Review – Hibernal – Beyond

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

J.K.Rowling

Hibernal is a sci-fi post-rock project created by Brisbane native and author Mark R. Healy where, along with long term musical partner in crime Rowan Salt, Mark interweaves sci-fi stories with instrumental music to tell a compelling storyline that unfolds throughout the course of the album. The aim is to take the listener on an atmospheric, immersive and thought-provoking journey with every production.

I have become an avid fan of Mark’s work and it is always an occasion filled with great anticipation when a new Hibernal album is announced.

‘Beyond’ is the fifth release from this accomplished musician and storyteller and, in my opinion, is his best release yet.

“It was meant to be a routine mission. A crew of two sent to investigate an anomaly in the Rigel system at the foot of Orion.”

Using the excellent voice talents of long time collaborators Scott Gentle and Faleena Hopkins, we are told a twisting tale of two people who pass through a void in space and find a sinister and mind blowing world on the other side.

I am not going to spoil the story by writing an in depth review of the album but, suffice to say, it is one of Mark’s most engrossing and spine-tingling tales yet..

“As I watch, a pale blue star seems to throb and grow larger. With each pulse, shafts of azure light illuminate around it like the strands of a spider’s web. I can’t decide if it’s beautiful or terrifying. Then the moment passes, and the murk drifts overhead, obscuring my view.”

Hibernal albums are amazing cinematic soundscapes that have you on the edge of your seat, you feel invested in the characters and your heart is in your mouth waiting to hear what is going to happen next, the music adding an incredibly detailed and suspenseful accompaniment to the absorbing and compelling narrative.

I’d liken Mark’s work to an audiobook with musical backing, these are works that need to be listened to in one sitting, from beginning to end. I played ‘Beyond’ in full for the first time on one of my daily runs and soon found myself totally immersed in the story and itching to find out what was going to happen with Blake and Aven next, with music like this it truly doesn’t get much better than that.

“You can’t leave me. We’re in this together, Blake. Right to the end.”

‘Beyond’ is another tour de force from the undoubted master of cinematic storytelling. It is an enthralling and utterly gripping piece of work that holds your attention from its fascinating start, through its intriguing plot and right until the chilling end.

Mark R. Healy, my friend, you have done it again and this time it is your very best release yet!

Released 20th January 2020.

Order ‘Beyond’ from bandcamp here:

https://hibernal.bandcamp.com/album/beyond

Rise Twain launch video for “Prayers”

Philadelphia- duo Rise Twain released their debut self-titled album last year on InsideOutMusic. The union of Brett William Kull (producer, audio engineer, and member of Echolyn, Grey Eye Glances, and Francis Dunnery’s New Progressives) and J.D. Beck (The Scenic RouteBeck-Fields, author & playwright) bring their collective years of direct and varied experience in writing, performing and recording music together for their impressive first album.

Today, the band have launched their first ever official video for the beautiful ‘Prayers’.

The band comments: “Prayers is an elegy for love to come down from a forbidden height, to call from the night, to remember, wake, and live again. It sings a desperate melody to the lost so that they may find their way home.”

The album is available to order on Limited CD Digipak, 180g Black Vinyl LP + CD & as digital album here: https://risetwain.lnk.to/RiseTwain

Listen to some previously released tracks below:

‘Oh This Life’: https://youtu.be/XUWr1Vyg180

‘Golden’: https://youtu.be/15NnJ32GKfs

‘Everspring’: https://youtu.be/bsZu4GCRnrw

The track-listing is as follows:

1.     Everspring
2.     Golden
3.     The Range
4.     Lit Up
5.     Death of Summer
6.     Oh This Life
7.     Prayers
8.     Falling Skies
9.     Into A Dream
10.  That Is Love

Talking of how the duo came together: “I produced an album for J.D.’s original band, The Scenic Route”, says Kull, describing his first meeting with Beck in 2007. “They were a rocky, progressive kind of band, like a Jeff Buckley kind of thing. I was immediately drawn to his vocals. He’s such a strong singer.” Kull says he and Beck immediately hit it off, what he describes as an “inevitable connection.”

Adds Beck, “I just knew I had to work with Brett on a higher level. When I came in to cut the vocals on the Scenic Route album, the way we worked together…some people you just gel with, and then some people you have a barrier with. Brett and I gelled.” They spoke of one day collaborating on their own project, which finally surfaces as Rise Twain.

Discussing the album’s musical direction, Beck notes, “There’s not a typical structural theme that we use over and over and over. ‘Organic’ is a word that comes to mind. Seeking openness through simplicity and allowing the complexity of music to exist without the necessity of overly packing it or overly processing it. With that we were able to achieve such a broad spectrum of sound, and a colossal sense of its existence, without having to have a billion guitars and a billion things put over top. There’s some colouring with strings and other embellishments, but it really is something very simple and stripped down, and it’s awesome.”

Kull adds, “There’s a lot of complexity in this, but it’s not overt in the least bit. But yet, when you get into it, there’s all this really rich harmonic and dynamic stuff going on.”

RISE TWAIN are:
J.D. Beck: Piano, lead and backing vocals
Brett William Kull: Guitars, bass, keys, percussion, lead and backing vocals

Archive Review – Abel Ganz – Abel Ganz from 2014

We have spoken a lot recently about great albums from the last decade and I announced that Progradar’s choice was Big Big Train’s English Electric – Full Power but there was also an album that was a very, very close runner up and I still love it to this day.

I have a very close emotional connection to the album through the band and they have become great friends of mine. So here is my review of Able Ganz’s incredible self-titled release from 2014, kindly reproduced with the permission of Lady Obscure Music Magazine where it was first published.

When I first started to formulate this review my intention was to base it around the announcement of the so called ‘new’ Pink Floyd album and how we should really be encouraging new music and not collections of old material left metaphorically laying around on the studio floor, given a new coat of looking at and then released to the expectant public, no matter how honourable the intentions.

Instead I am going to concentrate on the music on this new album and how it has totally enraptured me and reinvigorated my sometimes jaded view of the music industry in these modern times. I have often talked about how music has made my more complete, how it has helped me through difficult situations and, sometimes, how it can just be so damn good and life affirming.

You should all know by know how I view mainstream chart music with more than a modicum of displeasure. Corporate crap to appease the masses and increase the bank balances of the music executives with no creativity or soul in any way, shape or form. Then, occasionally unexpectedly, an absolute gem of an album that contains the artist’s heart and soul will come along, one that will have taken a long time to come to fruition.

Music like this is what gets me out of bed in a morning, music that I have to wax lyrical about and spread the word to as many people as possible. To this reviewer, the music industry, at the sharp end, has lost its soul and its understanding that it is there for people to enjoy and to make these people’s lives a better place to be. Now it is just a vast, money making machine, bloated and pointless. It is these smaller, independent artists and labels that hold the true meaning and the future of the music industry.

I have been aware of the Scottish band Abel Ganz for quite a while and heard the odd track that has quite impressed me. However, it is this latest release, self-titled, that has really caught my attention.

First, a quick catch up.

 After a very lengthy hiatus Abel Ganz re-emerged in 2006 with the release ‘Back from the Zone’ – a compilation of 1980s material plus two, new recordings. Original members Hew Montgomery and Hugh Carter were joined on this release by long-time collaborator and drummer Denis Smith.

A brand new album ‘Shooting Albatross’quickly followed in 2008 on the band’s own, newly created record label and was very well received internationally. New, full time members Davie Mitchell (lead guitar), Mick Macfarlane (lead vocals, guitar), and Stevie Donnelly (bass) came on board to complete this album and flesh out the band’s reinvigorated line up with Denis Smith taking on major recording and production duties for the band as well as filling the drum stool.

After two years of gigging and promoting ‘Shooting Albatross’the band began making preparations to record their next album. Shortly after work began, Hew Montgomery made the decision that the time had come for him to pursue solo interests and so bowed out. He was replaced by virtuoso Jack Webb (keyboards) who had contributed to ‘Shooting Albatross’as a session musician. Nine months later as recording had only just begun in earnest Hugh Carter also retired from the band for geographical reasons.

With work on new album freshly started the decision was made to carry on write and record new album with the blessing and encouragement of Montgomery and Carter. With all parts of the album virtually completed and mixing sessions begun the role of keyboards player changed hands once again with new full time member Stephen Lightbody joining the band.

Entitled simply ‘Abel Ganz’ the new album makes a deliberate effort to take in new influences and mix them with the old. A genuine attempt has been made to try new things and explore potential new directions. In short – to try and ‘progress’.

Many guest musicians appear on the new album but the band are particularly proud and excited to have worked with the legendary Jerry Donahue and Malcolm Jones [of Scottish folk-rock band Runrig] on the track ‘Thank you’.

Delusions of Grandeur is a delightful introductory piece to the album with oboe, violins and violas accompanying the piano to almost freshen your musical palate ready for the main event. What follows next, the five-part Obsolescence is as good a piece of music as I’ve heard all year. Starting with Part i Sunrise, which is truly captivating, it has an ethereal mix of acoustic guitar, piano, recorder and effortlessly harmonised vocals, almost religious in its delivery. It gently segues into Pt ii Evening which increases the tempo but retains the innocent wonderment of what has gone before. There is a gentle folk edge to the song and it just fills me with an effortless flow of good feeling, truly enchanting, the steel guitar being a touch of genius. A feeling of urgency pervades all as Pt iii Close Your Eyes begins. This part of the piece has more of a mainstream progressive style to it, bass heavy with clever drumbeats. The delectable swathes and swirling drops of Hammond organ are an added nod to the seventies prog stalwarts. What is becoming increasingly clear is the quality of Macfarlane’s vocals. He truly has an impressive voice. The different time changes and signatures lead you on a musical journey that entertains at every turn. A flute that flitters around like a dancing bird is the entrancing introduction to Pt iv The Dream. It has a slow and measured rhythm that entices you into its musical web and holds you transfixed. You are treated to an aural cornucopia of flutes, guitars, tubular bells, double bass and church organ that builds up to an almighty conclusion to this amazing musical delight, Pt v Dawn. This instrumental finale has a depth of feeling that strikes into your psychological core to an emotional extent. The soaring guitar bleeds empathy as it reaches heights of feeling and fervour, a solo full of passion and ecstasy.

Take a moment to get your breath back after that musical extravaganza and then let the graceful and divine calm of Spring wash over you in a cathartic fashion. On this track Macfarlane shows his prowess with the acoustic guitar. The low hum of crickets calling is accompanied by a mellow acoustic guitar and a great brass section on Recuerdos. A soft vocal full of emotion adds a serious note to this amiable song. It is as you get this far into the album you realise the number of differing musical styles that the band can intertwine with aplomb. It doesn’t detract from any enjoyment of the album. In fact it just adds another layer of delight to it. Heartland begins with the muted sound of children playing before a very oriental sounding note emanates from the keyboard. Vocals on this song are provided by Joy Dunlop and the band takes another ninety degree musical turn as keyboards and programmed percussion deliver a sound not unlike an ambient dance track. It is tranquil, calming and subdued despite coming straight out of left field. There is a smidgeon of Celtic folk song to it but you are never quite able to grasp it fully as it lies just out of earshot. It is different and intriguing, yet very good.

End of Rain is another instrumental track that is like a tropical storm envisioned musically. It is full of highs and lows, powerful yet, sometimes, a calming influence. It is due to the bands undeniable skill that it stops short of just being an ambient background track yet, for this listener at least, it is the weakest track on the album. Maybe an experiment with a different musical direction that wasn’t entirely required. Just to prove they really do know how to mix several unlikely musical styles and make them work Abel Ganz deliver Country with aplomb on Thank You. I think this is a brilliant song and I don’t even like Country! It delivers its heart warming message in several different languages yet never loses focus or direction. The vocals are full of feeling and affection and the accordion and steel guitar add a layer of gloss to the whole track. It is captivating, full of charm and leaves a feeling of wellbeing and content wherever it goes.  Mick Macfarlane takes the lead with the acoustic guitar once more on the instrumental A Portion of Noodles. Another dip into the well of folk influenced music, it dances across your aural receptors with a featherlight footprint. Ghostlike and almost intangible, it is beguiling and mesmerising.

Fourteen minutes of musical delectation now follows in the form of Unconditional. Initially sounding as if it comes from the American heartland and the pen of Springsteen or the combined talents of The Eagles, it delves deeper into our collective musical knowledge to deliver on all counts. You don’t have to wait too long before some free form jazz is let off the leash. Muted trumpet played with alacrity and a lilting piano note take the lead and you soon feel you are in a smoky jazz lounge in New Orleans drinking bourbon and feeling at one with the music. The slightly discordant note of the keyboards that follows takes you down a more experimental route whilst keeping that jazz/fusion edge. The whole song encourages you to sit down and unwind, let the sounds wash over you and take you away from the stress of everyday life. Throw in some flashes of scorching guitar that Joe Satriani would be proud of and things are just about perfect. Hints of blues, jazz and progressive rock infuse to create something quite exceptional on this song, it is another musical delight that deserves wider recognition. The song comes around full circle to smoothly meet up again with the classy feel of the introduction and you know you’ve just heard something special. To close out the album you are treated to The Drowning. A luscious brass arrangement lends added gravitas to Macfarlane’s husky and soulful vocal. It has a wistful, if not downright melancholic feel to it but is extremely charming in its own way. The flugelhorn solo is a thing of dignity and style and adds to the aura of longing and loss.

I have just listened to a musical composition that goes further than just pleasing the senses. It is full of beauty and grace and manages to combine musical styles that are quite disparate and deliver a musical release that beguiles, bewitches and enthrals. This is music that will stand the test of time and could become a legacy for this superb band. Abel Ganz has delivered what is bound to become a highlight of this already impressive musical year, I implore you to go henceforth and purchase this musical marvel!

Released July 8th, 2014.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

https://abelganz.bandcamp.com/album/abel-ganz