Review – Cosmograf – When Age Has Done Its Duty (2018 remix) – by Progradar

In the sleeve notes for the comprehensive new package that comes with this remix of Cosmograf’s 2011 critically acclaimed release ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’, Robin Armstrong writes,

“I sometimes think about all the people I once knew that are now gone and I very much struggle to come to terms with their collective struggles, joys and achievements in life coming to an end. It’s an enduring theme in a lot of what I write. I decided some time back that it would be a tragedy to leave a life with no legacy left behind and it’s a driving force for me to leave as much music as I can with the hope that someone will remember…”

Robin is the man behind Cosmograf and is an extraordinary musical storyteller. His involving concepts and often personal historical narratives take you, the listener, directly to the centre of the story and envelop you in a whole gamut of emotions, all invoked by his remarkable songwriting.

Following the brilliant ‘The Hay Man Dreams’, released last year, Robin has taken it upon himself to revisit ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’ to completely remix and master it and, in his own words,

“…address some of the issues that were less than perfect on the original recording. Many of the original guitar, bass and vocal parts have been re-recorded, new string arrangements added and a more dynamic low volume level master produced…”

I’ll confess, I have never heard ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’ before so I can’t give a ‘before and after’ review but, as a big fan of Cosmograf, I’ll tell you what I think of this release as a whole.

The concept of the album is based around Robin’s personal experiences as a boy, visiting his Auntie Mollie and Uncle Harry at their home, Pear Tree Cottage, in a tiny village called Cleobury North in rural Shropshire and he has expanded the concept to cover the emotions and experiences we feel through the ageing process from birth to death. The stunning, original artwork is done by Graeme Bell.

Into This World is a an eleven minute piece that sets the scene with ‘Birth’ as the theme and is instantly recognisable to any fan as a Cosmograf track. Slow building and slow burning with a fragile piano note and Robin’s distincive vocal, the clever lyrics are used to convey the hopes, fears and aspirations that follow the bringing of a child into the world. A powerful and edgy song where the stylish drums of Bob Dalton are used to very good effect. As always, this excellent musician has you gripped from the first note with a moody and atmospheric song that asks questions and, while there is always a feeling of venturing into the unknown, deep down it is hope and optimism that is at the core. The elegant bass of Steve Dunn joins us for Blacksmith’s Hammer, a tribute to his Uncle Harry who worked the forge, shoeing horses right up to his death, age 73 in 1987. It’s an uplifting piece of music, an ode to a modest life where simple pleasures (like smoking a pipe) were enjoyed to their full. An almost spiritual song, there’s a superb (if short) guitar solo that burns with a humble honesty and the lyrics literally describe his demise; he sat back from shoeing a horse and drew his last breath.

Written about Pear Tree Cottage, a special place in Robin’s childhood, On Which We Stand was originally a poem which he wrote to read at his Aunt’s funeral and has become the lyrics to this beautiful song. A wistful and nostalgic opening courtesy of Simon Rogers’ guitar opens into a sublime vocal where Robin reminisces of all the happy times he had in the cottage, the games and the fond memories of he pastimes that made it such a wonderful place. Sit and listen to the words, let the music wash over you and you can almost imagine being there, a sentimental musical journey down memory lane. An old light switch that Robin remembers triggers flashbacks to previous memories and dramas, this is the essence of Bakelite Switch, sounds or smells we experience that snap you back to a previous event in time. On my first listen to the album, this was one of the songs that immediately stood out, the compelling , almost mysterious opening that erupts into a forceful and dynamic guitar riff catches your ear straight away. Bob’s drums drive the track along and you’re hooked as soon as Robin’s vocal begins, “We had electric light in the 70’s, flick the heavy switch, lights up all our lives.” A very involving song that speaks about the novelty of going back to a house that is very much ‘back in time’ and the emotive guitar solo from Luke Machin combines with some swirling keyboards to add even more drama to the visceral memories that Robin is invoking.

Huw Lloyd-Jones adds a poignant vocal to the emotive background of Memory Lost. The song is about an old lady battling on as best as she could after the death of a partner, and living alone with her memories. The title referring to hanging on to the only thing you have left when someone dies…your memory of them. A pared back and sincere track that really hits you hard and makes a mark on your heart and soul, a single tear rolls down my cheek as I listen to the intensity of Huw’s voice, Robin adding a wonderful harmony. I challenge you not to be moved by this seven minutes of Robin trapping history so he would never lose the detail as the years passed, the guitar solo that closes the song is just superb. Documenting Mollie’s last days at the cottage, title track When Age Has Done Its Duty opens with a wonderful recital of ‘Growing Old’ by Tom O’Bedlam spoken over an eloquent piano and keyboards and then Steve Thorne lends his stirring vocals to this bitter-sweet tale. In the 20 years after harry’s death, Mollie always seemed to just be waiting to be with him and in the days leading to her death she just huddled against the Rayburn in the kitchen refusing to eat or move. A sad but elegant song that documents the passing of this proud woman. Robin’s songwriting skills really come to the fore on this track and his choice of Steve Thorne as the vocalist is perfect, the pathos and sentiment he brings to every word is perfect. Just when your emotions are as strung out as you think they can be, Robin fires another stupendous guitar solo at you, leaving you utterly drained.

White Light Awaits takes on the question that has been asked through the ages, what happens after you die? Written as if Robin was having an ethereal conversation with Mollie, asking her what it was like to die and did she experience anything after death. Being a devout Methodist, she would have been appalled by this idea. There’s a bitter, angry tone to the song and the edgy guitar of Lee Abraham adds to the almost cynical, questing tone of Robin’s vocals. Drums are, this time, provided by Dave Ware and their dynamic feel just adds to the challenging aura. The album closes with the heartwarming Dog on the Clee, an inspring song which tells the story of Robin forging a privileged bond with Mollie’s Border Collie ‘Laddie’, a dog that didn’t really like many people at all. The graceful acoustic guitar and Robin’s ethereal vocal bringing a sense of wonder and inspiration to the final chapter in this utterly captivating story.

It may have been originally released in 2011 but this completely remixed and mastered version of ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’ feels as fresh as if it was recorded yesterday. Possibly the most emotional journey that Cosmograf has ever taken me on, I feel it is Robin at his most open, a wonderfully involving musical journey with a narrative very close to his heart. There’s nothing quite like a Cosmograf album and this could possibly be the best of them all.

Released 26th January 2018

When Age Has Done Its Duty CD (2018 Remix Edition) -PREORDER

Oh, and for vinyl fans like me, there will be a vinyl release later in 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

Review – The Tangent – The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery – by Craig E. Bacon

The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ by The Tangent succeeds at every level, from the incredible depth and texture of the colours in Mark Buckingham’s arresting album art to the pacing of the expansive musical compositions. Band leader Andy Tillison has talked about working to recover his ‘mojo’ after a long hospital stay, and ‘Slow Rust’ makes clear that he’s found it, perhaps in greater quantity even than before. In particular, the album comfortably engages an intriguing dialectic between global politics and individual relationships; broad social commentary and hyper-specific lyrical descriptions; fury and compassion; and the musical energies of seasoned and youthful collaborators. Along the way, Tillison & Co. play jazz, funk, punk, prog, techno, ambient, and heavy rock to great effect.

The album opens with the “pocket symphony” Two Rope Swings, which packs the musical and thematic expanse of a 20 minute epic into a mere 6.5 minutes. Each member of the band turn in lovely performances here, including newcomer Marie-Eve de Gaultier, whose vocals emphasize the mournful aspect of realizing our ignorance concerning those who live in a different skin from our own—whether human or otherwise. Tillison’s wonderfully detailed lyrics express the global import of the song through their very specificity:

And we think Africa is like some fairyland/Like in the picturebooks we read when we played on the swings/Lions and tigers and wildebeests and zebra…Kilimanjaro

What do we expect from each other, when we make our adult choices with the naivete of a child reading picture books on a rope swing? When we can’t even place an entire species of animals on the right continent, imagining African lions as living side by side with Asian tigers?

Doctor Livingstone (I Presume), besides possessing the perfect, playful title for a long instrumental, showcases the band’s seemingly limitless musical muscle. Leaping right over the gate with lithe bass, rolling organ, and a melodic synth lead, the track quickly sets the stage then shines the spotlight on guitarist Luke Machin’s searing but instantly accessible soloing. Theo Travis provides plenty of nuanced saxes and flutes along the way, while piano and acoustic guitar occasionally accent the trading off between bass, synth, guitar, and sax solos. What begins as a relatively mellow jazz exercise rolls to full boil midway with some heavier riffs and shredding from Machin; not content to climax at its most intense moment, the track slides into a more classically jazz section that highlights even further the god-level bass genius of Jonas Reingold. Taken all together, this instrumental melds early 70’s jazz-influenced prog with mid-60’s Impulse! Records jazz experimentation. It also succeeds as a test for a new addition to The Tangent’s line-up: if you want to prove the mettle of your new drummer, how better than with an extended jazz work-out? The spry young lad taking over drum controls makes a great showing here that matches but never overwhelms the contributions of his bandmates, and it’s quite the surprise that this talent has not been tapped by the band on previous outings.* Perhaps the snare could have been a bit punchier to better complement Reingold’s monster tone, or the crash treated with less decay, but those are minor differences of production opinion that don’t detract from a stellar debut performance.

On an album replete with highlights, title track Slow Rust is clearly the centrepiece. All the righteous indignation, cynical wisdom, and nimble musicality of the album are placed on full display for 22 intense minutes. On the face of it, this song is inspired by the same series of recent events that prompted A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road, namely, the horrendous slandering of “migrants” by the UK press in the wake of 2016’s Brexit vote. But Slow Rust is this and so much more. Rooting around behind the mere occurrence of such hateful news reporting, Tillison explores the contributing factors. How is it that celebrity gossip, local events, and national politics coexist on equal footing in the papers? We all know that this paper has this party bias and that one another, but how do the potentially myriad perspectives of numerous writers and editors fall out along such neat lines, and why must we find a ready group on which to place the blame for our perceived problems? When there’s profits to be had, and fear and hatred turn a profit, any story becomes about the insecurities of the reader; the actual story of another person’s hardship gets twisted into the story of how an influx of persecuted refugees affects my life:

Ah, when the helpless are a threat/What does that say about the rest of us?

Furthermore, when only binary choices are on offer, the rejection of one point of view becomes the ready adoption of another, and either way someone will be waiting to accept your payment. Even Education, the great salvation of the Enlightenment, is implicated. If schools are just an ideas factory for “Corporate automatons,” then the same principle of profit and binary choices will drive all learning:

Become a teacher and bow your head/To the passing fashions where you get led/Recite your mantras, but say your prayers/’Cause what else have you done? The future’s theirs/To sell textbooks/That’s all they’re here to do

Even for a Prog Epic, this is an incredibly expansive track, though it never feels stretched or repetitive. There’s no thesis, but it’s focused polemic more than angry rant. It also seriously rocks. Tillison turns in a number of noteworthy synth and vocal performances, especially in the funky and heavy “Binary Choices” section that includes effected spoken word vocals and a reference to President Biff. Reingold is, again, a force-beyond-nature on bass throughout the song, though de Gaultier is the key ingredient that lifts everything above the sum of its parts. Here and elsewhere on the album, the soft timbre of her voice pervades every open space, simultaneously smoothing, undergirding, and highlighting whatever else is happening musically. Depending on Tillison’s role at any moment, this includes supporting the more mournful notes in his voice or providing the comforting sweater counterpoint to his angry grandpa affectation.

De Gaultier’s vocals are also essential to the emotion of The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine, as she permeates the very pretty and hopeful chorus to an otherwise sad tale. Her reassuring suggestion for a repaired relationship sharpens the sadness of the song once you realize that of course, as per the song’s title, this advice will be ignored in favour of doubling down on prideful posturing. As such, this track provides the personal counterpoint to the album’s finale: in the microcosm, destructive pride and redirected fear can lead a person, as well as a country, a few steps down the wrong road. Musically, The Sad Story leaves plenty of room for jazzy solos, including some gorgeous flute work by Travis, a healthy dose of flittering piano, a classic drum solo, and more arresting guitar shredding from Machin.

The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ culminates in the Prog-Punk Theatre of A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road. The punk elements are noteworthy, but the spirits of Emerson and Lake are as strong here as that of Johnny Rotten, Tillison playing some particularly nice analogue synths to punctuate the story. Like Slow Rust, this song is about the post-Brexit rise of hatred toward those of ‘questionable origin’, but it’s also about the historical recurrence of inhumane attitudes, and serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers in not learning our history lessons already. Alternating between spoken word narration, explosive rock bombast, proggy excess, jazzy swagger, and punk aggression, this epic competes for “most quintessential Tangent track” as well as “most timely political commentary by a musical artist.” If ever a polemic needed pressing to a side of vinyl, it’s this one. When the album reaches its depressing conclusion, be sure to immediately start it over again. The opening strains of Two Rope Swings, with de Gualtier’s call of “halcyon days,” take on an elegiac character when placed immediately following A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road.

With ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (or, Where Do We Draw the Line Now?)The Tangent have progressed by retaining everything that made their previous work great while seamlessly integrating these elements with new musical contributions that hold up to the weighty subject matter. The album burns with all the conscience and compassion called for by our times. It simultaneously maintains a spirit of joy and playfulness in the performances. A clear contender for Album of the Year, ‘Slow Rust’ is wonderfully immediate while reserving unfathomable depths to be explored across repeated listens for years to come.

*This reviewer is simultaneously sincere and facetious: yes, I’m aware that the drummer is Andy Tillison himself. It is genuinely a surprise that Tillison’s drumming was not previously featured, because he’s quite good.

Released 21st July 2017

Buy ‘The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery’ From Burning Shed

 

 

 

 

New Album From The Tangent – The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery – Released 21st July 2017

FROM INSIDEOUT Music MAY 9 2017

The Tangent, the progressive rock group led by Andy Tillison, have announced the release of the first new music since 2015. Their new ninth studio album ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ is set for release on 21st July 2017. The line-up for this album once again features Tillison on keyboards, vocals (and for the first time on a Tangent record – drums), Jonas Reingold on bass, Luke Machin on guitars and vocals, and Theo Travis on sax and flutes plus new member Marie-Eve de Gaultier on keys and vocals. There are also guest appearances from author/playwright and Chumbawamba founder Boff Whalley on vocals, and upcoming DJ/producer Matt Farrow.

Band leader Andy Tillison had this to say: “Roger Waters did prove the ability of Progressive Music to act as a vehicle to communicate ideas about the current world scene. In both Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut” and his “Amused To Death” albums, Waters set a challenge to others in the genre. A challenge which has not been frequently accepted.”

The album sees The Tangent in political commentary mode once again – this time often focussing on the horrendous plight of refugees from war torn parts of the world – and the way in which they are treated by the West, and in particular by the tabloid press. The album laments the new trend in building walls and defending borders across the world yet takes time to look at the breakup of friendships and other more personal issues – along with a song about the fate of wildlife in the modern consumer world.

And it’s a Progressive Rock Record. Full of intricacies, long developed pieces, challenging arrangements and virtuoso playing from all members. New sounds and styles (the band have brought a DJ on board for some sections) – new voices and techniques (first female vocals in The Tangent since the “Not As Good As The Book” album 10 years ago). A new producer in the form of Luke Machin whose open and deep/clear sound is a major factor of this album, a new drummer in the form of Andy Tillison who decided at long last (after drumming for 30 years) to let his own performances guide the rest of the band rather than adding another musician later. And after 13 years of asking, Jonas finally agreed to play some double bass in a song where Luke also plays some Scat guitar and Andy does a full on drum solo.

“The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery” also features stellar artwork from Marvel / DC Comics artist Mark Buckingham. The sleeve of the album is totally based on the music it contains and was especially created for this project.

The album will be available on limited digipak CD, gatefold 2LP + CD, and digital download, and you can find the full track-listing below:

Two Rope Swings
Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)
Slow Rust
The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine
A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road
Basildonxit

The band will head out on tour in support of the new record, once again joining forces with Sweden’s Karmakanic to present albums by both bands. The full list of dates is as follows:
Aug 26th 2017 – Bierkeller, Reichenbach, DE
Sept 1st 2017 – 2 days of Prog +1 Festival, Veruno, Italy
Sept 9th 2017 – The Boerderij, Zoetermeer
Oct 8th 2017 – SUMMERS END Festival, Chepstow, UK
Oct 21st 2017 – Progtoberfest, Chicago, USA
Oct 22nd 2017 – Shank Hall, Milwaukee WI, USA
Oct 24th 2017 – Token Lounge, Westland MI, USA
Oct 26th 2017 – Roxy & Dukes, Dunellen NJ, USA
Oct 27th 2017 – The Regent Theatre, Arlington MA, USA

Look out for more information in the coming weeks!
The Tangent online:
www.thetangent.org
https://www.facebook.com/groups/alltangentmembers/

INSIDEOUTMUSIC ONLINE:
www.insideoutmusic.com
www.youtube.com/InsideOutMusicTV
www.facebook.com/InsideOutMusic
www.twitter.com/insideouteu
www.myspace.com/insideoutlabel

Visit the new Insideout Shop:
www.insideoutshop.de

Review – Maschine – Naturalis – by James R Turner

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Formed around the nucleus of insanely talented guitarist Luke Machin, and bassist Dan Mash (both of whom have played with artists like The Tangent) their debut album ‘Rubidium’ was released in 2013, and in an unrelated interview with Andy Tillison; he told me that I needed to listen to that album. Now when Andy Tillison recommends something you listen to it, and you know what, it didn’t quite grab me initially where it should have done. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great debut album and Maschine are an insanely talented group of young musicians, but, for whatever reason whilst I enjoyed it, I never ‘got’ it.

However, this, only their 2nd album (and by some of the music on here, and the intricate blends of sound, would make you think they have been playing together forever) got me from the start, (so much so that, time permitting, I will be revisiting ‘Rubidium‘).

This 5 piece, formed at the Brighton Institute of Music in 2008 feature, as mentioned earlier, the talents of Luke Machin on guitar & vocal, Dan Mash on bass, James Stewart on drums, Elliott Fuller on guitar and Marie-Eve De Gaultier on vocals, flute and keyboard.

With a diverse range of influences across the board, and playing styles throughout the band, their real skill is pouring all these un-distilled musical ingredients into their crucible and creating a striking and original sound.

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The 6 tracks on here, (the shortest clocking in at over 5 minutes!) all relate to natural events and the interaction between nature and all it can throw at us. This isn’t a concept album as such, but more connected events around which the songs are allowed room to breath and develop.

Boy do they develop, the opening 11 minutes of Resistance, mixes in the beautiful guitar work that both Luke and Elliott bring to the branch, the whole gamut of musical styles and influences creatively held together, with more ideas to spare in these 11 minutes than a lot of bands have in 11 years. The most effective weapon Maschine have is the contrasting vocals of Luke and Marie-Eve, which works together in creating some beautiful harmonies and interesting, counterpoints. And that’s just in the first 11 minutes!!

One of my favourite songs on the album, Make Believe features some amazing vocals from Marie-Eve, with a wonderfully slow build up, whilst the keyboard textures and powerful drum and bass combo of Mash and Stewart hold the piece together allowing an astonishing solo from Machin to burst forward.

The other epic on the album, the closing 11-minute Megacyma recounts the story of the Japanese Tsunami of 2011 through one mans eyes. What a mighty storm of sound they create as the song builds to its climax. They pull out all the stops here, with hints of 70’s classic prog keyboards, heavy riffing and some intense electronic walls of sound, whilst the two voices combine to create a fantastic sound, and the symphonic edge to this mighty finale is absolute perfection.

Of the other tracks on the album, Night & Day with it’s aural soundscapes and WWII story is contemporary prog storytelling at it’s finest. Hidden in Plain sight combines many disparate influences into the nearest they get to a pop song, with some fantastically funky drumming from Stewart and more of those wonderful vocals and Whilst A New Reality is Maschine’s sound in microcosm, featuring some wonderfully fluid guitar, fantastic symphonic keyboard work, and the sound of a band firing on all cylinders.

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It’s absolutely fantastic that nearly 50 years into the genre we call prog that there are immensely talented creative musicians of this calibre who are prepared to take risks and imprint their musical vision on the genre instead of being held back by the genres self imposed limitations and sounds.

Maschine truly are the future, and this album will firmly cement their reputation as one of the finest bands in this (or any) genre.

A last minute ball over the line for album of the year? Got to be a contender…

Released 18th November 2016

Buy ‘Naturalis’ from Burning Shed

 

 

 

 

Review – Maschine – Naturalis – by Emma Roebuck

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Maschine – ‘a progressive rock band without boundaries’ is the bands tagline and ‘Naturalis’, the second album from Luke Machin, Daniel Mash, Marie-Eve De Gaultier, Elliot Fuller and James Stewart, definitely pushes the envelope beyond ‘Rubidium’ which was a cracking album in itself and one that showed much promise for the future.

This album is primarily a vehicle for Luke’s compositions and stretches his writing in variance and styles as well as having a core concept to the album that speaks of mankind and how we sit uncomfortably alongside the earth and nature as a species. ‘Naturalis’ is grand in its aspiration and design and I believe that Maschine achieve those goals very well.

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We are introduced to the album with Resistance, a full-on epic of traditional Prog proportions in what can only be called a ‘classical 70s’ style. It begins with analogue keyboard sounds and a tension creating guitar riff reminiscent of Jimmy Page which then goes on a full musical journey reflecting the uncomfortable fit man has with his environment. There is much light and shade here designed to mirror how humanity is trying to come to terms with something he cannot control and, yet, still believes he can have authority over. Coming in at a tad under 12 minutes this epic alone would satisfy any progger but this is just the start.

Night and Day is the story of Robert Cain and his experiences of the Battle of Arnhem. His story is of finding unnatural resources fighting beyond human limits long into the battle. This as close to a ‘sound’ for Maschine as you could get, as you could say it combines all the elements of the band in a perfect balance.

A personal favourite of mine on this album is Make Believe, it istands out as being quite an ethereal song and Marie-Eve comes out into the spotlight with a haunting voice that reflects a cynical back story of the political exploitation of resources. It is a genuinely beautiful track.

The finale and closing epic Megacyma is a modern epic, the other end of the musical time line from Resistance. Production and writing that fits 2016 so well, you can smell the ozone of the electricity used during the recording. This is the tale of one man’s experience in the centre of a huge Tsunami fighting for survival through every second of the 12 minutes of the song. It is a very powerful song that looks at how small one man is in relation to the planet and the forces it has at its disposal.

This album has taken 4 years to write and record and it is interesting to see how Luke has developed as a writer and composer and his desire be a strong writer of songs. Being a virtuoso guitar player in demand in various places (be it The Tangent, Damenek, Kiama, or Karmakanic) or guesting on numerous albums must surely be an asset, giving him a chance to experience a variety of styles and other musicians.

If you like “Rubidium” then get this, it’s a guaranteed winner for you. ‘Naturalis’ has good quality songs with a good level of complexity but not at the expnse of structure. The album as a couple of live tracks as a bonus which are not on my pre-release download. The artwork looks excellent and there are the usual extras with pre order.

Released 18th November 2016

Buy ‘Naturalis’ from Burning Shed

 

MASCHINE announce release of second studio album through INSIDE OUT

maschine

Young British progressive rockers MASCHINE have announced the release of their second studio album ‘Naturalis’ for the 18th November 2016 on InsideOutMusic. The follow-up to the band’s debut ‘Rubidium’, this is the first to feature drummer James Stewart ( Vader) & keyboardist/vocalist Marie-Eve de Gaultier.

The album will be released as a special edition digipak CD & digital download, both featuring two bonus tracks recorded live in 2015 at Veruno Prog Festival in Italy. The full track-list can be found below:

1. Resistance (11:52)
2. Night And Day (5:08)
3. Make Believe (7:10)
4. Hidden In Plain Sight (7:01)
5. A New Reality (8:45)
6. Megacyma (11:46)
Bonus Tracks
7. Eyes Pt.2 (Live in Veruno) (8:55)
8. Rubidium (Live in Veruno) (8:47)