourite kind of drummer: he stays busy; often putting in little fills and rolls that keep the beat interesting. Track four, “Postman”, has a real funky feel in a Steely Dan sort of way, and they show their total versatility playing in jazzy meters. Track five, Push to Exit, begins with mellotron-sounding chords that could have been at the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour sessions and the track turns into something that could be on Phil Collins’ Face to Face.
So in essence, you can see that in one album they cover all the music you can really love – great instrumental passages, Pop choruses (and they know good hooks), harmony vocals, changes in time signatures, stunning technical playing and music that makes you want to listen – accessible, interesting, thoughtful and just plain great. There are 11 tracks in total, and most are between six and eight minutes with only two shorter tracks.
Their web site is a hoot – the video section is really cool. There is a “making of” documentary that includes interviews and some band history as well. They also have two video surprises – their takes on Coldplay’s “Princess of China” and Katy Perry’s “ET” – imagine that! They are full of surprises, just like you can hear on their album. You can also order their CDs from their website (including their previous CD which I also highly recommend). Bolus has been around since the early 2000s, but I think they are on the verge of coming into the spotlight. Have a listen at their site and see if you don’t agree.
I can’t recommend Delayed Reaction enough – watch for the signs!
Release Date: November 16, 2010
— Bob Metcalf