Dream the Electric Sleep, who released their 3rd album ‘Beneath the Dark Wide Sky’ last year, have announced a one off UK date as part of their upcoming European tour. Taking place at the Black Heart in London on 8th February the band will be bringing their expansive electric sound to the city for the very first time. Vocalist Matt Page comments:
“It has been an extraordinary year for Dream the Electric Sleep with the release of our third album, “Beneath the Dark Wide Sky.” We have moved forward in ways we never imagined possible and with the help of our fantastic team of partners in the UK and Europe, we are thrilled to be coming to play our first show in London at the Black Heart! We have pooled all of our resources together and worked feverishly to make this happen with the hopes of showing our tremendous gratitude towards those who have helped keep this band going all these years. The music industry is tumultuous these days and we see great bands come and go too often. Making this project long lasting and sustainable has been a high priority of ours and after nine years of writing and recording albums we are finally coming over to play a show and say thank you to our supporters in the UK, face-to-face, for helping keep this ship sailing for so many enriching years. See you all soon!”
The band was formed in Lexington, KY by Matt Page (vocals/guitar), Joey Waters (drums), and Chris Tackett (bass) in 2009. After two self-produced, independent releases, “Lost and Gone Forever” (2011) and “Heretics”(2014), Dream the Electric Sleep’s third album, “Beneath the Dark Wide Sky,” marked a clear shift in the band’s songwriting style and sonic quality which Prog Magazine hailed as ‘monumental’.
Wednesday 8th February – Black Heart, London – Free entry
Brett Kull is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, producer, and engineer from the United States. He is best knownfor being a founding member of the band Echolyn, and long standing member of Grey Eye Glances. Brett is also an adjunct college instructor sharing his love for audio engineering and sound design.
For his third solo release comprised of 10 new tracks, ‘Open Skies Exploding’, Brett decided to start releasing two songs a week starting on the 24th of December 2016 and has written a blog to coincide with these releases. When all ten songs have been released I will write a review of the full album but, in the meantime, here are Brett’s first three blogs…
Brett is heading to England for a tour with Francis Dunnery, here it is in his own words:
“Speaking of a wild ride, I’m headed to England next week for a mini tour of sorts with my friend Francis Dunnery, but I’ll try and have a couple songs in the oven, ready to go to help keep our hearts and bellies warm during my cold absence. Wait a minute, oh right, I’m starting my master’s degree this week! Shyte, I forgot!! I need to tell my instructors I’ll be AWOL for the first classes. Thanks for the reminder! Damn, one more thing to put on the list… and less time to drink wine!
But seriously, If any of you are in close proximity to ancient Britannia (during the dates below) feel free to come out and say hello. I’ve been hired to sing a hell-of-a lot, play a few keyboards, and even less guitar. It’s a good gig with an amazing songwriter and musical force of nature – Mr. Dunnery. The band is amazing and we walk the edge of complete catastrophe and utter brilliance. You wont be able to turn away! Here are the dates and where you can get tickets. Hope to share a pint with some of you… well, I’ll have my own pint and you’ll have yours.
A huge thankyou to Howy White for use of his excellent pictures!
“Why will people pay £3 a time for a fancy coffee and yet complain about forking out £10 for a gig ticket for two hours plus of excellent live music?”
The definition of frustration for a music lover like me. The thought came to me on Tuesday afternoon as I sat in a motorway service station branch of Starbucks sipping my £3.20 Flat White that had lasted me less than 10 minutes. The previous Saturday evening me and my better half Sally had made the trip up to Hartlepool to see my good friend, and excellent folk musician, Lee Maddison perform to over 100 people at the cricket club and what a bloody superb night it was.
Not only was Lee performing tracks from his new Maddison’s Thread album, ‘Sixty Minutes An Hour’ (released the day before),but he was also playing with a full band including a string quartet. Yes! a string quartet! In Hartlepool of all places! For us it was a two hour drive up to the venue and then two hours back again in a pea soup like fog but, believe me, it was worth every minute spent on the road because live music, when it is as good as this, is what life is all about, well mine anyway!
The evening started with a catch-up with some of the great people I have met through music in the North-East. Brendan Eyre (he of Riversea and Northlands fame) was there and we had a good chin wag and me and Sally spent the evening in the company of long time supporters of Lee, Howy White and his wife Amanda. Howy is a well known photgrapher who takes Lee’s publicity pictures (and all the pictures of this live gig) and Amanda is a talented artist who has done the cover art for both the Maddison’s Thread releases.
Then, as the enthusiastic audience quietened down, Lee introduced the opening act, folk singer EdwinaHayes, who hails from my neck of the woods and also sings on this latest release.
Edwina has a delicate songbird-like voice which works perfectly with her pared back acoustic guitar to give a wonderfully fragile performance. She has also perfected the art of in-between-song banter and regaled us with some really funny stories. Hopefully, one day, her ‘stalker’ Martin (not me by the way!) will get his way and she will release another album but, in the meantime, if you get chance to see Edwina play live then do take the opportunity. Her thoughtful and insightful lyrics really hit a chord with the audience and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance, especially the refined version of Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man with which she closed her set.
After a short break it was time for the main attraction and Lee had taken the decision to split his show into two sets. A first set of more laid back, acoustic music and a second with, as he put it, a bit more oomph!
Joining Lee to make up this night’s version of Maddison’s Thread were long time cohorts Stuart Hardy on violin (and who also arranged the strings) and Nigel Spaven on bass. To this considerably talented duo were added Darren Moore (Drums), Paul Donnelly (Guitars – Nylon string guitar in Thomas Hardy and Sixty Minutes) and Sue Ferris (Flute & Sax in Night Circus). Joining Stuart’s violin to make up the string quartet were Emma Fisk (Violin), Jill Blakey (Viola) and Fiona Beyer (Cello).
From the first self-titled Maddison’s Thread release, a beautiful rendition of Where Eagles Fly got proceedings of to a perfect start. Lee has a very unique voice and he was totally on form this evening and the added immediacy of a live peformance gave an added touch of vivacity to the songs. In a live setting The Fledgling from the new album had such meaning it left a lump in my throat and the flute was just wonderful. The audience were just rapt and carried on by a wave of emotion as Lee carried on with the simple, wistful charms of Weightless, a song that seems to have its childlike innocence exacerbated when performed in front of an enthralled audience. The nostalgic feel was lifted by the jaunty feel of Making The Morning Last, feet were tapping on the floor, heads were nodding in time with the music and those who knew the words (quite a lot, surprisingly) were singing along with the chorus. The impish and perky strings (especially Stuart’s expressive violin) gave a real playful feel to the song and the applause that followed was thoroughly deserved. Lee was keeping the audience entertained with a few anecdotes between tracks (mainly while he kept having to re-tune his guitar!).
Next up we were reintroduced to the dulcet tones of Edwina Hayes as she joined Lee on stage for an engaging version of the country music tinged Love Like Autumn from the new record and there was a great rapport between the artists as they performed a delightful vocal duet backed by the ever impressive strings. A bewitching performance of perennial favourite The Viking’s Daughter (possibly the first track I ever heard from Maddison’s Thread) came next. Hauntingly sincere, Lee’s vocals have never been better and Stuart’s violin graced the track with its stylish and elegant brilliance. The first set was closed out with the childlike innocence of Jessica, dedicated to his daughter, a simple yet captivating song that lifted your heart and soul and the final track Don’t Say Goodbye. A slightly melancholy piece of music that was exquisitely performed and pulled on your heartstrings all the way through and then it was time for the interval, where had that hour gone? An utterly absorbing sixty minutes of sublime, delightful music that came directly from the heart and was applauded with utmost gusto.
The second set opened with the funky jazz style of Night Circus, one of my all time favourite songs and it was immediately apparent that this part of the evening was going to upbeat and punchy. A really catchy tune that, played out in a live setting, was just about perfect. Lee’s voice took on a husky tone and the sax playing from Sue Ferris put a huge grin on my face. The evening was really rocking now. A song of highs and lows The Flycatcher had a subdued grace which blossomed into a powerful statement and was really intense live, leaving you in a thoughtful mood. Lee has the knack of writing some incredibly infectious songs and the title track from the new album is one of the best. Sixty Minutes An Hour really got under your skin, the haunting vocal and descriptive violin giving it almost a life of its own. I remember catching Howy’s eye and us just nodding at each other in quiet affirmation that Lee was ‘on it’ tonight, so to speak! The audience were clapping and singing along and the cheers, applause and whistling was increasing in volume at the end of every track. Whimsical, wistful and nostalgic, One Day is a song that seems to occupy a different time zone to the rest, the live performance took us to a place of repose and quiet contemplation where your worries just melted away. Lee’s voice was almost hypnotic in its delivery and the utterly chilled guitar playing contemplated it perfectly, utterly divine.
From the divine to the acerbic, Lee’s voice took on a more edgy tone with the tale of ne’er do wrongs that is Charlatan’s and Blaggers. A tongue in cheek performance with more than a hint of cynicism, the barely held back vitriol was evident in the harder edged vocals and sardonic tone of the violin, a really great tune to hear live. That laconic, sarcastic feel carried on with Tumbleweed and it was delivered in a style not too far apart from Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Lee letting a feel of world-weary pessimism creep into his voice perfectly. Stuart matches that irony with his staccato violin playing, almost derisive in places, I loved it. I know Lee Maddison is extremely proud of the track A Thomas Hardy Evening and rightly so. Played live to a receptive audience it was one of the highlights of a memorable evening, the subtle splendour of the vocals and the refined dignity of the music really come through and I was left a little open mouthed at the end.
Serious and thoughtful, Lines On A Fisherman’s Wife was another highlight of the evening for me. A traditional folk tale, Lee infused it with a somber, downcast and yet sweetly earnest tone. The audience greeted it with a hushed reverence, listening to every word. A really exquisite performance of what is such a dignified and reverential song. Paul Donnelly’s superb guitar is what I immediately noticed when Chasing The White Dove began. A slightly frenetic song that careered along at its own pace and one to which you couldn’t help but tap your foot. The evening was really in full swing now and the audience were lapping up what was being presented to them, some of them were even dancing at the back. One of Lee’s most biting and satirical tracks, Parasiteful was given even more caustic acidity in the live arena. Biting lyrics delivered in a hard and unforgiving manner, you see the other side to this usually affable man’s nature and it went down a storm with the audience. This lengthy and utterly brilliant set came to a close with the upbeat Wonderful Day, a song that gets you singing along and bouncing in time with the music and the musicians were all on top form as they delivered a great crowd pleasing rendition. Everyone was one their feet cheering but, as you already knew, it didn’t finish there as shouts of ‘More, more…!’ echoed around the room, yep, it’s time for the encore!
Lee knew he wasn’t going to get away with just one encore song and delivered two emphatic encore tracks, following Come Friday Nightwith a resplendent version of Lindisfarne‘s Lady Eleanor that had everyone clapping and singing along and the dancers at the back were up once more! What a brilliant end to a wonderful evening of live music.
Lee Maddison and his fellow musicians had delivered a welcome antidote to the trials and tribulations that we deal with on a day to day basis. Believe me, if you get a chance to see him play live then do anything you can to get there, even if it means selling your children, he really is that good!
And, on another note, please do support these amazing artists, they don’t do it for the money and, without us attending gigs and buying their music, they wouldn’t be able to do it at all!
Last Flight To Pluto makes a grand entrance onto the prog scene with their debut album, ‘See You At The End’. Their energy is brash, raw, and engaging across six tracks and an hour of music—a deft alchemy of late 70’s Rush and late 90’s Massive Attack in roughly 65-35 ratio. Band leaders Alice Freya (lead vocals, guitar) and Daz Joseph (drums, vocals) put in years on the cover band circuit, while young lead guitarist Jack’o McGinty must have studied ‘A Farewell To Kings’ from birth to channel Alex Lifeson’s riffs and solos so naturally. The result is that this band, while young as a unit, are experienced, confident, and very tight.
The opening track, Heavy Situation, features many of the elements to which the band will return throughout the song sequence: doubled lead vocals, moody grooves w/electronic accents, classic-rock-power-trio athleticism, and programming-heavy dance-hall loops, all of it slightly tinged with the blues. The vocals are of immediate interest; a bit alt-rock and a bit bluesy, Gin Wigmore and Janis Joplin may serve as points of reference but even for a female prog vocalist, Alice Freya is a unique and multifarious singer.
While the album holds together well as a piece, House By A Lake is a clear standout and one of those ‘worth the price of admission alone’ kind of songs. Lyrically, the track centers on a carpe diem sort of theme, but the “She” who will “try to find me, to whisper in my mind” remains unidentified. As with Genesis’ The Lady Lies, this gives an otherwise straightforward metaphor a bit of a mysterious-fantasy feel. Musically, Last Flight To Pluto covers a lot of ground here, as they do throughout the album, but the composition is tighter and the transitions between sections more dynamic. If the verses and interludes are intriguing with their mix of bright piano, acoustic guitar, jazzy bass, and percussive accents, the chorus is absolutely arresting—and it just gets more explosive with every return. The song climaxes with a soul-shaking vocal from Freya and a fiery guitar solo from McGinty that goes beyond mere influence to actually rival Lifeson’s power and technique. I’d love to hear this performed live, to see whether an audience can manage to cheer through their dropped jaws. House By A Lake is the kind of song that the Prog Awards ‘Anthem’ category exists to honour.
Another highlight immediately follows; for those who want their progressive music to progress rather than retread, Red Pill demands attention. There are interesting bits of programming, keys, synths, and loops throughout the album, but this one wears its Massive Attack influence (and a bit of The Gathering, perhaps) on both sleeves. Opening with a bit of wah-wah and strange vocal FX that morph into a big, sticky beat and gang vocals, the track takes a bold left-turn into a middle section featuring a heavily effected and distorted rap. The result is more cool energy than cheese, but those who can’t dig it will surely enjoy the next left turn into a 1975’s Pink Floyd groove and guitar solo, or the left turn after that into stabbing synths and a menacing horror film voice-over.
The second half of ‘See You At The End’ continues in the eclectic direction of the first. On Lots of Swords, the level of cribbing from The Police distracts in places, but Freya’s emotive vocals give the verses a lift, and there’s a splendid interlude with frenetic bass and some trading off between a dualled guitar lead and a synth solo. Seven Mothersbegins with a more acoustic meditation on humans’ disrespect for our Mother Earth, and centers on a truly beautiful lead vocal. The song builds with some organ and soulful guitar lead, returns to the chorus, then switches gears for some upbeat drums & keys programming and another guitar solo. ‘See You At The End’ signs off with Now Boarding, which features big ‘Hemispheres’ guitars and synths, a killer drum solo early in the track, then a more anthemic groove with some stratospheric vocals from Freya and another extended, David Gilmour-esque guitar solo.
While far from perfect—the production is a point of contention, being rather ‘garagey’ and frequently holding Joseph’s stellar drumming too far back in the mix—‘See You At The End’ is an impressive debut that should have received more attention by now. Given the energy and musical prowess on display here, Last Flight To Pluto is clearly a ‘must-see’ live act, and they show a lot of promise as composers. Thankfully, there’s a follow-up album in the works for Spring 2017, so give the debut a good spin now so you can say you were ‘in the know’ before they break big later this year.
After a 2-year hiatus, Canadian melodic technical proggers Slyde return with their new EP ‘Back Again’ (February 17). Four tracks of virtuosic contrapuntal songwriting exploring the relationship between environmentalism and sci-fi, ‘Back Again’ is a fantastically entertaining listen. For fans of Haken, Coheedand Cambria, Rush, Dream Theater, etc, Slyde‘s music is driven by the clean vocals of frontman Nathan Da Silva and the powering keyboards of Sarah Westbrook; a beguiling fourpiece with an impressive return to form.
Before their hiatus, Slyde 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).
The First single from the EP is available to purchase now at bandcamp:
Tim Bowness has released a lyric video for You Wanted To Be Seen, the first single to be taken from his superb new album ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’, due to be released on February 17th via InsideOut Music.
‘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. Ranging from the hypnotic opener Worlds Of Yesterday to the wistful climax of Distant Summers, via the thrilling rage ofKill The Pain That’s Killing You and the orchestral expanse of You’ll Be The Silence, the album features some stunning solos and harmonically rich compositions that represent Bowness’s most musically ambitious work to date.
Bowness utilises a core band comprising Stephen Bennett (Henry Fool), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief), Hux Nettermalm (Paatos) and Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), and is also joined by 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 songs.
‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ can be pre-ordered at the following links:
After ten successful years with the label Nuclear Blast, British progressive protagonists THRESHOLD have signed a new contract and extended their partnership with the label. Furthermore, they have also announced plans for their next release. THRESHOLD are currently recording their 11th masterpiece at Thin Ice Studios in England, a new concept album that will be called ‘Legends Of The Shires’. It is being produced by Karl Groom and Richard West and it’s scheduled to be released later this year. More information will be revealed soon.
Richard West comments: “It’s great to be announcing these tour dates so soon, we can’t wait to get on the road and perform for you. Our new album is coming together perfectly, we’ve got a lot of strong material so it might be our longest one yet.”
Catch THRESHOLD live here: Legends Of The Shires -Tour 2017 (presented by ‘Rock Hard’, ‘Eclipsed’, ‘Rock It!’, ‘Blast!’ and ‘Wacken Radio’) + Special Guests
28.11. NL Bosuil – Weert
29.11. GER Hamburg – Markthalle
30.11. GER Berlin – Lido
01.12. GER Aschaffenburg – Colos Saal
02.12. GER München – Feierwerk
03.12. CH Pratteln – Z7
05.12. GER Stuttgart – Club Cann
06.12. GER Hannover – Musikzentrum
07.12. BEL Kortrijk – De Kreun
08.12. GER Essen – Turock
09.12. NL Zoetermeer – Boerderij 10.12. UK London – O2 Islington Academy
The last record of the band was their live album ‘European Journey’, which was recorded during the November 2014 ‘For The Journey’ tour and consists of 15 live tracks.
Those of you who have read my reviews will know that I like to drop in the odd quote or two so it will be of no surprise to you that I have found a couple that really relate to my feelings for the wonderful Mark R Healy‘s Hibernal project’s latest release ‘The Dark Of The City’.
“Storytellers are individuals who enjoy creating a holiday for the mind.”
― Linda Daly
The above quote really fits Mark perfectly, his utterly mesmerising and perfectly crafted series of musical graphic novels take you on a futuristic journey into his carefully constructed futuristic and sometimes post-apocalyptical worlds. You find yourself completely immersed in these sci-fi stories that combine with instrumental music to tell a compelling storyline that unfolds throughout the course of the album.
“Storytellers are the most powerful people on earth. They might not be the best paid– but they are the most powerful. Storytellers have the power to move the human heart– and there is no greater power on earth.”
― Laurie H. Hutzler
It goes without saying that stories give you the power to leave the everyday behind and use your own imagination to perceive the author’s intent. I always find myself amazed beguiled and enthralled after listening to any of Mark’s complex and fascinating releases.
Mark R Healy is an author and musician from Brisbane, Australia. From an early age he loved to create, and often assembled his own illustrated books with accompanying stories – and then forced his parents to buy them.
Unfortunately this model was not scalable and Mark now seeks to promote his works to a wider audience.
Mark has also combined his storytelling prowess with music, creating a project called Hibernal through which he interweaves original sci-fi stories with his own music to create an immersive theatrical experience for the listener. Combined with a professional voice cast and sound effects, these “audio movies” are ‘The Machine’ (2013), ‘Replacements’ (2014), ‘After The Winter’ (2015) and ‘The Dark Of The City’, to be released January 12th 2017.
‘The Dark Of The City’ is based around the story of a cop who undertakes a relentless search for the creature that killed her partner.
Hibernal is: Mark Healy Rowan Salt
Script by Mark Healy. Edited by Rowan Salt.
Cast: Faleena Hopkins – Moreno Scott Gentle – Trask
The opening title track, The Dark Of The City, has that dark dystopian ambience that we have come to expect from Hibernal and sets the scene perfectly with its understated sci-fi feel. As you’d expect from an ‘audio-movie’ the characters introduce the story within the voice over of the song and Faleena Hopkins is perfect as the heroine of the piece Moreno. The music bubbles under in the background as Moreno tells the tale of the cops hunting the monstrous creatures called ‘Necros’ and, in particular, the one that killed her partner.
You have to listen to this release in one hit, in a dark room with no distractions and preferably with headphones on! The instrumental sections immediately bring to mind the worlds Mark has created previously for ‘Replacements’ and ‘After The Winter’ and are a little different to what he served up on Hibernal‘s debut ‘The Machine’. The brooding guitar playing and pensive rhythm is almost like Nine Inch Nails but without the brutality and gives an apprehensive tone to everything. Atmospheric, it seems to expand to fill the space around your ears and envelops your whole being in an involving wall of sound.
The story continues with Night In Carson Bay as Moreno once again paints a picture of the scene. The music has a real hypnotic quality to it, Mark’s keyboard playing is elusive and yet mesmerising at the same time and then the somnolent guitar note leads you on. Deliberate and narcotic, the track continues to pervade your psyche and you find yourself immersed even more into the mood. The voice-over describes an underworld of any possibilities as our protagonist continues to search. You feel her every emotion as she battles her inner demons and the music takes on an angrier, demanding edge to mirror this.
Target 247 opens with a instrumental section that is as cinematic as they come and, to my ears, almost has a Sci-fi Western feel to it, the bass playing is phenomenal and really steals the show. I’ve always been impressed by Mark’s musicianship but he really seems to have extended himself even further on the new album and become even more accomplished. At this point, headphones on, I have become lost in the music when Moreno’s voice chimes in, introducing her partner Trask (voiced by the excellent Scott Gentle). There is an uneasiness between the two partners and Scott plays Trask as a gravel voiced old pro who you feel has seen it all before. Moreno’s obsession comes to the fore again, there is only one target she is after and the song closes with really edgy industrial guitar riff of immense proportions.
A low undertone opens up into a determined instrumental at the opening of How It Ended as the story continues and Moreno describes their actions. That dystopian feel hits home harder than ever as the partners talk and reveal their past chequered history. There’s a harsher guitar note playing out behind the vibrant drums, keys and bass giving a discordant overtone, perhaps matching the atmosphere between Moreno and Trask. Their quarry seems to be eluding them, intelligently hiding from any of Moreno’s tracking techniques as they move deeper into the dark underbelly of the futuristic society.
The atmosphere is charged even more at the opening of Black Blood, apprehensive and anxious as Moreno and Trask venture even deeper in to the dark underworld where the freaks and criminals hide away and go about their nefarious business. We learn more about the ‘Necros’ and what they could possibly be as the dialogue interplays between the two. The dark and introspective music gives the scene a really melancholy aura and keeps you on edge.
The sounds of waves washing up and a fog horn are the opening to The Pier and a feeling of calm initially pervades everything personified by the music. Lighter and more upbeat and is it washes over everything, the stylish drums a highlight. An edgy, funky riff gives a serious tone before the voice-over continues, have our duo finally found their quarry? A Pink Floyd sounding guitar takes up the narrative itself, full of style and character, is the net finally closing in on the prize?
A hushed tone is heard as Sand sees Morenobeneath the pier as the chase continues.You are totally on edge, wondering what is going to happen next as she talks us through her motions, what’s that in the shadows? The music gets tense, restless and skittish, the riff staccato and ill-at-ease, what is happening? You can’t help but feel excitable and, your nerves on edge, mirroring the guitar and drums. There is a confrontation, is Moreno okay, has she been shot? She fires back, her prey is down but is that the end? The track close with a funky, stylish soundtrack, almost triumphant in tone.
Loose Ends, what has occurred?Traskarrives on the scene amid utter confusion, who has been shot? Who is the monster? Oh my god, the twist in the tale is utterly brilliant and convincing and you sit open-mouthed as the rest of the story unfolds and we segue into Monster. The storytelling brilliance of Mark Healy left you toally open to that unexpected turn in the story. I’m not going to spoil it for you, honestly buy the album and enjoy that heart-in-the-mouth moment yourself. The rest of the track closes the story perfectly with the voice-over underpinned by poignant and reflective music full of emotion, some of the best music Mark has produced yet, mature, intelligent and it hits home perfectly with the unforeseen ending to the scene…
The story finally unfolds with the final track Survival, an astute monologue delivered to the rapt listener, still a little in shock from the outcome that was so unanticipated. You hang on every word, just as you would watching the final scene of a brilliant movie you’ve seen at the cinema. The music then takes over melancholy, mournful and a little disconsolate, I felt it in my own heart, a lament for an unknown future with little hope, wistful and forlorn.
I have never made it a secret that I am a fan of Mark Healy, not just his Hibernal project but also his sci-fi novels. His inventive and innovative mind never fails to surprise me to deliver an utterly immersive and vivid world which he fills with his utterly credible, world-weary characters and delivers deeply engaging and fascinating stories that draw you in completely. With ‘The Dark Of The City’ he has surpassed the previous wonderful ‘audio-movies’ and given us his best work yet, the way the story unfolds is real genius and I can’t wait to see what this ever imaginative and creative artist will come up with next.
I have no idea at all how Bristol instrumental band, The Brackish have slipped through my radar considering I live in Bristol and have been to a fair few alternative and prog gigs here, considering they’ve been plying their trade since 2013, and I’ve been back since 2014 you’d have thought I’d have found them by now.
Still, I have, and as usual it’s chief Elephant David Elliot who, when not pestering Tom Slatter for an album, is out their finding new bands for us to enjoy.
He puts the miles in so we don’t have too, reward yourself with a curry for this one David, you’ve earned it!
This, ‘Liquid of Choice’ is their 2nd album, their debut for BEM and their follow up to 2014’s ‘Big Guys’.
With a wide spectrum of releases this year, it seems only appropriate that from the home of The Fierce and the Dead comes an all instrumental guitar driven album, powered by the duelling guitar work of Luke Cawthra and Neil Smith and driven by Matt Jones on drums and Jacob Myles Tyghe on bass.
Running the gamut from psychedelic rock to the blues to elements of King Crimson, their sound is fresh, funky and powerful.
From the opening title track with it’s mix of funky riffs and languid guitar work, the intricate wall of sound that is The Brackish calling card is deployed to great effect, the way the duel guitars work in tandem particularly during the quieter passages brings bands like Wishbone Ash to mind, whilst the drum and bass anchor the music, allowing the guitars to fly.
Picture courtesy of Ed Sprake Phtography.
There is a lot of skill and ability here, and whilst it’s very easy to make an instrumental album, it’s also very easy for people to dismiss instrumental music as nothing more than wallpaper (as I’ve said before and will no doubt say again!) but when it’s done well, as it is here then it’s a joy to behold.
Making music is like a sonic jigsaw, if the pieces don’t fit it doesn’t work, here however is sheer musical bliss, the diverse sounds and mood changes in Loggins Breakdown for instance is worth 11 minutes of anyone’s time, and if you disagree you I’ll set Tom Slatter on you!
Their mix of light and dark is sublime, as is their use of funk, particularly on the toe tapping Something Negative on the Dancefloor (maybe they’ve seen me dancing) and here the bass is adding to the sound, making it a third guitar.
Cactus Gulch and the Hellish Walk Home is 12 minutes of sheer brilliance, from the title to the driving riffs and time changes, it feels like a musical journey and one you want to join them on, the interplay between all four of them is amazing and you can tell they know exactly where their sound needs to be at any one time, and it’s wonderful to hear such musical empathy.
Their sound is unique, and this finely crafted and sublimely performed album is another musical string to the Bad Elephant bow, my new Years Resolution is to see The Brackish live in Bristol, and I urge you all to do the same.
Another reason to thank the late great Geoff Banks is for his recommendation of Pain Of Salvation, ‘Remedy Lane‘ was my first introduction to them. When I was given the opportunity to review the new release, I bit Martin’s hands off.
On the first play through I was unsure, to be truthful it felt like Daniel Gildenlow was grasping for something with this album. I was hoping for another ‘Salt Road’ I suppose but then I read the press pack and realised that this is an album of recovery and loss. Looking at it through that prism, the album is deeply personal and reflects what I recognise as Daniel voicing his recent history, one of a near fatal illness and the slow recovery to full strength and vigour.
The album is full of light, shade and some very dark music with all you would expect from PoS, the heavy riffs, thundering drums; the sonic assaults all there in abundance.
There is also a goodly amount of experimentation, subtlety and sensitivity in there too. The album kicks off with “On A Tuesday”, this is a full on classic PoS track coming in at 10 minutes plus with a metallic introduction coming at the listener like a supercharged tank then dropping off into in almost acoustic piano synth combination and, at times, I can hear an Arthur Brown like quality to Daniel’s voice.
“Full Throttle Tribe” Instantly hits you more than any other track. The riff from the keys becomes the refrain that runs through the whole track. Here we have a song relating to the need to belong and have some kind of person or people to call your own. It hammers home only relenting occasionally for breaths of reflective stillness before ripping back into chaotic riffology. Then it vanishes to the electronic pings of hospital machinery and ends in an industrial dark melee.
“Angels Of Broken Things” is as near as this album has to a pop song. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Justin Bieber territory but it is accessible and has a tension building bass line that drags you along seeking release when the spring is close to breaking. If Pink Floyd were young and still around this would their “One Of These Days”. It’s an ode to the angels on the wards and nod of thank you to them.
The Title track “The Passing Light Of Day” is a 15 minute epic that starts with pipe organ keyboards as if from a 60s BBC Children’s Programme then goes into an aching beautiful track describing loss, redemption and recovery. From the sound of the fingers sliding up and down the guitar strings to the plaintiff voice pleading against the inevitabilities of life you ache throughout the whole track. The band are restrained on this track and it shows their understanding of space and its importance in music.
This is not an album where you will instantly fall in love with whether you have been desperate for a new PoS album or not. It is worthy of the name of a good album. A classic? That is not for me to judge but it definitely is worth listening to if you like Progressive Music on the harder side. I’d say it will stand out in the genre in 2017. If you like Dream Theater or their ilk go here if you already haven’t done so. If you want to dip your toe in the water this may be a good introduction to this aspect of the genre. There is also a vinyl deluxe version for the collector and completists out there.
The album is littered with some great music and is a rebirth of the band as a force to be reckoned with. Worth the wait? I believe so.