A trio from North Carolina, Programme D’Experience plays a variety of spacey instrumental rock in the Ozric Tentacles/Djam Karet mold, with a few nice surprises. Writing and most of the playing are handled by multi-instrumentalist Brad Bansner, assisted by a brass and reed instrumentalist, and a specialist in electronics.
The band contributes to the psychedelic style mainly through a unique blend of other styles. Reggae and dub in the mixture suggest Ozric Tentacles. But this band uses no synthesizer bubbles. And Bansner throws in many American motifs: Most outstanding in the vein is “Twinkle,” with its ’70s Tower of Power funk style. In contrast to this and other very busy pieces, “Fingers Aligned (Light)” comes across with almost Harold Budd-like sparseness.
Thought Molecules is an album of musical wit, of energetic ideas, of multiple influences, but mostly it is a studio animal. Bansner has edited, dubbed, and sampled together a fine set of compositions that could never be reproduced in performance. The album demonstrates that the digital studio has far more potential than the production of plunderphonic pop.
Modestly presented as a two-piece, Programme d’Experience is actually a one-man horse, Brad Bansner, with help from a talented horn-player, Parker Kenyon. This CD’s a vehicle for Bansner’s multi-instrumental and compositional prowesses, admirably showcasing them to impressive effect. First and foremost a guitarist, he also plays bass and keyboards (including syndrums) and is a thoughtful engineer, turning out highly polished atmospheres. Too much has already been made of Thought Molecules’ supposed debt to “world” influences; in reality, the CD’s a great true-fusion work syncretizing what one expects from such things. Those sources have been digested so well that what results is a percolating collision of jazz, rock, progressive, industrial, high-end funk, and a generous dose of what’s usually, but not here, a pejorative: “new instrumental music”. Bansner’s work would’ve been exceedingly comfortable in Mike Varney’s excellent Guitar On The Edge catalogue (featuring pro’s in adventurous compositions too progressive for their mainstream releases) and comparisons to Brand X’s older incarnations would not be at all inappropos; the arrangements alone warrant the compliment. Along with heavy chords, screaming leads, jazzy strumming, and shifting time signatures, you also get a nice dose of mellifluity (as in “Fingers Aligned (Light)”), a presence that leavens many dense cuts, contrasting layered polyphonies and contrapuntalisms. For comrades in arms, think Gary Hoey, Marc Bonilla, Mark Fitchett (Cult of the Wrong Note), and other very strong soloists. The only suggestions to be made would be in regard of: 1) hiring a live drummer to more expertly underscore the work, adding that last element of perfection, and 2) a more fulsome inclusion of Kenyon, who provides dynamic engaging topwork easily the liquid equal of touring professionals…and far better than much of what one hears elsewhere.
(Past and present critic for Sound Choice, Camera Obscura, I/E, Expose, Progression, and E/I)
Reviewer on CD Baby
I thought only my thought molecules worked like this! Okay, so Brad Bansner has all of Larry LaLonde’s harmonized tritones spinning on some sort of Kraftwerk on speed on a Mac axis. Some Thelonius thieves break in and steal the show with flaming piano chords delivered on sub-upbeats creating poly sub-orbitals to the drum moon. All at once, you would swear that Satch’s #9 aliens are surfing your parietal, when all of a sudden… IT’S TIME TO FUNK HOEDOWN! Parker Kenyon comes in and, as a matter of abstractly, does the P-Funk proud and loud (though not necessarily in that order). Would you like that with a side of Schrodinger’s cat? The headphone ear candy matches the song signals and creates a head-trip that even the non-intellectual can enjoy. Some may call this new age; they’d lump it with soundtrack fodder, but that would be a vulgar injustice. This ain’t no Kenny G thang. This is all part of the new and bigger picture. Snap, snap, grin, grin, wink, wink, say no more! This too, like the Psychic Enemies Network, is like a book for your ears.
Sea of Tranquility
Programme D’Experience is a recording studio project led by keyboardist/guitarist/programmer Brad Bansner. Bansner is joined by guest musician Parker Canyon on horns and the two of them arrange some really nice instrumental soundscapes that cover a wide spectrum of influences. Encompassing hard rock, jazz, funk and some prog here and there, Thought Molecules is a pleasant little journey to the land of Earcandy.
One piece I particularly take to is the funky, Red Hot Chili Pepper-ish “Science of No Science”. Over a Flea-like funk bass line comes a bed of Steve Vai guitar soloing and some Ozric Tentacles style synthesizer burbles. The real kicker is an unexpected bit of sax. “Twinkle” features early Chicago style horns and jazzy guitar noodlings. But my favorite tracks are the last three as they seem to make up a trilogy and hence are the most “progressive” bits on display. “Beyond Experience” is a dreamy piece, with some sweet flute and saxophone interplay. I also enjoy the smoky muted trumpet that’s featured here. “Cradle” is the song that officially ends the CD and I love the snaky rhythm in tandem with the melancholy piano theme. I would have actually preferred a bit less electric guitar here as the Vai-like shredding gets in the way of an otherwise excellent song. Look out for the untitled hidden bonus track as it’s certainly a keeper. Compositionally, it’s a fairly simple piece, but it’s probably the most melodic song on the entire CD and contains a lilting theme with gorgeous acoustic guitar and piano.
Thought Molecules will unlikely make it to many top ten lists of 2003, but it’s an enjoyable instrumental affair that will no doubt satisfy fans of this kind of music. Personally, I usually find these studio one/two man projects to be cold and sterile but Thought Molecules is thankfully one of the better ones I’ve heard. Mention must be made of the excellent sound quality as well. Though it is not noted in the CD booklet, Thought Molecules is HDCD encoded for audiophile sound quality.
Frets, Axes and Riffs
Instrumental power trios making a huge comeback 20 years later; and why not? Rush was probably one of the biggest power trios of all time in my opinion and what they could pull off live was amazing. Now, this power trio is a return of another guitarist I had, Brad Bansner with his latest project which I can say is bizarre as any Vai, Martone or Zappa release you could get your hands on; just no boundaries in the songwriting with keyboards, horns, sax, flutes, lots of bass and so much soloing, I’m suprised this dude’s fingers didn’t fall the hell off. 13 tracks that range from Prog-Rock to New Wave to old school Rock like Manfred Mann, the Winters brothers to Supertramp and Yes minus the vocals of course. Alot of these tracks are “attention-getters” like “Closed Circuit”, “Science Of No Science”, “Programme Divine” (my personal fave), “Fingers Aligned (Dark)” (nice bass and a solo mixed with abstract notes, ideas and somewhat Techno-ish) and “Round Unwound” (not sure of the thought origin of this one but it’s another clever song). The final track “Cradle” is a good closer unless you count the hidden track afterward the closer, either way, great stuff and even if they do use a drum amchine since I hate them damn things but there’s enough other things going on during this CD, you tend to forget they’re using one. Hard to interpret what they’re doing since alot of the stuff on here is either unorthodox or just plain off-the-wall; it just shows the maturity level of ideas to form the overall songwriting and again, the unrelenting boundaries one can have at his/her disposal.
If it’s tranquil music you seek, perhaps you should seek elsewhere. This CD, Programme D’Experience, recorded by Thought Molecules, is a collection of instrumentals that is energetic (even the slower melodies) and challenges the listener to keep up with the tempo and change of rhythms.
The mastermind behind Thought Molecules is Brad Bansner, having written and recorded all 14 cuts on the CD. He is assisted by Parker Kenyon on the flute, sax, trumpet and trombone, and by Joshua Weinfeld on the fretless bass. These three have combined talents to produce a unique sound.
Cut 5, appropriately named “Science of No Science” experimentally wanders its own course, saxophones and guitars chasing each other to a psychedelic rock beat. The listener will find himself/herself pulled into the fantasy-like musical imagery that the keyboards skillfully provide in Cut 6, “Fingers Aligned (Light).”
“Beyond Experience,” Cut 11, promotes a light jazz flavor. The wails of a laid back sax, coupled with a mellow trumpet, bounce appealingly off the keyboards and guitars. Cut #7, “Programme Divine,” is pure rock, with the guitars suggesting a more surrealistic background.
Thought Molecules has put a lot of thought and skill into this CD. Programme De’Experience is energetic, is experimental and is definitely unique. If your listening taste leans towards the unusual, then try this one. It’s an enjoyable new release.
I honestly had no idea what to expect with this release. Metal with a horn section? Techno with fretless bass? Polka minus the accordion? Who wouldathunkit? Just kidding. The CD begins with a slight ska-like break, entering into a semi-grooving atonal thang with an interesting vibe. Think Primus or Frank Zappa meets a little Via or Buckethead (minus the overwhelming virtuosity), at Moby’s house. All but a nice mix of harmonized guitar playing… And so it goes through the CD, some nice start/stop electronic vibes, a funk groove here and there, some interesting reggae/ska grooves, a nice jazzy guitar tone here and melody there, and it flows rather smoothly, almost effortlessly, and feels sharp, man. Damn smooth, too. Nice late night tones here… These guys touch upon a nice variety of dynamics, from the groove, some nasty vibes, a smooth flow here, and a nice nighttime jazz tune there… I’m finding this grows on me with each listen, and the genre-mixing is only part of the lure.
The song titles (some witty, some not so witty and not so pretty, some keen) are right up my, er… erratic and esoteric alley, and kinda form a peachy little sheen over the tuneage. Definitely NOT Metal per se, but that’s not the point, right? Besides, I’m ALWAYS down with something with some tasty sax playing and fretless bass. Oh yeah, this music is ALL instrumental, and I wouldn’t like it any other way, brothers and sisters. Pimpjammin’ and brainslammin’. If your feelin’ a little bit of groove in your mood, highly recommended.
Song Highlights: Closed Circuit, An Eye for an Orange, Programme Divine, Science of No Science, Cradle
Rating: 8 of 10, Reviewed by: Scott Mosher
Reviewer on Amazon.com
Programme D’ Experience is an eclectic mix of instrumental songs brimming with musical ideas. This is primarily the singular effort of Brad Bansner who writes, produces and plays all the instruments. Guest musicians contribute for added depth and provide some interesting twists along the way. Fusion, rock and jazz styles blend well with the compositions which are playfully strung together for a solid statement.
The pace of the album is somewhat deliberate and yet mystifying and avoiding the obvious. The guitar arrangements are most pronounced and provide a potent accent to the uncluttered arrangements.
The “meatier” tracks fall somewhere near the middle of the CD where more of the creative twists and turns are evident and the instrumentation is its most varied. Programme does a more than adequate job of holding the listeners attention throughout the CD with fairly short tracks (the longest is the 6 minute “Beyond Experience) and some distinct melodies.
Do yourself a favor and EXPERIENCE this fresh and unique approach to music.
Ragazzi Music (translated from German)
Programs D’Experience is the musical baby of Brad Bansner, who played guitar, bass and keyboard, sounds and rhythm programmed, composed and production. As guests Parker Kenyon (flute, sax, trumpet) and Joshua Weinfeld (fr-b) participated. “Thought Molecules” is a stylistic storage tank, which kurzweilig like an intoxication pulls itself by the senses. Experimental sounds are not to be heard, jazz skirt, radio, progressive skirt, typica all too often belonged. Alternation wealth stands on the instrumental album in the first place. Most songs is jazz-contaminated, strotzen forwards grandiosen Soli and marvelous arrangements, is scattered with rhythm changes and stylistic breaks. From the emergency the virtue is made, which Drumcomputer has extra a rigid note, which gives the whole sturdy backbone, sounds not bloed like otherwise often with Drumcomputern, but excitingly and convincingly. Now and then the rhythm played as more simply 4/4, which would sound like Techno, would be Brad no talented Arrangeur. It sets a motive for jazz radio on it or races in the wild hard skirt over it which brings rhythmic breaks with itself, which change the Songs completely in both cases. Expanded song property does not give it, the pieces is scarcely held and fast on the point brought, a further plus. Lengths and boredom are not to be found. But exciting motives are abruptly broken or inspired with wild Free inserts funny, and expenditure-braked astonishing. To the end the high energy ebbs somewhat, a ambiente note unfolds, which works not cheaply, but by many Jazzphrasierungen and Soli alive, genuinly and kitschfrei. Brad closed the new King Crimson and their ProjeKcts into its heart, which resounds already times. However have its pieces sufficient stylistic, dragging along self-sufficiency. Despite the own note and the complex compositions the album is not too bulky, but comprehensible. A pleasant surprise, which developed completely independently and much of the Vitalitaet and quality of the musicians tells.
Reviewed by: Volkmar Mantei
Dutch Progressive Rock Pages
For starters one should stress that this is one of those non-categorisable albums whose musical styles cross over into a variety of genres. Actually defining this album as prog-rock would involve erecting a number of boundaries which this very album transcends as it crosses over into territories as far apart as reggae and jazz! Programme D’Experience is actually the brainchild of Brad Bansner, ably assisted by Parker Kenyon on flute, saxophones, trumpet and trombone, and by Joshua Weinfeld who plays fretless bass on Cradle. The rest is all in Bansner’s hands.
The album itself is totally instrumental with pieces such as the opening Premonition and Round Unwind acting more as fillers or as “works in progress” whereby the artists has projected an idea for a short piece which he never got round to completing! There is very little in terms of an underlying theme linking each piece together, such is the variety one finds.
Tracks like An Eye For An Orange and Round Unwound could be associated with a style reminiscent of King Crimson though comparisons to various other bands are almost impossible to make. At times the music delves into a more relaxed lounge jazz style as happens on Close Circuit where the musical emphasis is on piano and guitar with a hint of funk and on Beyond Experience with its delightful saxophone solo. Sixties psychedelia does surface on tracks such as Science Of No Science and Cradle whilst a seventies beat is dominant on tracks such as the afore-mentioned Closed Circuit and Twinkle with its strong brass section.
Ambience is another feature of the album, especially on one of the album highlights, Fingers Aligned (Light). The sound on this particular track is filled with dreamy synthesisers and its minimalistic sound draws a strong contrast to the relatively busy nature of the rest of the album. All in all, Thought Molecules is an interesting album which may be relatively hard to digest initially. However, it does grow on you and with each spin the tracks themselves become much more ear-friendly. Thought Molecules should appeal to all those progressive rock lovers whose taste lies between the jazz rock and prog-rock styles and who are open to ambitious abstract instrumental pieces.