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District 97: Stay For The Ending
District 97 - Stay For The Ending Album Art

District 97: Stay For The Ending

Modern Progressive Rock
4.5/5.0

Introduced to Chicago's District 97 in 2010 and their debut album, Hybrid Child, I had been following this provocative band through 2012's Trouble With Machines, then 2015's In Vaults. But since then, the band has been off my radar. Until now. Catching up, District 97 dropped their fourth album, Screens, in 2019 (which never came my way). The following year they cut a tribute album to Bill Buford and Allan Holdsworth. Both artists have been significant influences for D97's musical style. Additionally, D97 has done extensive tour across North America and Europe. Now, the quintet returns with their fifth album of original music, Stay For The Ending.

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District 97

Describing District97's music can be something of a challenge. The broad description is modern progressive rock. But there's much more going on with their songwriting and arrangements. There's avant garde, jazz fusion, and alternative rock mixed with the venerable genre of progressive rock. Additionally, the songs are a mixture of complexity, experimentation, and technical musicianship.


Which also makes for a challenging listen. Getting a grasp on a D97 recording requires three things: multiple spins, attentiveness, and patience. With changes in tempo and time signature combined with skilled and technical musicianship, there's much to explore, contemplate, and (hopefully), in the end, enjoy. But I'll give you hint, better a key, to unlock the mysteries of a D97 arrangement: follow vocalist Leslie Hunt's voice in the vocal arrangment. She has an uncanny ability lift the song melody amidst the massive prog wonkery. Frankly, she amazes me.

The title cut is a perfect example. Stay For The Ending is raw and thumping with tough riffs and rhythm section; the pacing staccato and razor sharp. But Hunt rises above. Another example is Divided We Fall which juxtaposes heaviness with smoother vocal segues, or vice versa if you will. Hunt meets each movement with a vocal range that accompanies the sound. Within Many New Things, a more subdued technical arrangement than others, her voice is also more sublime nearly reserved in effort, almost lilting along like a leaf on the wind. This continues at the beginning of Crossover which follows. Crossover, as a song, turns mostly upon the keyboard arrangement. Then there's X-Faded, progish yes, but seems more like alternative heavy rock and, in this arrangement, Hunt's vocals are in the lead.

To mention some addtional song highlights, Mirror is one of three long prog excursions. The first half is lighter, more gentle, enhanced by the melody of the vocal arrangement. Then it erupts into some raging heaviness, only to drop into a softer piano and vocal segue, then ends with a stronger crescendo. You know prog when you hear it. Many New Things was mentioned above, but the fantastic guitar at the end must mentioned. Another example of fine solo musicianhip comes within Deck Is Stacked with drummer/primary composer Jonathan Schang's terrific solo, one that would make Bill Buford proud. The Watcher closes the album, a song that turns mostly upon riffs working with groove of the rhythm section, then accented by some fine keyboard play.

All, or most things, considered, District 97's Stay For The Ending is another tour-de-force of their technical modern progressive rock. The band continues challenge and entertain with inventive arrangements and skillful musicianship. Easily recommended.

To my American readers: Please note the Amazon ad above wherin Stay For The Ending is sold as in import to America, ergo the steep price. Perhaps, the album will be available domestically in the future for a lower price. I do not know at this time.


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The Take Away

All, or most things, considered, District 97's Stay For The Ending is another tour-de-force of their technical modern progressive rock. The band continues challenge and entertain with inventive arrangements and skillful musicianship. Easily recommended.

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