The cover to All Over Everywhere’s debut record, Inner Firmament Decay, is a fantastic visual complement: a dreary, pastoral landscape that would suit a live performance of the album. Rather than grab our attention with progressive complexity, the band crafts a collage of ethereal and fragile compositions, announcing itself with subtle beauty.
All Over Everywhere is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Trinna Kesner (guitar, viola and violin on the album). She gathered friends from the University of Maryland who’ve played together before and wanted to collaborate on a folk/ambient/progressive project. Their name, then, represents their diversity and uniqueness. Fatefully, keyboardist Dan Britton (Deluge Grander, Cerebus Effect) and vocalist Megan Wheatley, who both worked on the debut by Birds and Buildings, also contribute. Together, this ennead produces some very lush and moody sounds.
Instantly, with opener “The Art of Earth” and throughout the record, the symphonic textures and power of Tony Banks’ and Genesis are felt. Actually Inner Firmament Decay feels like one piece broken into eight parts (albeit without segues), and the feeling of melancholic folk combines well with classical arrangements from start to finish. The dynamics constantly fluctuate, and the pieces build to majesty similar in technique to the last minutes of “Entangled” from A Trick of the Tail (Genesis). A piano or guitar usually leads the music while synthesized sounds, varied forms of percussion, and random but intriguing sound effects add several layers of color and personality. In essence it’s folk rock with Canterbury production and odd prog rock timbres, supplanting technicality with touching personality.
Vocally, Wheatley is both an asset and a deterrent. Rather than emulate influences like Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, her voice is a lovely mixture of ominous power and mystical delicacy, reminiscent of predecessors like Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) and Annie Haslam (Renaissance). Unfortunately, Wheatley isn’t really given anything interesting to sing; her contributions feel more like an additional instrument than a substantial component. If this is in the intention of All Over Everywhere, fine, but usually the singer and the music are equal parts of what gives an album its quality. On Inner Firmament Decay, the music is 90% of what matters, rather than, say, 50%; so Wheatley’s presence, as wonderful a singer as she is, isn’t really necessary.
Also, the album moves rather slowly, which, like Wheatley’s vocals, are a curse and a blessing. This tempo allows the melodies and passages to develop and flow with the same precision a painter uses to decide where each stroke will fit. But this tempo also means a distinct lack of excitement and force; the album is, overall, fairly mellow, and that may bore some people.
Inner Firmament Decay is a commendable debut LP, showcasing a collection of musicians who were born to play together. The synthesis of genres and ability to envelop listeners in bucolic worlds equates to a record that will delight most listeners. However, the album is best thought of as an instrumental work with vocal accompaniment; if it were judged for its songwriting, it would fail, and to be honest, it does move a bit too leisurely. All Over Everywhere is an outfit to watch, and if they can work on quicker and more developed songwriting, their sophomore LP will be fantastic.