CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX have revealed the 2nd track from their forthcoming album ‘Bronze’. The UK dark progressive rockers will release their stunning new full-length on November 4th.
Following RIVERSIDE’s sixth and highly successful studio album release, “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” and its recently launched 5.1 edition, the Warsaw, Poland-based Progressive Rock innovators return with a very special complimentary instrumental release dubbed “Eye Of The Soundscape”.
“Eye Of The Soundscape” features 13 experimental and highly atmospheric compositions, previously used as bonus material for the “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” (2103) and “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” (2015) albums, alongside rare cuts (e.g. a new mix of “Rapid Eye Movement” and the single “Rainbow Trip”, so far only released in Poland) as well as 4 new songs (“Where The River Flows”, “Shine”, “Sleepwalkers” and “Eye Of The Soundscape”) into a massive +100 minutes 2CD/3LP package, which showcases RIVERSIDE’s ambient electronic side.
RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda explained and introduced this rather unorthodox and experimental release as follows:
“I had a feeling that the sixth RIVERSIDE album might be the last chapter of a story. That the future releases might have a different sound, a different character… Unofficially, I called our latest three albums “the crowd trilogy”. Each subsequent title was longer by one word – four, five, six. Six words were long enough as a title and I thought that was the one to finish it off with…
Before we started a new chapter, perhaps a “new trilogy”, I had an idea to release a complementary album. An album in between. An album we had always wanted to record. It wouldn’t be just new music but in our case and in such configuration it would definitely be a new quality because we hadn’t released such an album before.
For years, we have accumulated a lot of material, a part of which was released on bonus discs. I know that some of our listeners still haven’t heard those pieces and do not realise that Riverside, basically right from the start, have been experimenting with ambient and progressive electronic music. And that’s always been a part of our music DNA.
So I presented the idea to the rest of the band and the decision was unanimous. We decided to make a compilation of all our instrumental and ambient pieces, and release it this year as an independent album. Some of the songs would be re-mixed to make them sound better, but most of all, we’d add new compositions.
At the beginning of the year, we locked ourselves in the studio and we started to compose. We even published a picture on our facebook page, in which Grudzien is holding a small keyboard as a joke. That was that recording session. We were working with smiles on our faces, genuinely excited, knowing that this time it wasn’t just a bonus disc or an addition to something “bigger” but a fully fledged, independent release with that kind of music, full of space, trance, melodies and electronics. The day before I got a text message from Grudzien, “I really can’t wait for this release, I have always had a dream for RIVERSIDE to release such an album.”
The release of “Eye Of The Soundscape” therefor also honours late RIVERSIDE guitarist Piotr Grudzinski, who tragically passed away of natural causes on February 21st, 2016.
“Eye Of The Soundscape” is composed of material created between 2007-2016 and concieved in 2015/2016 at Serakos studio in Warsaw with Magda Srzednicka, Robert Srzednicki as well Mariusz Duda as producers, and the release comes packaged in artwork by RIVERSIDE’s longterm design partner Travis Smith (Opeth, Katatonia, Nevermore, etc.).
© 2016 by Inside Out Music – All Rights Reserved
This is the second album from Swedish Blues rockers Blues Pills, who appeared as if from nowhere back in 2014 with their assured self titled debut album with its wonderfully psychedelic artwork and its feet planted firmly in the blues rock tradition of the late 60’s. In fact, with the power behind the band and the sublime vocals of singer Elin Larsson, they sounded like Led Zeppelin if they’d been fronted by Janis Joplin.
Of course the band hadn’t appeared from nowhere, they’d been working hard since they formed back in 2011 and Blues Pills was the culmination of their hard work. Now in 2016, after a slight personnel change, where Andre Kvarnstrom has replaced original drummer and founder member Cory Berry, they unleash their second studio album on the world.
One of the things that is always a concern, when faced with a band who’ve built up their presence organically and had time to refine their sound, is that, once they’ve unleashed a cracking debut, you find the second album is either rushed to capitalise on their success or is half finished, as they’ve used all their ideas up.
Luckily Blues Pills have been working hard to avoid this and ‘Lady in Gold’ is a clear evolution of their sound.
Opening with the title track, the traditional figure of death is reimagined as a Lady in Gold who comes to all at the end, and with the superb vocals of Elin to the fore and with some amazing guitar work from Dorian Sorriaux.
With a lot more depth and range than their debut album, Elins soulful vocals get a real workout on the moving and beautiful I Felt a Change. With this being a piano ballad, the band taking a back seat whilst Elins vocals shine, you can hear the emotion in her voice and, whilst it’s a more mellow sound to the band, it fits perfectly within the album and confirms how the band are maturing as songwriters. With a driving drum and bass beat powered by Zach Anderson, it gives us no pause for breath as it takes us into the driving Gone So Long, where the music that underpins the track simmers with power and energy, always only just under control before exploding into a powerful solo.
Clocking in at a mere 40 minutes with 9 original songs and a cracking cover of Elements and Things by Tony Joe White, the energy and soul never lets up, giving you a wonderful contemporary blast of psychedelic blues rock. The band are honest about where their influences come from but they are not mere copyists, instead, they take the ideas from an exciting era in classic rock and give it a 21st update, almost the musical equivalent of a Fiat 500. Something unmistakably from the classic rock mould but slap bang up to date as well.
Drenched in Hammond and with such amazing vocals, this is for anyone who enjoys foot tapping, soulful, catchy blues rock and, with no misstep on this album, Blues Pills have proved they have staying power.
If you can’t guess I bloody love this record!
Released 5th August 2016
Since its inception in 2014 the Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Isahn and Alcest.
Taking place in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June to the start of July it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive bands.
This year saw the festival co-headlined by Steven Wilson and fellow progressive heavy weights Opeth. So far for 2017 Be Prog! My Friend have announnced the legendary Jethro Tull alongside Norwegian music collective Ulver.
Now the festival have added another 3 incredible bands to the line-up. The festival comment:
‘Anathema, who formed in the mid 90s, have risen to become one of the UK’s most cherished and critically acclaimed rock bands. With their star rising ever higher, Anathema returned in 2014 with ‘Distant Satellites’, another assertive step into the realm of miraculous songwriting.
Animals as Leaders incorporate influences from jazz, electronic, progressive, classical and fusion. After amazing releases like “Weightless” and “The Joy of Motion”, Animals As Leaders continue to explore their musical endeavours with the highly anticipated fourth album “The Madness of Many”, to be released this next November. Be Prog! invites you to forget all musical boundaries for an instrumental act that will blow your mind.
Caligula’s Horse channel the raw honesty of rock and the skill of progressive metal into a seamless voice at once energetic, grand and forthright, They offer devotees of all strains of powerful and progressive music something unique. Be Prog! My Friend are confident that this for this charismatic band will become a big success in the progressive metal scene. Caligula’s Horse, Welcome to Be Prog!’
Tickets are on sale now priced at 100 Euros for a limited time:
(Anathema pic by Scarlet Page)
Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.
I have a love hate relationship with post rock. It depends on the weather I think.
Someday a gumbo mix of old Black Sabbath riffs, Bauhaus vocal growls and thundering Bonham influenced drums hits that spot. Other days the “everything louder than everything else” mantra grates and I want a simple clean palate of sound.
Crippled Black Phoenix (CBP) take pride of place in my collection as the only stoner/ Rock/ post rock band that I like. Their albums are dense, complex affairs, their live shows are powerful multimedia events and the band themselves look as if they’ve been auditioning for the part of the Swedish Biker gang in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” series. I will confess now, I loved their version of Echoes that came out last year, it was a deserving cover that took the original off into new directions whilst retaining the musical core. I liked it so much that I tracked down both versions, sad…
On their latest album, ‘Bronze’, CBP tick all the boxes for my Post Rock checklist. There are all of the above and one crucial factor often missing from albums today, a sense of theatre and dynamic.
We all know the quite / loud/ quiet / shouty formula for songs. Post rock goes for a calculus derivative of that with fractural loud / loud/ full throated roar.
I described CBP as Pink Floyd’s Echoes played by Black Sabbath.
There is that underlying melodic core to their songs that Pink Floyd use, alongside the power and menace injected by the Heavy Rock Sabbath influenced riffs and drums.
Track 5, Champions of Disturbance (Pt 1&2) for example , at the 4 minute mark goes off on a boogie that is equal parts Run Like Hell and Paranoid. It shouldn’t work but it does. I want to turn the amp up to eleven and introduce the whole street to this glorious noise.
This is all things a great rock album should be: Loud, full of power and menace, but with glorious tunes and riffs that make you want to play air guitar to.
There are subtle touches hidden among the noise too, great little Rock n roll piano at the end of that track, some nice snatches of dialogue interspersed among the songs, even a brass section at one point.
There are thumping drums, great guitar parts that layer and build and build to a point of almost obscene climatic release.
Some bands make the most awesome racket and are let down by the singer. Too clean, too growly, too weak, too OTT. No such issues here, every track has a vocal that works, from quiet reflective musings to the powerful rockier numbers, Daniel Änghede and Belinda Kordic sing with passion and skill throughout.
I’m listening for the 4th time now and I’m enjoying the nuances unfolding.
Some lovely drum and guitar on track 7, Turn To Stone, remind me of the middle of “stranglehold” by Ted Nugent, where he scrapes his plectrum down the strings before ripping a glorious solo, the superb guest vocals are supplied by Arvid Jonsson.
Nugent is a dick, politically as far as I am concerned, but that track is sublime. CBP tap into that feeling here, this is rock music, big rock music.
I don’t know what the tracks are called (Ed. – don’t worry, I’ve helped you there…), but it matters not as it’s the “feel” I meant to convey.
This album is progressive and retro in equal measures. CBP are determined to forge their own path, if that path needs a detour into a forest of gothic beauty, as in track 8, Scared and Alone, where celestial distorted sounds underpin Belinda Kordic’s vocal before a Big Country type guitar leads us out onto the path, then they go there without fear and we wander along with them, out into a clearing where Justin Greave’s guitar makes with the Pink Floyd inspired playing before we stare back into that gothic forest again , mournfully now as Robert Holm’s Brass Section appears, not to soothe but to twist and snipe alongside the angry and menacing vocal. The sweet forest is now a threatening black mass of trees blocking out the light, but hope is at hand as the celestial sounds returns and this gothic musical journey ends.
If you liked The Mission, the Sisters of Mercy, Classic Pink Floyd and a bit of good old Black Country riffage, then this is for you.
I’m sure that there are bands out there that are “heavier”, more technical in their approach to playing, but this is, to me, what a “Rock Band” should be doing.
The dynamic of the album, even in preview mp3 quality, is impressive. Cranked up it sounds great. There are lovely little piano pieces before the drums explode and fill the spaces. The guitars are in places shoegazingly monotone, as the songs unfurl they gain in definition, the soundscape broadens to encompass keyboards and layers of drone , all mixed, all ebbing and flowing in the mix. The songs are allowed to stretch and run to over 5 or 6 minutes, but without getting dull.
My Grandfather would approve of this album as there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.
My review file had 10 tracks, running for just over an hour. It’s an hour well spent.
There is a deluxe version of the album that has2 extra tracks. I have ordered it , although the double clear vinyl album version looks tempting . Whichever version, it will be a thing of dark beauty, a proper “rock” album for the modern age.
Released 4th November 2016
Let’s get straight to the point – ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ is a truly exceptional album, and deserves to propel The Gift in to the higher echelons of current British Progressive Rock Music. Simple as that – it really is that outstanding. Very few albums indeed have the potential to attain the status of a potential ‘classic’ album, which will live long in the memory like ‘Why the Sea is Salt’. This is a work which greatly appeals to the heart and mind in equal measures, and similarly beguiles and stimulates in its beauty and drama.
This album is a considerable step up in ambition and achievement by a band that has evolved very significantly over the last year. Commencing as a studio project by Mike Morton and Leroy James in 2006, The Gift released promising debut anti-war album ‘Awake and Dreaming’, then went to sleep for a few years due to other life commitments. Morton then teamed up with talented song writer David Lloyd to re-form The Gift and record the excellent album ‘Land of Shadows’ in 2014 as one eclectic label Bad Elephant’s first ever releases (The third to be precise). This hard working band has been playing live over the last couple of years to develop their sound, skills and audience at venues across the UK and even a first trip to Europe in 2014 to play in the Netherlands. Stalwart Stefan Dickers has been their rock on bass for that period. They successfully appeared at last year’s Summer’s End Festival in Wales, and it was clear then they were on an upward trajectory.
The Gift have wanted to take a different and more ambitious musical approach requiring some changes in personnel, with no disrespect to their able predecessors. They recruited new drummer Neil Hayman from BEM label mates progressive hard rockers, Konchordat. He definitely adds more experience, creativity and power to the band. Leroy James also ‘came home’, rejoining the band late in the writng process of this album and just before recording started, adding his deft guitar skills and a more rock oriented approach to David Lloyd’s subtle flowing guitar work. The last but possibly most significant piece in bringing The ‘New’ Gift Jigsaw puzzle together was the recruitment on keyboards of an Italian bona fide Classical Music star, Gabriele Baldocci, who performs piano recitals around the world, alongside teaching at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich. Morton heard that Baldocci loved Genesis, Queen, Yes, Beatles, Crimson, Camel and Tull, and wanted to use his classical skills in a progressive rock band. The Gift were delighted to recruit him, and on the evidence of this album it is clear that his undoubted incredible keyboard skills, eminent classical background and love of great rock music adds something really special to the mix. He is a real gift to The Gift!
‘Why the Sea is Salt’ is a rich presentation of musical styles and sounds, social commentary, mythological references, and touching expressions of personal feelings of loss and mourning. This is an album with very strong and distinctive individual songs. However, ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ has even more impact if consumed as a whole with lyrical and musical themes threading through the tapestry of the album, producing a remarkably consistent and resonant piece of work. The focus is upon man’s sad disconnection from life’s real meaning, with the poetic sense that in human existence our collective tears ‘salt’ the sea. This description may make it sound like a ‘weighty’ piece of work, but crucially The Gift never forget that the Song is Key, and it is filled with memorable melodies and harmonies which make it accessible, entertaining and interesting for a wider audience. In fact, this album is notable for the balance between lyrics and music. They compliment each other, but crucially the lyrics allow enough space for the music alone at times to breathe and convey the spirit of the song.
The song which may inevitably attract the most attention from some is The Tallest Tree, featuring contributions from Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett of Genesis fame, alongside the more recent emerging talent of Peter Jones from Tiger Moth Tales. Anthony Phillips provides characteristically beautiful and shimmering 12 string guitar with Peter Jones playing a touching Irish whistle to add suitable pathos to the intro. This is a heartfelt song of loss about the passing of vocalist Mike Morton’s father with deeply felt and succinct lyrics, based on a poem Mike Morton wrote for and recited at his father’s funeral. Towards the end Steve Hackett perfectly reflects the elegiac feeling with a tasteful and distinctive guitar solo, and then perhaps appropriately the song fades away wistfully into the distance. I do not mind sharing with you that the first hearing this song reduced me to tears as it touched on my own parallel loss of parents with Morton. Memories of holding my own mother’s hand as she passed away were reflected in similar images of Morton taking his father’s own hands towards the end:
‘I Take Your Hands… Now as Fragile as a sigh,
As through this Veil of Tears, We say our last Goodbye
Now the Tallest Tree is Falling, Our Faces Feel the Rain,
As Darkness Turns to Morning, Love is What Remains’
It is unusual for this reviewer to share such a personal memory in a review, but it is done to show how The Gift’s lyrics and music can truly touch the listener. Such is the simple beauty of the music and honest expression of deep emotions, which will touch many listener’s hearts, that it seems clear this song could become regarded as a classic.
To go back to the album’s beginning, ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ commences aptly with the suitably nautical and mythical At Sea, premiered to great acclaim at the recent ‘Power of Three’ gig in London. Mainly written by David Lloyd, this acts like an overture for the album as Gabriele Baldocci shows his classical piano excellence with a softly undulating piano solo with hints of Ravel as we start our musical voyage, leading onto Lloyd’s gently floating guitar. Like a sudden storm rising, the tempo and power suddenly builds with Hayman pounding away and Baldocci running a sinuous synth line above the backing in a scintillating instrumental section. The guitars and keyboards intertwine to great effect, and then Dickers’ melodic bass line leads us into a short but expressive guitar solo, before we settle back into a piano section… and after six minutes a ‘Becalmed’ singer Mike Morton finally enters the fray. Quite an opening to an album. This is Morton as Greek chorus with sonorous but vulnerable vocals, setting the scene including some mythic images (… but have no worries, this album is no corny ‘sword and sorcery’ epic!) The finely judged concluding guitar solo completes the ‘overture’ and takes us on into the main body of the album.
The Gift next take us into a horror story with Sweeper of Dreams, a baroque intro leading into a powerful song full of characterisation reminiscent of Alex Harvey. This is a dramatic ‘story’ song with lyric writer Morton singing menacingly in character as ‘The Sweeper’. One can only imagine what Morton will do to portray this scary character in concert. Baldocci and Morton wrote the majority of the musical themes, Gabriele showing that he can really rock alongside his classical skills, as the song alternates between hard rock and scary ‘evil clown’ carousel sounding interludes. Writer Neil Gaiman was pleased to permit The Gift to use the theme and name of one of his short stories for this song. Fittingly, the images evoked by the memorable music and lines such as ‘Dispose of the Debris, Lying around in your Brain’ may well enter the dream worlds of many listeners.
The Gift take us in a very different direction with the touching and delightful Tuesday’s Child , based on a lyrical idea from Baldocci, shaped and developed by Mike Morton, telling a personal story of an older sad man woefully looking back to the beautiful but forsaken joy and innocence of childhood. The Road of Ashes instrumental opening draws us in beguilingly with keyboards creating a lovely soundscape for an emotionally delicate, floating guitar line. Acoustic guitar then takes us into a beautiful sung lyric in the First Flower section. This is subtle, intelligent and heart felt lyric writing, characteristic of Mike Morton, and for which he should become much more well-known. He makes the connection between emotions and the sea in touching but catchy choruses :
‘Someone’s been waiting for me, somewhere not quite light enough to see
Is this the one I used to be? Cast adrift amongst the Shadows and Salt Waters, That Flow from Me’
Alongside such insightful and emotive lyrics this song of redemption and self-realisation is also expressed perfectly with finely crafted music as the bass and drums deftly back Lloyd’s flowing and sensitive concluding guitar solo – demonstrating the skill of The Gift in marrying words and music together with skill and insight in conveying the ‘feel’ and message of a song.
The main inspiration for the album title ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ comes originally from a Norse legend in which a man finds a mill that grinds out anything he wants. However, he gets too greedy, and when he asks it to grind out salt for his food, the power behind it grinds endlessly, swamping him and everyone. The mill then falls into the sea, where it still churns, thus making the sea salty. This mythological source is re-interpreted by The Gift on this album as modern man’s greed for ‘stuff’ which consumes and hurts us. Nowhere is this better expressed than on the epic song cycle of All These Things, a piece largely written mainly by Lloyd and Morton. Apparently this song cycle was originally called Black Friday but that title was felt to be too specific as the piece had a wider perspective. Lloyd’s love of Jethro Tull and early Strawbs is demonstrated by the opening acoustic guitar and vocal harmony section in The Vow, portraying marriage as a transaction, a swapping of rings, underlining society’s pre-occupation with possessing things, including each other. Church organs resound as a slight dig at organized religion before we flow into the Harvest of Hollow. The use of understated flamenco guitar shows that The Gift are not afraid to stretch their boundaries. Indeed, it appears that this is a band who wanted to avoid simply repeating previous patterns as they used previously unexplored sounds and styles.
The Gift are not afraid to make political points of social commentary, with Morton particularly animated by his distaste for the current politics of the UK as a ‘crop of bitter weeds’. The Gift direct their focus on the futile emptiness of materialistic consumerism, leading to endless acquisition but never enough to satisfy:
‘So which of us is satisfied? Tell me, are you satisfied?
The Roulette spins in empty eyes, Our Hungerbeasts prowling and growling inside
It’s an unhealthy appetite, Take another bite… Having is Nothing, Hunting is All’
This song cycle takes an ever darker turn as we enter Feeding Time in which The Gift have never sounded so brutal and menacing with an angry and coruscating guitar duo between David Lloyd and Leroy James – the instruments cinematically telling the story as powerfully as any words. In contrast, the next lilting section The Jackdaw, Magpie and Me commences with bird sounds and a gentle acoustic guitar motif as Morton intones with such clarity about the selfishness and emptiness of collecting things trinkets like magpies. Dickers and Hayman’s subtle bass and drums underline the piece with skill, showing that they are not all about power. The animal imagery is carried on into the gentle re-birth or turning point of the Swan and Butterfly section, with perhaps even a subtle or subconscious reference to previous album’s highlight The Willows. The lyrics encourage the notion that if we reconnect with Nature, both its external aspects and our inner selves, we have no need to complete ourselves through ‘things’. The gentle pastoral feel of this section with piano and flute sounds accentuate this as a more meditative section in which the song’s protagonist realises he is as free as creatures of both water and air if he chooses to free himself of the distractions of the media and possessions and reconnect with the earth he walks upon.
As this reviewer is rather melancholic at times I did have some initial reservations about the finale to this song section as Heartfire concludes this piece on a more celebratory almost hymnal note, an echo to the ecclesiastical hints in the opening part, The Vow. However, with repeated listenings it became clear that The Gift were right to conclude this remarkable song cycle with a more upbeat conclusion after the gentle pastoralism of the previous section. Morton urges us to ‘come to your senses’ , encouraging us to let the world outside fill our senses because there is enough joy and thrill in those experiences to keep us fulfilled all our lives. Cleverly, all five senses are lyrically engaged with the sight of ‘silver cloak of winter’, the touch of ‘summer heat’, the ‘taste of joyful tears’, the ‘scent of gardens’ and hearing ‘whispers in the dark’. These positive feelings are evoked by sun filled backing which skips along with a joyful synth line, and harmonic backing vocals, concluding ‘Take Heart’.
The coda to this album is the haunting Ondine’s Song. Baldocci’s eerie synth soundscape backs Morton’s mournful vocals, bringing us full circle to the sea based and mythically imbued lyrics of the opening At Sea. Ondine is a legendary elemental being associated with water, whom has inspired an opera by Debussy, a ballet by Henze and even The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson… and now a song by The Gift! The story involves her marrying a human to gain immortality, but if the human is unfaithful they are fated to die. On a more fundamental level in this song Ondine stands for the essential nature of Water as Life itself, and a plea not to pollute the world – without water there is no life, leading to the elegaic fading refrain:
‘Every Mortal Breath, By Her Grace Alone…. By her Grace Alone…’
In the legend the man’s infidelity breaks Ondine’s heart, and in this song Ondine’s heart is broken by Man’s treatment of the world. Her sorrow and man’s sorrowful salt tears run into the oceans. Once again the music sensitively expresses the flowing almost wraith like feeling of this piece.
The Gift have really stepped up a few levels with this remarkable album. They have not stretched the boundaries of music – very few artists truly do that. What they have undoubtedly done is skilfully and beautifully draw upon a variety of influences, inspirations and ideas and artfully crafted them into an imaginative and enjoyable musical experience that touches the heart and stimulates the mind. What more could one want from an album?! Do yourselves a favour and just go and buy it!
Released 28th October 2016
Confessions time this review is proving trickier than I thought.
I discussed writing it with a friend who’s far more erudite… a transcript follows:-
Me: Morning. Am still struggling with Kansas CD, are you an expert in them?
Learned Friend: in what sense?
Me: I have listened to this new one 6 or 7 times now and it just glides over me,it just seems to get going and then fades into the ether
Learned Friend: not heard it, so I can’t say, are you reviewing it?
Me: Yes, For Wallet Emptier. They seem to straddle a fence between rock and Prog, neither one nor the other..
I’ve written the review twice and it’s still not my thing.
Bits have grown on me
But mostly yawn….
Learned Friend: just copy and paste this conversation, review done
Me: Good Plan – wonder if Martin would let me get away with it?
Learned Friend: How long do your reviews have to be?
Me: no limit. Never word counted them!
Learned Friend: are they the sort that has to dissect each track or can you just give an overall opinion on the album as a whole
Me: I can do whichever I wish, mine tend to wander around the field a bit as the album is on stage, more o f a feeling rather than a dissection. I can’t do the time signatures / minor major chord bollocks, It either grabs me or it doesn’t
Learned Friend: I hate the ones that go through the track list telling me which each track is like (especially when the album isn’t even out for me to check) – I just want the “good for a rainy day, great in the car” “man this sucks” kind of review. No time signature stuff is excellent! That stuff is for nerds and I don’t like the “I’d better say it’s good otherwise they won’t send me any more free CD’s” reviews either.
So, In the cause of balance and “No Free CD’s for a bad review” Here’s what I thought about Kansas’ new album:
I wrote about his album yesterday. It was more of a rant: I had decided I didn’t like it for the following reasons:
For not sounding like an American Waterboys (both bands feature violins in case you didn’t realise the comparison)
For sounding like the bastard offspring of REO Speedwagon and ELO.
For the singer whining on and on about nothing in particular, being more of a karaoke singer than a rock singer, more musical Theater than Dream Theater…
But my computer is obviously wiser than me as it has “lost” that piece.
Probably for the best as it was incoherent, rambled on and offered nothing new.
Bit like much of the album the devil on my shoulder whispers maliciously, whilst the angel on the other shoulder says that I should play nice and talk about the bits that sound like Spock’s Beard (Instrumental break in track 4 , Rhythm in the Spirit) the track that I will be adding to my MP3 player ( Section 60) Or the song that sounds like “Dust In The Wind” (Refugee)
That last one is playing now, it should be a heart breaking paen to the plight of the disposed, but the vocals make it sound as traumatic as having to wait for the green man to appear before crossing an empty road.
The vocal harmonies are trying to be emotive, but I must be a callus twisted person as I remain immune. The instrumental break is almost Celtic with the minor chords of the keyboards floating along with the violin , painting a sound picture of an empty road , whether a road to hell or a road to nowhere I am not able to decide as the track just stops.
The atmosphere is sucked out as quickly as the potatoes in the Martian when the habitiat decompresses. The result is just as catastrophic.
I’m thrown back into AOR bland land, this singer is good, but in the wrong band. Either that or I am missing something.
To me, great vocalists are individuals; you recognise them from the merest vocal hiccup or inflection. They are the living embodiment of the lyric. AS I mentioned before, this is more like an X Factor audition, all technique and no soul.
The band try hard , there are some nice interplays between violin, guitar and keyboard / orchestra on track 6, but it’s all very widescreen and a bit primary TV- pleasant, inoffensive and a wee bit formulaic.
Track 8, Summer, is a jaunt bouncy little tune, featuring another 3 way battle between guitar, violin and keyboards. Sadly, it lacks grit though, the singer again detracts from the feeling by sounding breathless and the lack of power in his voice let the side down.The lyric too is a bit wishy-washy. He warbles on about never regretting that summer. But doesn’t elaborate any further, so we can only speculate as to the trauma that caused him the regret – losing his paper round? Finding out that he would have to go back to school at the end of the holiday?
Once again, the track stops suddenly without warning, almost causing the following track to crash into it.
Another 3 minutes or so of vague pomp and we reach the only track that I think will get repeat plays – the rather strangely titled Section 60, starts as a middle paced power balled score, with the triple faced instrumental front line swelling and building to a peak .
Here we have the big guitar moment, all dry ice and spot lit gurning, with the violin in counterpoint.
And this is the bit that gets me – as the music fades to a violin and a military snare drum cutting through and playing out to fade. No coda, no lyric, just this echoed drum pattern that fades into the night. It serves as a flicker of hope after the battle, poignant and powerful.
I get he image of the aftermath of a great battle, the drum and violin painting the silence after the bombast and fighting has ended, the smoke clears to show the dead, the dying and the small group of survivors banded together, walking off into the sunset.
Clichéd, yes, but then that’s this album through and through. It is anachronistic in that it could have been made in 1976 when the band were at the top of their game and FM radio needed a steady supply of anthemic songs to power the great American dream.
Instead, here we are 40 years later and the rest of the world has moved on. I am sure that many will listen to this with the aural equivalent of rose tinted glasses, the music taking them back to that mythical summer of ’76.
If you liked Kansas then, you’ll probably love this – I sneaked a read at reviews on that tax dodging site – yes, the fans are claiming it as the second coming, so I’m going to annoy people again but it did nothing for me, failed to inspire . A C+ album if we graded such things.
Released 23rd September 2016
Have you ever tried to categorise something and found it close to impossible because its fits some of them and yet none at the same time? I find myself there right now after over ten times around the album ‘These Roots Know No Boundaries’ by Sphelm and, having heard the Orenda EP from 2014, I find to be fascinating, challenging and yet still highly enjoyable. Mike McKnight and Tim Powell form the actual band but they have a great deal of help here with the Album from some excellent guest musicians.
They self-define as Acoustic Ambient Electronic yet I believe that is too limited a description. Sphelm were born out of Post rock metal band Cyril Snear and were looking for the next step to follow after that band broke up.
Mike and Tim have written music that, if played in a full electric band, would come out at the cutting edge of Progressive but the ‘stripped back to basics’ style gives it a uniqueness and identity all of its own with no box to fit. Whether you’d call it a new branch of music or some guys following their noses and seeing where it goes either way, this is worthy of exploration.
The music is complex and accessible with some outstanding songs that appear simple at first pass and then the detail surfaces on further hearing. Stillness is the simplest and yet it isn’t with its complex harmonies and harmonic on the acoustic guitar and keyboard backing. A song that asks us to stop and be still and think without the noise we have around us constantly in the 21st century. After The Dopamine seems to refer to again to society and the bubble we exist in as people, consumerism being the Dopamine in question. Mainly with complex vocal harmonies but with atmospheric keyboards plugging the gaps, it stands out on the first few listens as one that has longevity.
Prince Rupert’s Drop has a folky feel to it at the start which then leads into a beautiful guitar lick. Is it a treatise on molten glass dropped into water or a metaphor for human resilience in our modern world? The title track really stands out too. A fine example of how the human voice can join in a harmony that is greater than the sum of the parts. The lilting Trumpet section is not intrusive but sneaks up on you and hypnotises you and, overall, the melancholy feel is achingly beautiful and emotive.
The whole album is not even close to the mainstream, it is ‘off piste’ even for the Progressive but not in any dissonant way but in a way that the likes of Sigur Ros and Steven Wilson travel their own path. In fact all you fans of Post Rock, Math Rock and those are partial to the ambience of Eno and Fripp and who have the desire to hear acoustic music, you should buy it. If you are adventurous in any way get your name on a copy of this album.
Released 21st October 2016
The Pineapple Thief have announced a string of European dates for early 2017 in support of their highly acclaimed new album, ‘Your Wilderness’. The band will be joined by virtuoso Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on drums.
“We always said that we couldn’t imagine touring the material live without Gavin on stage’, explains band leader Bruce Soord, ”We’re so excited that we have made it happen. It’s a real once in a lifetime event.”
20.01 Patronaat, Haarlem NL
21.01 Uden, De Pul NL
22.01 Zwolle, Hedon NL
24.01 Aschaffenburg, Colos Saal DE
25.01 Oberhausen, Eisenlager DE
26.01 Berlin, Frannz club DE
27.01 Prague, Futurum Music Bar CZ
28.01 Dresden, Tante Ju DE
29.01 Hamburg, Knust DE
31.01 Maastricht, Muziekgieterij NL
01.02 Paris, Le Divan Du Monde FR
09.02 Glasgow, ABC2 UK
10.02 Manchester, Sound Control UK
11.02 London, Islington Assembly Hall UK
For more information and ticket details – http://pineapplethief.com/tour
The band will be performing Your Wilderness plus a string of re-imagined favourites from their back catalogue, and with an expanded 5-piece line-up including Darran Charles on additional guitar duties, this will be a live show not to be missed. Special guest support is from Kscope label mates Godsticks.
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 brought in several special guest performers: Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) contributed drums throughout the album, John Helliwell (Supertramp) some beautiful clarinet parts, and Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) provided a string quartet. They were also joined by a 4-piece choir and to cap it all off, Darran Charles (Godsticks) added some jaw dropping guitar playing.
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 vital ingredients to the unmistakable TPT sound.
Your Wilderness has been released by Kscope on CD / LP / Digital and as a Deluxe hardback book 2 CD+DVD set: www.kscopemusic.com/store
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR “IN EXILE ” HERE
WATCH AN ACOUSTIC VERSION OF “TEAR YOU UP ” RECORDED AT SOORD STUDIOS HERE:
The Pineapple Thief online:
Colin Tench tells us,
“The album is complete and in preparation for CD manufacture. The cast list is a dream come true. The diversity of the players and pieces is what makes this album special to me. The album structure could be labelled Prog before there was Prog. Split this into the written piece “Hair in a G-String” (about 46 minutes) & “Songs not in G” (About 36 minutes) and you’d have a prog album and a melodic rock album I guess. We didn’t do that. We mixed it up. See it as musical interludes between the main action.”
I’ve heard And So, Today with the great Peter Jones on vocals and am happy to say that this release is sounding rather exciting!
See full track and guest-listing below:
1. Hair in a G-String part 1 (The opening) [6.25]
Peter Jones: Vocals, Saxophone
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano
Steve Gresswell: Piano, Keyboards, Percussion
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Stef Flaming: Percussion
2. Can’t see it any other way [4.36]
Colin Tench: Guitars
Phil Naro: Vocals
Gary Derrick: Bass guitar
Marco Chiappini: Piano
Victor Tassone: Drums
3. Hair in a G-String part 2 (The Hairy Part) [6.04]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Synthesisers, Drum programming
Phil Naro: Vocals
Steve Gresswell: Keyboards
Stef Flaming: keyboards
Oliver Rusing: Drums, Percussion
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Stephen Speelman: Stunt bass
4. The Mad Yeti [2.55]
Colin Tench: guitars
5. The Sad Brazilian [7.20]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra, Shaving cream
Petri Lemmy Lindström: Bass guitar
6. And so, Today [4.08]
Pete Jones: Vocals, Clarinet
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano, Percussion
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Jay Theodore McGurrin: Drums
7. Hair in a G-String part 3 (I’m Going Down) [10.09]
Peter Jones: Vocals
Colin Tench: Guitars, Synthesisers, Piano
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Oliver Rusing: Drums
Steve Gresswell: Keyboards
Angelo Hulshout: Fretless Bass
Sonej Retep: Sciryl lanoitidda
8. Lisa waltzes back in with no G-String [3.53]
Colin Tench: Guitars
Gordon Bennett: String Section, Horns, Basses
Petri Lindström: Bass Guitar
Robert Wolff: Drums
Pasi Koivu: Synthesisers, Organ
Sean Filkins: Tamborine
9. Lisa’s Entrance Unplugged [3.09]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Synthesisers
Ian Beabout: Flute
10. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Screwed [7:32]
Colin Tench: Guitars, vocals, Percussion
Gary Derrick: Bass guitar
Marco Chiappini: Keyboards
Victor Tassone: Drums, Percussion
11. La Palo Desperado [5.54]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Annoying noises
12. A Beautiful Feeling [5.58]
Phil Naro: Vocals
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano, Percussion
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Gary Hodges: (Buckingham Nicks): Drums
Kelly Brown: (Ozark Mountain Daredevils): Keyboards
Vic Tassone: Percussion
Violins: (String Section) http://www.springfieldmosymphony.org/
Tina Sibley (Springfield Symphony)
Kirsten Weingartner (Springfield Symphony)
Ned Horner (Springfield Symphony)
Aleksis Zarins (Springfield Symphony)
13. Dnieper Summer Day [1.38]
Colin Tench: acoustic guitars
David Knokey: Rhythm Guitar
Stef Flamming: Bass guitar
14. Part 4b [7.58]
Peter Jones: Lead Vocals
Phil Naro: Lead Vocals
Colin Tench: Guitars
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra, Perucssion, Triangle, Thing that goes boing
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Angelo Hulshout: Fretless bass
Jay Theodore McGurrin: Drums (We fired Neil Peart)
15. Part 4b Redux [0.23]
Peter Jones: Piano
Peter Jones: Main vocal
Peter Jones: Backing vocals
Peter Jones: Foley guy
Peter Jones: Production
Colin Tench: Bugger all
BONUS TRACK: Liza’s Waltz with full orchestral arrangements [4.23]
All instruments and arrangements by Gordon Bennett
Based on the original Lisa’s Waltz by Colin Tench.
All artwork by Sonia Mota.