Introducing: Paul Cusick

Not to be confused with American actor John Paul Cusack, Paul Cusick is a solo artist that fits somewhere into the realm of post-progressive rock. I discovered Paul Cusick several years ago through a Facebook advertisement and although I’m not normally the type to act upon an ad, I thought I would give the man that was compared to Steven Wilson a fair chance – and I’m glad I did!

There are definitely similarities with Wilson. Cusick plays all the instruments on his records, except for the drums, which have been handled by Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) and Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson Band) in the past, amongst others, in addition to producing the music himself too. Sound-wise he is also reminiscent of Wilson, who, in turn, is often compared to David Gilmour, as they all share a style that lets ‘feel’, rather than technical ability, take control, in addition to favouring soundscapes. Another similarity lies in his tendency to promote melody over lengthy instrumental passages, which was a characteristic trait of Wilson’s Porcupine Tree-era music.

It all sounds pretty promising.

Now you’re expecting the ‘but’, but to be honest, there is no ‘but’ to speak of. The only small negative I can find is that he is not as vocally strong as Wilson, but his compositions aren’t about vocal-prowess, instead they exist to provide narrative and structure, rather than as a focal point to the music.

Focal Point is in fact the name of Cusick’s debut album, released in 2009, which takes the listener through a post-progressive journey, encompassing soft piano tracks like Fade Away, strong rock moments as in Everblue and Big Cars, and even rich orchestral pieces such as Senza Tempo. Debut albums can often suffer from not being adventurous enough, but Focal Point, provides a great array of styles, allowing the listener to really understand Cusick’s musical influences and inspirations.

The same can also be said for follow-up P’dice (a play on the word prejudice), which kept on the same path of post-progressive rock, but expanded in range to include everything from the hard rock of Everything and the eerie, NIN-like industrial moods of God, Paper, Scissors, to the quieter tracks that close the album, which utilise fragile acoustic guitars and soft keys. There is a noticeable step up in ambition to; the lengthy Borderlines snakes its way between haunting e-bow swells, loose blues moments and powerful rock sections that are backed by orchestral punches, mutating in a way that only the most experienced of progressive songwriters can consistently achieve. With P’dice, Cusick emerged with his own musical identity, truly establishing himself as an emulator of the progressive greats, rather than an imitator.

Cusick is currently taking a break from the cyclical album recording process, due to work and creative pressures, in which he aims to release new songs as and when they are recorded. It is a shame that the music industry can’t properly support a homegrown solo artist such as Cusick, but as long as he continues to release music, I will continue to listen and I hope after discovering him, you will do the same.

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– James

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