(22 October 2010) The debut album from District 97 is entitled Hybrid Child (Laser's Edge (USA) LE1057, 2010. District 97 is the only progressive rock band in the world to feature an American Idol finalist and a Chicago Symphony Orchestra virtuoso cellist. This gives the Chicago, IL band a unique sound and contributed to a dramatic live presentation. In addition to being one of the top ten female vocalists on Idol, the band's lead vocalist Leslie Hunt has released a solo album entitled Your Hair Is On Fire (Ellenel Record (USA) 001, 2009). Read more about the singer in our exclusive interview.
In addition to Leslie Hunt (lead and backing vocals), District 97 is comprised of: Katinka Kleijn (cello), Rob Clearfield (keyboards), Jim Tashjian (guitars), Patrick Mulcahy (bass) and Jonathan Shang (drums) . Leslie's dynamic performances have allowed the band to forge a unique marriage between accessible, catchy vocal melodies and an adventurous instrumental prowess. The fourteen tracks on Hybrid Child include three most accessible rock tunes, a long progressive single and a ten track suite. The tunes range from highly accessible through progressive, metal and hard rock. Katinka's cello contributions lend a Curved Air sound to several of the the tracks.
Fronted heavily by Leslie's vocal work, the album's first two opening tracks are the most accessible. The upbeat and rhythmic "I Don't Want To Wait Another Day" introduces District 97's sound with thick guitar and rapidfire vocals and especially crisp percussion. Multi-layered harmonies are gloriously produced. A cello solo during the instrumental bridge reveals the band's prowess. These themes echo in the thirteen tracks that follow. "I Can't Take You With Me" is a richly arranged number that more clearly exposes Rob Clearfield's keyboard work. Hunt's vocal work is powerful and clearly illustrates the artist's dexterity. A light metal edge to the guitar work reveals the wide breadth of the band's overall sound.
Thick bass lines and heavy guitar work contribute to the band's first extended length track "The Man Who Knows Your Name." Guitar riffs, drums and percussion are especially powerful before the cello solos emerge. The tempo changes and Hunt's stunning vocals emerge mid-track following the band's extensive instrumental and remind the listener that this is after all a District 97 album. "Termites" is a fast paced number backed with a thick rhythm section and hard guitar arrangement. Pay particular attention to the cello work and Hunt's vocal dexterity in the recording.
A ten part suite entitled "Mindscan" builds on sounds introduced in the album's first four tracks and has the title track as its centerpiece. Listeners will be impressed with District 97's range of styles and themes embodied within the lush instrumentals of "Mindscan." "Arrival" and "Entrance" are orchestral and significantly more gentle than the material that precedes them on this album. "Realization" is a harder track laced with thick guitar and keyboard riffs. The rhythm section reminds the listener that the track is not just a jam session.
"Welcome" is the first vocal track inside the suite. In this instrumentally lighter track, Hunt's powerful vocal is balanced by Katinka's cello parts. Following the tension built in the suite's preceding numbers, the gentle ballad "Hybrid Child" is wonderfully performed and backed with very light guitar and keyboard arrangements. Leslie's vocal work glistens in range and power. Self-backing harmonies and a fabulous keyboard solo contribute to the album's standout title track.
The band returns to instrumentals in the percussive and harder "Exploration." Leslie Hunt joins the fray in "What Do They Want" as subtle themes of the "Hybrid Child" track emerge within the robust arrangement. Another clear album standout is the brief ballad "When I Awake." The accessible song perfectly balances the band's instrumental prowess with Hunt's stunning vocals and embraces the entire range of the album from ballad to powerful guitar-laced instrumentals. Listeners will especially appreciate the harmonies that conclude her contribution to the record. The "Returning Home" finale pays homage to the band's instrumentalists, bookends the suite's introductory movements and concludes the album.
As Leslie Hunt says, "District 97 is my main squeeze," although the singer is also continuing to work as a solo artist and producer. Enthusiasts are encouraged to check out her 2009 solo album. District 97 is an extremely promising American progressive rock band with a bright future. Critical acclaim for their live performances is certain to draw
to their shows and expand their touring
schedule. Hybrid Child is an excellent first offering that will draw significant attention from a broad listening audience.