I first came across the Aaron Clift Experiment, a progressive rock band from Austin Texas, in 2015 when I stumbled across their sophomore album Outer Light, Inner Darkness. I had never heard of them before and was impressed by the both the songwriting and musicianship on the album. I liked it enough that I was happy to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign for their fourth album, The Age of Misinformation. The band has had nearly complete turnover since their 2015 effort, with Aaron Clift himself as the only remaining member, so it was to be expected that their newest album would have a different sound than the one that had first captured my attention.
That said, it was still surprising to see how far the band has traveled musically in the last 6 years. While Outer Light was fairly consistent in its musical feel, The Age of Misinformation indulges deeply in one of my favorite aspects of progressive rock: genre hopping. The album opens with the title track, an up-tempo rocker that introduces the album’s theme of the modern proliferation of misinformation and how it impacts the world in which we live. Considering the band leader is a classically trained pianist it is always a little surprising to me how much space he gives to the other musicians in the band. That speaks to Clift’s maturity as a musician and the quality of the people he finds to join him on his albums. In the title track, Anthony Basini’s guitar takes front and center, but everyone in the band gets moments to shine on the album.
The first single released off the album, and probably my favorite track is track to, “Bet on Zero” where the band is joined by a 7-piece horn ensemble in a fun jazzy number. The song clocks in at near 11 minutes and has one of the most enjoyable instrumental breakdowns I’ve heard in some time. About 3:45 into the song, it shifts from an up-tempo jazz-rock song to a slow and smooth night club number led by the bass and trombone. It’s a section worth listening to on repeat. The tracks on the rest of the album range from alt-rock (“L.I.A.R.”) to classic-era prog (“Rise”) to delicate ballad (“The Color of Flight”), making the album one that stays fresh on repeated listens because each track contains a completely individual musical expression.
As a final note: given the theme of the album, and the damage that mis- and disinformation causes to modern society, it’s is unsurprising that many of the album’s tracks are rather pessimistic in nature, but instead of grasping the nihilism within reach, the album ends on a hopeful note:
And I, I’ll glide
To the edge of the earth
Shed the weight of the world
And I, I’ll find
The end of my burden
Shed the weight of the world
All in all, an album worth a listen or three.
The Aaron Clift Experiment’s latest album, The Age of Misinformation, was released on January 6, 2023. Buy it here.