A Deep Breath is the debut album by multi-instrumentalist Randy McStine, who works under the guise of Lo-Fi Resistance. Full of colorful, bleak and emotionally charged progressive pop/rock pieces, it’s both initially captivating and revealingly complex, introducing McStine’s newest project on a very high note.
Now in his early twenties, McStine entered the music industry as a guitar prodigy around 2000, covering greats like Jeff Beck and Gary Moore on self-produced releases. Over the last decade, he’s played with musicians over twice his age in the trio RMB, as well as continued to release solo efforts. A Deep Breath marks a decidedly more pop oriented direction, and McStine has enlisted two of his idols as guests; drummer/vocalist Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard) and bassist/vocalist Dug Pinnick (King’s X). Lo-Fi Resistance, McStine clarifies, is only one side of his multifaceted musical persona, and if he’s other outlets are as great as this one, he’ll quickly become a household name for genre fans.
After the sound montage of “The Grand Design?,” A Deep Breath begins with the incredible “Hello New Star!” Utilizing outstanding, unique production, catchy vocals and elaborate arrangements, it’s exactly what an opening track should be – overwhelmingly impressive. It topples listeners over with its layers, etching itself in memory and demanding many subsequent plays. McStine already deserves heavy praise with just the first song.
More eccentric, prog-esque timbres come with “Embrace,” as does a concrete singer-songwriter style. The piano complements the melancholy of McStine’s harmonies, which is further conveyed successfully with simply yet poignant guitar riffs and drumming. The static interlude of “Simple” leads into one of the album’s more ambitious (and longest) tracks, “Too Simple.” D’Virgilio lends distinctive harmony and background vocals, and also helps produce a very epic structure, including a flute break which leads into a fully realized prog rock jam between the sung segments.
The wonderful ballad “All We Have” is ripe for commercial success – it’d be perfect as the album’s single due to encompassing melodies and engaging balance between intricate and intimate music. Just as D’Virgilio invokes Spock’s Beard automatically, “Moral Disgrace” instantly feels like a King’s X composition thanks to Pinnick’s aggression. The album closes with the delicate “Wasted,” a sad piece at its core that’s made even more touching thanks to strings that are both quickly plucked and slowly soaring. Just as A Deep Breath began with a fast, almost sing-a-long quality, it closes with introspective, somber tale of heartache. Each instrument adds its own touch exactly where it needs to, and it’s very easy to get lost in the mood this track creates.
A Deep Breath is more than just one of the best debut albums I’ve ever heard; it’s also a serious contender for album-of-the-year. McStine, especially for his age, is surprisingly accomplished in every way; he’s a superb singer, musician, arranger, and songwriter. Lo-Fi Resistance is a project that deserves all the acclaim it can get – albums this special and fresh are rare, and with any luck, McStine will only produce even better material (a 2012 album is already planned) and achieve even more triumphs. This is a fantastic record.