Review – Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome – by Kevin Thompson

It’s been an eventful year so far for Anathema.

Latest album, ‘The Optimist’, has been very favourably received by press and fans alike, winning “Album of the Year” at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards.

With a stunning performance at Be Prog 2017 from the Poble Espanyol in Barcelona on 1 July gathering rave reviews, they are currently promoting the album on tour in North America, with UK and European dates coming up. Life would appear to be very good for the band at the moment in an apparent period of blooming productivity.

Not content with this, founding member Danny Cavanagh is to release solo album ‘Monochrome’ in October 2017, which he says “has a late night, candlelit feeling, evoking the light of dusk as the summer sun sinks below the horizon, setting the scene for thoughts and meditations that many people will relate to.”

It features guest appearances from Anna Phoebe and Anneke van Giersbergen, with Cavanagh playing almost everything else himself. The result he describes as “a deeply reflective and personal offering, inspired by internal feelings of love and loss.”

So what to expect from an acclaimed musician on his individual foray, cut loose from the pack?

In all honesty, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, which is hardly surprising as Danny is heavily involved in writing the Anathema songs, but the material is more personal and introspective.

A video of first track The Exorcist has already been released, of which Danny says the band thought was so good that they wanted it as a central track on which to build another Anathema album. Danny resisted, wanting to include it on his solo release and whilst it was a difficult decision, says he is pleased he did. It’s a fabulous track with which to open the album full of emotion and trademark layers of  looping guitars and solos, carving a comfy position in the emotional heart of the album. A yearning for trust, the heartache of separation and a gratitude for salvation. For me it is every bit as impressive as stated and I can see why the band wanted it as a pivotal track on a new recording. Unreservedly the best track on this release, in my humble opinion.

So herein lies the problem for me initially, it is such a strong song that the others take time to absorb as I keep returning to this track.

A breathy rising introduction to This Music finds Danny in reflective mood, sharing the vocal duties with Anneke Van Giersbergen. Fine guitar soloing slides in and out of this fairly short track that drifts along nicely with delicious melodies but fades all too soon for me.

We are left to wander around Soho, with the gentle piano/vocals  from Danny (this lad can sing, why does he not do more with the band) and joined once more by the elegantly gilded vocals of the lovely Anneke in this second duet. It builds from a pulse to a full production of Anathema proportions, receding delicately to piano key tinkling like rain drops. Leading you along orange lit, rain glistening pavements, passing gaudy neon signs above smoke filled entrances as a gentle breeze ruffles the notes into the dark night.

Classical style piano unites with yearning violin strings from Anna Phoebe to take off on The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours, across cloud ridden, dampened skies, holding back the sunrise. Click tempo rises as bass and drums wheel around the air above, encouraging a clapping accompaniment I would imagine, if ever played live. They settle on warming thermals of synthesised sounds and murmured chants that lift and fall to a lone piano searching out faint strings of birdcall, then suddenly bursting into anguished torment like a slow wailing at a funeral cortege for the dying strands of the night, until we are left with only birdsong to herald…

Dawn. Danny breaks out looping acoustic chords and violin swoops in to herald the sun’s ascendancy into the glory of a new day, on this short instrumental glittering with a touch of Irish folk.

The penultimate track, finds Danny sailing lyrically across Oceans Of Time, with his trusty piano on board penning love letters to a distant soul , harmonies of separation lamented with Anneke at his outpourings. Emotions rise in the familiar guitar sounds we have come to recognise and love from Mr Cavanagh and the soloing tears at your heartstrings once more as we are washed upon a familiar shore, where…

Some Dreams Come True. The looping waves of guitar lap gently on the sand with horse spray tails of a beautiful violin solo from Anna Phoebe cast delicately toward the end of this instrumental piece, splashing at the feet of a child, causing unbound joyous laughter, as gulls circle overhead, on what could easily have been a prelude track to The Optimist.

I have listened to this album at various times of the day and in different situations, at night in the peace of my own home, in the car whilst driving, in the background at work and on the train whilst watching the scenery outside flow past. This produced varying aural experiences and revealed further nuances with each listen.

It is a lovely album filled with Danny’s impassioned musings on a fine solo outing from this accomplished artist assisted by a couple of very talented ladies, adorning the tracks they are on with loving care.

The perfect accompaniment for a glass of wine in the warmth of your lounge shut away from the cold winter’s evening, or just as readily a companion for your walk in the country with the sun on the back of your neck and the wind in your hair.

All artwork by Danny Branscombe.

Released 13th October 2017

Buy Monochrome from Burning Shed


Review – Möbius Strip – Möbius Strip by Shawn Dudley

As a jazz fan who primarily hangs out with rockers and prog fans I often get the dreaded jazz question:  “So, I’m kind of interested in jazz, where should I start?” It’s dreaded because how do you suggest a starting position for an umbrella genre of music with nearly 100 years of recordings to choose from?

My method has usually been to recommend jazz recordings that closely mirror the instrumental sounds they’re already familiar with from the rock world. So, it’s usually late-60s/early-70s jazz-rock and fusion; the guitars, electric keyboards and forceful rock rhythms providing a comfort zone for the novice listener. But as the decades keep rolling by it gets depressing when you realize that you’re primarily recommending music that came out a half century ago. So, I’ve changed my usual method; now I pick a modern act that fits the same basic sonic criteria but is more connected to the here-and-now. I believe it’s vitally important for any genre of music that younger artists get their fair share of attention and that they connect with the novice listeners just starting to get excited about the possibilities of what the music can offer. Connect people with good music being recorded today and appreciation of the classics will come naturally later down the road.

Today’s suggestion is the eponymous debut from Möbius Strip, a young jazz/rock band from Italy that has the requisite sound and whose music is accessible enough to appeal to the novice listener. Lorenzo Cellupica (composer/keyboards), Nico Fabrizi (saxophone/flute), Eros Capoccitti (bass) and David Rufo (drums) are obviously well-versed in mainstream jazz recordings from the late 60s thru the early 80s and it’s enjoyable listening to these twenty-somethings apply their youthful energy to the music from that era.

Opening cut Bloo drops us squarely in the Chick Corea/Herbie Hancock ballpark. Built off a bright jazz groove with a vaguely Latin feel and featuring a lithe saxophone melody it’s a sunny start to a primarily upbeat and joyful album. At the midpoint, the song morphs into a funky rock groove with a great bass solo from Capoccitti before returning to the head arrangement.

One of my favorite tracks is the bouncy First Impressions. While the title alludes to the Coltrane piece, sonically it reminds me more of what a hypothetical collaboration between Wayne Shorter and the Dave Brubeck Quartet might have sounded like. This piece is a showcase for Fabrizi’s alto saxophone which he puts to excellent use during his melodic solo section. The most obvious homage in this piece is the Take Five-inspired drum solo.

I was most impressed by Andalusia, a lovely, driving Latin-based vamp which inspires some of the best solos on the album. Of particular note is the soulful and gritty tenor sax workout which creates some significant heat, it’s a “let the hair down” moment on a primarily tightly reigned-in album.

And therein lies my primary caveat with this album; it’s incredibly polite.  However, depending on the audience that could also work in its favor. As a “foot-in-the-door” album it fits the criteria nicely; keeping things upbeat, melodic and accessible. But I think for the hardcore jazz fan (and more adventurous prog rockers) it does tend to stay frustratingly between the lines. I kept hoping they were going to notch the intensity up but it never really happened.

Möbius Strip shows definite promise on this album and it’s a very engaging listen, I just hope they push the boat out a little farther on their next voyage.

Released 27th March 2017

Buy Möbius Strip from bandcamp




Named as the ‘Event of the Year’ at this year’s Progressive Music Awards, Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend recently announced that Sons of Apollo and Pain of Salvation will play in 2018. Today they have now revealed that Australian virtuoso Plini will join the line-up for next year. The festival organisers comment:

Plini the Australian guitar master, is coming to Be Prog! after a recent successful headline tour to promote his album ‘Handmade Cities’. Despite his youth, Plini is now recognized as one Australia’s most important acts within the progressive scene. Albums like ‘The End of Everything’ and ‘Sweet Nothings’ are fine examples of what this talented young musician is able to do and his fresh and dynamic stage show will dazzle the audience at next year’s festival’

Plini himself adds, ‘Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world to visit, let alone perform in, so it’s going to be an absolute treat to get to play in such a beautiful setting as a part of what will surely be an epic lineup. Can’t wait!’

Be Prog! My Friend which has 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 will take place on 29th and 30th June next year.

Tickets are on sale now priced at 130 Euros.

‘And so Prog finds itself in love with Barcelona, the delightful weather and everything that Be Prog! My Friend has to offer’ – Prog Magazine

‘The leading festival for progressive music in Spain, showcased avant-garde music in a magnificent location’ – The Independent

‘Set in the hazy sunlit square of Barcelona’s historic and quite stunning Poble Espanyol, it certainly beats the sodden mud of the British festival season’ – Total Guitar Magazine

‘If nothing else, it proves that prog is alive and kicking. Especially in Catalonia’ – Classic Rock Magazine 

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.

Live Review – The Pineapple Thief (featuring Gavin Harrison) and Godsticks at Bristol Bierkeller – by James R Turner

I once stole some coconut shampoo, I don’t know why, I didn’t have a coconut, however Bruce Soord has been getting away with Pineapple Thievery for over 18 years, and despite the gig being on a Sunday night, I was glad to finally see them on their latest musical jaunt, a worldwide tour de force promoting the latest long player ‘Your Wilderness’. In fact these dates were added later, as it seemed very odd when the tour was first announced that they bypassed the West Country entirely, and we can’t all afford to ship off over to that London for a gig

In fact this was the last gig of the tour, and practically a local one, as Bruce doesn’t live a million miles away, so it was almost a homecoming for him.

It’s always strange to go to a venue that is so intimate to see bands that you think should be playing such bigger venues, particularly when the venue is the Bierkeller, which is an odd little place. A cross between a traditional rock club and a German drinking haus, managing to not quite be one thing or t’other, and it’s also funny to go to the merch stand and see the latest release by the band being an audio/visual document of the show that you’re about to watch. (Where we Stood).


Support was by Welsh boys and K-Scope label mates Godsticks, whose set was made up of a majority of new material from their forthcoming album ‘Filled with Rage’, I had never heard of them before, and as I have probably said elsewhere one of my criteria for what makes a great gig is how good the support band are.

Godsticks are good, very good indeed, they have a wonderfully chunky sound, big riffs and big beats, and have that knack of turning up the amps but not losing the melody, whilst the set was bias towards the new record, ‘Faced with Rage’, which is out on October 13th, the older material from ‘Emergence’ fitted in superbly.

As a rock band go Godsticks are entertaining, musically adept and according to someone who was with me in the audience who had seem them before, they have come on leaps and bounds. All I know is they were a superb start to the show, and got the audience warmed up before the main event.

Last time I saw Bruce and the boys was on the ‘Magnolia‘ tour, back in The Fleece in Bristol in 2014, and then I thought they should be playing somewhere far bigger.

Now, with the addition of the busiest man of the night Godsticks guitarist and vocalist Darran Charles, who joined The Pineapple Thief live line-up, the amazing Gavin Harrison on drums, the Thief’s live sound is suddenly enhanced, and those simple tweaks helps take the burden of Bruce, so he can be the frontman he was always destined to be, and with Gavin on board this group of excellent musicians suddenly have raised their game even more.

There is a reason why the tickets say The Pineapple Thief with Gavin Harrison, and that is because Gavin is the contemporary musical equivalent to Bill Bruford, and is mesmerising to watch and hear as a drummer, astonishingly despite being a massive fan of his work, both solo and with bands like Porcupine Tree or King Crimson, this was the first time I have ever seen him live, and whilst I love The Pineapple Thief, and their latest album, seeing Gavin Harrison in action was something I couldn’t miss.

Being biased towards some of the later albums, and of course ‘Your Wilderness’, the entire album hits the stage at one point or another tonight, and songs like In Exile, Where We Stood and Tear you Up come across with power and intensity, the sound that a band confident in their ability can deliver with panache.

With Darran doing some of the heavy lifting, Bruce is like a man freed, playing to the audience and turning in some fine banter (‘forgetting’ to remember the album title of Godsticks new release being one of many exchanges), whilst material from ‘Magnolia’, including The One you left Behind (the strongest track from that album), absolutely rips the place apart with the power and skills of the band. With long term collaborators Steve Kitch on keys and Jon Sykes on bass, a lot of the focus is of course on the man in the corner of the stage. Every note is timed to perfection, every fill, every beat is on point, and nothing is superfluous, I feel a lot of prog drummers can get a lesson in how to do it from Gavin Harrison. Everything he does added so much to the songs that every so often I would get a great big grin on my face, as the whole sonic template meshed together to create an almighty sound.

I said before when I saw them at The Fleece a few years ago how I couldn’t understand why they aren’t playing bigger venues, and ironically the Bierkeller is slightly smaller than the Fleece, and I wish I could fathom why a band this powerful, with songs this melodic, this intelligent and this epic aren’t selling out and playing to the sort of crowds that bland wallpaper peddlers like Coldplay are doing. There is more musical intelligence in one of Bruce’s riffs or one of Gavin’s fills than there is in Coldplay’s recorded output for the last 5 years, and music this big and this powerful and emotional deserves a bigger platform. I guess that the benefit for us is that we get stadium-sized performances in smaller venues and to hear this music, this close is something we should all be thankful. If, and I say if, Gavin Harrison is still playing with The Pineapple Thief next time they tour then you owe it to yourself to go see them. If not, then we’ll always have ‘Where We Stood’, and the Bristol Bierkeller.

Review – Johannes Luley – Qitara – by Emma Roebuck

The guitarist from Moth Vellum and, more recently, Perfect Beings comes out with his second solo album ‘Qitara’ after 2013’s ‘Tales From Sheepfather’s Grove’ which, if I am honest, I have not yet heard but, after hearing, ‘Qitara’ I shall be it hunting out.

Johannes says this is a collection of music he has created over the last few years and was looking for a way to put it on an album for people to hear. The album is mainly instrumental with one vocal song Sister Six which is not that far from what Perfect Beings produce and has a very slow percussive atmospheric feel to it along with a psychedelic edge from a pseudo Sitar sound on the guitar parts and sweeping sonic landscapes.

The rest is instrumental and is essentially Johannes exploring musical styles, slipping from jazz to rock to avante garde via the progressive greats. Some of it is outright jamming by some amazing musicians, Soliloquist being a good example of that musical telepathy that happens when musicians get in sync and let things happen. Faces in Reflection is taken from the same mould and, although it is a George Duke, composition they take it to places that only they can do when in the moment. Both tracks have a deep jazz/rock crossover and are delights to these ears.

The Doer is classical guitar with a very open beginning which then flows into  a track that has Weather Report clashing with Frank Zappa at his jazziest.

Hot Sands has a fat chunky keyboard line with soaring guitar lines channelling a desert journey and the constant drive for thirst and water. Red and Orange, the other cover, is a Jan Hammer piece with tons of edge, drive and virtuosity  and yet is neither sterile or cold. Fans of Mahavishnu will find much to like here.

White City & Agni Rahasya have the feel of a homage to Steve Howe and his works with a big chunk of Luley interpreting the style.

This album moves across styles and genres but has jazz rock at its core. If you like Dave Gilmour, Pat Metheny, Frank Zappa, Steve Howe or Steve Vai then it has much to offer. There is a brief reunion with his band mate from Moth Vellum Ryan Downe – on vocals. The sleeve notes are remarkably comprehensive for the guitar geeks of this world and the way he has constructed the album.

I would say that this is far from a mainstream album and sits in a niche of primarily instrumental guitar music. Having said that, I played Red & Orange on my show last week and it received praise and interest from the listeners. If I have a criticism then I would love to have heard longer pieces and more musical navel gazing and exploration from the album. It feels like he has edited down which makes me want to hear the stuff on the cutting room floor. But I suppose, as P T Barnum said, “Always leave them wanting more!”

Released 15th September 2017

Order ‘Qitara’ direct from the artist