Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding a Job: Frost*'s "Falling Satellites"

If you read between the lines on my last couple of posts, it might be apparent as to why I have not posted much in the last few months. I was the one who instigated my family’s move, but as of my last post, I still did not have a job. My lack of success weighed heavily. Despite nearly twenty years of band directing experience, the application process was gruelling, frustrating, and often disheartening. It took precedence over working out, practicing, writing, and almost everything else besides daily family duties.  I felt like any moment I spent away from hammering on applications was a missed opportunity that might have serious repercussions for my family's future.

There were lots of times I wondered if it were the right thing to do. Although my band program was in no way perfect, I was very proud of the successes that we had. Things had changed at my school over the past couple of years, however, and the once positive environment on my campus had devolved. It had become routine for students to disrespect and refuse instruction with very little consequence. I did the best I could to keep that culture out of the band hall, but ultimately I could not fight the tide. I spent a lot of time and energy dealing with behavior issues while good students withered on the vine.  I still felt the conviction to continue shepherding those who sought excellence, but I could not stay in that environment without burning out before retirement. I needed a change

Out of respect for my campus and the good of my kids, though, I had to submit my resignation without actually having any interviews in line. I was committed. I finally landed a very positive interview in a small district within commuting distance of Denton. The program is in need of restructuring, and my previous position allowed me to speak with some experience on the challenges ahead. After the interview, I felt quite confident that I was going to land the job.

I had made plans to go to aikido class in Denton that evening, but I had some free time to kill and I found myself on the square. One of the things I will definitely miss in Austin is going to record stores like Waterloo and End of an Ear to browse the ever-shrinking CD selections, so predictably, I dropped in to Mad World Records. I knew that most of their CD selection is reused, so I was not expecting to find much. I was shocked, however, to find that they had Falling Satellites, the most recent Frost* disc, on the shelf.  Bonus points for them!

I enjoyed Frost*’s debut Milliontown quite a bit several years ago. I always had the sense that, although it would be hard to confuse the two, fans of Morse-era Spock’s Beard would find a lot to like in Frost*. Keyboardist and primary composer Jem Godfrey’s vocals share some timbral similarities with Morse, and the band plays with an energy that recalls the Beard’s driving, rhythmically disorienting instrumental side. In fact, if the Beard had not found success in their current line-up, it’s fun to play “what-if” games with Godfrey leading the band.

Despite my respect and admiration for their work, I did not follow them with much vigor after Milliontown. Falling Satellites received enthusiastic accolades on one of my usual online progressive rock resources, however, and also featured a guest solo by Joe Satriani. These two things earned it a spot on my wish list, and a physical copy sitting on a record store shelf on such a potentially momentous day was just too good to pass up.

Falling Satellites is a dense listen, much more so than Milliontown. Like the best progressive rock, it takes time to get familiar enough with its complexity to see the album’s best aspects. It does, however, have plenty of attention-grabbing passages, both in terms of virtuosity and production. If Frost* were not so clearly led by Godfrey’s keyboard playing, they might even border on prog-metal in some sections. Despite its intensity, however, Falling Satellites sounds very clean, perhaps so much that at times, it loses its edge and teeters on sterility. Overall, however, Frost* comes off more like a particularly fleet-fingered Collins-era Genesis.

Joe Satriani’s appearance is, as expected, fleeting, improvised, and probably mailed in. It is but a moment on the album, but it is a joy to hear nonetheless (below at 3:20). That is to take nothing away from the fantastic work of regular Frost* guitarist John Mitchell, who I have followed since Arena’s The Visitor, but Satriani is a phenomenal player that pushes the possibilities of rock guitar into new realms as a matter of course. Like the best jazz musicians, he takes a few very simple musical ideas and expands them into a full solo.

After floating around the square with Falling Satellites in hand, I made my way back to the car to head towards the dojo On the way, I received a message that I would be offered the job. Without question, I accepted the offer and put another piece of the Denton puzzle in place. It still doesn’t seem real - but what is very real is that I have been able to let go of the application nightmare I had been living in for months. That is a true relief.

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