Throughout Only Passing Through, the third album from prog quartet Pattern-Seeking Animals, singer-guitarist Ted Leonard found strength in the single-coil sizzle of a treasured old Telecaster he had once considered trash.
“It was the first guitar I ever owned,” he says. “At one point the truss rod got stripped and there was no fixing it; I thought of [it] as a throwaway guitar.” Re-fitting the guitar with a full-scale scalloped neck and stacked Seymour Duncans, however, has since made it a favorite in the studio.
That Franken-Tele is a character piece that brings a biting twang to the album’s Said the Stranger, whether Leonard’s quaking through spaghetti western ambiance or a blistering, if stylistically divergent set of runs.
“I was always a big Steve Morse fan – a fast, chromatic, alternate picking kind of thing. That’s how that solo starts, and then it goes into this kind of chicken-pickin’, twangy sort of a thing. It’s kind of both sides of my favorite things about guitar.”
Only Passing Through is just as plush and expansive. Seventies-style synth-waves commingle with Andean stringed instruments like the charango and the ronroco.
Its Time Has a Way vaults from orchestral strings, to booming Chicago brass, to flamenco-styled breakdowns. On the surface, that’s business as usual for Pattern-Seeking Animals, but Leonard is quick to point out that unlike much of 2020’s similarly kaleidoscopic Prehensile Tales, he’s gleefully shredding his way through the band’s latest release.
“The second album was lacking a strong guitar presence,” he says. “It was instruments you wouldn’t normally hear on a rock album. This album still has little bit of that, but it definitely has more of a guitar focus – which I pushed for, of course.”
Comprising veteran players from Spock’s Beard and Enchant, Pattern-Seeking Animals have been on a prolific tear since forming in 2018.
And unlike those acts, Leonard notes he’s cut a more profoundly personal swath of six-string sounds with Pattern-Seeking Animals: “I was super excited when we started this because I’d never really gotten to be the guitar player – I was the guy who sings and plays other people’s parts live.”
While Leonard initially brought his Much Ado to Enchant as a full-bore rocker, Pattern-Seeking Animals revamped the piece with hickory-smoked funk licks and peppery prog melodrama.
“It was too good a song to never be [released], which is a distinct possibility when it comes to Enchant,” Leonard says, considering that act hasn’t released an album since 2014. But with Only Passing Through, Pattern-Seeking Animals are making it clear: they’re here for the long haul.
- Only Passing Through (opens in new tab) is out now via Inside Out.