Review – Pandora – Ten Years Like In A Magic Dream – by David Elliott

I received this album to review without any preconceptions, save for the knowledge that the band are Italian, and I was greatly excited to dive in head first and try something new to keep the process fresh. My intention was to write a first listen ‘experience’ piece and then to reflect on this after further play-throughs, however there was a problem – I was worried about the ‘Englishness’ of the title.

My fears were confirmed when I realised that this album has vocals sung in English and my experiences are not great in the area of foreign bands not singing in their native language: Men of Lake I am looking at you! (one track reminds me of them, hence the reference). Anyway, I scrapped my initial approach after my first experience of the singing here.

Why sing in English, oh why?

Is it purely a commercial consideration if English is not your native tongue?  Unless a singer has a fantastic voice or personality (to compensate by emoting) it rarely works. For Pandora we have male and female vocalists who, I can confidently say, sound infinitely better when singing in their native language.  They both have good enough voices but, and this is probably a personnel thing, they fail to convey enough emotion to lift the music when singing in English.

Low end blues!

The expression ‘throwing in the kitchen sink’ applies to ‘Ten Years…’ we have new tracks, old tracks and cover versions here. The arrangements and compositions are also multi-faceted and stop-start and are perhaps being overly progressive for progressive rocks sake. The overall sound is heavily orchestrated and; to coin a new expression(?) ‘oversynthed’. The lead lines are too clean and don’t appear to sit well with the music. To exaggerate this there is a lack of both bass in the production, and also bass guitar in the mix. Many modern bands from Italy excel in the bass guitar department and the lack of such strength here is disappointing.

Cover versions…..Hurrah!!?

Nearly half of this record consists of cover versions, and whilst these are interesting and well done I ask myself the question why perform and publish them over original works? We have presented here Second Home By The Sea, Man of 1000 Faces, Ritual – Part 2 & Lucky Man plus a snippet of The Lamb Lies… A diverse selection of classics with enough deviation from the originals to be worth exploring, however, all suffer from the above mentioned vocal and production issues.

Advice:  Give it a listen if you can and stay open-minded

 In summary, this is actually a reasonably enjoyable recording that does improve with many plays, and it does have its own voice and style, it is just unfortunate that some of the execution and decision making drops it below the premium level that is being set; and perhaps demanded, by this listener.

Released 30th November 2016

Buy ‘Ten Years Like In A Magic Dream’ from Amazon

Anathema reveal details for new album ‘The Optimist’ / Released 9th June (Kscope)

optimist /ˈɒptɪmɪst/ – noun: optimist; plural noun: optimists

1.      a person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something.
2.       a person who believes that this world is the best of all possible worlds or that good must ultimately prevail over evil. 

After Anathema’s 2012 award-winning album ‘Weather Systems’ and 2014’s spellbinding ‘Distant Satellites’, the ambient rockers are back with their eleventh full-length, ‘The Optimist’. Due for release on 9th June through Kscope ‘The Optimist’ will soon reveal some of the darkest, most challenging and unexpected music the sextet have put their name to.

Anathema, led by brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, along with drummer John Douglas, singer Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and keyboardist Daniel Cardoso began recording ‘The Optimist’ in the winter of 2016 at Attica Audio in Donegal, Ireland and then finished at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow with producer Tony Doogan [Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Super Furry Animals] at the helm. Vincent elaborates on Doogan’s influence on the recording process “he suggested that we record as a live band, which we hadn’t done for years. Having played a few tunes on the last tour, we were ready for that. Tony wanted to capture that energy you can only get with everyone facing each other… it makes a big difference. He was a superb guy to work with and I learned a lot making this record”

The idea for ‘The Optimist’ was born from the front cover artwork of the band’s 2001 album ‘A Fine Day To Exit’. Daniel Cavanagh explains “I suppose you might say the album is semi-autobiographical because this time we used a surrogate,” he says, of the character that is The Optimist “We put sound, feelings and crucially, our own hopes and fears into another person and made him the subject of the songs then weaving my own internal monologue into the narrative of The Optimist. It was John’s idea to write a narrative, so I took A Fine Day To Exit as the starting point”. Vincent elaborates further on the earlier album’s artwork influence “The guy who disappeared – you never knew what happened to him, did he start a new life? Did he succumb to his fate? It was never explained. The opening track title is the exact coordinates for Silver Strand beach in San Diego – the last known location of The Optimist – shown on the cover of A Fine Day to Exit.

To continue the theme further, the band brought back designer and illustrator Travis Smith to create the artwork for The Optimist. The artwork was created from a series of photographs Smith took on a West Coast road trip.

With the character’s unresolved destiny the three song writing members, meticulously brought the unfinished story to an end – and most strikingly of all – one which is decided by the listener.

32.63N 117.14W [01:18]

Leaving It Behind [04:27]

Endless Ways [05:49]

The Optimist [05:37]

San Francisco [04:59]

Springfield [05:49]

Ghosts [04:17]

Can`t Let Go [05:00]

Close Your Eyes [03:39]

Wildfires [05:40]

Back To The Start [11:41]

Anathema will be revealing more information on The Optimist very soon, album formats and further touring details.

(Band picture by Scarlet Page)

ANATHEMA LIVE

Summer Festivals & shows

11/06/17 – UK, Donington Download Festival (https://downloadfestival.co.uk )

16/06 – BE Dessel , Graspop Metal Meeting (https://www.graspop.be )

23/06 – NL, Nijmegen – Doornroosje

24/06 – NL, Valkenburg – Midsummer Prog Festival (www.midsummerprog.com )

01/07 – SP, Barcelona – Be Prog My Friend Festival (http://www.beprogmyfriend.com )

01-02/07/17 – GR, Athens – Rock Wave Festival (http://www.rockwavefestival.gr_)

The Optimist tour 

08/06/17 – Russia – Moscow – Yotaspace

09/06/17 – Russia – St. Petersburg – ClubZal

03/08/17 – Mexico – Monterrey – Café Iguana

04/08/17 – Mexico – Guadalajara – C3 Stage

05/08/17 – Mexico – Mexico City – El Plaza Condesa

07/07/17 – Columbia – Bogota – Teatro Ecci

09/07/17 – Chile – Santiago – Teatro Cariola

11/08/17 – Argentina – Buenos Aires – Groove

12/08/17 – Brazil – Sao Paolo – Carioca Cluba

23/09/17 – NI – Belfast – Limelight 2

24/09/17 – IRE – Dublin – Academy

Many more dates to be announced soon

Interview With Teddy-James Driscoll of Telepathy – Kevin Thompson

Recently I had the privilege of talking to TEDDY – JAMES DRISCOLL from TELEPATHY, a band who are generating a fair bit of interest from the Press, with new album Tempest’ (which I also had the opportunity to review for Progradar) and the single from it, Celebration of Decay.

Hi Ted.

Hi Kev, great to talk to you.

Things seem to be going quite well for the band at the moment with the new album garnering favourable reviews, the single release and with some upcoming tour dates to promote them you must be feeling quite pleased?

Yes absolutely, the band have had a good team behind them since before I joined in 2015 and we all have a lot more experience now. Various people do a great job of handling our press and promotions for UK & Europe, plus we are on a great label who are very responsive to what we need and want to do. We are pleased the album and single have had a good reception so far.

Reading the blogs you seem to thrive on touring, are you the sort of band that feeds off the audience rather than shoe gazing as you play?

Yes, we tour as much as possible, between day jobs. We obviously would like to do more gigs and it to be a full time thing. We like the immersive experience live, and have great crowds who always come to see us afterwards for a chat and it’s important to connect with them.

I notice that you have stayed over in some unusual places whilst touring, a converted meat freezer and an old bank/squat? It beats sleeping in the van but are these the most unusual places you have stayed and any odd incidents?

Last tour we did in Belgium, Pete, a tattoo artist, put us up in the squat, it was really nicely done up. It’s occupied by a left wing activist cooperative and they were really nice to us, although we have no political leanings and stay away from it with our music. We were in the vault and it was very cosy but a bit weird as it still had the huge vault door and we wouldn’t have wanted to get locked in. The next night we were put up in an old meat locker that has been re-purposed in Antwerp, with bunk beds and kitchen. You could still tell it was an abattoir but it had been cleared out and done up with a shower block upstairs.

Beats sleeping in our van that we tour in, nicknamed ‘Pumba’. The Turek brothers’ Dad usually does the driving for us, with Rich’s Girlfriend doing the Merch stand and my brother as roadie.  But it will be just the band on these upcoming dates, all the gear squeezed in ‘Pumba’ with us. We are precious about the sound but at the moment tend to use house PA systems whilst trying for the best sound possible and it’s usually pretty good. We understand with the complex sound we need it as clear as we can and would like own sound guy eventually.

How do you find the audiences here and abroad, is it a wide age range, are they more male than female?

It tends to vary in regions rather than countries, an audience in London for instance may tend to be more serious than one up North where they like to have a bit of fun.  In Europe, again it is different for various areas in each country as well. The audiences do tend to be predominantly male but we are starting to notice more females  watching with a range of ages.

What happens on tour stays on tour, but who’s the ladies man out of you all?

All of us have girlfriends except Peter, we call him Mr December as he’s our calendar model, He’s such a good looking guy so definitely him. He always stands out when we have a photo shoot, but he’s no lothario and always a gentleman.

There is plenty of information on line but it seems to neatly sidestep personal details about you, is this a conscious effort on your parts to keep it separate and do you feel a need to retain a certain amount of privacy?

I didn’t realise there wasn’t more information on our site, I will check it out. We don’t feel we are big enough, for the amount of interest in us at the moment to be to be an issue. We don’t really mind people knowing about us, I hadn’t really thought about it until now and myself I’m quite an open person. We don’t tend to get asked those sort of questions usually just the generic press ones.

Outside of the music do any of you find time for hobbies or interests?

We all have day jobs, I work in a call centre which I enjoy. I go to kick boxing and have quite a busy social scene that takes up my time. Rich focuses his attention on the band out of work whilst Albert and Peter love their motorbikes. We don’t rehearse every day but it tends to build up in intensity more, nearer gig dates. Before the CD was released we spent the whole six months prior on the band. We are all focused and know where we want to be with the band and the level we want to achieve.

In your busy lives do you get time to listen to any other music and do you have a guilty music pleasure?

Good shout, I saw two gigs by ‘Everytime I Die’ before Xmas and love ’em. In the gym or car I tend to play metalcore & deathcore, bands like Killswitch Engage. That sort of music was popular when I was at college and I grew up with that sort of thing. The lads like to rib me about it. Guilty pleasure? We have Cyndi Lauper’s greatest hits in the van and have a good sing-along as a bit of light relief when we’re touring.

So how did you get together with the band and why this style of music?

I had my own business, a cafe which didn’t work out, was off looking for a new job and saw Rich’s message on a Facebook group looking for a bassist. I’d played guitar and though ‘F*** it’ I’d give it a go. I didn’t own a bass at the time so borrowed gear off a friend, rehearsed a few times learnt the first album. I tried out  and it just clicked then we were straight into doing the new album. ‘Celebration’ was the only one already fully written when I joined so I had to learn it. The rest of the tracks were written as a band thing, all four in a room and we are all so opinionated. Peter is always writing riffs and I have a few riffs but the one in ‘Smoke From Distant Fires’ is my only one on this album.

We do it as a collaborative effort and all have our different ways, I tend to sit back and feed off the others. Having played guitar before, bass is a totally different discipline and I have had to teach myself, incorporating my own style into it. I like to emulate Geezer Butler he’s one of my main influences. I’m quite good at arranging so say my piece when we are doing this and that is probably where I am most involved, in the arrangements. There is more space on Tempest than on the previous album, which allows it to breathe and expand. It’s designed as a soundscape.

There has always been a need to categorise the style of music played, into genres and you describe yourselves as ‘furiously played progressive sludge, intricate soundscapes and a bucket-load of riffs’. Do you think labelling your style restricts you and the prospective audience as whilst I agree with most of the sentence, I wouldn’t call your sound ‘sludgey’?

Aw, thanks Kev. Thing is with us, I know it’s an old cliché but we don’t like labels. We get called post metal a lot among other titles and we definitely have that sort of influence, but try to put lots of different genres in, to me it’s ‘InstruMetal’ our own style.

On listening to the album I personally felt the absence of vocals (negating those briefly in the background of  Echo of Souls) added rather than detracted. It allowed me to focus on the complex melodies. Did you plan to be an instrumental group?

When the band first started they were going to get a vocalist but things evolved and they felt one wasn’t needed. I did vocals on Echoes, for an effect and we may use vocals in future if it serves a specific song. I’m open to it if it works but if not leave it out. When I first watched the band before joining I thought vocals would be good, but now I’m in the band it feels more and more like they’re not needed.

How did the concept of the album come about?

When I first came into the writing process a few names for songs had been kicking around.  We started writing and three or four songs in after demoing them we began to establish a theme in our minds and discuss what the music made us think of. Two themes in particular stood out water and earthquake ruins. We developed the story from that, with each new song bringing a new part of the story.

Peter played what became the intro to the album whilst we were working on tracks and we thought it would be a great start. As if someone woke on a beach to all of the devastation and go from there. You can get your own storyline from the music seeing it differently to the band. That’s the beauty of it being instrumental you can paint your own pictures.

You must all have dreams and ambitions but put on the spot where’s the one venue you would most like to play and why?

I have loads, but I would feel I’d made it if I could play Brixton Academy, headlining. We are happy for our progress to go up in small increments, start at small venues and sell them out, then build up hopefully.

I know you supported Raging Speedhorn and they are fans of yours, given the chance what other act would you like to play on the bill with and do you know of any other famous fans you have? 

If I could chose from any bands,  Mastadon, Gojira, or Tool. No famous fans that I know of other than Raging Speedhorn, their Bass player Dave wore a Telepathy t-shirt for one of their gigs we felt really honoured.

Are you technologically minded and gadget freaks or are you straight instrument and amps guys?

Pete and Rich have vast pedal boards with all kinds of effects, I wouldn’t even try to tell you what they do. I keep it simple with a tuner and distortion pedal, but I trigger samples between songs as well, as we don’t like to leave silence between tracks. The continuity is important to tie the tracks together. For the most part with the music sounds we generally use big distortion, wind and atmospheric noises, waves, birds etc.

Albert’s drumming makes it sound intense, without him we would sound totally different, he’s awesome. He doesn’t talk a big game but when you see us live everyone watches him, I know, I used to when I watched the band.

So what would you say has been your greatest extravagance to date?

Love to be able to tell you we’d trashed penthouse suites in hotels and partied all night, but we are just happy to get beers and food on our rider. We don’t have a lot of luxuries as a band  as it is still very grass roots. It’s the kindness of others that gives us the extravagances like when we were given an apartment in Germany for one gig, fully stocked, next to the venue just a few steps away. It was really nice having our own space, in Tilburg.

We went out and bought 30 beers after the gig and drank them outside and that’s about as extravagant as we get. The generosity of others keep us going. Everyone has been so nice and helpful at the moment including the press. Yours is the best review I’ve ever seen, it’s cool that you really got what we are trying to do with the album.

So, to the the most important question of the day before we wrap up our chat, yoghurt and fruit or full English breakfast?

Oh, full English 100%, given the choice, every time. Especially on tour, continental breakfast just doesn’t fill you, definitely full English.

Well it’s been great talking to you Ted, thanks for taking the time out to chat with me. I hope all goes well with the release party and touring the new album. Who knows, I could be interviewing you in ten years time, with multi-platinum album sales after selling out Brixton Academy.

That would be awesome and if we’re up North, you must hook up, come to see us live and catch up, thanks Kev.

And with that we ended our chat. Ted’s a lovely bloke and I wish he and the band all the best in the future. I will certainly make the effort to try and see them live as well as meeting the rest of the band. Who knows, in ten years time….. Mind you, by then I don’t know if my zimmer frame will fit back stage.

‘Tempest’ is released on March 31st and you can pre-order it from Golden Antenna here.

You can read Kevin’s great review of the album below:

Review – Telepathy – Tempest – by Kevin Thompson

 

Review – Firmam3nt – Firmament – by Emma Roebuck

“A four piece Instrumental band from Madrid who mix genres like Postmetal, Progressive, Sludge, Doom, Experimental… Our debut homonymous album is out now via Nooirax Producciones. Music for fans of Intronaut, Mastodon, Russian Circles, Opeth…”

I am an eclectic soul musically, maybe even a hoarder of music. I still have the original copy of the album of Disney’s Jungle Book on vinyl and my Thunderbirds maxi singles from the 60s. The result being I have physical collection of a true reflection of the development of my musical taste and how it has evolved since I was knee high to a phonograph. My boss Martin at Progradar seems to love sending me curve balls from the extreme ends of the musical spectrum that fits the loose term progressive. (It’s true, I do – Ed.)

Firmam3nt, hailing from “Mordor” (aka Villalba, Madrid) are one such band and their debut album from 2016 landed in my inbox last week. They are a four piece instrumental band consisting of Jorge Santana (Drums & Percussion), Alberto Garcia (Guitars), Txus Rosa – Guitars and Sergio González (Bass).

I honestly think the description from the top of the bandcamp site does them an actual disservice. The image musically is one of constant thrash and hammer & tongs metal when, in reality, that tells maybe 50% of the story. I will explain as I go along but this album is not constant chord of doom and despair but is, in fact, far more nuanced and subtle.

This is a four track album with the primary points of the compass as titles.  Representative of the varied influences of the band or the mixed direction of travel they represent.

North opens with a riff of Sabbath proportions, the very essence of ‘the end of the world apocalypse’ travelling into a riffola of rich variety playing in the very metal pond then, inside three minutes, turns into a semi-classical themed electric guitar mellowness which cuts in unexpectedly, pleasantly surprisingly too, before the riffology cuts back in again, not letting you get too comfortable. This is pure guitar driven interplay and these guys are tight as a “gnats Chuff” (to paraphrase a friend). They sound like they know each other well musically and trust each other to follow where things may lead and land in a good place. In a few seconds under 14 minutes they travel a very long way and end this track in a double bass drum rolling thunderous attack that is not for the faint hearted.

The other tracks all fit this pattern, reflecting well crafted instrumental pieces with fine soloing from the guitarists Alberto and Txus. Textured layers with lots of time changes and unexpected lulls in the pace keep the ears interested enough to revisit the album.

The last track South reflects the slow and softer side of the band a lot more. Call it the Southern winds, light and warm, then building up into a storm of intensity closing with a piano that fades to a close.

I played it through about 10 times before considering how to address the review and found enough for me not to want to rush this out and do the band a real disservice.

Who is the audience for this album for then? It’s not for those with a pastoral bent or with a rigid idea of progressive music. If you like The Fierce and the Dead, the darker Porcupine Tree, older Opeth, and bits of Mastodon too then you will get something from this album. Like all instrumental music, if you are looking for songs or easy themes you are not going to find them. It is pure emotional response that gives the interpretation. It is also very hard to wax lyrical over insight and meaning for the same reason.

Released 28th July 2016

Buy ‘Firmament’ from bandcamp

 

 

Review – Retrospective – RE:SEARCH – by Progradar

“Nobody who loved life and new experiences that much was ever going to get old, not really. Wiser and eventually dead, but not old…” – C.E.Murphy.

Don’t you find that sometimes you seem to stick to what you know, you are loath to try anything new or different because you may not like it or it may take you out of your comfort zone?

The problem with this way of life is that you can grow old and eventually die without having tried something that may well have enriched your life and changed it very much for the better. How can we truly say whether we like something or not unless we actually try it?

This can be applied to music just as much as anything else and even us music journalists can be guilty of this. We only listen to music we are comfortable with and will not go out of our comfort zone for anything. By doing this we then lose the right to criticise or critique music which we have only a passing interest in. We must embrace it, or at least try it, before we have the right to an opinion.

I have spent so much time recently listening to the pastoral and traditional progressive rock that I have neglected other music to a degree. I have redressed this recently with my delving in depth into Scottish folk and Americana and it was due to a good friend of mine, Aloys Martens, that my old love of a more metal approach to Progressive Rock has been rekindled.

Aloys introduced me to the Polish band Retrospective and their label Progressive Promotion Records, led by the uber-enthusiastic Oliver Wenzler, and a copy of the band’s new album ‘RE:SEARCH’ was soon winging its way to Progradar Towers for review.

Retrospective represents a young generation of Polish ProgressiveRock bands. Their music is inspired by different artists covering a broad spectrum of musical genres (Porcupine TreeTool, King Crimson). The band is not restricted to a particular music style either. They search for different kinds of rock, ranging from Art to Hard. Lush musical atmospheres, full of emotions, are complemented by thunderous riffs, to enthrall the listener and create asound that makes them stand out among their contemporaries.

They have released one previous album, ‘Lost In Perception’
which won the award as “Best Polish Progressive Album 2012”.

The band are: Jakub Roszak (Vocals), Beata Tagoda (Keys, Vocals), Maciej Klimek (Guitars), Tukasz Marszatek (Bass), Robert Kusik (Drums) and Alan Szczepaniak (Guitars).

I still get that same buzz every time I start playing this album (it must be 25 or 30 times now) and Rest Another Time once again opens with that thundering riff and dynamic drumming. The vocals are powerful but laced with pathos and the sound is as addictive as anything. Funky bass lines add some swagger but it’s that energetic guitar work allied with Jakub’s vocals that give this song efficacy and intensity. A really great central section to the song that just racks up the tension brings in mind Creed to my delicate ears, it’s a positive rock-fest of thunderous proportions and gets the album off to a very auspicious start. A great piano line opens Right Way with an almost hushed feel, matched by the stylish vocals that increase the anticipation. Beata adds her feminine wiles to the track and the tension just increases with a great keyboard heavy melody that gives the impression of flight and then Beata’s vocal opens up like a great bird opening its wings to be set free from its mortal coils, the vocal interplay is brilliant and gives an overwhelming symphonic prog overtone to proceedings. A passionate song that really tugs at the heartstrings and the musicianship is superb, these guys are at the top of their game here and there is a classy and stylish feel to every note that is played.

Crashing the scene like Lemmy on a Harley Davidson, bottle of JD in hand, The End Of Their World is a riff-heavy masterpiece of progressive metal. A sultry verse with husky vocals, underpinned by some delicate drumming, keys and bass, builds up to the huge, granite hard chorus dominated by the grooviest riff you’ll hear this year. Sit back and enjoy the ride and sing along to that addictive chorus, I know I did! There’s more serious mid section with mysterious overtones and wildly cackling voice overs that make you wonder if illegal substances may have been involved but, overall, it is a hugely enjoyable slice of heavy rock infused prog-metal. A nicely strummed guitar opens Rollercoaster before the plaintive vocals begin, Beata imparting poignancy and feeling and Jakub adding some urgency and steel to provide a perfect combination. You get a feeling of floating on air as this track seems to dance along your aural receptors but wait, the pace is lifted and the energy increases, mirrored by the insistence of Jakub’s voice. The softer edge has been replaced with some stylish metal and a cool melody runs right through the middle giving import and imperativeness to that harder feeling that now pervades all. A cleverly worked song of two halves that fit together well.

Time for a breather and the more laid back side of Retrospective. There’s a delicate aura to the opening of Heaven is Here, a chilled laid back nostalgic feel that gives lightness to your being. The vocals are smoother than silk and full of emotion and love and you find yourself losing yourself in the wistful atmosphere. The classy drumming and piquant guitar add dignity and style and layers of sophistication. I can feel a growing maturity in this band, a confidence to deliver what they want and what they know you will like and it is most evident in the swagger of the powerful chorus with the vocal harmonies that soar into the heavens, aided and abetted by the superb guitar playing. There’s a philosophical tone to the opening of Look in the Mirror, contemplative and thoughtful and this is reflected in the gravitas of Jakub’s opening vocal with his meaningful intonations. Beata joins him on the chorus sections to add even more class and sophistication to this intelligent track. I really like the purposeful beat and melody kept by the rhythm section and the resolute guitar work, it’s a single-minded and cultured song.

Compelling and energetic, Last Breath opens with an authoritarian riff that drives the song on at a demanding pace, influences abound all over and get drawn into a huge melting pot before firing out with what is becoming a signature sound for this impressive band. There’s almost a feeling of organised chaos to the song, anarchy barely held back but there is a primeval intelligence that is coordinating everything. Standby has a much more relaxed atmosphere to it, almost pop-rock but in a much more dynamic way. The vocals from Jakub and Beata are composed and easy going giving the song a laid-back and serene nature. There’s definitely a touch of Porcupine Tree and even The Pineapple Thief to this track as it goes a bit darker at the end with a fantastic riff and fiery solo adding real menace to it.

The longest and heaviest song on the album is also the final track and boy does it blow you away! The Wisest Man on Earth starts to crank up the tension with eerie keyboards and bass adding an ominous feel, very Tool like. Bass is really king at the start and Tukasz gives it his all, making the tension almost unbearable. Jakub’s demonic vocal just adds even more shade and darkness before a monstrous riff erupts from the bowels off the earth and nearly takes your head clean off. This is proper heavy rock with a touch of doom metal thrown in just because they can and I really like it. Never mind blowing the cobwebs away, this riff will eviscerate the spiders! Jakub shows the incredible versatility to his voice and I get the impression he really enjoys giving it large on this song. There’s a quieter section, Jaukb’s vocals still low down and brooding, before a superbly dark and delicious guitar solo fires from the dark pits of Hades and the song closes out in a sinister and portentous way, brilliant stuff!

Retrospective produce music that is aggressive and forceful and yet knowledgeable and perceptive in places, this is progressive rock at its heaviest and most intense. There is something for everybody and it is a release that will restore your faith in Progressive Metal. ‘RE:SEARCH’ is chock full of compelling and intelligent music that makes you feel alive again and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Released 10th February 2017

Buy ‘RE:SEARCH’ from Progressive Promotion Records

Featured image by Arek Kulasik Larido.

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Flicker Rate – Reframe EP – by Progradar

“The flicker fusion threshold (or flicker fusion rate) is a concept in the psychophysics of vision. It is defined as the frequency at which an intermittent light stimulus appears to be completely steady to the average human observer.”

Flicker Rate is an Instrumental, Guitar based Progressive, Post Rock / Math Rock Solo Project that fuses progressive ambient guitar playing with strong creative melodies and riffs to produce progressive songs that keeps the listener interested throughout due to the cinematic build that each song holds. Spencer Bassett played and recorded all instruments on this record, which was also mixed and mastered by John Bassett from the project Arcade Messiah.

Since then Spencer Bassett has been growing his fan base on social media, finished school and written his second EP ‘Reframe’ Flicker Rate fans have been looking forward to what Spencer Bassett has in store for 2017.

I reviewed Spencer’s first eponymous Flicker Rate EP and had this to say about this talented young man:

“What Spencer has done though is mould it into his own creation and it is something of which he should be very proud. Keep an eye out for Flicker Rate, this is a musical project that is definitely going places.”

He’s an unassuming, affable young man and has always been unfailingly polite whenever I have spoken to him and this is reflected in the meticulous creativity of his music. The opening and title, track Reframe is a wistful, cultured piece of music that brings to mind days of sepia tinged nostalgia. The hazy days of high summer when you had not a care in the world. Let the sun warm your back and the wonderful music wash over you.

There’s more of an edgy tone to Summit with it intricate riffing and stylistic drums. Inventive and intelligent, there’s a questing tone to the insistent beat, one that gets under your skin and won’t let go. Spencer has all the chops and is happy to let us see that but is never pretentious in any way and is also content to ply his own trade and not hang on to the coat tails of his illustrious father. Where John Bassett has become king of the incredibly dense wall of sound, Spencer is a whole lot more subtle and understated in his style. There’s a lovely about-face towards the end of the song where the music takes on a more sombre tone and feel, bringing the ambience low down and laid back and the song closes with an air of mystery and unfinished business.

Spectrum has a real world music, jazzy character from the start, the staccato guitar and drums almost reminding me of Flamenco at times. An uplifting melody but also one that has a serious undertone, a performer who is playing through some unknown pain or tragedy perhaps, it certainly touched a nerve with me in parts. Clever and creative.

The final track on this EP is Airspace, a thoughtful and contemplative piece of music that could have been taken from the soundtrack of a science fiction movie. It may just be me but, at times, I was getting transported back to 1981 and ‘Ghost In The Machine’, released by the legendary The PoliceThe repeated rhythm of the guitar and the sober, serious deadpan delivery just reminded me of tracks like Spirits In The Material World and Invisible Sun. It is a song that shows the growing maturity of this excellent musician.

Spencer has, once again, exceeded my expectations with his latest Flicker Rate release. Improving on the debut EP but still keeping his signature character, ‘Reframe’ is a composed and self-assured piece of work that showcases his talent brilliantly, we just need more of it!

Released 10th March 2017

Buy ‘Reframe’ from bandcamp

 

 

Review – Tom Slatter – Happy People – by David Rickinson

Tom Slatter – ‘Happy People’.

I started off this review by writing a load of overblown drivel about Steampunk Troubadours and Stalinist Dystopias.

But then I stopped, because I realised there is not a lot that needs to be said about this album.

It is BRILLIANT.

What can I say about this album that doesn’t sound hyperbolic? It is, glorious, filled with horror, tenderness, despair, love, grime and beauty. Whilst being much darker and more serious than any of Tom’s previous albums, it is imbued with a humanity which hasn’t been as obvious before (unless songs about men transforming themselves into machines counts as humanity).

I have suspected for a while (since first hearing Rise Another Leaf from “Three Rows of Teeth”) that Tom actually has a large romantic streak running through him. On this album he has really found this voice – songs such as Satellites, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and Fire Flower Heart highlight this.

By the third song Satellites, with its lovely bass line, the album really gets into a stride which doesn’t then let up until the end.

Flow My tears, The Policeman Said is, I think, about a once honourable man who is now lost in some nightmare Gulag. I may be wrong. But it is superb, full of little musical flourishes and curlicues.

Even Then We’re Scared with its hint of a Black Sabbath “War Pigs” riff tells of how even with guns, fire, prayer, walls, databases and hiding under our blankets we are still scared of unnamed monsters.

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why should you be worried? There a price to be free…”, I don’t for a minute believe that Tom approves of the way our world is turning. I would love to hear the last 20 seconds live, as a 10 minute wig-out by a full band.

Fire Flower Heart is imbued with a delicate poignancy, lamenting the loss of a love who could possibly prevent disaster. Or maybe she would encourage him to press the button?

I get the feeling that all Tom’s previous works were a flexing of musical muscles, practicing for the real thing. This album is the real thing.

In no small part, I suspect that the excellence of this album is due to the work of two particular people – Jordan Brown and Daniel Bowles who between them played bass, keyboards and guitar and provided production expertise. They have found a way to get the best out of Tom.

Michael Cairns’ drumming contribution is tasteful, thankfully never overpowering the songs.

There is a strength and depth to the musical arrangements throughout the whole album – everything has a purpose to it.

Bad Elephant Music continue to astound me with the excellence of their releases. If there was any justice in the world, Radio 6 and Jools Holland would be full of music like this.

I cannot recommend this album highly enough.

Tom Slatter – vocals, guitars

Daniel Bowles – backing vocals, guitars, keyboards

Jordan Brown – bass, backing vocals, keyboards

Michael Cairns – drums

Suzette Stamp – backing vocals

Released 17th March 2017.

Buy ‘Happy People’ from Bad Elephant Music at bandcamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAPOLEON IIIRD ANNOUNCES FIRST NEW ALBUM IN 6 YEARS / SHARES VIDEO FOR ‘THE SCRAPE’

In the six years since his last album, ‘Christiana’, James Mabbett aka Napoleon IIIrd has covered a fair amount of distance, both emotional and literal. The culmination of that journey results in the release of his new album, ‘The Great Lake’ on 19 May 2017 (Hatch Records). A five track exploration of the possibilities of song structures within experimental soundscapes thematically wedded to James’ personal experiences of grief, ‘The Great Lake’ is paradoxically an album full of human warmth and emotion and a strident piece of abstract art, the collision point between the theory of Basinski and the melody of Northern Soul.
Now he has shared the first video taken from the album. James himself describes ‘The Scrape’ as ‘the point where sorrow becomes destructive’. The video for track was shot in a flood damaged, abandoned automotive silicon hose factory in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. The building was raised to the ground just weeks after this film was shot and a Lidl is to be built in its place.  He adds, ‘I think somehow and in some way, this might be kind of fitting. The price of love is grief and grief can be so hard we can forget what love is.I am a temporary carbon marker. I am merely conjoined space. Like death, the fight to survive consumes us.’
Watch ‘The Scrape’:
The genesis for the album came with James’ move to London from Yorkshire in 2011. Journeying through the centre of the metropolis by bus every day he found solace in immersion in ambient and noise experiments as a travelling soundtrack, recontextualising the chaos and thrum of the city around him into something more surreal and passive.
Returning to West Yorkshire and settling in the artistic enclave of Holmfirth, a town perhaps best known for light Sunday evening comedy but inhabited by a vibrant creative community, James set about reconstituting his band and inviting friends to join him on the recordings. The core group of Nestor Matthews (Menace Beach, Sky Larkin) on drums, John Leaman on guitar, Bob McDougall on bass and Oli Bentley on saxophone; an instrument that James had previously felt a strong aversion to but elected to place at the heart of the composition and use tonally to challenge himself, gathered together in March 2015 at Greenmount studios in Leeds and recorded the tracks in four weeks.
Additional contributions came from Joel Midden, aka Bastardgeist, on backing vocals, Tom Rogerson (Three Trapped Tigers) on piano, Neil Walsh (Smoke Fairies) on voila, Susie Gills on violin and Jasmine Neale on cello. Whilst James recorded the strings at Dreamtrak, a friend’s studio in London, the remainder contributed via the internet, their additions coming from locales as divergent as Berlin, New York and Brighton. The artwork for the album, an integral part of the concept alongside the films that will accompany many of the tracks, was created by Holmfirth resident Freya Stockford, a name on the rise in contemporary art and graduate of Glasgow School Of Art
The lyrical tone for ‘The Great Lake’ had been set during the demoing process in London but was brought into sharp relief by personal experience for James. Having settled on an album that dealt with the big themes of humanity, the death of his grandparents within one exact calendar year sharpened that theme into an exploration of the five stages of grief, travelling through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before arrival at acceptance. Which may not sound like the most fulfilling listen yet, from such dark subject matter, ‘The Great Lake’ creates a world replete with hope and transcendence.
Central to the album is track 4, ‘And the You in Between the Space’. Clocking in at 19 minutes and 25 seconds, this three-part piece embodies all the aspects of the album and is a stark example of the bravery of James’ approach to the recording, his desire to challenge both himself and listener. Dropping to almost silence at its midpoint before building to a glorious, joyful climax, the album’s markers of tone, structure, melody, ambience and mood are all displayed within its boundaries; a rejoinder to those who suggest that contemporary music has nowhere left to travel.
‘Channels influences as far-flung as Brian Wilson, Balearic house and space rock’ – The Guardian
‘Has the relentless, cycling industry and digital-soup density of Animal Collective’ – The Independent
‘Imagine if Springsteen’s soul had been captured by synth-wielding Europeans and sent on an odyssey by anarcho-syndicalists intent on breaking into Bletchley Park to hold a disco’ – NME
‘One of the most visionary artists in the world today’’ – Drowned in Sound

 

sleepmakeswaves share new track ‘Into the Arms of Ghosts’ / Added to ArcTanGent Festival

Post-rock trailblazers sleepmakeswaves have continued their massive start to 2017 by sharing another new track from their upcoming album “Made of Breath Only” set for release on Friday 7th April through Bird’s Robe Records. Speaking about ‘Into The Arms of Ghosts’ guitarist Otto Wicks-Green comments:
 
“This track was one of the last songs to come together on the record, despite comprising some parts that were amongst the first to be written (the lead melody for instance). It’s one of the darker and heavier moments on the album and deals more directly with feelings around loss and adjustment to that. The soaring lead lines made our producer Nick joke that it should be the soundtrack to someone jumping off a mountain in a parachute before landing in a stadium with a guitar. We should really try and get that happening.”

sleepmakeswaves recently wrapped up a massive sold out tour with reunited alternative rock legends COG, as well as touring extensively across North America and their own headline tour in Australia, clocking up 54 shows in support of the single and video ‘traced in constellations.’
The band’s busy schedule follows their epic 55-date, 22-country ‘Great Northern’ tour of 2015 and 10 Australian tours, 4 European tours, 2 US tours and shows across Asia and New Zealand since their release of their debut album ‘…and so we destroyed everything’ in 2011. In 2014, they successfully raised $30,000 in pre-orders to help fund the recording of ‘Love of Cartography’. Currently on tour in China the band have also been added to the line-up for this year’s ArcTanGent festival in August.
New album “Made of Breath Only” is out 7th April in the UK.
sleepmakeswaves China headline tour
Thu March 9 – Mao Livehouse, Hangzhou CHINA
Fri March 10 – Mao Livehouse, Shanghai CHINA
Sat March 11 – Yugong Yishan, Beijing CHINA
Sun March 12 – Ola Space, Nanjing CHINA
Tue March 14 – Nuts, Chongqing CHINA
Wed March 15 – Little Bar Space, Chengdu CHINA
Thu March 16 – Vox, Wuhan CHINA
Fri March 17 – Fei Livehouse, Guangzhou CHINA
Sat March 18 – B10, Shenzhen CHINA
Sun March 19 – Hidden Agenda, Hong Kong CHINA
sleepmakeswaves Australian headline tour
Fri March 24 – Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
Sat March 25 – Max Watt’s, Melbourne VIC
Thu March 30 – ANU Bar, Canberra ACT
Fri March 31 – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Thu April 6 – The Gov, Adelaide SA
Fri April 7 – Badlands, Perth WA
Sat April 8 – Max Watt’s, Brisbane
sleepmakeswaves Australia & New Zealand tour w/Devin Townsend Project (CAN)
Thu May 18 – Powerstation, Auckland NZ
Sat May 20 – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
Mon May 22 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
Wed May 24 – 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
Fri May 26 – Capitol, Perth WA
Tickets for all shows from www.sleepmakeswaves.com

Review – Alan Reed – Honey On The Razor’s Edge – by Kevin Thompson

Meteorological Spring is in the air and there is a buzz around the Progressive music scene which is currently a veritable hive of activity.

Music in general has seen an influx of singer/songwriters, some more of the worker bee type, scattered like pollen among the genres and trying to stick to a secure career, whilst others clearly stand out from the crowd as prime males with honey sweet tunes fit to serenade a Queen, the two recent releases from Marc Atkinson and Lee Maddison being fine examples.

Into the honeycomb flies Alan Reed with sophomore album ‘Honey On The Razor’s Edge’ and this time there’s a grittier, more assertive edge reminiscent of his work with his previous band and with echoes of solo outings by a certain fellow Scotsman nearing the twilight years of his musical output.

I have to admit that whilst I like Alan’s first solo outing it felt like it didn’t have his full confidence and was maybe reflecting in his situation at that time. With this album there is no hesitance and it’s straight in with up-tempo rippling keyboards and electric riffs on first track My Sunlit Room. Alan sounds in fine fettle blowing away any faint concerns as his vocal pipes dance a highland fling through the melody in this rousing starter that crashes to an end.

Now I mentioned another of Alan’s fellow countrymen and I have to say the main riff on Razor is very reminiscent of his output, but Alan adds his familiar style and harmonica flourishes (courtesy of  a certain Mr Steve Hackett no less), as he argues with himself and exorcises demons. There is a great video release of this track on YouTube to enhance your listening pleasure on which Alan shows he’s moving on not looking back. My inside sources tell me he may have had sore skin after filming numerous takes for the video. Ah, the sacrifices a man makes for his art.

Cross My Palm with silver and I’ll be only too happy to tell you this is a man who is not sitting on his laurels as he warns of treachery in the big smoke, but there’s no need to worry,  with some nifty guitar soloing from Jeff Green and the keyboard flourishes of Mike Stobbie building to a crescendo finish it’s another belter.

Notable for their relegation until now, up pop the familiar acoustic strings on Leaving (no cause for alarm, he’s not just yet) as vocals wrangle, with lovely female harmonies on the chorus, over a twisted relationship. Now I might be mistaken but ageing ears cannot distinguish whether this track is bolstered by the stunning sound of the one and only ‘Leode’ from none other than Lazuli’s Claude Leonetti or an Ebow, either way c’est formidable.

I must also point out that Alan has an enviable trio of fine female singers assisting him on this album in Magenta’s Christina Booth, Harvest’s Monique Van Der Kolk and Weendo’s Laetitia Chaudemanche adding the cream on top of some tracks here, giving him vocal riches beyond avarice.

Not content to let the lady leave he begs she stay to the Other Side Of Morning, as he reasons with her over their differences and similarities, the good must surely out-way the bad times and Mike gets to bare the whites of his keyboards as stalwart drummer Scott Higham more than ably keeps the rhythm and beating heart of this track pumping, as he does throughout the album. This, the longest track on here builds to a fevered climax that is completed with one last gasping ‘stay’.

History lesson time, as this next track is about The Covenanter. Covenanters were Scottish Presbyterians who in 1638 signed the “National Covenant” to uphold the Presbyterian religion, and the “Solemn League and Covenant” of 1643 which was a treaty with the English Parliamentarians. The Covenanter’s made a stand for political and religious liberty that led to almost a century of persecution and their widespread migration to Ulster and the American colonies.

But their role in history was not as simple as that, as they were the children of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and sought to have the church of their belief, according to the Scriptures. Above all, there was but one Head of the Kirk – Jesus Christ, and they refused to accept the King in that role. From this opposition to the King all their troubles arose. Ushered in by the sounds of unrest, Alan protests with righteous indignation and berates the persecutors and liars throughout, casting light on Celtic roots at the heart of much of Alan’s musical heritage.

Alan is a gifted poet and romanticist, with the ability to touch the hardest of hearts, as on the penultimate track, recalling a love lost who ‘looked at me, like I Used To Be Someone. With  a   beautiful instrumental introduction and beat me with a haggis if I’m wrong but it may just be flowing from the lovely ‘Leode’. Tinkling ivories and guitar loops sway like smitten lovers on the dance floor in time to Alan’s lyrics. For me he never sounds better than on tracks like this, as the emotion he injects into his voice feels so genuinely heartfelt. The music swells and the wonderful sound from the beginning floats in again before the vocals tug gently at the heartstrings one last time to float delicately away on fading notes.

Alan’s work may take him away from his homeland, but whilst you can take the wee laddie out of Scotland, you can’t take Scotland out of the man, as he looks to the Northern Light on the final offering of wistful musicality which midway through turns into an instrumental clash of clans before the keyboards kick thistles into the faces of the rest and triumphantly lead us out.

This is an album through which threads of tartan tinged tunes dance a merry jig with modern rock forces, and Alan has surrounded himself with an array of accomplished musicians to enhance the tunes pushing him firmly to the fore among his peers. I mentioned a certain fellow Scot earlier and Alan’s physical stature may not match the  Big Man’s but this album proves he could well fill  upcoming vacant boots.

Having had the great pleasure of meeting Mr Reed a couple of times he is a most affable chap, always willing to take the time to chat. Whilst in conversation with one of his colleagues on this album,he was described as very difficult to work with, but it was said with a wry smile and bundles of affection, because that’s the effect he has on you.

Alan is one of the nice guys in this business and he deserves every success with ‘Honey On The Razor’s Edge’, it’s a braw album. Slange!

Released 14th March 2017

Buy ‘Honey On The Razor’s Edge’ from The Merch Desk