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3RDegree - Ones & Zeros - Volume 0 CD (album) cover



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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars New Jersey's gift to intellectually stimulating eclectic and crossover prog is back with the follow-up (or predecessor?!) to 2015's wonderful Ones & Zeroes, Vol. 1.

1. "ReInstall_Overture" (3:57) fast, brash, and poppy, this one let's me know that we're in for a more rock operetta- like adventure here. I'm reminded here of XTC or some of the poppier KING CRIMSON or ASIA music from the 1980s. It's very nice, but not great. (8.75/10)

2. "Connecting" (4:53) bleeds over from the opening overture, quickly adding singing to the mix. There's a cool intensity to this one while the vocals are going on, but then it gets weird between. "You are the [&*!#] tonight" is an odd lyric to throw in there before going back to stronger intensity. The intricate weave is pretty cool in the next section. This is almost feeling like a visual song, a vehicle for a story to be told on stage. (9/10)

3. "Olympia" (5:15) again bleeding over from the previous song, I like the flow of this section of the album. Great melody line for the first verse followed by a nice little instrumental and decent call-and-response chorus. The story is again feeling as if it's being delivered (or should be delivered) on a stage. And a good story it is with Olympia being some kind of AI servant/slave (who goes off like the OS in the film Her). (9/10)

4. "The Future Doesn't Need You" (5:50) continues the story in a much more delicate, emotional way, with the album's best music, best melodies and powerful lyric. (10/10)

5. "Unintended Consequence" (3:35) Broadway, anyone? (8/10)

6. "Perfect Babies" (4:43) Despite continuing the clever tongue-in-cheek story, despite getting stronger as the song goes along, this one just misses. (7.5/10)

7. "Logical Conclusion" (6:40) despite two awesome instrumental sections (from the end of the second minute to 3:18, and 3:55 to 5:15) and a great choral section near the end, this song fails to "hook" me with any melodic or lyrical lines. (8.5/10)

8. "Click Away!" (15:28) an epic that opens with a sound very familiar to those who have luxuriated in the sonic magic of THE FLAMING LIPS' 2002 masterpiece, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The lyrics (referring to modern humankind's obsession with quick-access information and entertainment) are great but the melody and song dynamics fall a little flat. Despite several shifts and nice injections from chords, riffs, arpeggi, and interesting instruments/sounds, the song never really rises to a level deserving of superlatives. Great sound and melody in the chorus at 3:50. As a matter of fact, it's the "Thank you Click Farm" choruses throughout that are the most engaging highlights of the song. (8/10)

9. "Ones & Zeroes" (7:07) reminding me of a lot of some music by the CARS, this one gets into my brain enough to bring me back for more. For the finale of the story line, I'm not quite sure what the point has been: "It's always been binary code," means ... what exactly? (8.5/10)

I think the failing of this album is in the band's decision to try to be cleverer and quirkier than they needed to be-- especially with vocal melody lines; just too busy! The best song has the most stable and simple melodies.

Four stars; an excellent addition to the prog lexicon--especially to the necessary conversations regarding the values and priorities of "civilized" society. Too bad the album doesn't maintain the high and engaging standard that is sets forth with the first four songs.

Report this review (#1915679)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars In 2015 the always adventurous 3rDegree released what I assume will be their artistic peak. A completely fresh and uncategorizable concept album called Ones And Zeroes Pt 1, it sounded different every time I played it and still does. Working within the limits of niche band economics, they achieved this unimaginable height purely on the strength of their compositional ideas. And the accolades poured in. Since this is a band who have been consistently topping themselves and surprising their fans since their comeback album 'narrow-caster', Ones And Zeroes Pt 1 was akin to a Dark Side Of The Moon to these ears, certainly in scope even if not in sonic lushness.

I was all set, then, for them to finally have a break in the winning streak. I mean, no one can keep leaping over expectations forever, right? I even told a few of the band members I'd be thrilled if they made a new record that was merely good. And when I was blessed with an advance copy of the follow up, Ones And Zeroes Part 0, I grinned and told myself as the rocking opener kicked in, 'that's better than good!'

I had no idea how much better. The first 3 or 4 listens I really liked it, feeling that they'd kept a bit of the unexpected from Part 1 and blended that with their penchant for hooks-less-travelled that made their earlier albums embed themselves so deeply into my heart. It seemed they had come up with a new gem worthy of their prior releases.

But this morning, not fully awake, I put on my trusty Grado headphones and decided to give it a slice of quiet zone-in time. And I entered an inter-dimensional anomaly of the unknown. If Part 1 depicted a freakish new world, Part 0 shows us in horrible detail how we'll get there by our own device-clutching hands. Indicting present day mankind with a mirror so clear you'll want to run, the message is matched by music that is miraculously timeless, somehow familiar but not. If people were spontaneously exploding and no one knew why, this album would be like a Unabomber manifesto where the only bombs are truth and we'd all be singing along, awaiting the inevitable.

Individual song comments won't help describe this for you; you really need to experience it as a whole. Lyrically 'Connecting' is arrow- splitting in it's accuracy. And 'Click Away!' Is a most unique 15 minute prog epic. But they're both part of a monster of an album that will give you an individual ride by touching your innermost thoughts and fears. Is it better than Part 1? Impossible to say. But to these jaded ears it's as important to our time as The Who's Quadrophenia and Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime were to theirs. The only criticism I can possibly make is that I wish there was a section of menacing overdriven electric guitar to drive home the scary way this shoe fits. But the world we're heading for has digitized those guitars down to ones and zeroes, just like it seeks to do to all human experience. This album? Chilling. Essential. Run!

Report this review (#1917474)
Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3RDegree is a cross former rock band from New Jersey, United States. Founded in 1990, California guitarist Patrick Kliesch and George Dobbs of New Jersey hit it off, recruiting several other members to form a group. Their ideas and ideas for the album It was joined together via the Internet. Soon they met and set up a band. Their creative motives are: to create interesting and engaging music, and to create a sophisticated and intelligent avant-garde rock with a mix of approachable melodies. They released the album for the first time in 1993. Afterwards, they experienced many personnel changes, but they continued to publish five series. The 2012 "The Long Division" was their first peak. At that time, they were in the US election. They used political topics. This album was produced for the theme and is hot (if in China...). Then, in 2015, the band released an album "Ones & Zeros - Volume 1" which is a more contemporary theme. This is their first complete concept album and the first part of the "Ones & Zeros" series. This series, as its name suggests, explores the impact of science and technology on people. The band said that since the 1970s, Ray Kurzweil (currently serving as Google's technical director. Kurzweil has been treated as an area of ​​artificial intelligence, robotics, deep learning, etc. The Wizards and others have been discussing futurism and transhumanism, but until now we have seen it affect our daily lives." And the album is centered around this, trying to quickly develop technology and its relevance Discuss issues and ethical dilemmas, and release unique insights. However, I personally did not take the first part of 2015 very seriously (although many music critics praised this one), because it is relatively weak in terms of music. Too many lyrics and singing parts weaken the musicality. The genre is more modern and even somewhat hip-hoped (of course, you can also say it is jazzed), and I can't accept it. And after a lapse of three years, they finally brought the second part of the series to the end of "Ones & Zeros: vol. 0". In my opinion, this is a better album. In terms of theme, it seems to express that in the face of the future of high-tech digital life, especially superhumanization (the album fictionalized a biotechnology company called Valhalla, they developed a technology that extends lifespan, turns people into superhumans, and declares The human body is only a hotel of mind, consciousness, and spirit. In other words, people have become unclear to the machine, and people must rely on technology for evolution. There are some melancholy plots behind the album, such as the failure of genetic technology that causes people to die. The gap is getting bigger and bigger, and technology companies are playing the role of "improving humanity" in controlling every aspect of our existence, etc.) Simultaneous fear and acceptance, positive and negative coexist, these are all aspects of our future, with technology Increasing intrusion into our lives is becoming commonplace. Before the band released a trial song "Logical Conclusion". It seems to me that it is an attempt to change and evolve. The band does not use a lot of vocals and singing, but strengthens instrumental music and melody. People can enter the atmosphere better without looking at the lyrics. The same is true of the entire album. A large number of excellent instrumental performances deepened the theme through lyricism. The guitar solo in the 15-minute epic Click Away! is impressive, while the fashionable bass line bass is even more intoxicating! 3RDegree finally produced a great piece of avant-garde rock that should be made. And the last summing song "Ones & Zeros" is not too much to achieve, to achieve a wonderful fusion of singing and music, the final summary is in place: "It's always been binary code It's all we've ever known We fall on a continuumIt's natural because that's part of who we are It's always been binary code For now and all tomorrows from alpha to omega It's natural because that's always how we thought This magic's only ones and zeros." In my opinion, 3RDegree is a cross-shaking rock band with a growing symphony, and of course retains their modern musical style. For "Ones & Zeros: vol. 0", it goes beyond the top and becomes one of the best album candidates this year! A four-and-a-half-star rating, so I have time to translate the lyrics, because I personally are very interested in transhumanism.
Report this review (#1918384)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars I read somewhere that the journey is always more interesting than the actual destination, and that's what we're getting with 3rDegree's latest release of Ones & Zeros Vol. 0. This album is a dynamic, thought-provoking companion to the previous release of Volume 1.

The opening overture jumps out of the speakers with startling urgency - a stark contrast to the spacey, teasing start to the previous album - and possibly a sonic embodiment of this album's frenetic setting. Callbacks to the prior album's songs and foreshadowing of songs yet to come are peppered throughout this opening sequence (and the entire album as well) in very slick ways that don't feel recycled, but help serve as connective tissue for the overarching concept. On this album, we're treated to vignettes of a pretty bleak world increasingly dependent on ethically questionable technology, both available and in development. Regardless of how that tech is applied, however, every instance seems to come with an inescapable shot of despair attached, eventually leading us to the more patently Transhumanist (and just as morally challenging) themes covered in Volume 1. As with its predecessor, this album will also have you thinking Jack Handey caliber deep thoughts - cynical, if not obvious, but with a wry smile and a spattering of dark humor.

Musically, this album has something for everyone. It's got grungy grit, earworm hooks, classic prog pomp, power pop chops, yacht rock smoothness, and of course - vocal harmonies and lyrical witticism for days. Plus, I would be remiss if I didn't give a nod to the 15 minute epic monster which contains one of the most beautifully executed non-derivative Beatlesque moments in art rock I've heard in a long time. On top of this, the production value on this album is really solid. Everything has been mixed into a deliberate space, and the drums have a really immersive live feel.

My only criticisms of this album are largely subjective. There are passages where I feel the melodic guitars could have been brought more to the fore, and there are also a few moments of sonic disparity from song to song which seemed to throw the flow off a bit, but neither of these two issues were disconcerting enough to warrant demerits. As with many other bands I enjoy, different combinations of songwriters produce different results, which to me is more of an asset than a detriment, broadening the musical palette and allowing creative diversity to bloom.

Taken alone, this album is at least a solid 4-star effort. Taken as a companion piece to Volume 1, it becomes much more. That creative vision in itself pushes the "Ones and Zeros" Duology to solid 5-star territory - an essential two-part listen for those interested in the present and future of American crossover art rock.

Report this review (#1920712)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ones & Zeros: vol. 0 is another stellar album from 3RDegree and the only problem with it is that if follows the masterpiece Ones & Zeros: vol. 1. Perhaps it is a prequel in the timeline, but I have had no problems listening to either one independently. The band has really progressed since the earlier stuff, and maybe it was the concept shell that was needed to provide some direction and creativity all along. Vol. 0 has some very memorable melodies much like vol. 1, and I really enjoyed the more pronounced female vocals adding more layers to the complexity of it. The musicianship is excellent, and like vol. 1, vol. 0 is meant to be enjoyed as a straight through listen. Anyone that loves progressive rock would be right at home with the new release as it is an excellent addition to the genre. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.
Report this review (#1931756)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars Listening to this, the new and hotly anticipated 3RDegree album, my first thoughts centered around "Connecting": the band, more aggressive than ever, sings of trolls emerging, not in the high fantasy sense you'd expect from most prog but in the contemporary sense of malicious online hordes more fearsome than the forces of Mordor. Mostly, where Vol. 1 was focused on a parodic, Kafkaesque near future Internet of Things, Vol. 0 - appropriately enough for numerically taking a step back - is a record of the present, of our current technological issues, and from here looking forwards. The lyricism becomes dead serious, but the lyrics, concept, and songs still fail to glitch. And even on this very in-the-now release, the band still finds time for "Olympia", an interesting exploration of relationships with artificial intelligence and the group's fascinating idea of a love song.

Of even greater note are the instrumentals. As mentioned earlier, the band comes charging out of the gate; "Re1nstall_0verture" and "Connecting" form a double whammy of some of their hardest edged material yet, proving quite exhilarating as their sound fleshes out. The tracks, especially the aforementioned three and the suite "Click Away!", prove their best yet. The guitars and keys here are used to their maximum potential, weaving vivid electronic soundscapes, beautiful prog-pop, and driving rock. As the binary switches, 3RDegree has gone into overdrive, crafting another winner.

Report this review (#1933700)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Some of you may recall seeing in the #5 position of the 2015 PA Top 100 an album called "Ones & Zeroes ? Volume 1" by a band named 3RDegree. I noticed it, and in early 2016 I ordered a copy and was sufficiently impressed to go ahead and order the previous three albums, all of which have their share of rewards. However, this top-ranking album really stood apart from the others for me. More than a collection of songs, it was a concept album about life extension and ultimately becoming trans-human, i.e. becoming integrated with the Net as an entity, leaving your biological human form behind.

Now with any "volume 1" there can be expected a second volume, and after a long wait, 3RDegree finally released "Ones & Zeroes: vol. 0". Perfect! The duology is now complete!

There was some trepidation on behalf of the band. Would the second part live up to the expectations of listeners who rated volume 1 so highly? From the get go, any doubts just fly out the window. Just plug into the opening track, an instrumental entitled "Re1install_Overture". If that isn't a solid welcome back that'll pull you out of your seat then I don't know what. It's a brilliant start to the album!

Now just let that album play and get into it. We are done with the topic of extending one's existence and so we've also said goodbye to Valhalla Biotech, which I felt added charm and atmosphere to volume 1. But our future modern world is dissected further with the topics of synthetic companions, genetic manipulation of the unborn, click farms, and other technological wonders we are enjoying or on the cusp of benefitting from.

I say this with intended irony because that it how 3RDegree wants you to understand their views of these technological developments. As with the lyrics of any of their albums I know, there is a cynicism masquerading in na´ve optimism. Which brings me round to the opinion that each song has lyrics intended to provoke thought and possibly a little alarm or concern as well. Add to that the unique and skillful vocal delivery of George Dobbs and you have songs that beckon your attention.

3RDegree have no problem coming up with engaging music, but at times you might not really pick up on the prog aspect. Their music often strikes me as 1990's alternative college radio intellectual tunage that was fed and raised on seventies prog. Wait! Was that a bit of Supertramp I heard closing off the album? Maybe it's just my imagination. But anyway, 3RDegree's music is like a complex architectural structure that does its job. No blazing cascades of notes. No overt brandishing of time signatures in your face. No forced stops and starts. Just music that sounds cool and offers more nutrition for the soul than your typical mainstream alternative band.

What else can I say but congratulations to 3RDegree for an album well worth the wait! Now I really want to hear volumes 1 and 0 back to back!

Report this review (#1934066)
Posted Saturday, May 26, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Once there was a Ones & Zeros: vol. 1 one would assume it was part of a duopoly or maybe trilogy. So the wait was longer than one would imagine but Vol. 0 (see what they did there?) finally rears its head here in the spring of '18 and one wonders if it was worth the wait. I can report that it was.

Firstly, does the album feel like part of Vol. 1, as if it could be listened to before or after seamlessly? Not necessarily. It's been said that Vol. 0 is a prequel and you notice the difference pretty quickly. Gone are the announcements from Valhalla Biotech-the otherworldly mega corporation that talks and tries to sell you life extension and an afterlife in the cloud with jingles and SFX. This album is seamless with songs dovetailing into each other but sans SFX and talking but for one philosophy reading by a child tying in with the theme of that song only. The lyrical themes and issues dealt with on this new album are less far-fetched and more happening now or on the cusp.

We are treated immediately to an overture that recalls melodies from almost every song on Vol. 1 and teases a few themes from Vol. 0 like a quick moment of slide guitar from "Unintended Consequence", a keyboard solo during the music from the chorus of "Connecting" and a tease of the opening guitar melody from "Olympia" toward the end. There are probably more easter eggs in there to find to be honest. It's name "Re1nstall_0verture" reads like computer programming language and of course has a 1 and 0 in it so it's well named and does its job of bringing you back into the world of the albums.

The song segues right into "Connecting" which seems to be about an obnoxious internet troll and has a bit of cussing for good measure in its post chorus. This song doesn't really move the entire story along but seems to be more about introducing a character. Still the chords in the chorus really show an anger that you don't get a lot in this band's music so it's a bit eye opening in that regard as it's quite different.

Another character comes to the fore in "Olympia"-a "life assistant"-i.e. robot-that the singer seems to become smitten with only to find out her A.I. gets the best of him. By the end of the song he puts her out of service and regrets it. Despite its similarity to the story of the Spike Jonze movie Her, I'm still on board with its message.

Next comes "The Future Doesn't Need You" which seems to feel a bit like the earlier 3RDegree with it's outro's heaviness and stop/start band tight as ever, but with more wisdom and lyrics that hint at there being a group of people somewhere who are trying to live off the grid in some way.

A wee bit of orchestration makes its way onto various songs and none more obvious than the short & sweet "Unintended Consequence" with it's chorus that's really a verse kind of thing and a co-lead octave apart vocal between lead singer George Dobbs and MoeTar's singer Moorea Dickason. Her presence makes you wonder if another character is being represented by her being on the track but the lyrics seem to work as an overarching theme for the album-possibly even both albums. "Be careful when you're screwing with all these sort of things like cloning, life extension, A.I. and all the kind of stuff that can bite us all in the ass if we're not careful." The song feels very Jellyfishy or like Jason Faulkner or any of the things they were influenced by like Pilot, ELO or Badfinger and of course The Beatles before them.

Another pop song albeit with very dark overtones given the subject matter-is "Perfect Babies" which like "Olympia" before it-really feels like late 70's, early 80's art rock pop like Wax UK or later synth-laden bands like Tears For Fears. The outro sounds like smooth 70's AOR.

Now a full on change of pace for the rest of the album begins with "Logical Conclusion". The band is firing on all cylinders here with some of the busiest bass lines, guitar lines and keyboard work the band's ever done but hooks all over the place which is strange because after the band gives you an A and B section the entire song is taken over by a long dual guitar/keyboard solo which starts quiet and builds and builds to a climax taking a few turns along the way and finally gets back to the themes at the beginning for the finale.

And if that wasn't enough we're then led into what is really the first "epic" of 3RDegree's 25+ year existence-"Click Away!" clocking in at over 15 minutes and with 3 drastically different sections. The first section is quiet and brooding while the "hit single" comes in part 2's "Click Farm" with it's violin and bucolic feel of Pink Floyd meets McCartney's RAM. It all ends off with some really heavy riffing which has a great breakdown section and a reprise of part one.

Ending off the two album journey is the title track "Ones & Zeros" which makes you think that they held onto this song forever for the payoff here. This is like 3RDegree's "Layla' with it's drastically different first half and a second half full off overlapping guitar solos almost like the aforementioned "Layla" or XTC's "Books Are Burning".

The album although different is a solid counterpart to its other half and worth checking out.

Report this review (#1935543)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2018 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars The new album 'Ones & Zeros - volume 0' is the prequel to 2015's volume 1 and another ambitious concept album from 3RD DEGREE that draws on themes of trans-humanism and the unintended consequences of being technologically connected with binary codes taking over our existence.

Re1nstall_0verture opens the album in a maelstrom of spacey keyboards from Dobbs, from paradiddles and jagged guitar riffs. It is glorious to enter an album with such a glowing atmosphere. The lead guitar work of Kliesch, Ziegler and Pseja shines brightly alongside the complex bass lines of Pashman. The ominous symphonic strings coalesce with squealing guitars embellished by the relentless drum patterns of Durham. Overall this is a brilliant instrumental.

Connecting opens with haunting piano motifs and an odd meter with estranged vocals. The effect is astonishing and makes this a very engaging composition.

Olympia is replete with lead guitars and keyboards with gorgeous harmonies and the theremin thrown in for good measure.

The Future Doesn't Need You has a soft opening and builds with quirky time changes and meters that would keep any respectable metronome swinging wildly. There are cool guitars and reflective lyrics to ponder over.

Unintended Consequences has a bouncy rhythmic layer and a striking harmonised vocal treatment on the high and low register that works well with the Dickason and Dobbs Duet. It is a very quirky song in passages but it engages the ear for some compelling listening.

Perfect Babies is really a low point of the album in terms of structure but I liked the Nietzsche quote by the child at the very end.

Logical Conclusion brings the album back to a high standard with the pristine vocals of Dobbs. It is a wondrous keyboard journey with meandering guitars that are simply outstanding.

Click Away! is the mini epic of over 15 minutes in length. It is a genuine multi movement suite that begins with airy piano and pondering lyrics. Here the atmosphere feels like something from the Beatles back catalogue from the White Album to Abbey Road era. Again the words echo the sentiments of the album that rejection is just one click away and there is a genuine anti social media theme permeating through out. The epic features glistening keyboards and marching drums with psychedelic harmonies. There are glorious guitar slides with impeccable fingerwork up-and-down the frets like a nervous spider. The lyrics have an emotional impact along with the beautiful acoustic picking and Beatlesque strings. It moves into early Gabriel Genesis structure, building slowly and inevitably to strong pounding orchestral rhythm. The offkilter percussion is jarring and urgent as it speaks of clicking on social media, and Facebook sites becoming a click farm for the consumer in this technological jungle we inhabit. The grinding organ and fuzzed guitar locks in and a more aggressive vocal as things heat up speaking of viral posts, spreading like wildfire projecting the ideal human. It is a wonderful track and the definitive highlight of the album.

Ones & Zeros concludes the album with jaunty rhythms, pounding syncopated drums and raspy vocals asking the question are you a one or are you a zero, stuck in a binary code much like the nude on the cover being enveloped by digitised creatures. The track has some very progressive sections with unusual time sigs and extended instrumentals. The theme of trans humanism is prominent; what are we becoming, is the technology engulfing humanity to the point of assimilation and what are we doing about it?

This new release is a dynamic album from 3RD DEGREE and a worthy successor to the previous releases. It comes highly recommended to lovers of concept prog with a quirky innovative central core.

Report this review (#1937620)
Posted Thursday, June 7, 2018 | Review Permalink
Metal / Heavy / RPI / Symph Prog Team
4 stars So the band continues with the suite of their concept album "Ones & Zeros vol.1" with their take on the issues associated with the evolution of technology. The story could apply to their own music! The music of 3rdegree has a foot in the retro prog and another one in the new prog. You can hear some past influences like Genesis, but they have their unique style. The band has done another great job with the vocals of George Dobbs who still have a unique voice which is quite enjoyable enhancing every song. The songs are well crafted with a Pop sensibility mix with some beautiful synthesizers arrangements, humouristic lyrics bringing a captivating atmosphere. The guitar is never taking the spot but is well balanced with the rest of the instruments. I really enjoy the sound old and futurist of the keyboards. The band is also using some well-dosed classical arrangements, but it never gives more emotion than the multi-part vocals arrangements. If I had some reservations about the music of the band in the past, I think that this time, all this has vanished with this album. I needed my headphones to discover this album...
Report this review (#1937673)
Posted Thursday, June 7, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars 3 years ago, ONES & ZEROS: VOLUME ONE totally blew me away with it's dry humor aimed at a bunch of futuristic subjects and I coudn't wait to hear more. I wasn't looking at any of the news on this 2nd volume and went into it cold and was at first a bit taken aback as right at the top I got an instrumental with some melodies that I knew so I guess it sort of acclimatized me back into 3rdegree's world but I have to admit I was surprised and maybe even a little bit sad to not hear any voices talking to me robotically like they did on VOLUME 1 and while the songs connect a little bit, there is no overarching non-feeling company at the helm driving the story. Instead, it's sort of a bunch of songs that relate to VOLUME 1 and eventually I figured out that this album is sort of a set up piece or prequel for its predecessor which makes sense since it's VOLUME 0 and not 2. Once I got over this I saw an even more accomplished band featured here on an album that steps up the writing and hits it out of the park lyrically on a few songs.

I think my favorite song is the multipart "Click Away" which really gives you a crash course of what 3rdegree are all about-currently and even historically-in a quarter of an hour. You get the moody, epic side of the band to start which then builds and then hits you with the harmonies they're known for along with some vocoder for good robotic tie in with what's to come in the time line. In the middle you get a good tune, hooky and upbeat. It all ends with the heavier side of the band. The commentary this song makes of our social media culture is just spot on.

The whole album is as dynamic as the epic song just described and you're never bored. I'd say VOLUME 1 probably holds better as a classic concept album but VOLUME 0 excels in a few places like the recording and the new drummer's performance so, it's an even swap and both are modern examples of how to take classic Prog to inform music released in 2018 without it sounding derived or in massive debt to the big and best known albums of this sort.

Report this review (#1941065)
Posted Sunday, June 24, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Prog Team
5 stars Robert pointed out to me that I would be one of the few reviewers coming to the second album immediately after hearing the first, so what would I think of the two albums working together? The albums are designed to be viewed as a pair, from the artwork and layout through the music and ideas. While I smiled when I noticed that this was called 'Volume 0', part of me would rather it had been called 'Volume 10', which of course is 2 expressed in binary code, but that really is nit-picking (yes, I'm a geek ' been working in I.T. for more than 20 years, but it's not my fault).

Lyrically it is the perfect follow-on from the debut, so much so that it feels that it could become part of a permanent loop, so much so that the question becomes 'which came first, 1 or 0?'. Musically it does feel very much of a second half of a piece of work, possibly slightly more acoustic? The musical themes and styling of the debut are carried into this, with the same influences very much in play, so much so that one actually finds it quite hard to realise that there was break between the recording of the two albums as opposed to being recorded at the same time. And if anyone doubts the City Boy analogy just listen to George at 5:20 on 'The Future Doesn't Need You' and see what I mean.

It is also definitely worth mentioning that all the lyrics are in the pack, apart from one, and the only way to get that is to go the Valhalla Biotech site. Once there the lyrics can be seen, but also there are various links, for example '5 Things That You Need To Know' (which takes you to a blog about becoming more involved in the local music scene) or 'Become A Shareholder' (which of course takes you to their store). As I write this, I see that the album is #2 on the PA charts (interestingly I gave maximum scores to #1, #3 and #5 ' haven't heard #4). It is a totally different album to the latest by Roz Vitalis, the current incumbent of the top slot: that is very much a progressive album, from the RIO scene, while this is progressive pop that is fully Crossover. In terms of sheer pleasure and repeated playing this wins hands down, as it just makes me smile each and everytime I play it. And isn't that something that music should be about? The two 'Ones & Zeros' albums perfect complement each other, and all that can be done is buy both and listen to them back to back.

Report this review (#1941455)
Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars At the end of my review of 3rDegree's Ones and Zeroes: Volume 1, I wrote: "It's a mess of awfully good music wrapped around an interesting idea. And the best thing? It's only the first part!"

Now that I've gotten familiar with the band's follow up, I'm not so sure about that anymore.

The "first part" bit, I mean. The enthusiasm was completely warranted. But where does Volume 0 fit in to the chronology? It came second, after all, but it's hardly a sequel. So it is a prequel? Not really. Is it better to listen to them in order of release or numerical order? I'm going to go out on a limb and say it doesn't really matter, for a very unexpected reason ? Volume 0 doesn't really have anything to do with Volume 1. Conceptually, at least.

Hear me out.

Volume 1 tells, essentially, a single story about the impact of a fictional (gods, I hope) megacorp, Valhalla Biotech, that peddles various "life extension" technology. There was a through line running from stem to stern of the album, summed up by refrain "tell me what it means to be human." This was helped along by the sometimes chilling asides from various Valhalla products and spokespersons.

Volume 0, by contrasts, covers a lot of different ground. "Olympia" deals with artificial beings who aren't content to be submissive. "Perfect Babies" channels Brave New World and Gattaca and their (timely and relevant) fears of designer offspring. The epic "Click Away!" dives into the echo chamber of the Internet. Unlike Volume 1, there's no connective tissue pulling these all together (the Valhalla announcements are absent, for example).

To put it another way, Volume 1 is a Black Mirror episode; Volume 0 is an entire season.

This isn't a bad thing. Indeed, it's probably a good idea not to just do a copy of Volume 1, since it's hard to bottle lightning twice. Still, aside from the opening overture and a few riffs in the closing "Ones and Zeroes" there isn't really a link between to the two albums. They're separate things that stand on their own merits.

And Volume 0 has plenty of merits. Lyrically, the best tracks ("Olympia" and "Logical Conclusion," in particular) create perfect little worlds, short stories of immediate impact and thougtfulness. The rest throw out interesting ideas and slip in some zingers for good measure (has a meaner chorus ever been sung other than "the future doesn't need you at all?").

Musically, 3rDegree continue to refine a sound that doesn't really resemble anybody else. Bassist Robert James Pashman once told me that 3rDegree was (I'm seriously paraphrasing) "too straight forward for the prog crowd, but too weird for the mainstream." That's still true, although they've been embraced by the prog world in the past few years (and produced an epic in return!). But they're at their best when the hooks and melodies come to the fore, to be supported by some interesting backing stuff and arrangements. That's all backed up by playing that's intricate and muscular, but rarely flashy. It takes a few listens to really get at what's going on, which is always a good sign. I particularly dig that there's lots of bass synth on this album.

One of the reasons I had to keep giving Volume 0 listens is because I had a hard time thinking about what to say about it. Here's the thing ? with each album since they got back together, 3rDegree have been stepping up their game in big ways. Volume 0, though, doesn't feel like a big step forward. It feels like a consolidation, a restatement of what they're about. That's not in any way a bad thing.

What I'm saying is that Volume 0 is a great album. It's musically and lyrically rich, filled with catchy tunes and great playing. But that's what we've come to expect from 3rDegree at this point, right? They're a band in top form and cranking out another excellent offering just isn't a surprise at this point. So why don't you have your copy yet?

Report this review (#1941761)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Never a band to do the obvious, 3rdegree followed up "Ones & Zeroes - Volume 1" a futuristic tale of the digitization of a human mind that ends badly with "Ones & Zeroes - Volume 0", a futuristic tale of a man who purchases a human companion that ends badly.

Despite my tongue in cheek description of these album, I happen to love them both. 3rdegree have continued to produced albums of clever art rock, or crossover prog as we call it here at PA, fronted by exceptional vocals using lush harmonies and some deep intelligent lyrics.

The album as a whole brings me back to the days of 10cc and Supertramp, two other bands that excelled at playing catchy, compelling and thought provoking music for the discerning listener.

I find that this album draws me in even more than the previous album, and has become a staple in my car stereo this hot summer.

I'm especially hooked on the three middle tracks, "The Future Doesn't Need You", "Unintended Consequence" and "Perfect Babies". And of course the 15 minute epic "Click Away!" is a joy.

I'm not sure yet is this album has replaced "Human Interest Story" as my favorite 3rdegree album, but it's close.

Report this review (#1944245)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2018 | Review Permalink

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