Another month starts and another CD arrives from the uber-prolific Geof Whitely Project, an artist who literally has songs pouring out of him and who must commit these to CD and on record.
Arny Wheatley (the man behind the project) has to tread a fine line and make sure he doesn’t just release any old song that has popped into his head. They’ve got to appeal to the listener and be well crafted pieces of music. Well, to my ears, he’s been doing an excellent job so far but, as every new album arrives, I do wonder how long he can keep it up?
Arny describes the project thus:
‘The Geof Whitely Project was formed in 2011, it consists of Geof Whitely and special guest Musicians, the aim of the projectis to put out original material in all types of musical formats from Prog Rock-Rock-Pop-Electronic-Instrumental. All albums will contain a mix of such musical songs, there’s surely one that will appeal to everyone..’
This time it’s ‘The Blessed And The Damned’ that has arrived at Progradar Towers for consideration and it wowed me immediately with the striking artwork, which has always been a feature of any album from the Geof Whitely Project.
Arny’s music has been progressing across the last couple of releases so I was very intrigued to see what this new album would deliver…
This new album has a much darker feel which starts with the opening and title track. The Blessed And The Damnedhas a suspenseful and ominous extended opening before the vocals kick in with a very sinister note. Small rays of light are delivered by the elegant guitar but the excellent synth and insistent drums always give the song a chilling tone. It’s a further departure from that elegant, laid back sound that I’d always associated with the band and I, for one, like the direction Arny is going in. There’s a great, melodramatic guitar solo that adds even more atmosphere and, overall, I’m pretty impressed by what I’ve heard so far. Lucid Dream carries that theme on with quite a chilling intro, a darkly striking, subdued, keyboard note underpins the measured vocal, delivered in an emotional, supernatural tone before the warmth seeps in for the elegant chorus. There’s this Ying and Yang between the harsher edge of the verse and that more affable chorus that runs throughout the song and gives it a certain gravitas.
A Music Hall/Circus melody introduces The House Of Spirits but I can’t get away from that sinister overtone, like it’s being played by one of those evil clowns from IT, it works really well though and the chaotic noises that are thrown in just give it a really disorienting feel. The keyboards break through this to give some authority and then the mesmerising instrumental is broken as the vocals break in, quite pressing and persuasive and I end up feeling like I’m in the middle of a musical version of one of Stephen King’s more disturbing novels. This is some really clever and inventive songwriting and just goes to show how the Geof Whitely Project are progressing as a musical act. Walking Through Time is a perfect title for the next song as I feel I’ve been transported back to the 80’s by that brilliant keyboard/synth sound and the aggressive guitar riff. There’s a sci-fi feel to it all but in a 2001: a Space Odyssey way rather than something more up-to-date. A great piece of music that washes over you, it even leaves me nostalgic for that era and everything it had, good or bad, and that is really original.
That 80’s nostalgic tone is present in the the weighty opening to Bird On A Wire, a contemplative and determined track with melancholic vocals and a serious overtone. A pensive and sombre sounding song but one that is well written and meaningful in its delivery. I really like the overall vibe that comes from the track and the added thoughtfulness it engenders. There’s a harder rocking edge to Walk The Line with an up-tempo instrumental opening that has a police siren persistence in the background. The vocals are compelling with a introspective undertone, again I get the feel of the 80’s around this song, albeit in a more soft-rock vein. This is enhanced even more so by the engrossing solo-heavy instrumental mid-section, Arny seems to have become a lot more reflective in his songwriting.
A much more expansive sounding intro heralds Utopian Vision, a song with a seemingly bigger musical vista and soundscape. Again that wistful and nostalgic reflection is at the core of the track and it leaves me thinking of sepia tinged memories of times gone by. Were things better in the past or is it just how we remember them? That’s what this song seems to be asking. This is an absorbing song, a retrospective in music and it really touches a nerve with me, I find myself becoming utterly engrossed and that is what great music is all about. The closing track on the album is Awakening and it’s another mature and consuming piece of music with Arny’s sorrow-tinged vocal leading us on another enigmatic and mystical journey. The stylish synths add a classy aura to the song, there’s pathos and poignance in every note and the whole atmosphere is one of sentiment and wondering. It’s a fantatstic way to close out this latest chapter in the Geof Whitely Project story.
Arny deserves a huge amount of kudos and respect for his continuing reinvention of the Geof Whitely Project and this latest album is definitely his best release yet. The lyrics and melody are given equal standing and he’s given the music an extra dose of mystery and drama to make it an utterly absorbing listen. As I write this the Geof Whitely Project’s next album has just arrived so you will definitely be hearing more of this unique artist soon!
This year legendary British prog-metal stalwarts Threshold released their 11th album ‘Legends Of The Shires’ on the 8th September.
I interviewed founding member, songwriter and guitarist Karl Groom about the new release and a few other interesting questions came about…
Progradar – I think ‘Legends of the Shires’ is your best album yet but, as you wrote it, what are your thoughts?
Karl – All musicians think that their latest album is their greatest but, for me, it does have a real completeness in terms of both music and lyrics. It’s a concept album, not just lyrically (which is often the case) but musically and we tied the whole thing together. For me, that’s very satisfying, when you can listen from the first track on the album, The Shire 1, and got through to the last, Swallowed, and feel the music has the right dynamics to follow from one song to the other.
You just feel that there’s a completeness to that arrangement, and that, for me, is very satisfying. The only other album that came close to that was ‘Subsurface’. I can always find a good song or two that I really think are stand out songs on most albums but I want the whole thing to seem like a complete album, and that’s what stands out on this one.
P – I agree definitely. I’m 50 this year, ready for the pipe and slippers and it’s time to be a grumpy old man. What I think is a problem with a lot of the mainstream music nowadays is that it’s based around singles, they’re just picking one song. I want the album to be a journey.
K – Exactly, that’s the thing, it’s come back a little bit like it was back in the 80’s. Bands would front-load their album and say which are the best songs and just put them in that order. By the time you’re getting to the end of the album you’re thinking ‘oh my god!’ Even if they are all good songs, it sounds a bit jumbled and uncoordinated, you need that coordination and the album needs to be as important as the individual songs on it.
P – When you first started out, young and wide-eyed, in 1988 did you envisage releasing your 11th album over 20 years later?
K – We didn’t even set out to get signed to be honest. My wife was listening to some of the demos we made before we got signed and she wondered how the hell we managed to get signed! It was absolute tosh, it was dreadful. We were a covers band when we made those, learning to play guitar and so on, sort of bumming our way through a few Van Halen songs and Ratt and Whitesnake, whoever was in at the time. We made our way playing those and didn’t think about it at all, we just wrote a few songs, I think it was three, which were sort of within what we would call Threshold now.
Basically, because two of us loved metal and one love prog music, we accommodated everyone with that. A king of prog-metal as a meeting of the two musical styles rather than what you’d see as Prog-Metal now, which is a genre in its own right. We just mixed what our influences were and started writing songs. The guy from SI Music in Holland heard them and thought they were really good, he put one out on his compilation album through the magazine that he published at the time and said he was going to sign us the following year and we’d release an album. In the meantime, someone else heard it, which was Thomas Waber from InsideOut, he had another label in the UK called GEP and said we’ll sign you to that label.
So we signed to Giant Electric Pea and they didn’t expect us to sell any more than 500-1000 albums, so even at that stage we weren’t thinking about whether we’d made it or not. Within a month or so that first album had sold 15,000 so I think it was, at that stage, that we realised that things had taken off a bit more than we thought. We started thinking maybe we are a serious band and we’d better sort ourselves out and learn how to play live. We never, ever chased a deal, we naturally moved to InsideOut from GEP and when that contract came to an end Nuclear Blast approached us and said they’d like to offer us something. To be honest, we’re happy to stay there now and have signed the new contract to stay at Nuclear Blast for another three albums.
P – What do you put your longevity down to? Is it just luck or…
K – We were interested in playing music but we’re typical Brits who are very self-critical and don’t really think of ourselves too seriously. We just wanted to make music and hadn’t thought that someone else would want to hear it. Once that did come true we were thinking it was great, we can write albums and people will actually listen to them and we can release them, it was a gradual realisation. It gradually grew and now, I suppose, it feels normal. My greatest privilege is just to be able to communicate with people through the medium of music, it’s something that I always wanted, you know? If someone can take something from one of our albums or if it means something then it’s a real privilege to be able to do that.
P – The new album is described as ‘A colossal double concept album’, is there a quick way of telling us what the concept behind the album is?
K – It’s about how we find our place in the world, on a political or personal level, and how we relate to each other. To that end it’s really a dual concept album which is what gave us such inspiration to write the lyrics, or Richard anyway. As a political side you could take it as a country or a nation finding its way in the world and all the difficulties that come with that. England’s place in Europe was vaguely an inspiration, I suppose, from all that happened last year.
On a personal level, it’s much the same sort of thing but looking at your thoughts of things you wish you hadn’t done, just a journey through life, someone finding their way in the world. That was able to give us a lot of scope all the way through the album, in terms of finding the concept. You see that demonstrated in the Small Dark Lines video which we’ve done and which partly illustrates what the album’s about, painting the lines on the people with black paint which represented their regrets in this case.
The small dark lines in the song also represent the borders between countries and how those are a little bit blurred these days. Those are many subjects we can touch on and it was really great to be able to demonstrate that in the video and find a way of doing it, to which end we put out an appeal to fans who wanted to be in the video. We got people travelling from as far away as Sweden, it was really successful, there must have been at least nine people in the video.
The only thing I will say is that, originally, we didn’t plan on torturing them, it wasn’t the idea to give them cold showers but there was only cold water available! It was in a warehouse near Manchester, it was freezing cold and raining on that day and their faces tell the story when they get hit by the water!
P – To me, and to other people I’ve spoken to who’ve heard the album, there seems to be more focus on the songs. Was that your intention when you originally got together to write the album?
K – As I’ve mentioned before, ‘Subsurface’ was my favourite album until now and that was because of that complete nature of the composition from beginning to end. Richard and I got together and on the last albums we’d had contributions from other band members, we wanted that, everyone was always welcome to write. For this one, they didn’t really come forward with anything, apart from Steve who wrote On the Edge, so it was a lot easier to control the whole dynamic of the album, the sound of it.
We got together when we were both ready to start writing, we were inspired, and we got to about an hour’s worth of music. I make complete demos of music and send them to Richard who then adds melodies and lyrics. We got to this stage where we’d finished that, around sixty minutes and I’d said that I’ve still got plenty of ideas, I don’t feel like I’m finished. Richard said that was good because he was building this really interesting concept and needed more music for that.
We just let it go naturally until we had about an hour and eighteen minutes. We didn’t have The Shire Part 1 or 3 at the time and developed those later. We ended up with an hour and twenty-three minutes of music which came as a natural situation at which point Richard mentioned that the label had said that if we were going to make an album they wanted to split it onto four sides of vinyl. I said we could probably just do but I’d want the songs to be in the correct order because we’re thinking about a concept.
I don’t want to take what would be okay on a CD and jumble it up to make it fit on four sides of the vinyl because you can only do twenty two minutes per side. Luckily it fitted in the correct order and that was it for us, there was one other thing that happened at the end when we were doing the lyrics that really convinced us that this was 100% right. We discovered that each song begins with L, O, T or S which is an acronym of Legends Of The Shires and we were amazed by that, it’s just a confirmation that this album is falling into place.
I love it when an album is musically, as well as lyrically, a concept, it may be a bit old fashioned and people may have forgotten about concept albums since the 70’s but I really love it when there’s a whole story and your drawn into it and you can turn the lights out and listen to the music late at night. I still do that with my wife sometimes, like teenagers, with some wine or beer out and just concentrating on music instead of having it as this background effect.
That’s the most important thing, there are a couple of Mike Oldfield albums we listen through from beginning to end and think ‘wow, that feels great’ and I wanted that experience. You’re drawn completely into the music, you forget where you are and what you’re doing, it’s all about the music. You’re drawn into the story and the atmosphere, you feel one thing is happening after another and that’s what special about this kind of album for me.
P – I think Legends is much more progressive than your recent releases, harking back to Dead Reackoning, was it a conscious decision when you were writing it to get that more progressive sound & feel, especially as it was going to be a concept album?
K – I think there’s a natural leaning with Threshold, I don’t know if it’s exact, that seems to be that we do a more straight ahead album followed by a more progressive album, it seems to alternate. ‘Dead Reckoning’ was a little more straighter after ‘Subsurface’ and then ‘March of Progress’ was quite involved. The last one (‘Fro The Journey’) was a bit more stark sounding and now ‘Legends’ is very much warm and progressive.
I don’t know if it was intentional but we always just let songs go and build themselves, we don’t say that we need a ten minute song. In fact I think that Richard would tell you that The Man Who Saw Through Time was nowhere near ten minutes when we started with the first idea. It just developed as it went on and that’s always been the case, I do like the progressive elements. It was Nick and I who liked the metal side of music and Jon Jeary (the original bass player) that liked progressive.
He’s the one that got us into that music but, after I found out about it, I really did get to enjoy Genesis albums and, through that, the freedom to express myself in the way of arrangement so you’re not locked into verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus or whatever. They kind of go where the song needs to go and they don’t sit and worry about the details, they let the song lead itself. You don’t think and worry about the arrangement, it happens and if it happens to be a three minute song, that’s fair enough if it works that way and if it’s longer, it’s longer.
I suppose you get used to writing longer songs so you know what it takes but we do like to mix that up and, particularly once we’d got to 60 minutes and we were still writing, there was a feeling from Richard and I that we wanted this to be a more progressive album as we wanted it to be a concept. We did lean towards that, in some ways, without thinking about it too much. We already had The Man Who Saw Through Time and Lost In Translation at that stage, those songs were already there. If you’ve got 22 minutes on two songs then you’re already on your way to something progressive, aren’t you? You can’t avoid it.
P – You’ve still got some shorter, harder rocking tracks like Small Dark Lines on there, you get a really good mix between them all, it all seems to flow really nicely.
K – I think Snowblind is one of my favourites as well, it’s got harder moments and it’s almost like a microcosm of Threshold on this album. It involves the hard, the heavy, the delicate and the emotional sides of the music, all combined into one song and compressed into 7 minutes. It was really interesting to create that sort of thing all into one track, it just sort of came together in the right way. I’m really looking forward to trying to play that one live!
P –Who influenced your career at the start and who’s music would you spend your own money on now?
K – Before we were together, my wife really liked My Dying Bride and I’ve really got into them because of her. I’d never considered listening to it because doom metal’s kind of alright when it’s Candlemass or whatever but it just wasn’t my thing. When I heard them I completely got it the first time I listened to it, I just understood the atmosphere and the music and when I found out where they came from I thought you could feel it in the music. You can envisage the moors and the cold, dank nights and the misery and I loved the way that they painted the picture through their music and the way the sound sort of envelops you.
That’s been something I’ve really been into more recently and love Mike Oldfield because of the electronic side of the music and the way he’s able to build layers. I know it’s a different style of music to Threshold completely but it taught me how you could make music interesting instead of just coming back to a verse again. Why not have something different, maybe an extra layer or something, it’s the way he builds the songs so carefully. It sounds simple but there’s a huge amount involved in it and I learned from that electronic music what was so important about layering music and making it interesting in the arrangement.
From the beginning it was just metal, particularly Testament from the album ‘Low’ and beyond. I suppose if I listened to guitarists it was melodic guitarists, Dave Gilmour and Steve Lukather. I never liked those bands in the 80’s who would write a song where you’d be listening to it and then you’d fall off the edge of the song into a bunch of scales and the solo would have nothing to do with the song. You’d think why did he do that? I know people want to play fast but what’s the point? When I listen to ‘Toto IV’, even though it’s not a favourite Toto album of mine, I noticed that the guitar solos were so melodically driven, so brilliantly worked out and I thought that that’s what I want to do, I want to make a solo that’s got a relation to the song.
To that end I started writing guitar solos by putting the guitar down and taking the music out into the park on headphones and singing it onto a Dictaphone for either a keyboard or a guitar solo, whatever we want. I just start humming it or singing it and that would create the basis for the solo and you wouldn’t fall into the normal pattern where you start playing your guitar and you have certain patterns under your fingers that you always gravitate to, you can’t help it and that means all your solos ended up sounding the same. I now just ignore that and come back and add any technical bits later.
It’s about getting the basics right so someone who’s not a musician can enjoy your work as well. My little girl is only three and she listens to some of these albums we have on and when it comes to the solo she’ll go “advert! advert!” like the song has finished for her, she thinks it’s an advertisement in the middle of the song and then she’s waiting for the chorus to come back. I don’t want to be that, I want to be in a band where bits of the solo relate to the melody in the verses or the chorus and it’s a melody in its own right which keeps people interested, not some excuse for someone to go a bit crazy and play their fastest scales. That’s where that developed from, to keep that as a coherent part of the song and then you don’t feel like you’ve wasted maybe 10% of the album.
P – Just touching on progressive rock again, Steven Wilson has come out and said that being labelled ‘Prog’ has probably held his career back, do you think the ‘Prog-Metal’ label has affected Threshold in a negative way?
K – I don’t think that were so big that we could be held back by anything! How many times do you hear people talking about the revival of prog? Sometimes it’s a positive, sometimes it’s a negative. There are so many people willing to put down the prog fans and categorise them as anoraks that are in their 50’s or 60’s and have no interest in life. Why would you do that? I think they’re an incredibly loyal fanbase that are well-educated, which means you can actually write lyrics that mean something and they will understand them!
It’s a real bonus in my book to find those people and they tend to be there all the way through your career. You can have a pop band that will be gone in a year or two, I love having a fanbase that we can go to and they’re waiting to hear your next album. It’s a privilege, it shouldn’t be something you put down at all and I don’t think it’s held us back in any way.
P – That’s probably why you are onto your 11th album…
K – Threshold are good at what we do, if we tried to become commercial or try and follow some trend, we’re not going to as good as the other bands that do it. You’ve got to forge your own way, be creative and have your own sound, not somebody else’s. I think it’s great if someone hears the track Small Dark Lines on the radio and knows it’s Threshold, to me that’s a good thing. It’s like when I hear a Pink Floyd song and I know it’s them, it should be your own identifying stamp. I think it’s a brilliant thing and that’s what happens within prog.
P – Glynn Morgan has returned and replaced Damian Wilson on vocals, any particular reason why?
K – I can tell you what happened, we never wanted to make a statement because we’re not in the business of trying to put Damian down or anything, he’s a really valued member of the band and he did a fantastically good job. However, in October, after we’d played Prog Power Europe I was giving him a lift home to Oxford and he said to me “what sort of singer do you think would replace me?”, I didn’t really pay much attention and he gave me a few names and we left it at that and I said good night.
A couple of weeks later he turned up when I was working on something in the studio and said that he’d decided to leave the band and it was then that I realised that I’d missed that, I’d missed him telling me that he was leaving the band completely! He gave me names of these people that he thought might replace him and I never want to be in the position of chasing people to be in the band. As I’ve said, I feel privileged to be able to play music to the people who want to listen to it and I wouldn’t want to put him in a position where we’re chasing him.
Threshold is something that’s special to me and if he’d come to the point where he felt he’d got other things to do or you don’t want to be in the band then that’s great, he’s done a brilliant job and we’ll move on. When I spoke to Richard later, I said to him that Damian had decided he was moving on and I don’t really want to take on one of these people he’s suggested, what do you think if we ask Glynn again?
I know he wanted to rejoin the last time Damian had come back. He’d found out afterwards that Mac had left and he was interested but it was too late then. In 2008/2009 we did some work with him on our ‘Paradox’ singles boxset on a couple of the tracks and it was great. I’d always loved Glynn’s voice and the three singers we’ve had are the singers I’ve wanted so if Damian leaves and, unfortunately, Mac is no longer available, it would be brilliant if Glynn came back.
Richard had been in contact with him not long before that and when we spoke to him he was over the moon and, as he said in his statement, he really wanted to get involved again. I thought that his enthusiasm was something you just can’t turn down. As the story goes, Damian changed his mind a few weeks later and wanted to come back to the band. I never really got a satisfactory answer as to why he wanted to leave or come back, he rang Richard this time and said he wanted to come back.
He actually did come back to start recording the new album but he didn’t finish it and we didn’t have any dates from him to come back. We did a show in Switzerland and the atmosphere in the band was just different, we knew he’d wanted to go and then he sort of came back but didn’t want to do certain dates that we’d tried to book to finish the album, he wasn’t available for those. It just seemed like we were in competition with something else and I said to Richard we would have to find someone who wanted to do what the four of us wanted to do, the rest of the band.
We want to do things, we don’t want to be inactive, we’re not that young that we can be sitting around for years doing nothing. We told Damian we’d have to move on and I don’t know if he wanted to leave or not or whether he didn’t like the idea of looking bad on social media. I’m not sure whether he really wanted to come back or not, I don’t know what it was but it wasn’t really a good fit once he’d decided he wanted to leave and we just thought that, even though we don’t want to fall out with Damian we need to move on.
He still wants to meet up and chat again, we’re not on bad terms. I don’t know if he was expecting it or not but we said, in the light of what had happened, we’re going to move on and we’re going to find someone who wants to be in the band all the time and it worked out, it fits Glynn perfectly, with the extra power he has, on this new album and it works well.
P – Talking about people coming back, Jon (Jeary) makes an appearance on The Shire (Part 3), how did that come about?
K – I’m still in contact with Jon often, we meet as families, with his children and mine, and we’re still great friends. I know he loves Threshold because he bought some of the albums until he told me and I started giving him some, he still likes the music. He didn’t want to be involved in touring back then and I always wondered if I could drag him back in.
We’d demoed every other song on the album with female vocals, we got Richard’s wife to do it as she’s a really good singer and that stops us getting boxed in with any particular vocalist when we’re writing. When we did The Shire (Part 3)she wasn’t available to do the vocals so Richard did it himself and I thought it sounded a bit like Jon. I wondered if I could convince him to sing on it and Richard said good luck with that one so I contacted him and asked him if he’d consider doing this vocal for us and sing it how he feet.
I Think he was flattered as he was the original singer for Threshold when we were a pub band and coming back as a singer was very different to coming back as the bassist. He really enjoyed it, he came after work one night, put the vocals down and it went brilliantly, it was really good to be connected back with Jon. He was such an important formative part of Threshold, he wrote the majority of the lyrics for the first six albums, titled the albums and even came up with the band name.
Even though he didn’t like the touring and what that entailed, he always loved the music. The next step is, if we ever get to playing that track live, to maybe drag him up to London to sing on it, let’s see what he thinks about that one!
P – I really appreciate you talking to me Karl, the last question, what’s next for Threshold and yourself? Are you already thinking of the next album?
K – When I get back from the back of beyond (Serbia) I’ll be getting ready for our tour , planning things for Glynn such as what bits of guitar he might play on the tour in November and December. We’ve started arranging festivals for next year and then we’ll see what comes.
Richard and I have always left writing the music for a new album to the point when we’re actually ready to do it, rather than setting a date for it. It’s hard enough to make an album which works, you never feel fully in control of what’s happening, even with the best of intentions and being fully inspired, it might not go exactly as you want it to.
I always feel you have to be completely 100% ready and you’ve got to put everything into it to make it special otherwise why would you bother? We always wait until it’s a natural process, by the time we’ve finished the touring process for an album we’re ready to start thinking about a new one and you get inspired again.
There is so much new music out there that sometimes I just don’t know where to start. Requests for reviews come in multiples and it is really difficult to keep up with them all. Thankfully the team here at Progradar manage to just about keep up with the plethora of new releases.
The issue with this is that some great releases may get missed or forgotten and that would be a crime. Persistence is the key here and my friend Pat Sanders, the keyboardist and main man behind melodic-progressive rock outfit Drifting Sun is the embodiment of the word!
He is tireless in his promotion of the band and dedicated to his work. I would have reviewed their latest release ‘Twilight’ anyway but Pat has made sure it is front and centre and I am glad he did!
Drifting Sun date back to the early 90’s when Pat moved to the UK from his native France and released their first eponymous album in 1996. There have been many line-up changes through the band’s history and ‘Twilight’ sees departing guitarist Dan Storey replaced with the virtuoso Mathieu Spaeter, previously of the Franck Carducci band. The rest of the band consists of Peter Falconer (vocals), Manu Michael (bass) and Will Jones (drums).
I think Drifting Sun evolve and progress with each record they release. Their roots are in melodic progressive rock and the opening, and title, track Twilight enforces that view perfectly. The sumptuous melodies and vocal harmonies are brilliant and the added dynamic of Mathieu’s fluent guitar playing just adds another layer of class to the music. The solo just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and yet it’s not just about the guitar, the whole band are gifted performers and the music is a joy to behold. Pat’s eloquent keys almost talk to you and the rhythm section is superb. Wings Of Hope is a very emotive song from the first notes of the keyboards and Peter’s voice has a touching timbre to it. It builds in layers of sonic complexity, all the while demanding your attention. The elegant guitar adds a classical touch to this symphonic feeling track. Once the blue touch paper is lit, the tempo rises and this stylish song opens up before you. The band’s music has the ability to move you and stir emotions inside and this track is a typical example with its complex sentiments and lush melodies. The segue into Mystery of Lies gives you a wonderfully restrained and stylish piece of guitar work from Mathieu, one that stirs the soul to leave a lasting impression. The hesitant feel continues with low-key voice over before Peter’s vocal breaks out in a demanding fashion, harmonies abound left, right and centre and Pat’s keyboards keep everything on track. It’s a clever contrast in styles that runs throughout the song. The interplay between guitar and vocals is tender and dignified and the whole song has a warmth and fragile innocence to it.
One of the first songs released from the album, Soldiers reinforces the inherent drama that all Drifting Sun songs contain. Well crafted in both lyrics and music, the emotions run raw through this mini-epic.Peter Falconer puts so much into his vocal delivery that you could imagine him treading the boards performing in a musical in the West End and it gives songs like this an edge that other bands don’t have. Mathieu Spaeter overlays this with his expressive guitar work, accompanied by the dancing keyboard fingers of Pat Sanders and it’s all held together by the uber-cool bass and drums of Manu Michael and Will Jones. This all comes together to give maturity to the songs that wasn’t always present before. Summer Skies is a full-blown ten minute-plus epic that enthralls from beginning to end. Mathieu’s slow burning opening keeps you on tenterhooks for what is going to follow. Soft, yet passionate vocals ramp up the tension even more, there’s anticipation evident in every word and every note that is played. The melody around the repeated chorus is very addictive and I find myself humming along, always the sign of a good tune! This is a thoughtful and articulate piece of music where every note has a place and every word is there for a reason, songwriting with the listener in mind. Pat’s graceful piano interlude in the middle of the song is a clever break and the track then builds up to a great outpouring of vocal and musical emotion, backed by the ever expressive guitar. The extended close out just leaves you feeling mellow and relaxed and satiated by a marvelous piece of music. A classical introduction to Remedy is enforced by the jazzy piano and guitar that gives a laid back mood to the song. The vocals are underscored by an ambient synth to give a cultured and sophisticated feel, reinforced by Peter’s most wistful vocal performance to date. A mellow vibe settles down over everything and you find yourself entranced by the calm nature that pervades each note as it plays out to a sophisticated close.
The dramatic opening to Outside has a real sense of melodrama to it and a theatrical overtone which is embellished by the smooth tones of Peter’s vocal. The musicians deliver another intense performance and Mathieu is let loose to showcase his evident prowess. This is a fantastic marriage of melodic, symphonic and progressive rock to give the music a life all of its own and it is really impressive, just listen to the fiery solo and you’ll see what I mean. The cultured keyboard skills of Pat are always there to give structure and roots to these virtuoso musicians as they deliver stunning note after note. The last track on this thoroughly entertaining musical journey is Remain, eight minutes of melodic inventiveness where the listener is taken on a harmonic roller coaster ride. A fast paced track with an urgent rhythm, the music is again the focus for the listener as you find yourself drawn in to the world of Drifting Sun. Another great extended guitar solo segues into some intricate keyboard playing to add another highlight before the song and album close out and I’m left with a knowing smile on my face.
Drifting Sun have perhaps added the final piece to the puzzle with Mathieu Spaeter and ‘Twilight’ is without a doubt the band’s most consummate and polished release to date. They deliver melodic progressive rock of the highest calibre and continue to mature and evolve into a very impressive musical outfit, I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Darran Charles, Steve Kitch, Jon Sykes, Gavin Harrison and, of course, Bruce Soord are the current touring version of The Pineapple Thief. On the 11th February 2017 they played the Islington Assembly Rooms, touring in support of their ‘Your Wilderness’ album. It was a packed audience and was a much anticipated tour and album.
The set list for the night was:
Tear You Up
The one you left to Die
No Man’s Land
Alone At Sea
Take Your Shot
Show a little love
Fend For Yourself
Simple as that
Final Thing on my mind
Encores Snow drops / Nothing at best.
The show was recorded and will be released in various packages on the 6th October as ‘Where We Stood’.
First the limitations. I had no access to the package in itself with the multitude of mixes and vinyl stuff which Kscope have produced as a rather excellent showcase of a live band in full flow in front of a passionate audience. I will review what I have seen which is the concert DVD footage and the documentary footage. After all, this is the actual product they are selling in its many forms.
I am a music fan and believe the arena of the stage and live presentation is often the best judge of what a band is capable of in the purest form. A band can live or die on what it does on stage and putting out a DVD of a stage set is a brave thing to do for any band but it seems to be a common thing to do these days.
The set is mainly drawn from the recent album and shows the music in a new light with an additional dimension to the material. The band is completely together in this and are a very slick and tight outfit putting on a show worthy of a much larger stage and audience.
Visually it is a delight and it is also of a very high quality sound (which is available as a standalone live album). It comes as close to letting you be there during the actual performance as any DVD can. The band as individuals get fair shares of shots and it lingers on key musical moments like solos, licks or breaks. High points for me are, obviously, Snow Drops and Take Your Shot but Exilesand the opening tracks Tear You Up and The One You left To Die also deserve special mention. The set flows like water and is a fine surrogate for those who missed the tour and also as a souvenir for those who have seen this line up recently.
Bravely the new album fills the set list but has a different tone and quality to the studio version. Gavin brings a new feel to the older songs and adds to the live versions. Bruce is a great front man and connects to the audience well. This brings me to a couple of frustrations which I hope can be resolved with the DVD menu manipulations. The show is interspersed with interviews with the guys which ruins the flow of the concert. They could as easily been dropped into the additional 15 minute documentary of the back stage, pre and post show scenes. Instead I would have let the whole gig play and get the interactions of the band with the audience. I want to feel like I am at the gig and that gets broken up. Having said that it is relatively minor gripe for what is a great visual presentation of a great band in full flow.
For fans it is an essential purchase but also if you have even a slight interest in good intelligent music then buy it and see what ‘good’ looks like as well as sounds like.
‘Epiphany’ – now there’s a good word, it brings to mind realization and the awakening of the mind to something new. It can apply in all walks of life and situations but today we are using the word in relation to music and, in particular, the 1970’s legendary English progressive rock band Gentle Giant.
I must admit to being slightly miffed and betrayed by my prog-loving friends who have harped on about the relative merits of Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator (to name a few) with ne’er a mention of Gentle Giant, their educational skills have been found wanting in this case!
It’s not that I’d never heard of the band but that it was almost like rumours and last minute thoughts when the questions were asked about the great early prog bands. It was only when I was sent the promo of the Gentle Giant retrospective ‘Three Piece Suite’ that I really discovered the talents of this quite remarkable group of musicians.
‘Three Piece Suite’ is a specially curated selection of songs and compositions from the band’s first three albums (‘Gentle Giant’, ‘Acquiring The Taste’ and ‘Three Friends’) presented in both 5.1 surround sound and stereo, all remixed by Steven Wilson. The fact that there are only 9 tracks is due to the fact that these are the only songs known to exist as multi-tracks. Also included is a pre-debut track also remixed by Steven Wilson.
The undoubted re-mixing talents of Mr Wilson are put to excellent use on this album, adding extra layers to the tracks and subtleties never heard before. Add in the exhaustive liner notes by the incredibly knowledgeable Anil Prasad and you have a package worthy of long time fans of the band and those that are relatively new to them, like myself.
The first three tracks are all taken form the band’s debut release in 1970, ‘Gentle Giant’. Giant is a mighty bassline driven piece of jazz/prog which could only have come from the 70’s and, the band freely admits, is hugely influenced by Zappa. It is the first part of a creative manifesto for the band and is a bundle of nervous, almost psychedelic energy. With a definitive ‘wide-eyed’ vocal delivery it has an identity far from the likes of Yes and Genesis. Next comes Nothing At All, a nine-minute epic that opens with a delightfully simple acoustic guitar melody before alternating with a Sabbath-esque guitar riff and contains a classic chorus line. The story is that the recording wasn’t going so well until a break for a trip to the pub seemed to focus everyone’s mind on the task at hand and the three-and-a-half-minute drum solo and incandescent guitar would seem to confirm the tale at hand! Again, to my ears, this song is very different to what was originally considered progressive rock in those days and is what is really drawing me to the band. Highly inventive guitarist Gary Green came from a blues background and that is wholly evident on Why Not?, a track where the band are saying ‘Why not try something new as opposed to something commercially successful but that you’re not happy with?’ Edgy and funky with elements of orchestration and a passionate vocal, it is highlighted by the inspired solo and closing 12-bar blues-rock jam which showcase’s Green’s superb playing perfectly and has been on permanent repeat on my stereo.
The next two tracks are from Gentle Giant’s second release, ‘Acquiring The Taste’, released in 1971. A significantly more experimental album than the debut and one where the songs were written for the studio and not performed previously. This, combined with the band’s growing ambition, give a totally different feel to Pantagruel’s Nativity, a pretension and aspiration with its alien sounding Moog introduction, orchestration and subtle trumpet in the back ground give it a freshness and a truly progressive touch. The excellent distorted guitars and vocal harmonies also work so well that, when asked to describe what the band were all about in their early days, Multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear will always point people in the direction of this track. To my ears another heavily blues influenced track, ‘The House The Street, The Room’ is another vivid and vibrant piece of music and emerged from a fairly simple lyrical idea, according to Phil Shulman,
“The songs describes the place you went to score your drugs, that’s the essence of it.”
It is complex and maybe even crazy with some mind-bending guitar playing and uses 32 instruments in total. You almost feel like you’ve been affected by a legal substance while listening to it, it is ordered chaos but utterly captivating and mesmerising in places. I challenge you to listen to this and not have an inane grin creep across your face the further you get into the song. A wonderful piece of music that shows the confidence and self-belief that was growing within the band, the scope of their ambition seems to have no bounds.
1972’s ‘Three Friends’ contributes four tracks to this collection and was the album where the band took over all production duties from Tony Visconti and where new drummer Malcolm Mortimore joined. A more sentimental album which is evident in Schooldays, a song that focuses on the titular characters from thew album and where, as children, their lives care carefree and their hopes and ambitions were the stuff of whimsy. Lush and choral with some excellent orchestration, it is true progressive rock as a storytelling medium and has a whimsical feel as you look back on life with sepia tinged nostalgia. Peel The Paint takes a low key symphonic opening and leads it into hard-edged, heavy riff led, rock. The track is about peeling back the layers to show that even the calmest, most moral people can turn into anger-fueled monsters of hate. The music is dynamic and powerful and the vocals have the requisite fervor and intensity, intelligent progressive rock fused with high energy blues and heavy rock with a hypnotic guitar solo thrown in for good measure. The finale of this collection is Mr Class and Quality which segues into the title track of the band’s third album, Three Friends. The first part is an involving and complex song with a convoluted theme and intricate rhythm, it never seems to sit still with its skittish nature and sci-fi interludes. Yes, to a certain extent, it is classically trained musicians showing off but, when it is done this good, do you really care? The segue brings around a much more choral focused and anthemic track with sumptuous harmonies and an expansive sound driven by an elegant bassline, musical rapture indeed!
Freedom’s Child was a song that was written in the band’s first sessions in 1970 and yet didn’t make it onto the debut album. Originally written with a TV program in mind, the words were changed and a stylish vocal harmony added. To my ears, the use of a violin and this Beach Boys-like harmonies give it a sound non unlike early Kansas, it also has an innocence to it which was never replicated on any recorded work. For completeness, the CD also has a Steven Wilson 7″ edit of Nothing At All which, while a good track in its own way, seems to lose some of the fee of the full length version.
As musical epiphanies go, ‘Three Piece Suite’ has to be up there with the best. A band that really deserve more recognition have been brought to the forefront by Steven Wilson’s remixes but the brilliance and originality of the music was always there. A great package for long-term fans and those new to this wonderfully innovative collection of musicians.
The task set by the wallet emptier was a simple one (which befits me, a simple man)
Write a review of Trojan Horse’s new pile of songs in a week or…
The implied threat of Sundry Sociopathic Pachyderms arriving “For A Quiet Word“ was implied rather than over stated.
So here we go, a live listening party, courtesy of Trojan Horse’s‘Fukishima Surfer Boys’.
And over-stated the opening track, GRAD isn’t: a few choice chords and an aura of menace (not to mention the sound of a drum kit being assaulted in the background!)
Track 2, The Ebb C/W Solotron (no, I don’t know what it means either!) Big minor chords summon us further into the Fukishima Surfer Social Club, the decor is a mix of King Crimson shabby chic contrasting with Leftfield Ambience – some beat friendly keyboard layers during the second track sent little waves of peace and chilled harmony across the room, the full 10-minute tour of the club passes by in a pleasant haze of keyboard driven chilled pleasure with flashes of guitar flavoured by Zappa and Hillage dotted in the mix, alongside keyboard bursts that could come from either ensemble . All this is underpinned by a rhythm section comprised 2 parts Kraftwerk to 1-part Yellow Magic Orchestra and 1-part Dr Avalanche.
This We like.
Track 3, How You Gonna Get By?, is a bright and shiny duet between a pair of Android barkeepers vying for your drink order. Barbot #1 (arbitrary classification for ease of translation) serves up a cocktail of the Human League Synth sounds and New Wave vocals. pithy and punchy. Barbot#2 chips in every now and then with best harmony vocals that add a Sparks/Talking heads flavour to the drinks. Then the ghost of Kate Bush floats over the ice machine and the cocktail is twisted again, before a phone call distracts me from the final pouring of the cocktail.
Track 4, Herbie Hancock, seems to be produced by the drummer, or the rest of the band forgot to start with him, as the first minute of sampled and acoustic drums sets up for some funky instrumental film music piece, very Buck Dharma in tone, just without the squealing guitar or reference to giant lizards destroying Tokyo. Again, a hint of Kraftwerk as it all goes a bit autobahn at the end.
Zappa is the first name that comes to mind with track 5, The Modern Apothecary, imagine an English Zappa fronting a Prog Madness. Scoring a Spaghetti Western shoot- out. In a tricky time-signature. With a Gothic tinged vocal and an Eastern melody hidden by the guitar. The tune twists and winds around itself, with all manner of studio trickery thrown in. at some stage during the track, Madness have been transmuted into King Crimson. Eclectic indeed.
Next up, The Castle Of… starts off with brooding synths and plaintive voice accompanied by acoustic guitar, but the sonic architecture of the track lulls you into a false sense of anticipation. No huge epic, instead the track jumps into the next, I Wanna See My Daddy, which boasts a thumping drum sound, layers of electronica and a sad refrain of the title winding through it all. The voices are mixed low down at the beginning, then come charging in all Beach Boys harmony in the middle.
Pure Reason Revolution popped into my head at this point, and it’s an apt comparison as TH mix it up, bringing esoteric electronic sounds to the fore, UVB-76 coming on all Brian Eno meets Aphex Twin ambient before fading gracefully into the title track. Which has beautiful sinuous bassline, very Karn-esque in execution. The only criticism I can level is that the vocals are thin here, too high pitched for me, this could be the results of a life lived exposed to Tom Waits, David Sylvian and the like.
The track itself bubbles and flows on before segueing into The Wooden Wall, another association pops up in my head here – David Bowie, more specifically, side 2 of Low, those wonderful instrumentals that captivated me and opened my ears to all manner of electronic goodies, from the previously mention Kraftwerk and Y.M.O. to Tangerine Dream, Tim Blake, Future Sound Of London, This Mortal Coil and more.
All of these memories are triggered by this album. It’s a concept album without any lyrical link. The tracks flow and fit together well, leading you deeper into the world of the Trojans. It’s all very “New Wave” rather than “Punk” if you get my drift. Junk 1 certainly sets out this claim, with a guitar sound very reminiscent of Carlos Alomar’s amazing opening to “Station to Station” and big electronic drums that triggered the “Low” reference.
I’m amazed at the inventiveness and daring shown here, these Trojans are certainly not afraid to push envelopes, The Shapes is an exercise in studio trickery, with a narrator being bounced around the speakers whilst it appears that the Tardis is suffering from indigestion behind him. Either that or this is Vogon poetry set to Vogon music, which seems to take reference to early Depeche Mode and Jean Michel Jarre. The hypnotic beat and washes of keyboards take over and the track constantly changes, gathering depth as it goes.
The album closer, Monodaddystarts off in Granddaddy territory, with a reappearance of the “I Wanna See My Daddy” hook, but this time with a big beat and a sweeping musical backing .. glorious overdubbed harmony vocals floating in and out of the mix.
I’ve got to be honest here, I wrote this as I listened for the first time and once again, Bad Elephant Music have pulled the hat out of the Rabbit and have gifted me with an album that reflects my eclectic musical views. If there is a lack of Prog references in my scribbles, then that is how I related to the songs on offer here.If any of the bands mentioned in this review trigger a memory from you too, then you too should give this a listen or two.
Once again, the Curse Of Bad Elephant strikes as I’m going to end up buying this, then checking out their back catalogue.
Memo to self – negotiate a discount with the Boss Elephant!
Named as the ‘Event of the Year’ at this year’s Progressive Music Awards, Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend is set to return in 2018 for its 5th edition. Having played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Ulver, Animals as Leaders, Ihsahn, Alcest, Jethro Tull and Marillion the festival will take place on 29th and 30th June next year.
Held 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 it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive artists. The first two bands to be confirmed for next year’s festival are Sons of Apollo and Pain of Salvation.
The festival organisers comment:
‘We are very pleased to share with you the first two bands for the 5th Be Prog! My Friend festival. Sons of Apollo are a supergroup featuring Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Billy Sheehan and Jeff Scott Soto who have joined forces to create this amazing project. This is the first European show they’ve announced. They will release ‘Psychotic Symphony’ next month but if you have listened to their song “Coming Home” you know that this is a supergroup who can create brilliant music to back it up. This is really a very special opportunity to see all these names on the same stage.Joining them are Pain of Salvation who recently released their colossal album ‘In The Passing Light Of Day’ which has made them a must see in the progressive world. Seeing them live is simply a blast so for the festival next year we needed to have them play.
A limited number of 200 tickets are on sale now priced at 100 Euros before rising to the final price of 130 Euros.
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.
If EUROPE’s 2015 album WAR OF KINGS was the album that made the rock world realise what a formidable act EUROPE had become then WALK THE EARTH is the album that is set to establish the band as one of the most exciting contemporary rock acts of current times.
“We’re simply a different band today,” says lead singer Joey Tempest. “Ever since we started up again in 2004, we have constantly explored our limits and new parts of our musical universe. After around 1,000 shows, we feel comfortable just improvising, jamming and pushing our lyrics and songwriting with much more ease. We have now been together recording and making albums longer than the early period of the band. Five albums in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Now six records with WALK THE EARTH. When we started up again in 2004 we all agreed to think ‘long-term,’ to take the long road and build up a new relationship with listeners and media. We all agreed on writing together, owning our music, and license it out to labels that really care and support us in the long run.
“We also agreed to not look back! And never stop looking for that deeper expression. We don’t have much in common with our contemporaries from back then. We have taken a different path, making sure we are constantly moving forward. We have little regard for outside influences and opinions. In order to enjoy this new journey and feel creative, it needed to be completely on our terms.
“In a EUROPE live show, there is of course some room for nostalgia, but in the studio there is none. Every album is a reaction to the one before, a new journey a new adventure. The music of a rock band needs to constantly move, challenge, upheave, evolve or the band will automatically become a nostalgia act. We are proud of our past and previous albums, but we simply can’t identify, recapture, emulate any of it. We simply can’t write like that even if we wanted to. We are a new act with a different expression.
“Over the years, we have learned how important recording techniques and recording equipment is by trying to search and research which producers, engineers and recording studios that can actually inspire and keep us wanting to be adventurous and daring. It has now taken us six albums to get here.”
The new album WALK THE EARTH will feature original artwork by famed Los Angeles artist Mike Sportes of Filth Mart.
“We were in the studio a few days into recording and Dave (Cobb, Producer) comes in wearing this very cool T-Shirt with one of Mike’s designs on it. Immediately we knew we had to check Mike’s other work and have him come up with an exclusive design for us based on the vibe of the album. We are very proud to have his amazing artwork as the WALK THE EARTH album cover!’ – Joey Tempest on the appointment of Mike Sportes to do the cover.
WALK THE EARTH tracklisting:
1. Walk The Earth
2. The Siege
3. Kingdom United
5. Election Day
9. Whenever You’re Ready
10. Turn To Dust
From the anthemic sound of the opening track “Walk The Earth” to the heavy vibe that is “Haze,” from the instant melody of “Election Day” to the lyrical content of “Kingdom United,”WALK THE EARTH is the album that should see EUROPE rightly acclaimed as a band at the height of their powers. The wonderful melodies and depth of Joey Tempest’s vocals along with a powerhouse rhythm section and the guitar playing of John Norum, one of the great underrated guitarists. Norum’s guitar playing shines across the record. This is an album that is big in its scope and sound. Much like previous album “War Of Kings,” WALK THE EARTH is an album that has instant appeal but is also an album that needs to be lived with, in order to uncover it’s depth. The album was recorded at famed Abbey Road Studios in London with Grammy@ winning producer Dave Cobb (Rival Sons, Shooter Jennings, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton).
Late 2016 saw EUROPE perform a series of “The Final Countdown Anniversary Shows” across Europe – culminating in a show at The Roundhouse in London. The show has been immortalised in a July 2017 DVD release The Final Countdown 30th Anniversary Show – Live at the Roundhouse.
Preceding the landmark event, fans were also treated to a live performance of EUROPE’s last album, 2015’s WAR OF KINGS, a release which re-established them as one of the top rock bands in the world.
Since forming in 1979 EUROPE have sold over 25 million albums, toured across the world and become one of the greats of modern rock music. The bands all conquering THE FINAL COUNTDOWN album has alone sold over 15 million copies worldwide and the single of the same name was #1 in 25 countries.
We move into the autumn and the new releases are starting to roll in for the new season after a fairly quiet summer. The Naughty Pachyderm is no exception to this seasonal pattern. I expect a whole raft of new and exciting music from all corners in the coming weeks.
The first on my list for autumn is this new album from Whitewater – ‘Universal Medium’. Whitewater is the brainchild of singer and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Stephens and percussionist and programmer Paul Powell. I am going to be honest and say until this landed in my inbox I knew nothing of the guys and what they did but this their second album after the debut ‘Obscured By The Sun’ in March 2015. In many ways this is a good thing as I had zero expectations of the music or the sound they were aiming for when making their music.
My initial thoughts on first listening were that of a fine use of melody and sound to construct a soundscape from the keyboard which is very atmospheric, building layer by layer to the core of the pieces. This is very obvious in the first tack Light of Day evoking a sunrise drawing in an insistent bass line that drives into the vocals. Everything is understated on the track which brings a level of intensity inversely proportionate to the music. It has a tension to it which tells the story of the song, of the way we hide ourselves behind layers of emotions.
Seconds Fade Away is in two parts, again an atmospheric short keyboard driven piece accompanied by acoustic guitar. It is an apparently simple introduction but has a strength in its simplicity going straight into part two which is the meat of the song, an unhurried examination of the race of life as each second of our lives fades away. The irony of the unhurried approach offsetting the speed of life could be the hidden message to savour life as we wander though the days, weeks and years blindly. You cannot fault the skill and writing of the construction the music but personally I would like to have the guitar higher in the mix when the solo hits at the end.
Onto a very electronic music based Filtered Images which reminds me of the late 70s Tangerine Dream both in tone and quality but it also collides with mid period Porcupine Tree about halfway through. Call it a collision of 70s and 90s in a 21st century setting. At 9:33 minutes I would love to see it longer with greater exploration of the themes but it keeps the attention throughout the instrumental track with variations in atmosphere and tone.
Fallenhas a guest vocal on it in the form of Mike Kershaw, a fellow Pachyderm artist. The addition of Mike introduces a sinister layer to the track’ the theme of failure and the impact of failure on the Fallen of the song. The guitar has a huge part to play in this track with a superb solo which is both restrained yet exuberant. It has great atmosphere and draws the listener into the music.
Moon Pulls Pt 1 to 4 is an epic piece that runs just short of 14 minutes long, again with Mike on guest vocals and is the strongest track on the album from my listening. It is a love song, one using gravity and the orbit of the moon and its affect as a metaphor for the emotional turmoil of that dread emotion. Musically it pulls together the guys as a whole and is as complete a way to show what they can do as a band as any other track. It has the layered keyboards and it is not an insipid traditional song to the woes of love but a sincere exploration of the feelings.
I rarely talk about all the tracks on an album I review but give a flavour of the album and try to leave the buyer a reason to find out about the rest. This release is no exception as all 9 tracks have much to offer any listener who cares to spend their money on this release.
I will say this, ‘Universal Medium’ is album that from play one is instantly familiar but also stands repeated plays as you plummet the depths of the construction of the music and the many layers the guys have put into the album. There is no thrash or pastoral sound to Whitewater, they are measured and careful which is reflected in the intensity of the music, yet it can be played on a superficial level in the background and still break through to the listener. For fans of classic Floyd, Electronica, Porcupine Tree there is much to gain from this album. I am off to find the rest of the back catalogue and check it out.
“Seconds fade Away” is in two parts again an atmospheric short keyboard driven piece accompanied by acoustic guitar it is an apparently simple introduction but has a strength in its simplicity going straight into part two which is the meat of the song which is an unhurried examination of the race of life as each second of our lives fades away. The irony of the unhurried approach offsetting the speed of life could be the hidden message to savour life as we wander though the days, weeks and years blindly. You cannot fault the skill and writing of the construction the music but personally I would like to have the guitar higher in the mix when the solo hits at the end.
Steven Wilson has announced details of a third and final show at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in 2018. He plays the venue on Thursday March 29th – his two previously announced shows there are sold out. Steven Wilson’s 2018 UK tour dates are:
Thu 15th Mar Warwick Arts Centre
Sat 17th Mar Belfast Mandela Hall
Mon 19th Mar Dublin Olympia Theatre
Wed 21st Mar Cardiff St David’s Hall
Thu 22nd Mar Birmingham Symphony Hall
Sat 24th Mar Glasgow Clyde Auditorium
Sun 25th Mar Gateshead Sage 1
Tue 27th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (sold out)
Weds 28th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (sold out)
Thu 29th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (NEW DATE)
Sat 31st Mar Manchester Bridgewater Hall (sold out)
Prior to the tour, Steven releases another track and brand new video. One of the many highlights of Steven’s recently released fifth album To The Bone, Nowhere Now is a gloriously soaring paean to the joys of everyday escapism. The video for the track was shot on location at and around Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma) in Chile – the world famous, high altitude radio telescope array. The video was directed and edited by Steven’s long time visual collaborator Lasse Hoile.
Steven’s fifth album To The Bone (Caroline International) was released to massive acclaim in August. Quotes from some of the reviews:
“Resolutely independent… the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of” The Telegraph
“A near perfect balance… flash & flamboyant with lovingly crafted big tunes” Mojo 4*
“An inimitable rabbit-hole of psychedelia” Planet Rock, 5*
“Lush and ambitious… insistently melodic” Uncut
“Wonderfully executed… pop brilliance” Q 4*
“The album we’ve been waiting for Steven Wilson to make… marries intelligence and ability with straightforward popular music with progressive overtones… astonishing” Record Collector 4*
“A fervent and meticulous tribute to the very notion of the song itself… Steven Wilson is consciously rehabilitating an approach to pop music that, let’s face it, is long overdue a widespread revival. And, as with everything else, he does it better than most” Prog (album of the month)
“To The Bone features squalls of furious guitars and occasional shifting time signatures… it’s artful, sophisticated pop-rock, channelling the favourites of his youth: Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring, Peter Gabriel’s So, and Tears For Fears’ Sowing The Seeds of Love” The Guardian
“His best and most complete solo album yet” Classic Rock 4*