Track: When the Water Breaks
Artist: Liquid Tension Experiment
Album: Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (1999)
Genre: Instrumental Progressive Rock
Made up of two parts Dream Theater, one part former Dream Theater, and one part King Crimson, Liquid Tension Experiment is a side project of some of the world’s most virtuosic progressive musicians. “When the Water Breaks” is a face-melter from their second album that is not for the faint of heart. Clocking in at almost 17 minutes, “When the Water Breaks” may be quite the time commitment, but for those inclined towards irregular time signatures, blistering solos, and mind-blowing instrumental interplay, this eargasm is definitely worth it. For those uninitiated with progressive or experimental music, there are two things you need to be acquainted with before we begin. First, progressive music is very theatrical, usually encompassing an arcing story (even for instrumentals) that can last a very long time. As such, even with such a long track length, “When the Water Breaks” does not suffer from repetition. Besides a few revisited themes, new rhythms and melodies are experienced throughout the song’s entirety. The second thing progressive new-comers should be acquainted with is the inclusion of odd time signatures that often flow between each other quite suddenly. For the inexperienced, there are more time signatures in existence than just 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8. For example, this song contains large sections that are in the times of 7/8 (counted, in this case, as one-two-three-four-one-two-three) and 6/4 (counted like normal, except going up to six instead of four). Other times, being the fantastic musicians they are, they tamper with their own signatures, adding or dropping beats to individual measures. This usually creates a very jumpy feeling that may be initially perceived as the song interrupting itself over and over again. Once an ear is developed for these time changes however, it is very hard not to appreciate the complex patterns going on here, especially at such high speeds.
“When the Water Breaks”, titled after Petrucci’s wife had gone into labour while recording, is essentially a song where each of the project’s musicians show off their musical prowess in the form of intensely elaborate solos in unusual times. Besides supporting the solos with incredible background melodies, all of the instruments also get together to provide tasteful and very satisfying transitions between the individual set pieces. I’m not going to go into immense detail for this beast of a song, but I should point out that maybe except for the inclusion of babies, I have nothing to gripe about. It is a roller-coaster ride from start to finish and I love every second of it. There are no low points in my opinion. That being said, those who are unfamiliar with such music may risk being left in the dust as this song eats you up and spits you out. By keeping up with the pace of the song and attempting to decipher all of the intricate patterns, “When the Water Breaks” becomes a huge brainteaser that should not be taken lightly. Without the motivation to listen actively and identify patterns, however, casual listeners may feel lost or miss the point entirely. With practice, these problems should alleviate themselves. Warnings aside, it’s time to check out “When the Water Breaks”!
PS: I forgot to mention it earlier, but the majority of this album was jammed out and improvised while recording. How crazy is that shit?
Didn’t fancy what you heard? Keep checking back! I’m going to be covering a large variety of music during my time here on The Harmony, so I’m bound to feature something you’d like. If a song seems unfamiliar or unconventional to you, I suggest giving it a try anyways. You’d be surprised what you can learn to like if you have an open mind!