Review – Thence – We Are Left With A Song – by Progradar

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“Storytelling–that’s not the future. The future, I’m afraid, is flashes and impulses. It’s mode up of moments and fragments, and stories won’t survive.”
Dexter Palmer, The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Knowing the brief attention span of most of today’s music listening populous, used to flashes of music, the instant gratification of MTV and three minute songs, would you release an album that ran for fifty seven minutes and yet had only one track on it? No, neither would I….

Well.that’s what Finnish duo Thence did with their debut release ‘These Stones Cry From The Earth’..

“We are the edge of the biggest ride in history. Is this the year when the cosmic clock finally runs down to zero days and zero hope? The deepest questions of our time are looking for answers from the past, facing alarming complexity. Vanishing species…or something? Thence is something from there. Just to feel the ambience of the surrounding world.”

Deep? quite so, this was the concept behind that first album, the music began to grow and the band felt that it must be done in this way. The album was composed and recorded almost at the same time, maybe that is the reason why the listener cannot leave it unfinished, and must listen it to the very end.

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Juha Sirkkiä founded the band in 2003. However, the band had been kept in limbo until Erno Räsänen joined the band and immediately from that day they started making the first album and it finally saw the light of day in 2011.

To my ears, it was one of the most exciting, deep and innovative albums of its day. Yes, for most mere mortals, the idea of a 57 minute long track making up the entire album was, perhaps, too much but, for those of us with the requisite attention span, we were treated to an absolute musical delight.

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2016 sees the duo return with the long awaited follow up ‘We Are Left With A Song’ which, this time consists of seven tracks instead of one long ‘paragraph’. The content itself has remained, broadly the same: all kinds of emotionally descriptive, diverse and beautiful music.

“Hope. Maybe it is the best adjective to describe this album. It’s a feeling, and it is wished that, after all the difficulties, there is always hope.” says Juha Sirkkiä, of the album’s theme.

I Burn The Day

Opening track I Burn The Day, The Ghost begins with birdsong and a very slow building guitar, low down and sombre and also quite apprehensive. You’re on edge, awaiting what is to come and then, bang, we’re off. A thunderous riff and epic drums power to a massive crescendo of all consuming music that takes you aback. Once you’ve recovered, the pace eases slightly as the laid back vocals begin, not to say things have calmed completely as the keys wash over you and the music drives you on. A huge wall of luscious sound assails your very soul and Juha’s slightly muted, if very noted, vocal guides you along the pathway to hope and salvation. A fast paced, powerfully upbeat and yet slightly dark tinged song that opens your eyes and awakens your senses and closes out with a lonely piano note.

No ONe

No One, Anyone, Be Someone opens with a lazy, wistful tone to the vocals and the music. All moving languidly along, unhurried and impassive. The catchy riff gives it some sort of impetus but that feeling of mellow, unhurried tranquility remains at the core. As we move through the track it takes on a more dramatic and theatrical feel as the keyboards take on the feel of a string section and bring a huge wave of emotion to run over you. Then an absolutely delightful saxophone solo adds a huge grin to my face, and no small amount of grace to this impressive track, as unexpected as it is brilliant. A pensive track that opens up to deliver a feeling of hope and optimism.

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The opening to Abundance is wistful and silky smooth and you just feel yourself going with the flow as its gentle air of expectancy draws you in. The drums pound out a rhythm that gets under your skin before a suitably graceful and elegant guitar note takes up the baton. I find a sense of serenity take over my whole being as this composed and self-possessed piece of music lets me join it on its effortless travails. Juha’s vocal is totally relaxing and unruffled and matches the mood perfectly. This song leaves you in your own bubble of self-absorption as an undemanding, subdued guitar solo flows around your mind, wonderful.

There is a feel of 90’s techno synth to the opening of It Is Truth That Liberates, even the title has a touch of Massive Attack to it. The guitar is only hiding in the background though and opens up with an aggressive and dynamic riff to counter the slightly spaced out feel of the keyboards. Another track where that dense and substantial soundscape, immediately recognisable as Thence, takes centre stage before a coruscating guitar adds fire and incandescence to the mix to give a uniquely memorable sound, a complicated tapestry of music is laid before you for your delectation.

Pursue

A slightly distorted guitar note jars your senses at the opening of Pursue as it jangles and resonates inside your head. A hushed, yet passionate, vocal joins the music to give a feel of yearning and hunger. A cool bass line adds gravitas, the drums and percussion giving an undercurrent of longing. You feel this is building up to something as the pace begins to pick up slightly, there’s still an anxious and expectant aura that hangs over everything though. The trance is broken by another monstrous riff that hits you hard and grabs your attention before Juha’s crying guitar adds another edge of despair but wait, you hear a baby’s cry  and sense a lifting of something oppressive, there is now more of a feeling of hope central to the music. The piano that takes up the reverie is thoughtful and reflective, it heralds the introduction the superb saxophone again. You are taken on a wondrous journey of sound and tone, one that touches your very heart and soul and, as the brilliant guitar joins the fray, it becomes an almost rapturous and utterly captivating musical experience that closes out to the yearning refrian of that extraordinary saxophone.

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Oars In Our Hands opens with a seriously ominous tone, the note of the keyboards giving a feeling of foreboding before the heavy riffing begins and gives it a solid impetus and deliberate feel. This track is the one that reminds me the most of ‘These Stones….’, the scenic sound that fills the horizon and the arena filling vocals. A wide vista of musical theatre that is delivered to your senses and one that engrosses and enthralls at every turn. There is a unique quality to the music that comes from Thence and it is one that I hugely admire as this duo defy what you expect to hear from two musicians. The drama unfolds before you through the music and keeps you intrigued and immersed thoughout, once again, the potent and compelling ending to the song leaves you on a high.

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The final seven minutes of the album is devoted to Life Will Get You Eventually, another song that is more than mere words and notes on a page. A melodic, symphonic soul cleansing journey of affirmation and expectancy is laid before you in its genial grace to leave you feeling like you are on the shore of an ocean as the waves gently lap around your toes. An almost infinite space lies in front of you as you gaze towards the horizon, a melodramatic scene indeed but one that this hugely involving tune imbues. The heartfelt, sincere vocals touch you deeply and the rest of the track envelops you in its sonorous embrace, as it comes to a close I honestly feel like I have been changed inside for ever, emotionally cleansed by what I have just experienced.

What Thence have delivered with ‘We Are Left With A Song’ is no mere album, it is a breathtaking, creative powerhouse of sonic delight that grows to fill any space that it occupies to take on a life of its own. It is a life that you will want to share until your dying breath, above mere superlatives, it is an utter triumph.

Released 27th May 2016

Buy ‘We Are Left With a Song’ direct from the artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Steve Thorne – Island Of The Imbeciles – by Emma Roebuck

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Steve Thorne’s 5th solo album ‘The Island of Imbeciles’ is rumoured to be his last solo project. Hopefully this is not true as he continues to write tight, prescient songs with a great ear and eye for the moment.  There is still a timeless element to the music but the timeliness of the subject matter places it very much in the now.

Who has he got guesting on this one? none other than Tony Levin, Nick D’Virgilo  and James McLaren, with spots from his old chums in Jadis and even Robin ‘Cosmograf’ Armstrong but, according to his interview recently in Prog mag, instrument-wise,  he pretty much plays the majority of the stuff on the Album himself.

I often talk about the craft of writing music and songs and Steve has brilliantly crafted the whole album, 50 minutes of music that flies past in way too quick a time for my liking. I wanted more much more music, in a really good way. All the songs are very easy on the ear, full of melody, variation and different themes.

The musical ability shines through but does not swamp the album. Guitar and keyboard breaks blend section to section, fitting beautifully into the song. A fine example is Don’t Fear Tomorrow, a message to the anxious and the worriers of this world, or someone carving out their life after tragedy.

The title track, Island of Imbeciles, is an overtly vicious attack on corruption and current state of politics, it is keyboard driven and lyrically potent, delivering a message of cynicism and disgust.

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My personal favourite, They are Flesh, is a direct attack on the privileged class and their ‘so called right’ to such privilege.  It’s pretty much an acoustic number in an almost old-school ‘protest folk style’ but with much more sophistication.

The 10 tracks on this album cover such a wide range of topics, from loss of love (and the terror to commit to someone again) to big political stuff about the planets resources and man’s general inhumanity to man.

He draws from all sorts of areas musically but it is still a coherent album that connects from beginning to end.

I look forward to the ‘Salamander Project’ which appears to be his new project  with the likes of John Beck, Steve can draw talent to his projects but that embellishes what he does and it’s not a place he hides behind.

As ever I will make recommendations for those who know nothing of his music or his pedigree.

I hear a direct connection with the Likes of Steven Wilson (particularly Blackfield), Talk Talk (Spirit of Eden), Divine Comedy, Big Big Train and oldsters like Pink Floyd.  If you are a fan of the song and lyrically interesting melodic music go for it.

Released 1st April 2016

Order ‘Island Of The Imbeciles’ from White Knight Records

 

 

AISLES announce new studio album and release online documentary – by Progradar

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The Chilean prog rock sextet returns with their new studio effort, “Hawaii”, a two-disc concept album that will be available starting in July.

Chilean prog rockers Aisles have just announced the title and release date of “Hawaii”, their highly anticipated fourth studio album. The LP will be released on July 29, 2016 via Presagio Records on CD and digitally, while the vinyl edition will be available in November.

“Hawaii” is a two-disc concept album about human colonies established in space after the destruction of the Earth. Its twelve tracks explore the dilemmas and challenges that the individual and the human spirit would face in this futuristic scenario. Regarding the theme and sound of the album, guitarist and producer Germán Vergara states: “Without a doubt it’s our most profound work so far. With ‘Hawaii’ we dug deep in search of a concept that could really move us. Our objective was to write music that would emotionally and mentally take us to the place where the events in the album occur: Space”.

 “All the music on the album was written with our hearts and minds set on the idea of these human colonies, a small group of people who are able to preserve some of the heritage of mankind after the Earth is destroyed. Musically speaking we had never taken so many risks, tried so many different approaches and allowed ourselves this level of freedom to improvise and experiment. I am really proud of what we’ve achieved this time”, Vergara adds.

Also, on their YouTube channel Aisles have just released the first of five episodes of an online documentary depicting the recording process of “Hawaii”. Check it out below:

‘HAWAII’ DOCUMENTARY EPISODE 1:

“Hawaii” is available for preorder in various formats and bundles on Aisles official website.

“Hawaii” tracklisting

 Disc 1:

  1. The Poet Part I – Dusk
  2. The Poet Part II – New World
  3. Year Zero
  4. Upside Down
  5. CH-7

Disc 2

  1. Terra
  2. Pale Blue Dot
  3. Still Alive
  4. Nostalgia
  5. Club Hawaii
  6. Falling
  7. In the Probe

The Pineapple Thief premiere first track ‘No Man’s Land’ from new album ‘Your Wilderness’ – by Progradar

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The Pineapple Thief have revealed the first full track, entitled “No Man’s Land”  from their highly anticipated new album – Your Wilderness due for release on the 12th August  (19th August in France) through Kscope .

“This is the first track to share from our new album, Your Wilderness.  It is a tale of two halves.  It’s short but progressive and 100% The Pineapple Thief” Bruce Soord

Your Wilderness, their 11th studio album, showcases the band performing without any inhibitions providing a springboard for the ongoing creative growth of The Pineapple Thief.

For the first time, The Pineapple Thief has brought in several special guest performers. “Since our last album Magnolia, the most eye catching change is obviously having Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) contribute drums throughout the album” explains Bruce Soord.  “This has not only redefined our sound but also redefined how we approached the songs as a band.  Gavin’s drumming is technically brilliant but also incredibly musical, and it inspired all of us to raise our game.  I’ve also rediscovered my progressive roots in terms of song-writing and arrangement.  Added to that, we were lucky enough to have John Helliwell from Supertramp contribute some beautiful clarinet parts and Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) provided a string quartet. We were also joined by a lovely 4 piece choir and to cap it all off, my friend Darran Charles (Godsticks) added some jaw dropping guitar playing… You’ve never heard a The Pineapple Thief album like this one!  I am convinced people will love this record as much as we do.”

Your Wilderness was recorded entirely by the band with the exception of the drums, which Gavin Harrison produced & engineered at his own studio. The string quartet which was recorded at Geoffrey’s own studio in Canterbury. The album was mixed and produced by Bruce Soord and Steve Kitch with mastering duties also carried out by Steve. There will be a special lossless 5.1 surround mix available with the special edition mixed by Bruce.

Seen as one of the most vital rock bands the UK has produced over the last two decades, The Pineapple Thief was formed in 1999 by founder and chief songwriter Bruce Soord. The band has steadily evolved and refined its sound with the bass playing of Jon Sykes and the production and keyboards of Steve Kitch now so integral to the sound.  “After so many yearsThe Pineapple Thief has become way bigger than the sum of its parts.” explains Soord.

The Pineapple Thief will be playing Be Prog My Friend Festival in Barcelona, Spain on 1st July and is currently booking a European tour for late 2016 and planning live shows in USA / Canada.

Your Wilderness Album Tracklisting

  1. In Exile (05:40)
  2. No Man’s Land (04:20)
  3. Tear You Up (4:53)
  4. That Shore (04:36)
  5. Take Your Shot (04:34)
  6. Fend For Yourself (03:49)
  7. The Final Thing On My Mind (09:52)
  8. Where We Stood (03:46)

Your Wilderness will be released by Kscope on the following formats:

Deluxe 12” hardback book featuring:

  • 44 page artwork book
  • CD 8 track original album
  • New bonus 8 Years Later CD
  • DVD-AV –  8 original tracks hi resolution stereo & 5.1 audio (24/96 MLP Lossless stereo, 24/96 Lossless 5.1 surround, 24/96 PCM stereo & DTS 96/24 5.1 Digital surround) mixed by Bruce Soord.

CD featuring:

  • 8 original album tracks with a total playing time of 41.07 minutes.
  •  24 page booklet in digisleeve

180g heavy weight LP featuring:

  • 8 original album tracks (with MP3 download code).
  •  8 page booklet

Digital download featuring:

8 original album tracks mastered for iTunes (pre-orders receive “No Man’s Land” as an instant download)

All formats are now available to pre-order:

CD / LP / Deluxe Edition / exclusive bundles: www.kscopemusic.com/store

(all physical format pre-orders through Kscope store will receive signed band postcard)

Review – Godzilla In The Kitchen – S/T – by Progradar

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I’m a well known fan of instrumental music. I like calming, sublime tracks that elicit a feeling of grace, calm and serenity. Take Tony Patterson’s ‘Equations of Meaning’ for instance, not merely a great release, it is a state of mind that we should all aspire to when our Life in the Fast Lane gets too much for us.

However, there are times when only a metaphorical kick to the nether regions will do, a powerful statement of intent that literally knocks you backwards with its aggressive delivery and sends you on a spaced out trip with some psychedelic touches.

You have bands like With Our Arms To The Sun and SDANG! that exist at differing ends of the kaleidoscope of that powerful and mind-expanding spectrum of heavy instrumental music and I would now like to add German trio Godzilla In The Kitchen to that impressive club.

Band

Godzilla In The Kitchen is a three‑piece instrumental progressive rock band from Jena, Germany. All the band members were infected early by the work of great progressive and alternative musicians such as Pink Floyd, Marillion, Tool, Faith No More and Helmet, to name but a few.

In 2011 they started their first rehearsals, trying to combine all the different musical aspects tabled by every single one of them to create a unique mixture of melodical recognizability and rhythmic complexity. After three years of on-stage experience and practice these three guys decided to finally get their work pressed on a more tangible and of course a more sellable format.

So they started recording sessions in April 2014 and – after more than one year of recording, mixing and mastering a total of 10 songs with around 60 mins playing time – they were very proud to release their self-titled debut album in May 2015.

Felix Rambach. The living drum-machine, brings in all the complex framework to keep the strings together. If you can imagine a rhythm, he plays ist, even backwards if you like.

Eric Patzschke. Somewhere between classical harmonics and a chainsaw you find the sound of his guitar, shredding very earthy riffs, sometimes heavy, sometimes out-of-space light.

Simon Ulm. The third wheel, because every band needs a bassist. He makes all that complex stuff sound nice and goovy. Sorry girls, he’s married. To his Bass.

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This trio of musicians meld really heavy psychedelic, trance inducing rock music into one semi-cohesive whole.

From the uber-heavy, massive riff laden powerhouse groove of opening track Up The River, all the way through to the schizophrenic paranoia of closing cut The Fridge, there is no let up in the intensive musical mayhem that ensues. The edgy riffing, frenetic drumming and huge bass lines that you are treated to take no prisoners and listen to no authority but their own.

You want slow burning, brooding and oppressive then these guys can deliver it. Listen to the thunderous elephantine grooves of Broken Dance and The Turn and you will see a mind meld between funky stoner rock and dark and dangerous doom metal and one that plays off brilliantly.

I really like the upbeat and funky opening of Elis Speech with Felix’s almost jazzy drumming, Eric’s pleading guitar note (that has more than a touch of Satch to it) and the ever stylish bass of Simon completing this talented triumvirate and infusing this song with that West Coast feel of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers at times. Contrast that with the darkly dense macabre tone of Propagation Of Violence, a track that descends into the semi-lucid depths of industrial tinged metal, at times a glorious rock out to tones of thrash guitar and psychotic drumming and at others a pensive fall into blue funk and perturbation.

Dr. Moth is a funky consciousness-expanding trip into a hallucinatory world of contrasts between darkness and light and good and evil and Stick To Your Daily Routine is another introspective and reflective track that plays as if it has the weight of the world on its shoulders. A sombre, warning edge runs throughout its eleven minutes of saturnine and portentous overtone.

Provoking As Teenage Sex is a skittish, uneasy and uptight three minutes of paranoia that really gets under your skin and keeps you on your toes with its restive feel.

My favourite track on this release is The Universe Is Yours. Another eleven minute track with very much its own agenda. Undemanding and unhurried on the surface, there is a reserved undertone of melancholia that runs throughout. It leaves you with a feeling of unease, and a nervous titillation in your mind. A piece of music that gradually draws you in to its embrace, intentions unfathomable as you are pulled further into its hypnotic clutches. Deliciously creepy sensations run through you as the music continues to entrance your very soul, leaving a feeling of exploitation but one that you would defend to your very grave.

I love it when good music comes at me from left-field, bands that I never knew existed but are exceedingly worthy of my attention. Godzilla In The Kitchen deliver some seriously deep and psychedelic music that is not for the faint of heart. Trust me, don’t try to understand it, just enjoy it to the full!

Released 28th May 2015.

Buy the digital album from bandcamp

 

 

Review – Airbag – Disconnected – by Progradar

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“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist.” – Robert Schumann

“Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of the artist.” – Franz Liszt

I like music that is written with love and dedication, not music that is written for the sole purpose of making some fat cats rich. I love music that has meaning, substance and aspiration, that has come from deep in the heart and soul of the artists creating it.

Music moves me, succors me and mirrors my life through good and bad. I would be fair to say that, if it wasn’t for music, I wouldn’t be the rounded person I am today (no sniggering at the back thank you!).

There are certain bands that have delivered a new piece of wonder at exactly the right time, just when I need it to get through a difficult period. One of those was the Norwegian progressive rock band Airbag when they released their 2013 album ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’.

Their music is perhaps best described as scenic, epic rock or, as legendary Classic Rock Magazine said: “Reminiscent of a late-nite, laid-back Pink Floyd”. However you look at it, that record helped me immensely and I went on to say in my review:

“My life’s journey through the world of music has often been enjoyable and I have ploughed many depths and crested many rises over the years whilst searching for the music I love. I can honestly say that it is not often where  I am moved to call a piece of music near perfection or feel that it has had an actual impact on my life but, in Airbag’s The Greatest Show on Earth, both those statements ring very true.”

So, it won’t be difficult for you to imagine my interest being exceedingly piqued when I was notified of a new album coming from this amazing band in 2016…

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Airbag was formed in 2004 by 5 class mates from Oslo, Bjørn Riis (lead guitar), Asle Tostrup (lead vocals & rhythm guitar), Jørgen Hagen (keyboards), Anders Hovdan (bass) and Henrik Fossum (drums). The band released 3 EPs over the next 4 years before 2009 saw the release of ‘Identity’, the album consisting, mainly, of tracks released on 2 of the EPs.

The further release of 2011’s ‘All Rights Removed’ saw the band gain a solid following and reputation among both fans and the press which was cemented by their most successful release to date, the previously mentioned ‘Greatest Show On Earth’. Airbag has also become a solid live-act playing at several major festivals and as support and in double-bills with bands like Marillion, Anathema, Pineapple Thief, Riverside, RPWL and Gazpacho.

Of the new album the band said:

“‘Disconnected’ features six songs reflecting on the theme of alienation between the individual and society, what society expects from us as individuals, and our resultant failure to live up to those expectations. Each of the six compositions depicts the state of feeling on ‘the outside’ and out of touch with oneself and those around us.

Musically, we’ve explored new sounds and ventured deeper into creating soundscapes, textures and dramatic arrangements.”

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(Photo by Anne-Marie Forker.)

Opening track Killer sounds very U2 like with the chiming guitar riff and metronomic drums driving it along, illusive keyboards adding a sophisticated backdrop. Bjørn Riis’ guitar is subtle in its delivery, stylish and urbane before Asle Tostrup’s instantly recognisable voice takes up the story. Full of emotion and sentiment, it washes over you with its velveteen aura. I find myself immediately drawn into this smart and urbane soundscape, enticed by the smooth brilliance of the music. Bjørn delivers a gorgeous solo, full of pent up passion and elation, that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck before the track segues into an instrumental section of depth and empathy that transfixes you on the spot.  Anders Hovdan and Henrik Fossum provide a rhythm section par-excellence, unobtrusive and yet paramount to Airbag’s signature sound and the dynamic and powerful close to the track is superb with Bjørn’s spine tingling guitar hypnotising you.

Bjorn

Broken begins in a much more subdued fashion, a lonely acoustic guitar providing the plaintive, sparse soundtrack. It is quite mesmerising and that feeling intensifies as Asle’s wistfully mournful voice joins the fray. A wandering guitar note and delicate drums join with Jørgen’s ghostly keyboards to paint a refined scene before you. The tempo increases and the guitar seems to cry a lament before the vocals add a real heartfelt timbre to this rarefied song. I sat myself down in near darkness with my headphones on and a glass of red wine to listen to this track and it suited the mood perfectly, sombre and contemplative. The unhurried grace and delicate wonder that this track imbues leaves you caught in a moment, unable and unwilling to move on, as Bjørn’s dreamy yet mournful and meditative guitar takes centre stage. Seven minutes of pure grace comes to a somber close and you let the silence envelop you, secure in your solitude.

Asle

Darkly mysterious sounds open Slave in an enigmatic and cryptic fashion. A slow building and slow burning introduction that puts you on edge before Asle’s vocals add an even more secretive edge to proceedings. A deliciously cabalistic guitar tone from Bjørn sets your teeth on edge and the slow, monotonous nature of the drums does nothing to calm the nerves. Like a supine irresistible force this song continues to seduce your darker side and drag you into its open arms, enslaving your body and soul. The deviant wandering guitar spirals around your mind, indoctrinating you with its hidden mantra leaving you unsettled and yet oddly satisfied. You wouldn’t willingly invite it into your embrace but are strangely comforted when you do.

Anders

A nostalgic and nomadic tone envelops the opening to Sleepwalker, unhurried and stress free, the delicate acoustic guitar and lush keys add to the artful drums and bass to provide a perfect backing to Asle’s humble and unpretentious voice to enshroud everything with a feeling of calm and composed serenity. Periodically the song blossoms with the power of the understated guitar adding sheen to the earnest vocals, a perfect counterpoint. Once again Bjørn lavishes a truly emotive guitar solo upon us, one that seems to flood your very being with its passion and fervour and the track closes out with a composed and unruffled ending.

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Disconnected is the longest track on the album and this title track is full of complexity, elegance and composure. The introduction leaves an aura of anticipation before the tentative vocals increase the expectancy. A compelling and persuasive chorus adds a further note of desire and hunger as this deeply perceptive and profound song reveals its hidden depths and convoluted layers. Every musician is on top form but Bjørn seems to give his guitar a life of its own as it entrances and entices with its rapturous delights. This marvelous musical mosaic takes you on a journey of enlightenment and discovery where you find something new and different at every turn. The final guitar solo is bewitching and addictive with every note and you are left with a massive feeling of fulfillment when this stunning song finally comes to a close.

Jorgen

The final track on the album, Returned, seems to take Steven Wilson at his best and improve on it. A really beautiful melody with jangling guitars and a dreamlike aura, it has an inherent nostalgic finesse and celestial allure to it. The vocals are heartfelt and sincere and the music just seems to wash over you to leave you in a state of hushed tranquility and peacefulness. This is songwriting that moves you and affects your very being and is a wonderful way to close out this outstanding musical release.

Once again Airbag have produced a collection of songs that have moved me to my very core. Every word they write has an inherent meaning and every note is in the perfect place. This is music for the soul that has come from the soul and, as such, will stay with you forever. A complex, absorbing and enthralling fifty minutes that you must have in your life as it will be so better for it.

Released 10th June 2016.

Pre-order ‘Disconnected’ from Airbag

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Nine Stones Close – Leaves – by Leo Trimming

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The band Nine Stones Close is named after the remains of an ancient stone circle (see the featured image) situated in the Peak District of Northern England near where Adrian Jones grew up as a child. The origins of the monument’s name and their history are shrouded in mystery. Aptly, Adrian Jones is also the rock upon which Nine Stones Close has been built since 2008, starting as a solo studio project with St.Lo and later developing into a band with the excellent albums ‘Traces’ (2010) and ‘One Eye on the Sunrise’ (2012). ‘Leaves’ is their latest album and demonstrates Jones’ ongoing commitment to excellence and progression in his music, alongside significant changes in the band line-up. It is also true to say that like the stone circle Jones also likes to retain some mystery, leaving his music and lyrics open to interpretation by the listener.

Leaves as images or as metaphors are well used devices in poetry and music, possibly symbolizing beauty and growth but also death, change and rebirth – richly coloured Autumnal leaves beautifully carpeting forest floors, giving way to new shoots and leaves in Spring. Perhaps such imagery could be applied to Nine Stones Close as they release their new album this spring. They blossomed previously to great effect on ‘Traces’ and ‘One Eye on the Sunrise’, particularly helped by the remarkable keyboard skills of Brendan Eyre and captivating vocals of Marc Atkinson (both of Riversea, whom have their own album out later this year). Eyre and Atkinson have now left the band amicably to concentrate on their own projects to be replaced by keyboardist Christian Bruin (of Sky Architect) and Adrian ‘Aio’ O’Shaughnessy on vocals.

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Previous fans of Nine Stones Close may need some time to adjust to the new direction of the band. Jones is clear that he never stands still musically. He has stated : ‘The three previous albums are all very different from each other. The new singer is an element of that new sound…’. Nevertheless, it is fair to say fans of Atkinson’s voice may need to adjust to the different style of Adrian O’Shaughnessy. This reviewer did need some time to put aside his love of Atkinson’s voice and appreciate how Aio’s very different voice really suited the new music being produced by Nine Stones Close. Such an open minded approach is richly rewarded as the musical vistas and darker lyrical landscapes conjured up on this album open up fascinatingly with Aio’s versatile and powerful voice illustrating the different texture and feel of the music perfectly.

Relatively short song Complicated opens the album with a shimmering keyboard theme giving way to a sinister beat and menacing voice, rising to a throbbing, growling guitar, underpinned by Peter Groen’s dextrous bass. Those unprepared for the change in Nine Stones Close will certainly be saying ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!’ Nevertheless, dear listener, stay on board because the ride will get much stranger and darker yet, with a set of characteristically extended songs in which Adrian Jones and band takes you on a psychedelic journey, starting with the very peculiar but enthralling Goldfish. Jones ambiguously describes Goldfish as: hopefully some might think it is about a new world sociopath and others might think it is about …. something else …’. Bruin’s keys float us into this strange odyssey  and we hear a much more subtle side of Aio’s vocals as he intones ‘Conscience has died’. Interestingly, Jones bravely holds the musical tension with restraint. Aio plaintively sings ‘Welcome to my Life’ before Jones’ guitar soars to a crescendo before the piece recedes into a bleak, desolate drone. What’s it about? I have some sort of sense of it, but I honestly don’t really know – but it’s intriguing stuff, and I don’t really care that I don’t fully understand it – that’s half the fascination!

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Adrian Jones has said of Lie, the next song on the album, ‘that’s a bit of a beast and my personal favourite’, which is understandable as it is an outstanding piece, opening with swaggering instrumental menace. Aio’s versatile vocal swings between sinister but quiet, over a section of chopped chunky riffs reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, to powerful full throated rock howling. Then from left field Adrian Jones throws in a dissonant guitar section, presumably indicating the dislocating and undermining effect of mendacity (Lies), which is one of the underlying themes of the album. The momentum increases as guitars spiral around the central crunching drums and bass, with Bruin interweaving subtle keyboards. This fascinating and unpredictable song develops further as violinist, Annelise Rijk, and cello player, Ruben van Kruistrum, in multiple parts build and build the intensity with Adrian Jones guitars stratospherically swooping around the central theme. For fans who liked the remarkable  and epic Frozen Moment on the previous album ‘One Eye on the Sunrise’  will find this familiar but more sinister territory, musically. This was the song which reassured this reviewer that, whilst Nine Stones Close have changed, they have not lost that quality to create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic.

To underline that point Spoils opens with subtle understated menace with Aio practically purring the vocals before the song erupts and then settles in to ‘Kashmir’ like progression as Aio roars in Robert Plant-esque power, although this band are no Zeppelin copyists! Once again, Nine Stones Close take an unexpected turn as this piece drifts away in to a dream like interlude as Aio sings ‘I’m living a Dream’ with acoustic guitar and then subtle electric guitar playing over an atmospheric and eerie keyboard backing. This bewildering but captivating song then erupts again before once again descending into another dream-like fugue – ‘The Dream I’m Living’ floats over the music, and then the whole band really lets loose with a volcanic finale in which Pieter Van Hoorn particularly shines with some explosive drumming. Part dream, part nightmare Spoils is a remarkable song which has grown and grown on this reviewer – repeated listens gradually unpeel the layers of this song, like all the best progressive pieces.

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Titles track Leaves concludes the album and, once again, Nine Stones Close take a left turn. Having adjusted to the more powerful direction of much of this album the listener is then confronted with with a largely very restrained, subtle and eerie song which seems tailor made for Aio’s versatile voice. Van Hoorn shows that drumming is not all about pounding away as his imaginative percussive touches play around the theme and vocals. Jones conjures unnerving and weird sounds from his guitar to punctuate this unsettling landscape, before introducing some Floyd like sweeping guitar lines with Aio crying ‘Have you ever lived your life, Have you ever really lived your life?’ as the song builds in impressive intensity. However, just when you think Nine Stones are going for the possibly clichéd barnstorming finale they fade into a wistful ending with Bruin’s piano beautifully and elegaically bringing us to the end of this journey. Whilst this is not a concept album Adrian Jones has described ‘Leaves’ as  having a theme  of ‘what we are doing to the world we live in and to ourselves’. That definitely comes over in the final track of this very fine album.

Progressive music fans can be remarkably conservative at times, which does sound contradictory to the concept of progression. Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief once said words to the effect that he expects to lose old fans with every album because some find it difficult accepting that he is progressing in his music, but that with every new album he gains new fans who appreciate his new direction. That is inevitable for any band like Nine Stones Close who do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!

Released 13th May 2016.

Buy ‘Leaves’ from bandcamp

 

 

 

 

Review Scarlet INside – THirty RiVers to CRoss – by Emma Roebuck

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Scarlet INside is, essentially, Kevin Kennie plus others occasionally helping out with music creation and drum consultancy, in the form of Drew Mckinlay and Jerry Good. Perhaps Kevin can best explain what that entails but it certainly works.

Self described as “a rock band, an acoustic act, and soundscape composition. We express a love of experimentation, using a variety of styles including world beats and rhythms, prog rock, beats and industrial crunches,minimalist lines, blues, jazz and a variety of  different instruments synths all topped off with unusual lyrics and dark themes and screaming rock lead breaks”

This is the 8th album from them as an outfit and they are one of a growing group of acts who are self financing with a soundcloud/bandcamp presence. I have been aware of them through mutual contacts on social media and I listened to an earlier single and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is not really commercial in the sense of the ‘melody and song’ school of thought in the progressive music genre, yet neither is it dissonance or does it grate on the ear. Let’s get the comparisons out of the way first. This Motherwell born musician draws his influence from all sorts of areas musically from the industrial to straight rock, to old school prog. Musically this album feels like the by product of Fripp, Gabriel, Mclaughlin, Byrne, Hammill, and Page along with many others in a melee of musical combinations. Imagine all these converging in one head and the outcome of 2 years in the studio. Having said that, this is Kennie’s own product to the core despite you being able to isolate those influences.

Nothing here is predictable or formulaic; there are several pieces of epic proportions, The Twisted BRaid of Chance, in parts, smacks of an insight into Kevin’s mind and attitude to life or his life’s journey to this point. It comes in at over 20 minutes and explores the dark side of fate and happenstance. She SHould HAve Died HEreafter, is a Shakespearean epic of the Hamlet/Macbeth tradition which uses the space between the music as effectively as the notes themselves.

The cap-lock lettering runs through the whole thing and was as a result of a broken keyboard and the habit stuck. Each note and line is considered and considered again before it gets onto the music, matching lyrical content with the music very well. PLease Let me Be ASleep describes the torture of the insomniac to the absolute, it chimes with me so well as a frequent flyer on that very same aeroplane.

There is nothing happy in this album but there is plenty to nourish the soul of any music lover. If you are a fan of dark brooding music and like to hear someone taking musical risks then this is £5 well spent.

Released 1st April 2016.

Buy ‘THirty Rivers to CRoss’ from bandcamp

 

Tilt to release new album ‘Hinterland’ on 30th June 2016

Tilt Album

Over 5 years in the making, ‘HINTERLAND’ is the long awaited debut album from progressive rock band, TILT.

Following on from their acclaimed debut EP ‘Million Dollar Wound’, ‘HINTERLAND’ has over 60 minutes of new music.

TILT members Robin Boult, David Stewart and Steve Vantsis are all probably better known for recording, writing and touring with prog legend FISH over the years. Steve Vantsis was also responsible for most of the writing of the last two well received Fish albums, ‘13th Star’ and ‘Feast of Consequences’. They are augmented by guitarist Paul Humphreys and singer PJ Dourley.

TILT are joined on this release by keyboard player John Beck (It Bites) and guitarist John Mitchell (Lonely Robot/Kino/Arena/It Bites) with John Mitchell also responsible for the final mix.

‘HINTERLAND’ is exclusively distributed by Burning Shed and is available to pre-order now with an exclusive signed postcard by the band for initial orders at:

www.burningshed.com

The radio edit of ‘Bloodline’ can be bought or streamed at:

Tilt – ‘Bloodline’ – Radio Edit

Tilt Bloodline

www.tiltband.co.uk

Review – Frost* – Falling Satellites – by Progradar

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“You can decorate absence however you want- but you’re still gonna feel what’s missing.”
― Siobhan Vivian

Bloody hell, I didn’t realise it has been 8 years since Frost*, the brainchild of seminal keyboard wizard Jem Godfrey, released their last album ‘Experiments In Mass Appeal’.

This was a band who I saw supporting Dream Theater in Leeds and, despite the fact I’d never heard of, or anything by, them, was utterly blown away by the combination of incredibly complex keyboards and fizzing guitars which, combined with impressive melodies, gave us the breath of fresh air that was the ‘Milliontown album in 2006, one that is still revered in hushed tones to this day.

My love of Dream Theater began to wane in earnest that evening but I have been waiting with bated breath for news of a new Frost* album.

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So, to bide the time awaiting the new record I came up with imagined scenarios as to what Jem could have been up to in the intervening years (I know, I need to get out more).

Have any of you watched DC Comic’s The Flash? I bet a few of you have but, if not, a quick summary.

Uber genius Harrison Wells has his own particle accelerator (like you do) at his company Star Laboratories which goes into meltdown and causes a huge explosion. Some of those caught up in the blast end up with super powers, Meta-Humans, some good and some bad.

Now, imagine if our Jem was one of those caught in the fallout and his supercharged, manic energy came as a result of the Star Labs explosion? (still with me?, good!) and he has been kidnapped by some evil Bond villain and forced to sit in a room and churn out turgid mainstream hits for the last 8 years?

Enough to send you mad, you would agree? Not Mr Godfrey, upon his exciting escape, he set about writing the latest Frost* album ‘Falling Satellites’ and put all of his near 8 years in captivity into this latest bombastic musical extravaganza!

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On ‘Falling Satellites’ Jem Godfrey is joined by long term collaborator John Mitchell (Lonely Robot/It Bites) on guitar and vocals plus Nathan King (Level 42) on bass and drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson).

“This line-up has been in existence since 2010 and is now the longest version of Frost* that there’s ever been”, says Godfrey, “so it’s strange to think that this is the first time we’ve recorded an album together”.

There are 11 songs in total with the final 6 songs forming a 32 minute long suite called “Sunlight”. Within this collection of songs comes an unexpected guest appearance from none other than Grammy nominated guitar legend Joe Satriani.

As to the album’s theme… “It’s about chance and life. The astronomically unlikely chance of being conceived to start with and then surviving to old age”, Godfrey says, “the near impossible odds of the things that happen to you in life benefitting you rather than killing you are gigantic and yet it happens all the time. It’s about celebrating how extraordinarily rare the period of us being alive is and how we should take more time to appreciate it while we’re here. We’re a long time dead at either end of this brief little flicker.”

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What were we going to get after eight years? opening number First Day is a short introductory track that has Frost* writ large all over it, reverential keyboards and hushed, breathy vocals given a real sense of anticipation before we get into the new music proper…. Numbers showcases the new high energy prog/pop style perfectly with a funky keyboard intro, full of energy and innovation. The harmonised vocals are excellent and you just find yourself toe-tapping madly to the addictive sound of crunchy guitars and Jem’s manic keyboard style. The fast paced guitar licks and solo add even more impulse to this high octane four minutes of near-perfect musical vivacity.

How do you incorporate dub-step into progressive pop music? I have no idea but Jem Godfrey obviously does! Towerblock begins in quiet, reverential fashion, all calm and collected before all hell breaks loose and a really dynamic and grungy keyboard takes over. To be honest I had no idea what to make of it at first but, do yourself a favour, just go with the flow and it soon starts to make addictive sense as it gets under your skin. Flowing, fluid  and off the wall keyboards writhe around never quite letting your brain comprehend them and Jem’s fiercely protective vocal gives a serious edge. It really shouldn’t work but it does, gloriously, as you find yourself playing air keyboards and jumping up and down (what do you mean, you didn’t?). One of the most innovative and fresh tracks to hit progressive rock in many a year, I loved it, the utterly demented keyboard and drum frenzy that closes out the song is inspired.

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The calm after the storm, Signs begins as a wistful and whimsical delight with carefully delivered vocals before opening up with a monster riff and some towering keys. The rhythm section of King and Blundell (new cop partnership anyone?) ably providing support. the track flows between these calm amd collected verses and the lofty and imposing chorus where the organ-like keyboards add a real note of veneration. A superbly crafted piece of songwriting with some punchy powerful riffs that showcase Mr Mitchell’s guitar prowess and an utterly compelling performance behind the kit from Craig Blundell. This song sees a more influential return to the expansive and charismatic soundscape well beloved of Frost* fans everywhere and brings a smile to my face. Oh you thing of infinite wonder and delight, Lights Out is a gorgeous little track that pulls at your very soul with its unclouded resplendence. The keyboards have an ethereal edge to them, Craig’s drumming is sublime and the vocals have a soft yearning feel underlying them. A touch of longing fills your soul and you drift away on a cloud of well-being, notably Frost* but with a new and stylish veneer. Belay that feeling of goodwill, the high-energy intro to Heartstrings takes no quarter and fills you with a feeling of expectation. That keyboard heavy sound returns and the instantly recognisable and harmonised chorus could only be Frost* at the height of their powers. Like a white water ride in a tumbling raft, the irrepressible dynamics of the song pull you along in their wake, an utterly willing victim of its charismatic persona. The final repeat of the chorus feels like an outpouring of emotion as the track closes out with a hook filled ending.

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The whole album is full of superb tracks and this is only intensified with Closer To The Sun. Another fine exponent of the new found pop sensibilites it just feels right. The introduction is catchy, upbeat and utterly persuasive and has a feel of lazy summer days without a care in the world to it. The vocals are kept in the background and everything is expertly subdued before John Mitchell delivers another spellbinding guitar solo that squirrels through your mind, touching every sensory receptor before making way for Jem’s potent and progressive keyboards that tell a musical tale all of their own. Zone out these two musical maestros though and you can hear the notable chops that Nathan and Craig bring to the party. If the previous track was smoother than an otter’s pocket (thanks to Robin Armstrong for that gem) then (deep breath all) Raging Against The Dying Of The Light – Blues in 7/8 is as forceful as a tsunami. The thunderous opening is dominated by the evil sound of Jem’s keyboards, literally blowing everything out of their path. The vocals have a real dark edge to them, forceful and demanding and Craig really gives his kit a work out. The real star of this track though is the hugely demonstrative tone of the keys as they forge their own way, brooking no argument. The occasional lulls only seem to enforce the aggressive and potent intent of the rest of this red-blooded track, it’s like Frost* on something entirely illegal, it shouldn’t be allowed, just be glad it is! I do like a good instrumental from these boys and they really scaled the heights with Hyperventilate from ‘Milliontown’ so it was great to know that ‘Falling Satellites’ would feature it’s own. Nice Day For It….. is another great track, technically it’s not fully instrumental but you’ll forgive me that foible I’m sure, that just seems to flow perfectly from beginning to end, all the musicians working in perfect harmony to deliver a near flawless slice of melodic precision that is just bliss to the ears. It rises and falls superbly, the keyboards being the driving force once again, guitar adding the finishing touches and drum and bass playing the perfect wingmen.

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Hypoventilate is a two minute wall of sound, a musical force of nature that blots out the Sun around it. An slow burning, brooding and intense musical experience that just knocks you over, leaving you senseless before the gentle persuasions of Last Day pick you up and get you back on your feet again. The tender, mellow piano matching the placid, if a little care-worn, vocals to close out ‘Falling Satellites’ in a nostalgic, sentimental, even slightly regretful, manner.

So, after an eight year hiatus Frost* have returned with a triumphant third album that ticks all the relevant boxes for this tired old music hack. Definitively Frost* and yet with a distinctive lustre and some rather inspired new sounds that give it even more depth. Instantly accessible but, also, with untold layers of sophistication, oh bugger, this musical year just keeps getting better and better!

Released 27th may 2016.

Pre-order ‘Falling Satellites’ from The Merch Desk