Review – Geof Whitely Project – Sempiternal – by Progradar

‘Prolific’ is a word that I have to use when you talk about album releases from the Geof Whitely Project. The man behind this musical phenomenon, Arny Wheatley, has released a bewildering number of albums over the last few years and it is a testament to his songwriting that they have remained high calibre with no loss in quality or content.

So, imagine the shock when it was announced that ‘Sempiternal’ would be the only album release from the Geof Whitely Project in 2018? Well, if it is going to be the solitary one, it had better be good eh?

Arny always seems to give some a little different but without straying too far from his so far successful formula and the new release is no exception, delivering powerful and brooding tracks like opener Stir of Echoes. It’s perhaps the most dark and serious track on the album and it really hits a nerve with me, lengthy at over nine minutes, there is no wasted space and every note has meaning. There’s a lifting of the obfuscation with Hidden Depths but not the serious overtones, a really mature piece of music where Arny’s thoughtful vocals work their usual magic. The signature keys and guitar sound all add to the mix to give another melancholy and yet contemplative track. A wistful and reflective two minutes follows with the measured instrumental delights of Isolation. Like a calm oasis, it mops your fevered brow before you carry on further on your musical exploration.

Low End Distortion has a slow burning intro before an aggressive riff takes over and gives it a seriously edgy feel. This is a real departure from the signature sound, a more hard rock infused track that Arny pulls off really well. That driving riff is the key to the song, powered on by the effective and dynamic rhythm section. Arny takes the vocal duties in his stride as usual and you are left with one of the best Geof Whitely Project tracks I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. A stirring and involving song, Overseer is measured and studied, the sax style keyboards are a real delight and instill a real grace and calmness to the music. This is a track with real passion at its core and Arny’s sparse vocal delivers that with aplomb. Another fast paced, rockier piece, Fairground Distraction even gets my foot tapping to the beat. I like this edgier, more vibrant direction that Arny takes on these tracks, giving them a dynamic and energetic flow that you really engage with.

There’s a lovely piano tinged opening to the emotive Momentary Lapse and its steady,measured pace does remind you of a certain Pink Floyd in places, Arny’s voice even sounding David Gilmour like (that could just be me though!). It is a moving and poignant sounding piece of music that once again shows that Arny is at the top of his game here, just check out the instrumental section around two thirds of the way through and you’ll know what I mean. A powerfully inspiring song that I really like. Ooh another guitar riff! The Voice isn’t as in your face as the earlier, harder tracks but has a great opening that includes a forceful riff and potent rhythm section that imbue it with authority and stature. The verses have a more reflective feel to them but the chorus is significant and substantial and the juxtaposition between the two works exceedingly well. The final track on the album is On a Strange Tide and it has feel of Floyd to its opening again, a bit ‘Shine On..’ with its mysterious and moody synth sound that builds slowly. A wistful and nostalgic song that has a hint of melancholy running through it. Arny’s voice is reflective and musing and the music has a touch of longing at its centre. Swirling synths and brooding guitars abound and there’s a weighty and significant atmosphere that builds all around. A serious and meaningful track to close out this impressive album.

Well, if ‘Sempiternal’ is the Geof Whitely Project’s only album release of this calendar year then Arny has delivered what is, in my opinion, far and away the best GWP record so far. High praise that may sound like but it is worth every word. A more expansive and harder sound combined with some excellent songwriting, one not to be missed.

Released 26th March 2018

Order ‘Sempiternal’ from the Geof Whitely Project

Review – VLMV – Stranded Not Lost – by James R. Turner

Genres, funny things aren’t they? It seems that as human beings we are happiest when we can look at, listen to or read something and think yes, that definitely belongs in that category. Label it nicely and then go have a beer.

There seems to be something within us that isn’t satisfied until we’ve exhausted all the permutations and decided that x, y or indeed z fits into that little category, and woe betide it if it tries to escape the little box.

That is the only reason why I can think of a certain type of listener or internet commentator exists, you all know the one’s I mean, The ones who aren’t satisfied until they’ve proven beyond reasonable doubt that so and so is ‘prog’ and won’t listen to anything that doesn’t fit into their little boxes.

Well, gentlemen (and it is always gentlemen), let me tell you, life is so much more fulfilling when you step out of your little comfort bubble and not just listen to the music that falls between the boxes, but start living your life outside the boxes.

This is where haunting duo VLMV (pronounced ALMA) from London come in, their second album ‘Stranded Not Lost’ is released on Friday 16th February, formed by Peter Lambrou and joined by Ciaran Morahan, VLMV specialise in the sort of post rock ambient soundscapes and haunting ethereal melodies that fit outside the traditional musical box, occupying the same universe as artists like Explosions in the Sky or Bristol improv group Jilk.

This is music Jim, but not as we know it, whilst the psychedelic warriors of the late 60’s & 70’s pushed the barriers by going in search of space and beyond, this is the opposite, this is emotive, expansive and introspective music.

The sort of thing that No-Man used to do quite well, and which VLMV do with great skill, is the art of the slow build, the sonic build and soundscapes where the space between the noise is as important as the noise, with songs like the hauntingly beautiful All These Ghosts (which is the lead single from the album) it’s atmospheric stark soundscapes, mixed with the steel guitar picking and some emotive lyrics bring this ballad to life, and it’s this juxtaposition of music as big as the universe, and lyrics as close as your deepest thoughts that are part of what makes this album so effective.

With a sonic palette that brings real warmth to what initially seems to be icy and stark (the aural equivalent of a long country walk on a frozen landscape) the warmth, the depth and the humanity that is teased out through these songs grows and delights.

The opening instrumental mood setting He Has Already Divided Us, with it’s enigmatic title leads us brilliantly into the album, where songs like the title track, with it’s alt country guitar, big orchestration, and vocals reminiscent of an OK Computer Era Radiohead crossed with Josh Rouse, is one of the most affecting tracks on the album. It’s beautiful lyrics, haunting melodies and beautiful string work complement the guitar and synths perfectly. The barely restrained vocal performance and musical accompaniment suggest repressed emotion fighting to get out, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful and evocative pieces of music I have heard so far this year.

Evocative is the word that keeps coming up again when listening to this album, it has the widescreen feel of a soundtrack for a British Indie movie that hasn’t been made yet, I can see the main characters falling apart in the pouring rain on an anonymous street in a big city to the heartstring pulling and piano and string laden And There Was Peace in Our Time, breaking down as the music builds up, the blend of strings and synths is pure class, the melody filling the speakers as it soars beautifully. This is strong stuff, and really gets into you, especially if you listen on your headphones on the commute to work.

It’s not often that music conjures up such vivid imagery for me, not even powerful instrumental stuff, but this hits the spot every time, its power is in its simplicity, and that runs through the album. These are all well crafted, well thought out and beautifully executed songs, with space to grow and room to breath.

Guest vocalist Tom Hodge joins in on the brilliant Little House, which again reflects on the personal with some more of that fantastic guitar and synth work. The beauty on this is giving space to the vocals, focusing on the everyday, the real concerns of individuals. Where the space within the music is as important as the music. There are no overblown histrionics here nothing so crass is required. This is music in its purest form, no notes wasted, no unnecessary pieces. Every song has what it needs and nothing more, and this economy of sound, and distillation down to the purest emotion is what makes this album so affecting, especially on tracks like the ambient Lunokhod.

Having gone from never hearing of VLMV before, I will now be visiting their bandcamp site to order my copies of their earlier work and I strongly recommend that on Friday when this album hits the streets, you hit their bandcamp site, have yourself a listen and get into some seriously great music.

Released 16th February 2018

Order ‘Stranded Not Lost’ from bandcamp in all formats

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Acqua Fragile by James R. Turner

Following the release of their new album, the first in over 40 years I spent some time chatting with the charming Bernardo Lanzetti, vocalist and song writer with Acqua Fragile, about his musical career, reforming the band and the brand new album ‘A New Chant’.

I started by asking Bernardo how did you go about reforming and what spurred the reunion?

In May 2013, I did celebrate my 40 years in music with a unique event called “VOX 40”. Welcomed by an exhibition of my artwork, the audience attended a concert where up to twenty seven musicians gathered to play tracks off the different bands I had done vocals for, over the years.

On that occasion, all five original members of Acqua Fragile happened to meet after a long while and Piero Canavera on drums plus Franz Dondi on bass, even got a chance to play a couple of tracks off “Acqua Fragile” and “Mass Media Stars” along with Tango Spleen, a smart modern classical ensemble.

The idea of working on a new album took form quite naturally even though Gino Campanini (guitar and vocals) and Maurizio Mori (keyboards) confessed they could not join in. Quite nice though, Alessandro Mori, Maurizio’s son – a talented young drummer previously with Glenn Hughes and Bobby Kimball – right after that show, suggested he could be guest on one of the brand new tracks.

The start off was not that easy. The band wanted to keep A F vocal harmonies but we were missing one voice and we had no key man! A few characters, hanging around the band, enthusiastically, were giving suggestions and advice resulting in slowing down the whole project.

A few keyboardists and guitarists showed up and quit but we had a bit more of luck with Alessandro Giallombardo on guitar, backing vocals and keys too. Even though he wouldn’t join the band, Piero, Franz and Bernardo could find energy enough to carry on the project. Ok! We had no dedicated hands on keyboards but we could have strings, piano and intriguing bandoneon from Tango Spleen! Some minor health issue would, temporarily, keep Piero away from his kit? Well, Alessandro Mori could drum along!

Alessandro Sgobbio, formerly with “Acqua Fragile Project” (an experiment carried on by Franz Dondi where young musicians would live perform A F music, around 2004 ) and now jazz pianist and composer for “Charm”, “Pericopes +1” e “Debra’s Dream”, popped up at Elfo Studio to do a flashy synth solo. Michelangelo Ferilli, also from “A F P ”, left some acoustic guitar arpeggios!

I had been quite busy in the last two years so I thought I could get some help with lyrics. As special guest, we were lucky to have US drummer Jonathan Mover (Joe Satriani, GTR) on the trickiest piece of the album succeeding in making a quite complicated composition sound simple. Though some additional actions were taken in centre Italy and Costa del Sol in Spain, main recordings took place at Elfo Studio in Tavernago (PC) Italy where sound man Alberto Callegari was sharp and patient enough to produce it.

I wondered what difference in recording and working together did you find after reforming?

From 72 up to 74, the band would gather at least four times a week. We had no recording facilities so we would memorize all we were playing, I mean dozens of changes in every session. We wouldn’t even take notes or write score on paper as most of us were just self-taught in music.

Actually, every now and then, somebody, may be an older chap, would show up with a reel to reel or, let’s say, some freak with a cassette recorder would promise to do magic but distortion was all we could get down on tape. We knew very little about recording studios but we were blessed getting Claudio Fabi to produce our albums with Gaetano Ria as sound engineer – I mean – top guys in recording studios in Milan.

After that, please, do know that Piero and Franz kept away for many years from the recording world so, when we got back together, everybody around us – I mean fans, fellow artists, guys who wanted to be producers etc. – they were all saying we should go back and start on the old way, rehearsing every day to “capture back the old flair”.

I would just keep scrolling my head – you know, after all in a band there’s got to be some form of democracy – ‘till I got the other guys on my side and started to work in a most proper way. Somehow, I would provide the music and the lyrics, recording a home demo good enough to start with. Drums and bass would then get together to work out modifying the existing patterns and lines of the chosen piece.

Electric guitars and most keybords came out from the work of Alex Giallombardo who we were lucky to have over three quarters of the album even though he wouldn’t join the band. Tango Spleen is a terrific small unit which I define smart & classic. I remember them recording “My Forte” at first take.

Lately, I’ve been moving around a lot so my lead vocals were recorded in different places around Italy and Andalusia. Vocal harmonies were recorded mostly at Elfo Studios or in Milan. In the final rush I played a few synth lines and played acoustic guitar that was missing.

So how do you see A New Chant fitting into your canon?

OK: We got the vocals with the three part harmony, we got friendly odd tempo signatures, we got acoustic guitars, we got synthesizers, we got original riffs, we got nice arpeggios and, yeah, we got good lead vocals too. On the lyrics side we are missing some social issues and science fiction stories.

On the other end, also thanks to Pete Sinfield and Nick Clabburn, we did get more poetry. The music still holds drama in it as well as humour, epics, rock, folk and classical flare.

How did the collaborations on the album come about?

The Orchestra 6 piece specialize in tango, I met them as guests when I did my vox 40 concert, they did a great job, I thought it would be good to have them guest, they did a terrific job, they got the 1st song as a 1st take, and it was the fist time they had drums in their cans. Jon Mover, track in 11/8 he doubled that into 22, then subdivided to 7/6/5/4 meaning each bar has a different beats per minute and from the previous and the following, this is prog definatley, Mariano the pioano player needed more information, he looked at the score and then they both did it. One to be guests, Mover, he’s American, he loves progressive music, he played for Marillion, after that he got involved in GTR, he booked a studio and invited them down to hear me play, he then got hired. I found out I’m his favourite singer, so I got in touch and we’re working on my new album. We had guests for lyrics, I found this website where Pete Sinfield has his lyrics/poems/haikus, there was a poem I liked so much that I put some music to it, but how do I contact him? I had the song but no permission to release it. I had been doing gigs with David Jackson, he was in my house, and when he was staying he talked about moving. I asked David when we next spoke if he had moved and he’d moved to a small town, turns out it’s the same village that Pete Sinfield lives, so David’s son is a famous engineer, and his daughter Dorie is a singer, and she sometimes helps Mr Sinfield, so we had a connection, Dorie got a CD from me and once they went to supermarket she put the CD on for Pete, he said I love it and that’s how it worked out. I got a mail confirming I could use the poem as lyrics. Also Nick Clabburn wrote the lyrics for me, I knew Nick from when Steve Hackett came to Italy, he came to visit me in Umbria, he took inspiration from the lake I lived at, and he got the lyrics I’m drowning.

Alesso Lombardo, we did a few gigs and asked he could join in, he was contributing and we were lucky. Where your Car Proudly, the only one we wrote in the 70’s, we had no recordings, the drummer remembered the lines to play, but I didn’t remember the words, only the title, and asked a friend to write the lyrics, the song is quite interesting, if you play it when driving you get carried away. Allessandro Scorpio on keys, was in a band Aqcua Fragile project, didn’t quite work out, and he became a jazz player. When I played Vox 40 all original members but the guitarist and keyboard player didn’t play, but the keyboard players son is a drummer who joined.

I wondered what inspired Bernando as a writer?

Conscious and subconscious pull up bubbles from education and personality. Lyrics are one topic. Music is another one. I keep written notes around with phrases and words with a sound and may be more than just one meaning. I store them for future use..

As for music, I used to write singing on top of my guitar playing but, in the last ten years or so, I developed other techniques the most interesting being the one that I think about a melody, memorize it and study in my head but may be I’m floating on a swimming pool or riding shotgun (better not driving when doing this) so I’m totally free of instrumentation and kind of draw diagrams in my head. Of course, later on, I try to get sounds off instruments, mainly starting with the ol’ guitar.

Talk me through the album A New Chant.

Well, we wanted an Italian song, we’re the only Italian prog band with no Italian song, the Tu per Lei song is about music, saying if you work hard for music, then it’s done. Taking the line from Jamie Muir, he once told Bill Bruford, ‘when you approach you don’t have to think about what music can do for you, you have to ask what can I do for music’ then the acoustic one, How come, I wanted Lombardo to be more involved, I pushed, so he said I’ll write something acoustic and you sing, then we had an argument, so he said I’ll take the music but you keep the lyrics, which were my words, so I ended up having to write a new melody to the lyrics. A new way of composing. All rise – when you write songs for an album you don’t think about the concert, then you have to rejig the order for the power, so I thought why don’t I write a song for the first encore, using the courtroom line, the drummer did a great job,

A New Chant, I can do many things with my vocals, but I can do something that resembles opera, but I never learnt to push without a microphone, they can push up to 50 metres, I never learnt to do that, so that’s what I wanted to, which is crossing prog with opera. Artwork from 1973, it’s guy carrying round chairs as an invitation to a concert, the bassist had it and kept it, and it seemed ideal to use.

Will you be playing live?

We are working on two options. We could call other musicians to fill the gaps or be surrounded by an orchestra.

How did you get the deal with Esoteric?

Ernesto De Pascale, journalist and producer got them in touch with me when they needed the original art work for the re-release of Acqua Fragile’s very first album.

Where next for Acqua Fragile?

Perhaps a live album or…..

What influenced you as a musician when you started out?

When I was a kid I wanted to become a mad scientist. Somehow I kept that attitude working with music. I am not such a good player, not fast fingers or feet, no strength in my hands or arms but I can do total vocals. I can do harmonies and my range spans over three octaves.

I always admired rock and blues, suspended chords, things hidden or not totally outspoken. Progressive rock gave me all the other topics I was missing.

How different is the music scene now compared to when you started out?

The people behind the music scene have taken over. They don’t need musicians or artist ‘cause they actually control all platforms that distributes music or what they push to become “music”.

Tell me about your time in PFM?

When I joined PFM I thought I was called in to complete the delivery potential of the band. Only one of the original member is still in the band, actually becoming its leader, but, along with the ones that left ,when being interviewed they all say they were forced to get a lead singer. I recall them knowing nothing about singing except, perhaps, the key man Flavio Premoli. They didn’t even know the words to their songs!

On stage, nobody wanted my vocals in their monitors and, when having only three lines, I would end up singing along with drums and fretless bass! We were recording in LA, the studio time expired so we moved to Scorpio sound and we flew economy on a students ticket, we arrived at midnight in Luton, got the bus to the centre of London, at 2am we were still on the bus. Franco said ‘this is the new day’ so instead of heading to the hotel so we took two cabs to the studio, we wanted to start recording. We knocked on the studio door at 3 in the morning and said ‘We’ve got the studio booked’ and the people running the studio said we’ve got no engineers in yet. Franco said, ’You got a microphone?’ OK Bernado, sing! And we started.  After a long flight and journey how can a guy sing after that?

After a career spanning many years what’s your favourite musical memories?

I have a lot, we started opening for bands like Soft Machine & Gentle Giant they were our heroes and we hoped we did our best and we even played before Alexis Korner, Tempest as well, We were exposed to terrific players. With PFM my first concert was in Tokyo, and we played the Royal Albert Hall and the Queen Mother wanted to meet us, so there’s a photo of us with the Queen Mother, so when I left they erased me, I then did my own and I erased them, so there’s three copies of this photo, one with all of us, one with them and not me, and then one with me on my own!

‘A New Chant’ was released 13th October 2017.

Read James’ review of the album here:

Review – Acqua Fragile – A New Chant – by James R. Turner

 

 

 

Review – Long Distance Calling – Boundless – by Kevin Thompson

There’s always the clamour to decide what has been album of the year every annum and the good and great are voted for. In conversation the other day it arose that what is voted best, may not always turn out to be the most played.

Some albums push their way into your play-list and you find yourself returning to them regularly to get your fix. Long Distance Calling’s “Trips” is one of those albums for me. I can’t count the number of journeys in the car, where it has been played, you just have to be careful one doesn’t drive too quickly to some of the tracks. It is a real energiser of an album and always picks me up.

I have all their albums and the addition of vocals on “Trips” seemed to give it an added edge. So I was surprised to find the latest Long Distance Calling (LDC) release “Boundless” sees them returning with an all instrumental album and no Petter Carlson on vocals, a brave or foolish move?

The suitably brooding cover and promotional photos accompanying the music would suggest the promise of something a little darker with plenty of atmosphere and strength in their musical belief.

A crash of cymbals and the heft of drums from Janosch Rathmer feed into a drone, building with a lashing of feedback from guitar duo Florian Juntmann and Dave Jordan to see them Out There. The growling guitars are suppressed to repetitive gentle chords, Jan Offman’s bass blowing across the brown grass and moss covered moors as LDC bend into the stiff breeze and push forward, the mud of sceptics sucking at their boots. Drums drift back into the mix and the music rises to a crescendo as they reach the foot of the mountain and assess the route.

The heavy climb is echoed in the pumping guitars as LDC begin Ascending the second track of the mountainous album, riffs jabbing at them like the bitter wind, scrabbling for hand and footholds, the escalating guitars puncturing the cloud-base as the band strive for the peak and throbbing percussion pushes upwards as looping chords announce the summit.

They are In The Clouds, disorientated with limited visibility as strange sounds and percussion echo around. Strummed chords bend like sirens’ cries and aggressive guitars pull at the fabric of the tune as LDC seek to gain purchase and not lose their way among the rocks and crevices of the atmospheric synths and loops. The instrumentation fluctuates, with the menace of the bass warning of one lost footfall and the subtle percussion tries to wrong foot across undulating, tuneful ground.

Through plucked strings and behind jangling guitars, a sound is heard Like A River, as this accomplished German quartet confidently navigate their way. At one point the sound morphs into something narrowly close to the theme from a spaghetti western, whilst violin and brass make brief dalliances. Pulled back by the whistling winds, the clouds of music are parted revealing unparalleled views of the cruelly beautiful landscapes around them,. LDC admire the aural view as the guitars float down the mountainside and away.

Pushing their way through the heavy waves of riffs that strike them, the band forge their way to The Far Side of the mountain top, drums eddying as bass rolls of thunder meet overhead and the darkening, heavy clouds of guitar speed their way across the sky with determination.

Abruptly finding themselves On The Verge, piano calms the storm as harmonic guitar notes are picked to drift in the air. Looping guitars build and the band members attend to the backpacks they have been carrying and prepare for the descent. The music creates a determined urgency, to take advantage of the break in the weather, as the clouds drift away and pale watery skies are revealed.

Buddy checking they are ready, the band take a few steps back then all instruments rush forward together and leap from the edge………

The cold air moans around them as LDC dive from the precipice, sharpening the senses at the wonder of it all as they feel Weightless, drifting like birds on the thermals of the music as the building bass and drum rhythms quicken the heart. The pace of the descent increases, arms and legs splayed as the music spreads and the guitars fly with complete freedom. A tug of chords, the brief jerk upward as the ‘chutes open safely and they are nearly there.

The ground rushes towards them with all the energy the instruments can muster and percussive blood pumps in the ears. Knees bend as contact is made with terra firma and they roll before standing proud as the music swells their chests and hearts. Rising, the Skydivers acknowledge they have arrived unscathed and begin to draw in the ‘chutes as they congratulate each other in conquering the dramatic mountain of music; they have made it their own.

All gathered in, the band turn and with fading notes in the cooling breeze, LDC head back homeward with tales of their achievement bolstering their distinctive success.

So have Long Distance Calling pulled off the challenge of reinvention? For me it’s another resounding yes, to be shouted from the highest mountain and to echo in every valley. Their bravery has been rewarded and so shall yours if you have belief and buy the album.

Bands are criticised for drifting from their comfort zones at times or relying on tried and tested methods, this is no throwback but yet another push forward for Long Distance Calling whilst holding on to their distinctive sound, well done lads, keep up the good work.

Released 2nd February 2018

Order ‘Boundless’ direct from Inside Out in Europe

Order ‘Boundless’ from Burning Shed (UK)

Photos by Michael Winkler.

Paul Draper (Mansun) announces details of new EP / UK tour starts this month

PAUL DRAPER – EP THREE 

Confirmed for release on 16th march 

“Jealousy Is A Powerful Emotion”

1.    Jealousy Is A Powerful Emotion (single version)

2.    Things People Want (acoustic)

3.    Jealousy Is A Powerful Emotion (acoustic)

4.    Friends Make The Worst Enemies (Public Service Broadcasting Remix) 

Released digitally via Kscope on March 16th 2018 

EP Three is available to pre-order here: http://found.ee/PAUL_DRAPER_EP_THREE 

Paul Draper has announced details of a new EP release. EP Three features new versions and acoustic recordings of some of the stand out tracks from Draper’s acclaimed 2017 album Spooky Action. Lead track Jealously Is A Powerful Emotion is a tale of betrayal and coldly plotted revenge that builds from twisted, spectral electronics into a glorious swooping, swooning crescendo. Also featured on the EP are acoustic takes on Jealousy… and previous single Things People Want as well as epic overhaul of the EP Two lead track Friends Make The Worst Enemies by Public Service Broadcasting.

Paul Draper plays a series of previously announced shows in February and March. At those shows, Paul and his band will play a set of solo material before performing Mansun’s classic debut Attack of the Grey Lantern in full for the first time ever on the 21st anniversary of its release. The dates are:

Mon 19th Feb – Brighton, The Haunt (sold out)

Tues 20th Feb – Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms

Weds 21st Feb – Bristol, Bierkellar

Fri 23rd Feb – Dublin, The Workman’s Club

Sat 24th Feb – Belfast, Limelight 2

Mon 26th Feb – Edinburgh, The Caves

Tues 27th Feb – Glasgow, The Art School

Thurs 1st Mar  – Manchester, O2 Ritz

Fri 2nd Mar – Sheffield, Leadmill

Sat 3rd Mar – Newcastle,  Riverside

Mon 5th Mar – Nottingham, Rescue Rooms

Tues 6th Mar – Norwich, The Waterfront

Weds 7th Mar  – Oxford, O2 Academy

Thurs 8th Mar  – London, Brixton Electric

Following the UK shows, Paul Draper heads to the States to play a series of shows supporting Steven Wilson in North America in April/May. A limited edition signed vinyl LP – Live at Scala – will be available on the UK tour dates. The album features a recording of Paul’s recent sold out headline show at the iconic London venue. A CD version of the album will be available via independent record shops from February 16th 2018 or as a part of a double deluxe Spooky Action reissue.

 

Review – Sacred Ape – Electric Mountain – by Progradar

You know when you hear the first few notes of a new song from a new album and you know it is just going to be very, very good? It doesn’t happen all the time but, when it does, a smile begins to grow on your face.

Well, when I heard the first notes from Meet Your Maker, the opening track from Sacred Ape’s sophomore release ‘Electric Mountain’ that familiar feeling started to tingle across my body.

I was a big fan of prolific musician John Bassett’s new synth and dark wave project when I heard the first, self-titled, album last year but he has really moved the game on with this second album and in a big way.

John said, “I think, its kind of like a progressive 80’s electronic horror soundtrack, sort of? but that just might be me? I feel this is the closest I’ve got to the sound and style I was hoping to achieve when I first started this project.” he went on to say, ”  I was pleased with the first Sacred Ape release but it ended up too poppy, mainly due to the vocals and pop melodies. Nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t what I had planned, this Electric Mountain album is much more in alignment with my original idea. I’m also very happy with the production, making this type of music has pushed me into learning some new mixing and production techniques which I can bring to the next project which will be more rock orientated.”

Coming in at a brief thirty six minutes and composed of seven tracks, the album opens with the darkly dangerous Meet Your Maker where John really has got the John Carpenter soundtrack vibe down to a tee. Bass heavy and with the sonics of the synths making your hair stand on end, this is not music for the faint hearted with its unrelenting tempo and 80’s industrial electronica sound. I found myself instantly immersed in the finely crafted ambience. If you’re a child of the 80’s then title track Electric Mountain will take you right back to those times with its catchy hooks and Exorcist like back ground synths. Vibrant and utterly dynamic in range and impact, it could be from a soundtrack to a world dominating alien invasion film or just some thoroughly entertaining industrial synthesiser music. All I know is that it is near nine minutes of sheer nostalgic brilliance for this music fan and it has been on repeat on my iPhone since I first heard it.

What must be a contender for song title of the year, Grandma Doom And The Happiness Trap is an altogether darker foray into electronica. Compelling and incessant, the music drives you on mercilessly and you are quite happy to let it lead you mindlessly on like a modern day Invasion Of The Body Snatchers theme. It might even have a touch of Dr WHO to it as well, but that may just be me! There are little gems at every turn as the rhythm and cadence ebb and flow and I feel John is reaching back to his younger days to touch on the many influences that have moulded his music. A wonderfully atmospheric eight minutes of 80’s reminiscing. Janie’s Theme almost sounds like a synth wave Mike Oldfield track, with electronic glockenspiels and dulcimers echoing around you. Engrossing from beginning to end it’s only flaw is that it is too short, in my opinion!

There’s just something about Sunblock that makes me smile every time I hear the opening strains. It’s languid, laid back style echoes glorious summers of the decade that taste forgot and every note seems perfectly placed, mirroring that Giorgio Moroder sound that was everywhere in the 1980’s. There’s an addictive and catchy refrain that runs throughout and it is just a real feel-good piece of music that anyone around my age will really appreciate. Mono Grande is a delightful, if criminally short, return to the refrain from Electric Mountain but delivered in such an incredibly relaxed and laid back manner that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

The final track on this release is Headlights and with its harsh and in your face opening  you really feel that you are a rabbit caught in them! Compelling and dynamic, it powers along at first, dominating proceedings before the keyboards take a softer edge for a short while. It isn’t long before that domineering sound crushes all before it though. The track then continues as a juxtapose of those two quite different styles, a real nod to that atmospheric feel that John was hoping to attain and, to be fair, does with consummate ease. A potent statement to close out the album.

I get the feeling that Sacred Ape is a project that John really enjoys doing and is one that is close to his musical heart. If ‘Electric Mountain’ is its zenith before this incredibly versatile musicians voracious appetite takes him down another route then he is leaving on a fantastic high. Right, I’m off back for another listen, you lot can get your own copy at the link below!

Released 26th January 2018

Order ‘Electric Mountain’ from bandcamp here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8nzS-BEpno

 

Review – Gleb Kolyadin – s/t – by Progradar

I suppose, like me, the music you listen to depends on the mood you are in? Uptempo, fast-paced music for workouts or when you are in a really energetic mood or perhaps the chilled out, more relaxing music for a quiet night in and then there is that album that sits a bit on the fence, it has the higher cadence but also the easygoing, even emotive tracks that make it a great listen.

I was lucky enough to receive the promo for Gleb Kolyadin’s (pianist and co-songwriter of Iamthemorning) self-titled solo release and was intrigued to find out whether it would be more of his day job or a change from the norm that would head in other directions. Along that journey I have had the pleasure to become engrossed in what is a wonderful musical adventure…

The record features a staggering who’s-who of performers, including: Gavin Harrison (King Crimson Porcupine Tree) on drums; Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson) on bass; Theo Travis (Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson) on flute and saxophone; the unmistakable voice and lyrics of Steve Hogarth (Marillion) alongside Mick Moss (Antimatter); and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) on additional keys.

The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.

There’s a wonderful freshness and freedom to the music that Gleb delivers, whether it is the instrumental tracks where his piano playing is key or the vocal tracks where intimate stories are weaved by the collaborative voices of Mick Moss and Steve Hogarth. The near-frantic tempo of opener Insight is a case in point with Gleb’s dextrous digits flying over the ivories to give a breathtaking demonstration of his skill. The accompanying musicians add a veneer of sheer class, Theo’s sax really stands out and you could imagine yourself standing to applaud as it comes to a close. There’s a humble feel to the opening of Astral Architecture, the gentle piano is hushed in comparison giving an ethereal grace to the song. Mick Moss adds a subtle authority as his vocals begin, full of feeling yet with an undercurrent of melancholy, they draw you into there intimate embrace and you willingly follow. A fantastical aura settles over the song as the vocals take on a more passionate note and the classical strings add gravitas, a powerfully emotive track. The elegant notes of White Dawn wouldn’t be out of place in a piano recital, oozing class and panache, it’s a short interlude that could be termed a musical amuse-bouche and it leaves a lovely feeling on the aural palate.

The theme continues but at a much faster tempo as we segue into Kaleidoscope, a track that lives up to its name as you are taken through a huge spectrum of musical wonder by Gleb’s incredible skill and artistry. Tatiana Dubovaya’s haunting vocals give an air of mystery and intrigue but it is a piece of music that fairly skips along without a care in the world and you gladly join the ride as Theo Travis’ flute takes up the reins to take us to a breathtaking close. The momentum slows a little for the captivating charm of Eidolon to beguile and enchant before the slightly discordant notes of Into the Void carry on the recurring musical theme, quite insistent and incessant in their delivery. Again, this is classical music given over to a mass audience with the added skill and expertise of modern day, real world musicians added into the mix to create something quite unique. The unrelenting timbre is carried over to The Room but you always feel the performers are totally in control of proceedings. A note of seriousness has entered the music in places, the happy-go-lucky quality taking a step into the shadows without leaving altogether, Theo’s sax playing adding a gritty feeling of ‘out there’ jazz playing to the furious piano that closes out the track.

There’s a wistful, darker aura that descends around Confluence, a dreamlike and wistful opening seems to be meandering to nowhere in particular with is deliberately slow tempo and Steve Hogarth’s hushed spoken word vocal barely heard in the background. It’s a wistful, contemplative tapestry on which a beautifully mournful soundscape is created. The music has a thoughtful and reflective ambience as it dances gently across your aural synapses and belies its ten minute plus length. This song is a testament to Gleb’s creativity as it twists and turns to gather pace before applying the brakes, always demanding your attention, an introspective piece of music that leaves a lasting impression on your mind. Constellation The Bell is a moving song that has a barely hidden fragility behind the impressive piano playing, an eloquent and expressive three minutes that leaves a hollow feeling behind. There’s a grandiose and ebullient impression to the short lived Echo Sigh Strand, a track where Gleb’s piano playing seems to emanate from his very being to come alive and it crackles with electricity, powerful and exciting.

Penrose Stairs carries on the pomp and circumstance with added theatrics, a vibrant and imposing track aided and abetted by Gleb’s stellar accompanying cast of musicians. However, it is the intricacies of his skillful piano playing that is always at the core of these songs. The involving complexities of the elaborate Storyteller take on a slightly menacing tone as Jordan Rudess’ instantly recognisable keyboard skills take over, it’s quite a thrilling joyride from beginning to end. All good things must come to an end and the dulcet tones of Steve Hogarth herald the closing track on the album The Best of Days. A fantastically nostalgic song where Gleb and Steve work together perfectly to deliver a sentimental track that tugs at the heartstrings. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it but there’s just something about this song that really works and, to my ears, it is near musical perfection.

I met Gleb at this year’s Summer’s End festival and he is a quiet, polite and very unassuming man, perhaps it is through his creative side and his music that he can really express himself. This self-titled solo debut is pretty much a work of art where the undoubted piano playing skills of this virtuoso musician are complemented by some of the most prominent musicians around to give us something quite wonderful and ultimately rewarding and something which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Released 23rd February 2018

Order ‘Gleb Kolyadin’ from Burning Shed here

 

TESSERACT ANNOUNCE NEW STUDIO ALBUM ‘SONDER’ COMING 20TH APRIL 2018 PREMIERE NEW SINGLE ‘LUMINARY’ & ANNOUNCE NORTH AMERICA TOUR FOR APRIL & MAY 2018

TesseracT, a band that sit outside the bounds of any genre specificity, pioneers of the ever-evolving metal scene and unstoppable force of off-kilter riffs, soaring melodies and disorientating atmospherics release their fourth studio album Sonder on April 20th 2018 through Kscope.

Sonder adds significant firepower to the band’s arsenal, blending the harsh abrasiveness of One (2011) and progressive ethereal elements of Altered State (2013) with the accessibility of Polaris (2015)Sonder is streamlined, honest and direct with all the trademark TesseracT dreamy atmospherics and bending grooves. Sonder was recorded in the UK at 4D Sounds, Celestial Sounds and Project Studios, engineered by the band and Aiden O’Brien with mastering by Acle Kahney, and cover artwork designed by Amos Williams.

Vocalist Daniel Tompkins described Sonder as “Conceptually exploring a deep and devouring sense of insignificance, which ties into the overall theme and meaning behind ‘Sonder’”. Also featured is an extended and re-worked version of last summer’s single “Smile”.

Sonder will be released on CD / 2CD – featuring binaural album bonus disc / black LP / Crystal Clear vinyl LP / picture disc (exclusive to the band’s webstores) and digitally (with digital album pre-order receiving “Luminary” as an instant download) and is available to listen to & to pre order HERE

For audiophiles, TesseracT have produced a binaural version which will be available exclusively as part of the 2CD version, this version is a 360-listening experience designed by Klang: Fabrik for headphones listening Amos Williams explains more “the concept is to push past the restrictions of a stereo headphone mix and create an accurate ‘3D’ space in which positioning outside of the normal Left Right axis can occur. This is something that every artist that uses in ear monitors on stage wishes to recreate; the real and accurate positioning of instruments. We immediately felt that this technology could be applicable to us in the studio. TesseracT loves to bring what it does in the studio to the stage, but this time it’s experimenting with bringing a live element to the studio.”

Building on their phenomenal success with worldwide tours in support of Polaris over the last two years, as both headliners and as special guests for the likes of Megadeth, Meshuggah, DevinTownsend Project and Gojira, TesseracT area gearing up to take Sonder to worldwide audiences beginning in North America in April.

On this tour they will be supported by Plini (https://www.facebook.com/PLINI ) and Astronoid (www.facebook.com/astronoidband/ ) with the first show in Boston on 19th April and the tour culminating at New York’s Irving Plaza on 24th May.

“North America is where TesseracT first took off and is always the leg of the album cycle that holds the most sentiment to me. There are a lot of good memories made and good friends discovered along those long and bumpy roads. This time we’re lucky enough to share the road with two boundary pushing bands: Astronoid, a wall of euphoric noise who have a bright and noisy future ahead of them. And Plini, with his genre defying effortless virtuosity. It’s going to be a fun tour for us, especially as we’ve got a bunch of new tunes to add to the set!” Amos Williams.

For full routing see www.tesseractband.co.uk

European summer festivals have already been announced, followed by a headline tour of UK & European and Australia.

08/06/18 – UK, Donington, Download Festival (headlining the Dogtooth Stage)

22-24/06/18 – BE, Dessel, Graspop Festival

22-24/06/18 – FR – Clisson – Hellfest

28-30/06/18 – ESP, Madrid, Caja Magica, Download Festival

TesseracT are:

Daniel Tompkins – vocals

Amos Williams – bass

Acle Kahney – guitar

James Monteith – guitar

Jay Postones – drums

MIDAS FALL ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM AND SHARE TITLE TRACK ‘EVAPORATE’

Combining elements of electronica, post-rock and alternative rock with progressive and gothic undertones, Scottish duo Midas Fall have carved a distinctive and captivating sound, creating taut, shimmering soundscapes led by the hauntingly melancholic vocals of Elizabeth Heaton – a sound described as “powerful yet fragile, devastatingly beautiful and beautifully devastating” (The Founder Magazine).

‘Evaporate’, the fourth album from Scottish duo Midas Fall (Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn), is a visceral display of ferocious beauty.

Recorded in Argyll, Scotland, the album shimmers with a dark, gothic grace, delicate and brutal in equal measure. The title-track sweeps through tidal waves of Elizabeth Heaton’s towering vocals atop progressive post-rock landscapes both menacing and affirming, whilst the cinematic build of ‘Lapsing’ and the heavenly crush of final track ‘Howling at the Clouds’ pull vigorously at the heart. ‘In Sunny Landscapes’ is a magical, magnificently radiant world of its own, elegantly bringing its title to life.

Title track ‘Evaporate’ is the first song to shared from the record which vocalist Elizabeth Heaton describes as ‘the first track written and my personal favourite from our upcoming album. Inspired by the dark winters and landscape of Iceland it tells a story of a mind in turmoil. It also demonstrates the new and exciting use of strings and synths in our music that you will hear more of on the album’’.

Extremely emotive and vivid, ‘Evaporate’ is a deeply beautiful record – from the desperate, savage cacophony of ‘Bruise Pusher’ to the elegant ascension of ‘Sword to Shield’ – it conjures stunning soundscapes at every turn.

The album will be released worldwide by Monotreme Records on 27 April 2018 on CD and digital formats, as well as a limited pressing of 500 LPs on 180 g vinyl (200 black and 300 clear blue / black).

n September 2015 Midas Fall released their third album ‘The Menagerie Inside’ (Monotreme Records), followed by a month-long European tour later in the year with Canadian musician Raised by Swans. The album, mastered by Ed Brooks (Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, Caspian), received excellent press around the world.

2014 Saw Midas Fall complete a Balkans mini-tour and begin work on their third album.

In April 2013 Midas Fall released their second album, ‘Wilderness’ (Monotreme), which they followed up with the release of 3-track EP. ‘Fluorescent Lights’, and a full UK and European tour. The band shared the stage with Chvrches, Deaf Havana, Her Name is Calla and label mates Sleepmakeswaves, in addition to headlining a show at the Norwich Sound and Vision festival.

2012 saw the band perform at Switzerland’s Deadline Festival, share the stage with label mates 65daysofstatic and Reigns in London at the Monotreme Records 10th Birthday party, perform headline slots in London and Budapest and support We Were Promised Jetpacks and Her Name is Calla.

2011 saw Midas Fall complete their first European tour, including a slot at Belgium’s Dunk! Festival, sold-out shows in Athens, Sofia, Glasgow, Manchester and London, play Germany’s Dark Spring Festival in addition to supporting label-mates Jeniferever and Kerrang! favourites Hawk Eyes. 2011 also saw the band secure endorsements from JHS Hornby (Fret King Guitars), Diago, DiPinto Guitars, Dava Picks and Lion Cajon Drums.

Their debut album ‘Eleven. Return and Revert’ had its worldwide release with Monotreme in April 2010, garnering numerous glowing reviews comparing them to the likes of Portishead and Explosions in the Sky.

Midas Fall previously supported Japanese post-rockers Mono and had their track ‘MovieScreens’ synced on BBC3’s Lip Service soundtrack – a soundtrack which charted in the UK’s top 20 and has since been released in Canada and Australia, increasing the bands overseas following.

Review – Blank Manuskript – The Waiting Soldier – by Gary Morley

The wallet emptier’s influence reached through time and space to deliver a veiled threat.

“I’ll send you a CD if you review it within a week.”

As I’ve been away from the typewriter for a while, I accepted the challenge and tonight the CD was sat waiting for me to take my first lesson. The CD itself offers no clue as to the contents.

Remember the fun Led Zeppelin had with their 4th album – no name, no catalogue number, no clue as to the wonders inside the sleeve? Well, as I listened to the opening track, a veritable funky mix of Ozric Tentacles and Gong, I examined the sleeve for clues.

The band may or may not be called Blank Manuskript.

The Cd may or may not be called ‘The Waiting Soldier’.

The band may or may not be German (they are Austrian – Ed.)

The first track, as I said is wittily called The Introduction and it does just that. It opens to an unfurling synth sound that put me in mind of Leftfield before a crisp drum sound and a very Gilmour guitar tone – the track then throws a flute in the mix and proceeds power this along at a cracking pace. The guitar, flute and drums with the synth burbling behind it all hones my comparative glands – Ozric Tentacles! Then the vocalist forces his way in, and the track dynamic changes to a menacing almost punk feeling, with some great synth playing to further blur the genre comparisons.

The slide guitar playing is beautiful and the vocals are another layer on top – Punk Floyd?

Public Enemy is next, starting with picked electric guitar, and mellotron , all good Prog styling , with powerful riffs and drumming alternating with the plucked guitar, almost classical in places. Remember Nirvana and that grunge cliché of quiet, loud, quiet that was prevalent? Well this is the sonic equivalent, as we are taken off into several rooms at speed during the first 3 minutes of this track, finishing in a funky clavinet sound on top of all the guitar and drums.

But as I’m learning with this album, the tracks twist and turn, reshaping themselves as they progress. The vocalist appears, sounding quite cross about something or other, not at all happy about having his dreams take away.

Kites To Sky is a slower, more thoughtful piece with some fine guitar blasting over a brass section. A certain south coast Rock ensemble have got a lot to answer regarding filling the soundscape with Brass! The child like vocals ad a nice juxtaposition and fit the slightly dark dreaming vibe.

Dreamlike is not a description that would apply to Doubts with its forceful angular guitar and honking saxophone. This calliope of sound is best described as Madness playing Hawkwind at a Gilbert and Sullivan convention! The wide choice of instrumentation the band employ adds a slightly menacing surreal feel to this track, as glockenspiel and flute carry the tune ever onwards, before falling over the cliff edge of the end of the track.

Next up, haunting strings and a bell slowly ringing introduce The Night , the sparse musical poem slips around the ears as the strings give way to a sustained keyboard sound, very atmospheric and serves as a perfect table for the guitar to build the framework that the spoken words of the narration are spread out for the trombone to examine. This is my favourite track so far. Pink Floyd meet Nightmares on Wax with Groove Armada providing the bridge into a hauntingly beautiful synth solo, again very Rick Wright in terms of the amount of emotion in the playing. The vocals appear, and the Floyd comparisons are justified as the track continues, the keyboards swelling and dominating the climax

The vocals are almost another layer of instrumentation as they are lost deep in the mix as the track concludes.

Conclusion seems to have too many words for the tune and some frantic guitar strumming. The opening rant gives way to a fine walking bass, with guitar and drums that appears, then disappears just as rapidly. More words tumbling out but at a more regular speed now. This album has a very retro feel to the instrumentation, with a Hammond swirling away here, driving the song onwards to the saxophone and Hammond duet middle part. Almost jazz blues here, a late night jam session at Ronnie Scott’s between Dick Parry and Jon Lord with some fine drumming, more Cozy Powell than Bill Bruford , but the drummer knows his way around the kit, with some nice flourishes in the background as the sax and organ battle it out.

The track then segues into Cloud via a sustained organ chord, creating an eerie, almost Hammer House of horror mood. The Saxophone now swoops and pecks menacingly at the layers of keyboards, and they film soundtrack seems to be indicating a threat to the hero / heroine whose voice is buried beneath these layers. So now we get disembodied voices, a choir of demons and those long-sustained chords are menacing enough without them. The scene fades to black, no climatic ending here, but a hiatus before a piano and snare drum return as a coda, almost disconnected from the rest of the piece. This is a short album, just shy of 40 minutes, but it is full of big sounds, ideas by the bucket and some fine musicianship.

I am going to invent a genre for it as peopled like to know which box to put things in, so sit down, pour a lass of a dark red liquid (wine preferably) and immerse yourself in the strange and slightly disturbing world here. Cinematic Post Gothic Prog. That sums it up.

Right, I’m going to listen again. It’s worth it.

I described this as “Punk Floyd” and that sums up this album nicely. Check it out. Because you’re worth it too.

Released 27th July 2015

Contact the band on Facebook to order the CD

Featured image by Paul Sprinz.