I have to say this is the first band I have ever reviewed from New Zealand, with an intriguing name.
I had no preconceptions as I have not heard of Mice On Stilts previously so how would ‘Hope for a Mourning’ fare in my ears, will it stand above the general masses or will it wobble precariously and fall from the heights? What type of music will this six man collective from Auckland who have been together just over 4 years I believe, have to offer, the tags on their site seem to cover a varied scope of genres.
They line up as:
Guy Harrison – Piano/Trumpet
Tim Burrows – Bass/Producer
Rob Sanders – Drums
Sam Loveridge – Violin/Guitar
Charlie Isdale – Violin/Sax
Benjamin Morley – Guitars / Vocal
I have a healthy taste for sweet melancholia when the mood takes, as some of you may have deduced from previous reviews I have written for Progradar. I don’t usually find it depressing, on the contrary I can find it quite melodic, relaxing and sometimes uplifting. A release from the hustle and bustle of the working day as you drift on swathes of laid-back sometimes cheerless vocals partnering sombre echoing tunes, tenaciously resisting any temptation to increase tempo greatly and a master-class in masochistic restraint.
The haunting piano from Guy Harrison, ghost like around our aural receptors as mist across the grass, brushes the blades of our consciousness on first track Khandahlla, which just happens to be the name of a suburb of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, located on hills overlooking Wellington Harbour. Its named after Khandela, which is in India and one of it’s meanings is ‘The resting place of God’, among a few other interpretations. Benjamin Morely’s plaintive vocals cling refreshingly to your skin. He has described this as “a happy song about happy things” and the swirling wisps of the other instruments and uplifting choir leave you wistfully cheerful.
Orca drifts through the waves of deviation, lapping at the shores of your mind as the first chorus leads to changes in style and an ambient passage floats out to return to the ripples of the chorus once more, only to lethargically swim away on an instrumental tide.
Acoustic guitar takes the fore on The Hours to carry the harmonising vocals on a bed of lighter piano keys in one of the less complicated tracks, with an ear-worm chorus.
There’s a darker tone to the jazz style piano on And We Saw His Needs Through The Casketgiving this track an eerie feel. The haunting vocals from the choir hang in the misty air as the guitar drifting through the damp avenues of this track unnervingly permeate your ears.
The spectral feel flows into Yhwh turning more wistful before heavier guitars and instrumentation crash in like a monster from the fog only to disappear just as suddenly, leaving sparse jittery sounds and solo guitar before it dramatically lurches back into view, roaring foetid notes in your face before swamping you and carrying you away into the darkness.
Calm returns in waves of piano and male/female duetting interspersed with Guy’s Trumpet on title track, Hope For A Mourning, seguing into a sober instrumental passage for the second half of the track.
I have to say the rhythm section from Tim and Rob add a gently disturbing current on which the rest of the instruments ride most ably, like a ferryman taking passage across an expanse of murky water, serenaded on parts of the journey by the violins and sax from Sam and Charlie.
Plucked acoustic guitar leads you to theFuneraland Benjamin’s stark, emotionally melancholic lyrics on what is probably the saddest song here, as the rest of the band’s mournful cortège pick up the harrowing procession.
It’s easy to feel the music at times is quite sparse, until you listen intently to discover the complexity of the darkly rapturous arrangements. Both vocals and instruments flit like brief visions at times, in a hall of despondently melodious mirrors, no more so than on the final song, Monarch. Saxophone slips between violins like serpents as they slither across the bleak body of this track in a chilling rapture of blackened souls.
You have to like this type of music, with scents of Nick Cave, Radiohead and the recently discovered Down The river Dead Men Go brought to mind. But if you do it is a beautiful melancholy in which to wallow and bide a little while, which I feel will stand the test of time.
Scottish Singer-Songwriter Findlay Napier has announced details of his forthcoming new album ‘Glasgow’, which can be ordered now via his Kickstarter campaign.
Findlay describes the project:
“Just before my 18th birthday I moved from the banks of the River Spey to the 14th floor of the Red Road flats in Glasgow. I’d come to study Traditional Scottish Folk Music at what is now The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Twenty years later I want to make an album that reflects on the time I’ve spent in Glasgow making music, hanging out and growing up.
Boo Hewerdine is producing the album and we have already started recording the album in Motherlode Studio, Norfolk. We need your help to finish the recording and release the album.
Glasgow has a rich history of music and, of course, songwriting. From Adam MacNaughton‘s ‘Jeely Piece’ song to The Blue Nile‘s ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’ hundreds of songs have been written about this wonderful city. My new album will contain a mixture of some of my favourite songs, some that I’ve written especially for the project and some co-writes with Boo Hewerdine.
I’ll keep you informed all along the way either through short video blogs, blogs and sneaky listens to works in progress.
Why use Kickstarter? A few reasons for this 1) It is a simple way for you to pre-order the album. Kickstarter is a well known an trusted crowdfunding site. 2) Unless you are signed to a major label it makes more sense for a small independent act like myself to use a crowdfunding platform. 3) It’s fun to have fans involved album making process.
What are you going to do with my money? All of the money you contribute will go straight into the project. The main areas of spending are: Recording (recording, mixing and mastering), design (Photographs & design) and promotion (Local, National and Online Press plugger and radio plugger… I do the social media stuff myself… as you may have noticed). The final major expense is duplication (‘pressing’ the CD, setting up download, liscensing fees, barcode)…. and then there’s all the little things (travel expenses, tea/coffee/food for the studio, guitar strings etc.) The more money you contribute the more I can do with the album.
You can check out this this exciting project here:
There are many who find themselves described as stalwarts, some for the rugged determination to keep slogging away and others because they contribute so much to stay actively involved on a whole range of levels, keeping sharp artistically and selflessly championing others who deserve attention.
Findlay Napier is one of the most highly-regarded performers and creative forces on the Scottish music scene – thoroughly active and truly energised with a heart-warming zing.
His last album, ‘VIP: Very Interesting Persons’, contains ten songs about real life characters with interesting lives was co-written and produced by Boo Hewerdine.‘VIP’ was The Telegraph’s #2 Folk Album of the Year 2015 and was Album of the Week in The Daily Express received many excellent reviews. To coincide with his successful 2016 solo tour Napier released an EP containing 5 new VIP songs and a behind the lyrics book.
Findlay, an inaugural graduate of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland‘s BA(Scottish Music) program, made his name touring and recording with multi-award winning traditional Scottish folk band Back of the Moon. In his more recent projects “Queen Anne’s Revenge” and “The Bar Room Mountaineers” his song-writing took centre stage and was described by The Sunday Herald as “Genuine songcraft and wit following in the Difford & Tilbrook tradition”. Findlay is also well known as the host of Celtic Connections’ Late Night Sessions and for his Hazy Recollections concert series which showcases the very best in new roots music.
In Feb 2017 Findlay will be touring with ‘Shake the Chains’ a new touring commission of protest songs from Folk by The Oak with support from Arts Council England, Help Musicians UK and Folk Alliance International. The tour features Nancy Kerr, Hannah Martin and Tim Yates with musical director Greg Russell.
Aside from his touring commitments Findlay performs regular Stand-Up Comedy shows around Glasgow.In September he organised and sold out Glasgow Songwriting Festival.
Canadian melodic proggers SLYDE have streamed another track from their upcoming EP Back Again, due February 17.
Listen to the track of the same name here:
First premiered on Invisible Oranges, the track is another tantalising listen of the band’s talents ahead of their new release. For fans of Haken, Rush, Dream Theater and more, Slyde are back after a two-year hiatus and a new line-up. Driven by the clean vocals of frontman Nathan Da Silva and the powering keyboards of Sarah Westbrook, Back Again is a fitting return to form from this beguiling four-piece.
Four tracks of virtuosic contrapuntal songwriting exploring the relationship between environmentalism and sci-fi, Back Again is a fantastically entertaining listen. Ear-catching for any fan of technically-minded melodic prog rock, Slyde are a band who before their hiatus played over 150 shows on the Eastern Canadian circuit, including shows with Protest the Hero and at Canadian Music Week (2013), IndieWeek (2011-2013), and Wacken Metal Battle (2013).
IT’S TIME! After many months of non-stop work, Legendary Swedish symphonic progressive rock band ÄNGLAGÅRD are proud to present their first ever professionally filmed concert, set to be released worldwide on February 10th, 2017. Entitled “ÄNGLAGÅRDLIVE: MADE IN NORWAY”, pre-orders are open now.
Check out the promotional video below:
“Live: Made in Norway” was captured at Musikkflekken, Sandvika, Norway on February 21, 2015, marking the band’s return to Norway stages after 23 years of absence.
Edited by Martin Gustafsson, with audio production and mixing by world renowned audio engineer Alar Suurna, and art design and production by long-time collaborator Joel Barrios, the two-hour performance is a stellar capturing of live art through and through; a perfect testimony of Änglagård‘s unique take on progressive rock, showcasing their swirling, angular crescendos along with frenetic rhythms and howling mellotron, blended with truly emotional sudden softer passages.
A sonic rollercoaster of aggressive music in odd meter, subtle parts and melancholic beauty, building suspense and abrupt stops, with a wondrous interplay of sounds, this visual presentation is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Änglagård‘s extreme level of delicacy in phrasing and dynamic is a tough match to beat in progressive music and should hold up even in the face of the snootiest of music connoisseurs.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
― Steve Jobs
“The most complicated skill is to be simple.”
― Dejan Stojanovic
Imagine, if you will, a school of excellence for the mixing, mastering and production of music, Progwarts for the progressive music world maybe? (I’ll get my coat eh?), where engineers like the renowned Rob Aubrey, the revered Steven Wilson and the talented Daniel Bowles learned the dark arts and black magic that is stock in trade for such an establishment. I haven’t got a clue how they take the raw elements of music and wondrously turn them into the refined and polished product that us end users get to hear.
However, there is such a thing as an over-engineered piece of music and one where the engineer and/or recording artists just can’t help having that final tinker around to produce something with an almost unnatural sound.
So, taking things a step further, what if former star pupil John Bassett turned his back on the venerated establishment and went on a perilous journey into the deep, dark wilds of Ireland and recorded in a derelict Byre in County Sligo on December 29th 2016? Recorded in one take with three microphones, one for vocals, one for guitar and one for ambient sounds such as the birds nesting in the roof, the wind outside and the door continually creaking.
Well, you’d have ‘Live From The Byre’, the latest solo E.P. from this well respected English multi-instrumentalist and producer. It follows 2014’s full length ‘Unearth’ and the ‘Aperture’ E.P. released last year.
(Picture credit Tamsin Bassett)
The songs featured on this back-to-basics, pared back recording are:
1. Unearth (from John Bassett“Unearth”)
2. Nothing Sacred (from John Bassett“Unearth”)
3. Murder in a Small Town (from KingBathmat“Blue Sea, Black Heart”)
4. Brand New Crucifix (this song is about 20 years old and I don’t think its ever been available anywhere?)
John had this to say his latest recording:
“I hope you enjoy this release, I’ve always wanted to create something that has an intimate atmosphere and was created spontaneously, and this certainly wasn’t what I had planned on doing.”
Unearth opens with a really moody feel, subdued guitar and John’s hesitant, pared back vocal to give a really intimate atmosphere to the song. I can imagine myself in the byre listening to this earnest musician recording this track live. It may be a simple set up but that doesn’t mean you get less from the music. There are plenty of nuances and empty spaces for the sound to fill. It is almost edge-of-seat stuff, quite intense in the way it leaves you nervously apprehensive as the guitar builds up to quite a powerful close to the song. A dynamic track that proves less can always be more…
There is a jaunty repose to the opening of Nothing Sacred as the guitar strums along nicely and the vocals have a halting edge to them. The song builds up to the chorus, the guitar increasing pace and John’s voice becoming more influential. I listened to this song with headphones on for the first time and I really got the impression of being in an intimate acoustic gig in some small basement club somewhere, time and life forgotten in the moment. That is the essence of this E.P., it is music you can lose yourself in and gets right to the basics of why we listen to it in the first place.
Murder In A Small Town takes on a more melancholy note, a wistful sorrow in the vocals and the delicate guitar tone. This is a tale of sorrow and woe and has that almost pensive folk like feel to it. Stories from the backwoods brought to life by the brilliant musician in front of you. To my ears, the most pared back of all four of the songs and yet there is a real substance to it as John gives his heart and soul to the music. It is quite spellbinding in its own way and left me transfixed as it came to its sombre close.
There is a touch of old style 50’s Rock & Roll at the heart of Brand New Crucifix with the subdued guitar playing and its really deep resonance and John’s stylishly restrained vocal delivery. This could have been a Johnny Cash song in his heyday and it really resonates with its restrained and controlled feeling of fury. There is an increase in tempo towards the end, an intense and turbulent finish to the song that leaves you almost breathless.
Now I’ve been a fan of John Bassett through KingBathmat,Arcade Messiah and all his solo work and his incredible ‘Wall Of Sound’ has always blown me away but here he really shows that you can strip things all the way back to basics and deliver music that is true to his heart and soul and has a purity that you just won’t find anywhere else. Everybody should listen to this E.P. at least once and remember what music really is all about, this is a Brexit that actually did work.
SikTh, the UK’s progressive metal forefathers, have commenced recording their brand new studio album. The, as yet, untitled 3rd album will be their first new full length since 2006’s ‘Death Of A Dead Day’ and follows on from last year’s acclaimed Opacities EP recorded after their reunion performance at the UK’s legendary Download Festival. The new album is scheduled for a May 2017 release, with the first single and video entitled “No Wishbones” due to be released on Friday 10th February.
Vocalist Mikee Goodman reveals how the recording sessions are progressing“We’ve started recording and it is sounding really vibey so far. This album should be a lot more aggressive than our Opacities EP on the whole. A lot of slamming grooves there, also lots of intricacy and dynamics as always”. He goes on to explain the creative process within the band “There is a formula in SikTh which works well. I always take the lead in the early stages and also I write all lyrics. But of course I am open to Joe Rosser, our new vocalist’s melodic input later on. We have not entered that stage yet. These initial steps are me laying my ideas in, since I have a great studio set up, if I do something awesome now, it goes straight on the record. That’s a great thing because as most vocalists will tell you, it’s all about the vibe and feeling. It’s all about the moment.”
The vocals are primarily being recorded at Mikee’s own studio and at Adrian Smith’s (Iron Maiden) R&R Studios; Mikee & Adrian Smith worked together previously on the Primal Rock Rebellion project. The guitars and drums will be recorded at the renowned Monkey Puzzle House studios. Dan Weller will be producing, alongside Adam “Nolly” Getgood (Periphery), handling mixing duties.
The new album is to be released via Millennium Night, the newly created imprint from Snapper Music, home of Peaceville Records & Kscope. The label imprint name, chosen by SikTh, comes from the track taken from their debut 2003 album The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild.
Mikee explains “We have signed to Millennium Night, which is a new division of Snapper Music; they decided they would invent a new label just for us, we don’t fit in and we never felt the need to”.
Further updates from the studio will be revealed over the coming weeks.
Ahead of the release of their new studio album the band will head out on tour across the UK & Europe with Trivium.
Guitar virtuoso and rock legend, Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis), releases his latest album The Night Siren on 24th March 2017 through InsideOut Music (Sony). As implied in the title, The Night Siren is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of strife and division.
The Night Siren showcases Steve’s incredible guitar playing as strongly as ever, along with regular Hackett collaborators and also musicians from several different countries who Steve invited to join him in celebrating multicultural diversity and unity. This includes singers from Israel and Palestine, who both actively campaign to bring Jewish and Arabic people together. There are also instrumentals from the USA and Iraq and a multiplicity of sounds, including the exotic strains of Indian sitar and Middle Eastern tar and oud, the ethnic beauty of the Peruvian charango and the haunting Celtic Uilleann pipes.
Steve is widely travelled, making friends everywhere he goes and has always embraced multicultural diversity. In these times of unrest, he has been inspired to express his belief that the world needs more empathy and unity. His wish to involve a range of musical sounds, instruments, musicians and singers from different parts of the world is both a development of his eclectic approach to music and shows how people can be brought together, even from war torn regions.
Talking about his latest work, Steve says, “This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over the world. From territorial frontiers to walled-up gateways, boundaries often hold back the tide. But while the night siren wails, music breaches all defences. To quote Plato, ‘When the music changes, the walls of the city shake’.”
The musical journey takes us from ‘Behind the Smoke’, focusing on the plight of refugees throughout the ages, to the penultimate track ‘West to East’ which reflects on the damage of war and the hope for a better world. From personal to universal, the themes celebrate the life force, breaking free from chains of repression.
The album features: Steve Hackett (guitar & vocals), Roger King (keyboards & programming), Nad Sylvan (vocals on Inca Terra), Rob Townsend (all things wind), Amanda Lehmann (vocals), Gary O’Toole (drums), and Benedict Fenner (additional keyboards & programming). Also featured are singers Kobi and Mira (Israeli and Palestinian), Nick D’Virgilio (drums) from the USA, Malik Mansurov (Tar) from Azerbaijan & Gulli Breim (drums & percussion) from Iceland. Additional musicians who add to the rich flavour of the album are Christine Townsend (violin & viola), Dick Driver (double bass), Troy Donockley (Celtic Uilleann) and Leslie Bennett (keyboards on The Gift).
Full Track Listing:
Behind the Smoke
Fifty Miles from the North Pole
Other Side of the Wall
Anything but Love
In Another Life
In the Skeleton Gallery
West to East
Steve Hackett is returning with an exciting new show Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett for a 15-date UK tour in April 2017. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, Steve and his band will be performing several tracks from the album as well as fan favourites such as ‘The Musical Box’ and other Genesis numbers never performed before by Steve’s band including ‘Inside & Out,’ ‘One For The Vine’ and ‘Anyway’ as well as material from The Night Siren.
“Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving, refining, improving, adapting, enhancing…changing. You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Yes, everything changes but, in music, sometimes that change either takes what seems like a lifetime or never happens at all. Some of the more established acts could be said to have congealed into their final selves. To be fair, they can often still produce great music but you always know what to expect and that means no more surprises and I for one like a few surprises in my musical journeys.
Tim Bowness has admitted to me himself that he does have a signature sound and it is one that can be heard as the foundation on his previous three solo releases ‘My Hotel Year’ (2004), ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ (2014) and 2015’s ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’. 2017 sees him return with a new album, ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’, and a new approach.
Here’s Tim’s thoughts:
“This new album, in some ways, it is quite a departure. There are lots of flutes on it and due to the nature of ‘the concept’, it’s definitely the most traditionally Progressive album I’ve made. It was very much a labour of love and like you say, it ‘felt’like a Tim Bowness album while taking the music into some uncharted places (for me).”
‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ is a concept album revolving around the onstage and backstage reflections of a fictional ‘classic’ Rock musician in the twilight of his career. It is a grand statement about a grand era of music making and an undoubted highlight of Bowness’s career.
Lyrically, the album addresses how the era of streaming and ageing audiences affects creativity, how a life devoted to music impacts on real / family life, and how idealistic beginnings can become compromised by complacency and the fear of being replaced by younger, more vital artists.
Though firmly focused on Bowness’s distinctive voice and musical approach, the album also draws inspiration from the period the concept covers and contains a notable 1970s Symphonic/Progressive Rock influence.
Mixed and mastered by Bowness’s No-Man partner Steven Wilson, ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ uses a core band comprising Stephen Bennett, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief), Hux Nettermalm (Paatos) and Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), as well as guests including Kit Watkins (Happy The Man/Camel), Steve Bingham (No-Man) and the legendary Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull). Andrew Keeling (Robert Fripp/Hilliard Ensemble/Evelyn Glennie) arranges for string quartet and flute on three of the album’s
Jarrod Gosling (I Monster / Cobalt Chapel) provides the fantastically detailed artwork, which includes a visual history of the career of the concept’s subject. Mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson, the special cd/dvd edition also features a 5.1 mix by Bruce Soord.
Tim certainly knows how to start things off with a bang. Opener Worlds Of Yesterday is hypnotic, immersive and mesmerising from the first note, a song that draws you into its soporific embrace to deliver its undoubted charms. The gentle background music has a plaintive guitar note overlaid before Tim’s distinctive vocals begin. His voice is calming and spell-binding at the same time and the beautiful strings that back the chorus work in perfect harmony. The music is full of refined grace and yet the probing guitar that you can hear throughout gives it a questing edge as well. The sedate, ambling keyboards are a delight and the flute just adds another layer of undoubted class, You just have to listen to the run out of this elegant track, it is a brilliant way to close out a song. One for late nights, lights turned down low and something full bodied and red to drink…
Moonshot Manchild opens with a laconic feel, typical Tim Bowness, all laid back vocals and subdued music that gets under your skin in an addictive fashion. There’s a subtle incisiveness running underneath though as the mellow and unhurried music washer over you. Classic 70’s keyboards give a real feeling of wistful nostalgia and a melancholy undertone to the ongoing tale. Tim’s voice has never sounded so good and he really has one of the most serenely relaxed vocal deliveries around. There’s a great keyboard interlude in the middle of the track, pensive and thoughtful asking you to reflect for a moment before the song blossoms out again with a wonderfully carefree and composed instrumental section. Once again we are treated to another impressive lead out, something that seems to be coming stock in trade for this great musician, it ebbs and flows brilliantly, demanding you follow it right to the end of the musical journey.
Wow! The next track is a real departure for Tim. All full of angst and pent up rage, Kill The Pain That’s Killing You opens with frantic drum beat and a caustic guitar riff. There’s a real nervous energy about this song, a pleading uneasiness that has a real catchy note to it. Tim’s vocal seems more direct and urgent and that acerbic guitar note really does make you sit up and take notice. The staccato chorus only adds to the offbeat tone, this is something very different and enjoyably so and, coming in at under four minutes, this frenetic song never outstays its welcome.
After that unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable onslaught,Nowhere Good To Go sees us return to the refined, simple grace of the first two tracks but there is definitely something evolved about Tim’s sound on this album. Soothing and tranquil, the music seems to lull you into a becalmed state and then open up into something just a little different with the dulcet tones of a Hammond organ combining with the strings to add subtle sophistication to what is already quite an imposing sound. Again the vocals are delivered with silken finesse and the ethereal flute adds a winsome feeling to this lissome song.
There is one of the best openings to any recent progressive song on You’ll Be The Silence. All pastoral with a lovely piano sound and the delicate heavenly flute, it really did impress me on first listen and left me transfixed with its rarefied quality. Tim’s voice has a little catch to it, an almost sentimental regret at the heart of it and it gives the song a dreamlike atmosphere when combined with the simple charms of the wistful music. The longest track on the album at nine minutes long, you are enraptured throughout this unapologetically sentimental and yet slightly rueful piece of music. You have to take the time to listen to this song (and, indeed, the whole album) with a decent pair of headphones on and just become immersed in its spellbinding orchestral reverence. Music as good as this can take you to a place of calm reflection, where the world cannot harm you and everyone needs that now and again, an utterly captivating song that ends every bit as brilliantly as it begins, the guitar and flute leading you on a seductive voyage home…
Lost In The Ghost Light is quite a dark interlude with a menacing undertone. Tim delivers his vocal in a spoken word fashion and that adds even more suspense and uncertainty. The music is atmospheric and bleeds tension directly into your system.
That slight feeling of doubt can be felt at the start of You Wanted To Be Seen and adds to a cautionary tone to deliver a deliberately pensive and sombre tone to the song. Tim’s vocal is thoughtful and sad and the music has a plaintive and pensive edge to it. The violin that can be heard in the background is a fine touch and adds a longing, surreal edge to the track before things change tack with a restless and skittish air that adds tension and a disquieting unease. Another great song that has an imposing end with some great guitar playing.
Onto the final track of the album, Distant Summers, a mournful violin opens this mellow and cultured song and imbues it with a really plaintive plea for days gone by, Sepia tinged nostalgia drips from every wistful note and the exquisite flute playing is tempered by a trite ennui. The vocals have a touch of anguish at the core of them and the whole song has a fragile dignity deep at its core, one that is made up of beauty and remorse in equal quantities. Despite the forlorn mood that runs throughout the song, I still feel that there is hope emanating from Tim’s expressive voice and that is the overriding feeling that I will take away with me.
I’ve always been a fan of Tim Bowness and this new album has only exacerbated that. He has added something different and distinct to his music to evolve and progress it to something that, while recognisable as his work, has seen him mature into one of the best and most involving progressive artists that we have. There are added layers and nuances that just lift this album above similar fare on offer at the moment and I can see this being on my playlist for a long time to come.
Instrumental heavy rock band With Our Arms To The Sun have announced a pre-order ‘Pledge Music’ campaign for their fourth release ‘Orenda’ with a mooted release date of 21st April 2017. Pledgers can receive an immediate digital download, CD’s, Vinyl, limited edition artwork, merch, etc.
With Our Arms to the Sun is a rock band formed in the desert of Arizona. Their live shows are unique and emotional, bringing back the energy of the punk rock and grunge bands of the past who used to play to basements and art galleries packed full of kids. The music is cinematic and expressive with elements of conceptual album rock and modern electronics.
Orenda n. [aw-ren-duh]
1. A supernatural force believed by the Iroquois Indians to be present, in varying degrees, in all objects or persons, and to be the spiritual force by which human accomplishment is attained or accounted for.
A dormant potential to create exists within all human beings. It unconsciously binds the species at large. Most people just never unlock it. With Our Arms To The Sun examine that precious and potent power on their 2016 full-length concept album, ‘Orenda’ [Fade To Silence Records]. Painting in hues of rock, alternative, and metal, their cinematic sound blankets a curious canvas of Arizona Desert, weaving together a sonic journey to self-actualization for the quartet—Josh Breckenridge [vocals, guitar], Joseph Leary [guitar, programming], Joseph Breckenridge [bass], and John McLucas [drums].
“Orenda is that hidden power inside all of us,” says Josh. “The character in the album is discovering it. You can’t really transcend your own ego, shadow, or bullshit unless you make a connection with what whatever that obstacle is inside of you, eliminate it, and move past it. That’s what the new music is about.”
The band arrived at this narrative following a whirlwind of touring behind 2014’s independently released ‘A Far Away Wonder’. Loudwire began championing the album very early on, spotlighting the underground group on an international scale. The site named ‘A Far Away Wonder’ one of the “20 Best Metal Albums of 2014” and “Tessellation”one of the “20 Best Metal Songs of 2014,” admitting to being “captivated at first listen.” As buzz grew, the group landed tours with the likes of virtuoso guitarist John 5 [Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson] and Mushroomhead in addition to joining Tool, Primus, and Coheed & Cambria at the Monster Mash Festival in Phoenix. In early 2016, the group retreated to Los Angeles with a batch of demos and began pre-production on what would become ‘Orenda’ with legendary The Melvins founder Buzz Osborne.
“When we sat down with Buzz, it was a lot of refinement,” recalls Josh. “Having somebody who’s made a zillion albums listen to the ideas and give suggestions was invaluable. He’s a pretty brilliant dude, and he had some really wonderful ideas. We pieced it together from there.”
“Working with With Our Arms To The Sun was refreshing,” adds Buzz. “They were receptive to my ideas, which doesn’t always happen. They were incredibly hard workers, and I think the results speaks for themselves.”
Josh and his bandmates holed up in a rental house “in the middle of nowhere Arizona” to track the music. They emerged with the 10 songs comprising ‘Orenda’. The first single “Macrocosm – Prometheus” begins with a warbling moan reminiscent of Alien before a clean guitar takes hold. Propelled by artful percussion, the hazy six-string swell rises into thunderous distortion and an overpowering chant.
“It looks at the microcosm and macrocosm dichotomy,” he explains. “If you look at the universe and how huge it is, it’s this giant macrocosm. As human beings, we are a tiny microcosm of that macrocosm. Everything repeats itself in a beautiful outward pattern. The song is about the character coming to that realization he’s a piece of something bigger.”
Opener “Disdain”outlines the protagonist’s frustration under a gust of wind, typing, and ominous riff punctuated by Josh’s screams. “This guy is referencing a lot of the stupid shit he’s seeing around him in the world,” he continues. “I thought it would set the tone perfectly for someone who feels confused, disoriented, angry, and bitter.”
Everything culminates on “Homebound.”Amidst samples of loggers chopping down trees, the soundscape converges on one final melodic catharsis.
“That’s a conclusion of transcendence,” states Josh. “He makes an exodus off this planet and out of this world. We all agreed this was the perfect ending.”
Ultimately, ‘Orenda’ hints at something universal and essential.
“We wanted to create a record that was more than just background music or a cog-in-the-machine,” he leaves off. “You can wrap your brain around it. It’s about going on that ride together.”
Full details of the pledge-music campaign can be found here:
We are delighted to announce the (almost) complete line up for Summer’s End 2017, to be held at the Drill Hall, Chepstow on October 6-8 2017.
Leap of Faith tickets have now come off sale and will be replaced by standard tickets on Tuesday 17th January.
• Hero tickets (including a t shirt and our very special thanks) priced £120
• Sponsor tickets (including a T shirt) priced £105
• Standard weekend tickets priced £85
A very limited number of day tickets will be available soon. The festival sold out quickly last year and we are already 50% to sell out just with LOF tickets, so very early purchasing is recommended. With one band still to announce, we are already very proud of what is our most varied and internationally-orientated line up yet!
Here’s the line up -with one major band still to announce. Day splits will be announced soon.
Our Saturday headliners are the inimitable Frost* making their first appearance at the festival since their remarkable performance in 2008. The line up of the band – Jem Godfrey, John Mitchell, Nathan King and Craig Blundell – is now stable and playing regular live gigs in support of last years’ excellent “Falling Satellites”,
As they did in 2014, The Tangent and Sweden’s Karmakanic will be touring in 2016 as an intriguing double act, comprising of (largely) the same members playing two sets, closing the festival on Sunday 8th October. The band(s) will comprise Andy Tillison, Jonas Reingold, Luke Machin plus Marie Eve De Gaultier and other members to be announced. The Tangent will be making their third appearance at the festival and release “The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery” in 2017, while Karmakanic released “DOT” in 2016 and last played Summer’s End in 2010.
Those that have had the pleasure of seeing Franck Carducci and his superb band perform will know that they are one of the best – and most colourfully extravagant – live acts playing today. Mixing Prog with hard rock and just a touch of psychedelia, the band are sure to be one of the bands of the weekend following a successful UK tour in late 2016.
Following his performance with Damanek in 2016 (and with Unitopia in 2010), Australian keyboard wizard Sean Timms returns to the festival with his current band Southern Empire. The band are riding high following the release of their superb debut album and will be touring Europe in late 2017 with Karibow.
Few who were there will have forgotten the performance of a young band called Concrete Lake at Summer’s End 2011. Now called Maschine, guitar wizard Luke Machin‘s brilliant young band, which also includes bassist Dan Mash, released their magnificent second album ‘Naturalis’ during 2016 to great acclaim.
This well known German band have had an award winning, 20-year history. Led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Rusing, their powerful, crunchy, song orientated brand of Prog is often compared to Saga and It Bites. The band will tour Europe in 2017 with Southern Empire in suport of most recent album ‘Holophinium’.
Following Phideaux, K2,Discipline and 3rDegree,Elephants of Scotland will become the 5th band from the USA to play the festival. Formed in Vermont in 2010, the band have 3 studio albums under their belts and played a triumphant set at the Rosfest festival in 2014 , later released as a CD and DVD set.
Making their first appearance at the festival, but with several members that have played for us before are Midnight Sun, which comprises various former members of Unto Us and Also Eden in a combination which moulds the progressive and melodic textures of those bands with some heaver elements. Recording of the band’s debut album will begin in early 2017.
Our first participants from Canada, Half Past Four have won a deserved reputation for their quirky, jazzy, playful take on prog. So strong was their 2016 third album ‘Land of the Blind’ that we knew that it was high time they made their debut at the festival.
This superb band from France – fronted by vocalist and keyboard player Laetitia – mix Prog with slightly more metallic textures. The band are currently working on their second album following their excellent 2011 debut ‘You Need to Know Yourself’.