Review – Patchwork Cacophony – Hourglass

Patchwork Cacophony is the solo project of Gandalf’s Fist, Fusion Orchestra 2 and Broken Parachute keyboard player Ben Bell. It has released two previous albums, 2014’s self-titled debut and 2016’s ‘Five of Cups’. 2024’s ‘Hourglass’ resumes that musical journey with a blend of familiar Patchwork Cacophony sounds along with elements more reminiscent of later work with Gandalf’s Fist and Broken Parachute.

‘Hourglass’ features four long tracks woven together by shorter pieces and, like many prog rock albums, is intended to be listened to as a whole. As with previous albums it is a largely solo endeavour, though this time drums are provided by James Chapman and there is a cameo synth solo by Drifting Sun’s Pat Sanders.

If you’re a fan of modern progressive rock, along the lines of Big Big Train, Cosmograf and the like then you will hear that in the foundations of ‘Hourglass’ but it’s not a pastiche of any of that, Ben definitely has his own identity and it comes through very well in the album’s forty-seven minute running time. Unsurprisingly, it is very keyboard oriented and focused and that is no bad thing as Ben is very deft and adept on keyboards, synths and piano and it gives a proper musical grounding to what is a superbly constructed work.

Progressive rock albums are synonymous with tracks of extended duration and ‘Hourglass’ is no exception, with three tracks that run over ten minutes and another that goes past the eight minute mark. When you have a longer piece of music it really has to be good to hold the listener’s attention and every second needs to useful and not just there to fill the song out. Well, on this release, Ben has delivered on every track, they are involving and brilliantly composed pieces of music that work together to create an album that flows exceedingly well and, like all the best progressive rock albums, is better consumed in one sitting, it definitely won’t work for the sound bite Spotify generation, that’s for sure.

The shorter pieces link the longer tracks perfectly and are well written pieces of music in their own right, Wake Up opening the musical journey perfectly, like a beautiful sunrise on a new day before the energetic Carpe Diem takes up the reins with a blast of Ben’s piano and keyboards amid promises of what is to come. There’s a jaunty feeling to the track as it speeds along, Ben exhorting us to seize the day and make it our own with his distinctive vocal having a strident, almost demanding tone. The keyboard runs are quite majestic and the whole song is just one emotional high. Perspective I has a sombre note to it, the elegant piano calming your very soul as it leads into Blind Faith, another upbeat song that this time has a more edgy feel to it, engendered by some fiery guitar playing and James Chapman’s dynamic drums. To my ears, there is more of a classic rock feel to this track, the vocals, guitars, drums and Hammond organ taking me back to the 70’s. It is perfect classic rock/prog fusion that just works, check out the superb synth and guitar section that illuminates the central part of the song, it’s simply superb and just adds even more to what is already a very fine piece of music.

My Home Is Tomorrow opens in a more subdued manner, the elegant piano having a soothing tone to it before the song opens up with Ben’s wistful vocal adding pathos and an almost melancholy feel. Taking a more symphonic prog route, this plaintive track still delivers an immersive musical experience but has a more serious undertone to it and the keyboards on the song are just incredible with both Ben and guest Pat Sanders firing on all cylinders. Pat’s Moog playing is otherwordly and worth the price of admission alone. Perspective II is like a musical gossamer thread that is blowing randomly in the breeze, ghostly and ethereal. Castaway, the last of the longer pieces, opens with another uplifting piece of keyboard and guitar work, rising sublimely through the early morning mist and just fills you with belief and optimism. It has a feel of Christopher Cross’ eponymous debut album to my ears, the harmonies, keyboards and guitar all feeling rooted in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Music as good as this always tends to leave a huge grin on my face and it’s certainly happening here, what an outstanding track. The album closes with Wake Up (reprise), a moving piece with exquisite piano and gorgeous strings combining to leave a lump in your throat and yet hope in your heart.

Good music should move you at a molecular level and add something to your life, a great album should be immersive and hold your attention from beginning to end and, with ‘Hourglass’, Ben Bell has achieved just that. It is a musical creation straight from his heart and soul and you can feel that in every note and one that I feel everyone should listen to at least once.

Released 1st May, 2024.

Stream or download at bandcamp here:

Hourglass | Patchwork Cacophony (

Buy the CD at Patchwork Studios here:

Checkout – Patchwork Studios

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