The Pitts Minnemann Project released their first album in 2014 with the technical, fusion progressive metal album 2 L 8 2 B Normal, featuring keyboard virtuoso Jimmy Pitts and drummer madman Marco Minnemann, completed by a long list of musicians amongst whom are found Tom “Fountainhead” Geldschläger, Ray Riendeau, and Jerry Twyford. This album is basically a 52-minute, 27-part song of the best fusion progressive metal out there, and I keep going back to it quite regularly. Two years later, and we’ve got The Psychic Planetarium. Does it raise the bar for the future or does it fail to meet the expectations? Let’s find out.
As with the previous release, The Psychic Planetarium’s music is written to Marco’s drums, as part of the Normalizer 2 project, which we covered in At War with Self‘s review. However, in this case, the drums tracks were created exclusively for this project. The writing process on the album is quite interesting. Most compositions were initiated by keyboardist and mastermind Jimmy Pitts, who laid the structure and bases for the songs, and were completed by Tom and Jerry on guitar and bass. The piano improvisations, “The Guide” and “Of Colors, Spontaneous”, and the last song, “A Faint Beautiful Glow”, were written entirely by Jimmy. The former was inspired by the passing of his beloved aunt while the latter is a reference to the Big Bang, inspired by Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. The only song breaking from this mould is the 25-minute title track, where all members contributed in equal parts to the composition process, as Jimmy told me:
[The Psychic Planetarium] was put together like a jigsaw where each guy literally wrote an equal amount. As far as writing went, the only rule was that it had to be honest, as in whoever wrote the section wrote it based off of their improvisations and initial emotions for each section, regardless how far apart the styles from part to part were, yet making sure that it flowed in the end. Somehow it all worked in our eyes.
The opener for the album, “Conquistador”, is mainly influenced by “My Spanish Heart”, from Chick Corea, which can definitely be heard throughout. If you’re new to the Pitts Minnemann Project, brace yourself for varying time signatures, frequent modulations, high-level musicianship and crazy fretless guitar leads. All of this comes out in different feels and goes back and forth between progressive rock and metal. It is, really, an album for musicians, as it’s easier to be in awe before them if you know what they’re playing is far beyond the average skills of a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist or drummer. Nonetheless, I’m aware of prog-lovers who are not musicians, and I’m sure they’ll find their fix with this album.
The second track, “Imaginary Numbers”, reflects “mathematicians striving to prove the unprovable” on the context of musicians, where they “strive for the statement that meets their own vision, yet communicate to an audience.” It’s yet another great piece of technical progressive metal with a good deal of extra instruments like strings and horns, which were played by Joe Deninzon (violin), Matthias Preisinger (strings), Jim Shannon (trumpet), and Joshua Thomson (saxophone) all throughout the album. “Peacekeeper” was named as a reference to Jimmy himself and his role within the band. As with any band – or any group of persons for that matter -, there will always be frictions due to slight misunderstandings and different visions and goals. It’s an inherent part of any relationship between people, and why it’s a good idea to designate one person as the leader of a band. “The Psychic Planetarium”, the epic track, is, according to Jimmy, an exploration of the mind and spirit, and aims to transcend shallow virtuosity by being a true outpouring of emotions. Of course, the medium through which these emotions are conveyed is a very virtuosic playing, on an absolutely mind-melting 25-minute journey. You won’t be put off by the different goal here because the means are the same: time signatures, modulations, solo sections and crazy riffs.
The Psychic Planetarium, in the end, marks a new step forward in the progressive metal genre by insisting even more on technicality but making no compromise on emotion and meaning. The implementation of the fretless guitar as well as live classical instruments adds a touch of novelty and a more organic, human sound that can’t be emulated by their synthesized version yet. The music is full of complexity and intricacies that would take a long while to document, while at the same time retaining the importance of an emotional message behind it all. It really is a unique album from a very unique band; it’s a challenging beast to tame, but is very rewarding once you’ve done so. It a stellar release.
The Pitts-Minnemann Project
The Psychic Planetarium
1: Conquistador – 6:27
2: Imaginary Numbers – 5:29
3: The Guide – 3:16
4: Peacekeeper – 5:17
5: Of Colors, Spontaneous – 3:55
6: The Psychic Planetarium – 24:36
7: A Faint Beautiful Glow – 5:54
Total running time: 54:54
Release date: 2016/03/11
File type listened to: MP3
Bit rate: 192 kbps CBR
Sampling frequency: 44,100 Hz, 2 channels