THE MAIER PROJECT - "Paris"
Review December 2015 on www.progressiverockbr.com, Internet Zine for Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal.
The Maier Project is back to PR&PM once more! This project is since 2006 spearheaded by Hans Maier (vocals, guitars, music, lyrics), in collaboration with other musicians, mainly Ludwig Sander (bass, backing vocals) and Arthur Belovic (drums, percussion). The Maier Project began as an instrumental project that later was expanded to include vocals. This project released independent CDs from 2006 to 2013. Two of their previous albums – “States Of Aggregation” (2012) and “Crossroads” (2013) – were featured at PR&PM in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Now The Maier Project is returning to this webzine with a new album, titled “Paris” (June, 2015). This release was planned to have another title, featuring songs dealing just with issues like “love” and “our daily life”, completed with a few instrumental pieces. The concept switched after the attacks to the “Charlie Hebdo”, forcing The Maier Project to add songs related to actual political events, economical, and ecological problems. On “Paris”, the music of The Maier Project is still somber, melancholic and introspective. The songs are driven by Maier’s down-tuned baritone vocals (his trademark), as he declaims ironic and poetic lyrics. The style ranges from Alternative Rock to Blasé 80’s Pop-Rock, covered with a thin layer of Progressive guitar and keyboard sonorities, and driven by a slow and discrete rhythmic section. Band members are influenced by “Trent Reznor” & “Nine Inch Nails”, “Lloyd Cole Weblog”, “Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds”, “Peter Hammill” & “Van der Graaf Generator”, “Yes” (Indian phase), “Genesis” (“Peter Gabriel” Era), and “Steven Wilson & Porcupine Tree”; but the bittersweet nature of the music is also reminiscent of “Lou Reed”, “Roger Waters”, “The Smiths”, “David Sylvian”, “Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds”, “Nick Drake” and “Johnny Cash”.
On the new album there was a significant line-up change: the previous duo of guitarists, Peter Monk and Willy Monk, have been replaced by Harold Miller (guitars, backing vocals); and keyboardist Paul Wallner left his place for Carl van der Keulen (keyboards, organ, piano, accordion). The new musicians have brought a new melodic input to The Maier Project: Miller’s guitar solos recall 80’s Rock (“U2”, “The Smiths” and the Neo-Prog style of early “Marillion”); van der Keulen’s keyboards have a touch of Classic Progressive and Psychedelic. The interaction between the old and new musicians of The Maier Project resulted in odd and enigmatic arrangements, underlined by Maier’s characteristic vocals.
“Paris” features 17 tracks. The album opens with the somber “Train” (4:05), that runs slow like a Psychedelic-Doom rock, loaded with melancholy, like also do the tracks “My Heavy Wooden Door” (5:42) and “Watch The Dead Walking” (4:34) – this one having hilarious lyrics – presenting The Maier Project’s credentials to the listener. A point of grief is sensed on the incisive lyrics of a number of tracks that deal with political issues – more specifically, against terrorism and the attacks to Paris: the tribute-paying “Charlie” (2:50); the piano-ballad “Contrasts” (3:18); and the best of three, “Paris 2015” (3:24) – a spirited song that places the sadness of a piano tune in opposition to a playful guitar solo, passing the message that, “despite all terror, life goes on”.
And life goes on, brighter and happier, on several tracks of “Paris”, which are delivered in Alternative, Post-Punk, and New-Wave rhythms and agreeable keyboard arrangements, highlighted by Harold Miller’s beautiful and delicate guitar work – a mix of styles rooted on 80’s Rock (think of “U2”, “Talking Heads”, “The Smiths”), melded with soaring textures and melodicism that recall “Steve Rothery” in “Marillion’s” earliest days. The songs belonging here are: the ballads “Happy Days” (4:35), “Paint Them Pink” (3:56), “Poison Over Endless Fields” (3:50), and “Favorite Place” (2:47); and the fast and rocking “Narcissists” (3:56) and “Love Song” (2:35) (both inspired on “NIN”).
A couple of songs are more relaxing: the nostalgic “Town Of Mints” (4:13) and the piano-lullaby “Somnolent Eyes” (3:17), which turns out to be an anti-lullaby, when some noisy bass and guitars arrive in a “Floyd” style! But The Maier Project shows its best Progressive vein on these three tracks: “Valse” (3:56), which experiments with changes of musical tempos; “Look At The Mess” (6:29) – a lysergic retro-rock plunging deep into psychedelic times (recalling “Velvet Underground”); and “My Inward Eye” (6:41), which revolves nostalgic feelings and bittersweet moods amidst piano notes, and rhythmic guitars with an Irish-Rock pedigree, finishing with a Neo-Progressive guitar solo.
Although dealing with some grievous issues, I found “Paris” to be a promising album to push The Maier Project towards a new musical future, capable of attracting to the band more than appreciators of melancholic and introspective Rock with poetical and ironic lyrics. The Maier Project is still recommendable for fans of “Peter Hammill”, “Trent Reznor” & “Nine Inch Nails”, “Lou Reed”, “Roger Waters”, “The Smiths”, “David Sylvian”, “Nick Cave”, “Pink Floyd”, “Nick Drake”, and so on.
Band members and collaborators involved in The Maier Project are: Hans Maier – Vocals, Guitars, Music, Lyrics; Harold Miller – Electric Guitars, Backing Vocals; Carl van der Keulen – Keyboards, Organ, Piano, Accordion; Ludwig Sander - Bass, Backing Vocals; Arthur Belovic – Drums, Percussion. Additional Musicians: Gael Hemmings – Celtic Harp on “Train”; Peter Monk - Electric Guitar on “Paint Them Pink”. Additional String Quartet: Martha Solder – Violin, Eva Dorniger – Cello, Martin Folderer – Contrabass, Ole Jundgaard – Contrabass (on “Contrasts” and “Valse”). Recorded & Mixed from Sep. 3014 to May 2015. Studio Crew: The Tendini Brothers; Mixed & Arranged by Hans Maier & Robert Parker. All Paris photographs courtesy by Bernd Sebastian Kamps and the photographers Georges Mion, Fabrice Bernardini, Françoise Bourcillier and Johanna Kamradt.
“Valse” is dedicated to “Carla Bley” (American Jazz pianist and singer)... (Comments by Marcelo Trotta)