I absolutely adored the second album from Human Pyramids, the cinematic, orchestral supergroup from Glasgow, Scotland. Released in 2017, ‘Home’ was uplifting, inspiring and a salve to the soul, all delivered with a touch of fun and humour in one undeniably wonderful package.
So I was definitely a happy bunny when I received an email about a follow up to that bundle of joy. Led by Composer/Producer Paul Russell, ‘Power Pose’ features musicians from Axes, Suicide Bid, Admiral Fallow, Scottish Ballet and Puff Uproar.
Their third album was recorded all over Scotland, London and Berlin. With luscious strings, rousing horns, shimmering woodwinds and bubbling synths, the album expands upon their trademark euphoric sound from the first 2 records which have sound-tracked countless TV shows, documentaries and films. The album was mastered by Joe Lambert (Dirty Projectors / Animal Collective) in Jersey City.
A musical experience like no other, Human Pyramids give us instrumental music that appears to come from a world where children’s TV could provide the soundtrack to life, an innocent joy abounds throughout the the twelve engaging and compelling tracks, opener 4000 Miles using strings and brass to wondrous effect. Like a glorious sunrise rising on a virtuous, unblemished world, it lifts your heart and makes your soul soar.
There’s playfulness and candour in the pared back delight of tracks like Volcano and Treacle and pomposity and fun in the catchy drive of Boxing Day. I always felt there was a childlike awe at the heart of ‘Home’ and that perception continues with the excellent Confetti and in the staccato strings of Hospital Radio.
‘Power Pose’ sees the collective deliver more maturity without losing the spontaneous touch inherent on the previous album. The enchanting and captivating music continues through Memory Map, the off- kilter, sometime country blues aura of Wisdom Teeth and Hanlon’s Razor and culminates in the incredible fun-filled high energy brass of the funky The Mighty Atom and the more laid back final track Trouble.
I think Paul and the rest of Human Pyramids have given us what is possibly the most playful, captivating, bewitching and beguiling album of 2019, it’s like a celebration of all that is good in this world delivered wrapped up for you to open on Christmas Day (Yes, that is the release date!). By golly, we really must all have been very good this year…
Released 25th December 2019
Pre-order, and listen to 4000 Miles, from the link below:
Dreaming Madmen is a Progressive Rock duo formed by two Lebanese brothers Mathew & Christopher Aboujaoude in their home studio in their hometown Deir El Harf, Lebanon and based in Austin, TX.
They began their musical careers at the young ages of 7 and 9. Mathew starting out with keyboards, then picking up the electric guitar at the age 9, and playing bass guitar as well. Christopher starting out with saxophone at the age of 9, bass & drums at the age of 14, and moving on to keyboards as well, at a later stage.
They are greatly influenced by Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, Porcupine Tree, King Crimson and the band’s sound revolves around the Progressive Rock/Progressive Metal/Art Rock milieu.
The band released its debut LP ‘Ashes of a Diary’ on September 14, 2019. It is a concept album that delves into the psyche of an elderly man, who discovers an old journal of his, filled with writings detailing a life of pain, obsession, love, hatred and regret.
If you like your progressive rock in a mesmerising and hypnotic style then you need look no further than these hugely talented brothers. Scintillating guitar work abounds throughout the album with solos reminiscent of the great David Gilmour but they are part of the structure of the music which is intelligent and thought provoking.
The wonderful, dreamlike music leaves tendrils of perception touching your mind as the elegant guitar and keyboard solos trace a creative path across your soul. There’s a pleading, plaintive quality to the soulful vocals that take you on this often harrowing journey.
Stand out tracks like Your Possessor and the gently drifting Lock Thyself have a surreal and hypnagogic quality that leaves a lasting impression on you even as they fade away. The heavier soul of Enigma drives along with irrepressible force, keyboards and guitar firing away in unison and the album closes with the best Porcupine Tree track that Steven Wilson never wrote. Final Page is utterly captivating, the vocals heart-wrenchingly beautiful in their delivery and epitomising the fantastic songwriting skills that Mathew and Christopher have. The guitar solo is delightfully exquisite and had me in raptures, as elegant and graceful as they come.
I can’t be effusive enough about how good this album really is, for a debut release it is pretty astounding. The highest praise I can give it is that I’m pretty sure that Mr Wilson himself would have been happy to have released it. Beguiling and enthralling, ‘Ashes Of A Diary’ sees Dreaming Madmen enter the scene on an absolute high.
‘Rarely are new groups as exciting, talented or unique as Exploring Birdsong, the piano-led guitarless trio from Liverpool who have announced their signing to German independent label Long Branch Records.
Having recently graduated from Liverpool’s Institute of Performing Arts, the young group have already caught the eyes Prog Magazine, Kerrang! Magazine, Kerrang! Radio and Classic Rock Magazine as well as achieved two Progressive Music Awards nominations in 2019. Having only released two singles at this point, Exploring Birdsong have been hand-picked to support Sleep Token, toured with proggers Godsticks, caught the attention of Florence and the Machine, and performed at HRH Prog. Unplaceable for the most part, the band bring to mind elements of Steven Wilson, Kate Bush, Rush, Sleep Token, and Agent Fresco.
The young trio are comprised of drummer Matt Harrison, bassist and keyboardist Jonny Knight (capable of playing both instruments simultaneously), and topped by keyboardist and vocalist Lynsey Ward‘s stunning, otherworldly vocals.’
Some mighty impressive PR writing there but, having seen and spoken to this talented trio at HRH Prog in 2018, I know there is some substance to the claims.
The EP is broadly speaking a concept release, centred on the Seamus Heaney poem ‘Bye Child’ and the story of Kevin Halfpenny, one of the most bizarre cases of child cruelty ever recorded. This is mirrored in the EP title and cover art, with broken backbones becoming broken wings. The title itself also references Emily Dickinson’s “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers” poem, which itself is a call-back to the music found within. Good and evil are never too far from each other and you may never really fully be able to have one without the other.
These three met at University and started writing some of the material on the EP not long after and a direct result of that is a massive feeling of maturity to the music, a profundity you hear running throughout tracks such as The River and The Baptism.
There is power and deep emotion in the music, given release by the expert playing of Matt and Jonny, the keyboards and drums syncing perfectly to produce a veritable wall of sound on the more compelling pieces and yet being exquisitely ethereal and sublime where needed.
Lynsey’s vocals are utterly captivating, she has a voice that is porcelain smooth and yet seems to have endless depths of emotion, passion and empathy, almost operatic in places. You can just lose yourself to the enveloping welcoming embrace and warmth of songs like the incredibly elegant The Downpour.
‘The Thing With Feathers‘ is an utterly absorbing twenty-one minutes of music and delivers an undoubted new talent onto the music scene. Serene and graceful yet with a deep intelligence running throughout, I haven’t been this excited about a new artist in a very, very long time.
“Marillion, that’s that band with that Fish bloke in, did that song called Kayleigh…?”
If you’re a fan of the very long career of UK progressive band Marillion then you’ll have heard that question many a time. They have made it fashionable to be unfashionable in an ever changing industry that rewards the latest thing, in fact they’ve made a successful career out of it.
So then, how is it that a band most people seem to think ceased to exist in the mid 80’s can sell out the holy grail of live venues for two nights? There’s two reasons really, first because of a fan base that revere and love them (almost obsessively, if last night was anything to go by) and, secondly, because they are a live experience that should be on your bucket list!
Having played the RAH two years ago with a six piece orchestra, Marillion have decided to reinvent some of their tracks that they feel fit especially well in that format and are releasing an album (Marillion With Friends From The Orchestra) at the end of this month.
So it made sense to go out on a UK tour to promote the album and play in venues that would give the format some stunning backdrops? Of course it did!
The evening started with a short support set of cleverly crafted singer songwriter material from the talented Harry Pane, whose short but enjoyable acoustic guitar and double bass material was warmly received by the building audience.
However it was the main event that everybody had come to see and as the six piece orchestra walked on to the stage, followed by the band, the anticipation of the audience could literally be felt.
Marillion launched into an intense version of Gaza with frontman Steve Hogarth prowling the stage like a tormented soul, his on stage persona and antics are always an integral part of the band’s superb live shows.
The light show and backdrop graphics added to the intensity of proceedings as the band played a set littered with their greatest songs, twenty minute plus tracks that flew by leaving the audience at times speechless and at others rapturous and raucous, the alcohol maybe giving vent to some 50 and 60 year old fan’s long years of admiration where normally they would be more reserved.
The orchestra fitted in seamlessly with the strings bringing a euphoric feel to the somber brilliance of Estonia and lifting my all time favourite Marillion track, Season’s End, to incredible new heights, Steve Rothery’s solo bringing a lump to my throat and I’m sure I had something in my eye…
A wonderfully theatrical version of The New Kings from the band’s latest album F.E.A.R had the audience hooked on every word, engrossed as Hogarth led us through the mire of the modern world and this was followed by a brilliantly spirited Man of a Thousand Faces that had the audience singing along.
This once in a lifetime experience was finished by a two piece encore starting with a rocking take on Seperated Out with an excerpt from Led Zep’s Kashmir that even had the orchestra rocking out.
Things finally came to a close with an emotive and tumultuous version of long time fan favourite This Strange Engine that ebbed and flowed superbly for over twenty minutes before bringing the house down with heartfelt applause and adulation.
Thirty years on from when Steve Hogarth joined the band, Marillion still do things there own way. They did crowd funding before it was fashionable and they put on a live experience like no other. On nights like these they are untouchable to their fans and long may it continue. Now, who’s that Fish bloke…?
“Music is life itself. What would this world be without good music? No matter what kind it is.” – Louis Armstrong.
Sage words from the great Satchmo himself, music is the most life affirming thing there is, it can console you when you are sad and lift you up to the heavens when you are happy, it compliments your moods and makes the world a better place to live in.
French musician Franck Carducci creates music that puts a huge smile on your face, it rocks and it rolls with passion, intensity and not a little humour and The Franck Carducci Band are one of the most incredible propositions in a live setting.
I got to know Franck from his second album, the fantastic Torn Apart, and have been eagerly awaiting the follow up for a few years now.
Finally, here is The Answer and I have been privileged to have this release as my musical companion for quite a while now so do feel I am duly qualified to give my impressions
The CD contains six tracks along with four bonus cuts and sets a fire up your derriere from the first song to the last…
The album opens with Franck in his classic rock persona on the lengthy (Love is) The Answer, like Led Zeppelin got lost in the studio and gatecrashed a Yes recording session. Eight minutes of swirling Hammond organ and mellotron from Olivier Castan combined with some dextrous guitar playing and even some Didgeridoo (yes you read that right!) to leave you with a big slice of pomp and circumstance done in the inimitable way that only Franck can do.
Slave To Rock and Roll is a fantastic hard rock track that puts a huge grin on your face, Christophe Obadia and Steve Marsala trading funky riffs around that ever so cool Hammond sound with Franck’s great vocals aided and abetted by Mary Reynaud’s silken backing. Everything is held together by the powerhouse drumming of Antonino Reina and the wonderful bass from the master himself, throw in a superb solo and it’s damn near perfect.
You, dear listener, then get treated to two songs that can only be described as progressive rock but prog rock that has that particular Carducci tinge to it. Superstar is as 70’s prog as they come, wondrous stories being weaved before your very eyes with Mary’s silken vocals adding an almost elfin feel to things. Wistful and yet with a knowing look as it opens up into something much more compelling and dynamic, an absolute aural treat. The After Effect is much more direct and vibrant, a ying to the previous track’s yang if you like, and feels like a hell for leather, breakneck ride at times (a hugely enjoyable one though!). I get the distinct feeling that the band are having an absolute blast while making this album, the energy and vitality are palpable.
A beautiful piano led composition, The Game of Life lets everyone take a breather after the brilliantly hectic start. Richard Vecchi‘s ivory tinkling and the elegant trumpet playing of Thierry Seneau add to the composed vocal performance that Franck delivers to give a song that oozes class and style.
This album is sounding like Franck has taken Led Zeppelin and Gentle Giant and thrown a bit of Genesis and Jimi Hendrix in the mix too and that is rubber stamped by the brilliant Asylum, a fantastic eleven minutes of progressive rock, hard rock, funk and soul that rocks like a b*tch from beginning to end with the excellent Jimmy Pallagrosi (drums) and Fabrice Dutour (guitar) adding their undoubted chops to the mix. It seriously doesn’t get better than this!
The four bonus track add to the already impressive six songs that make up the main body of this release. The Road to Nowhere is an acoustic sing-along that will undoubtedly become a live favourite and Beautiful Night is a wistful, nostalgic tune that will see the lighters (or mobile phones) come out at live shows. The album then closes out with radio cuts of the first two tracks that end everything rather nicely.
The Answer leaves a huge grin on my face, a highly enjoyable cornucopia of musical delights taking you on an amazing journey through 70’s progressive rock, hard rock, funk and pure rock and roll. Containing some utter Carducci gems, this album just keeps getting better and better with every listen and is by far Franck’s most cohesive and impressive work yet.
It’s not often that I am gobsmacked by a new release but the new album from no-man, the Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness project, left me quite a bit dumb-founded on first listen.
Like some strange symbiosis of 80’s pop, 90’s dance music and noughties prog, Love You To Bits wasn’t what I was expecting from prog’s standard bearer – Wilson – and the master of cool – Bowness…
The new album, the first studio release in eleven years consists of two connected five-part pieces (Love You To Bits and Love You To Pieces), was twenty-five years in the making and lyrically chronicles the aftermath of a relationship from different perspectives.
Adam Holzman, David Kollar, Ash Soan, Pete Morgan and the Dave Desmond Brass Quintet guest. Produced by no-man, the album was mixed by Bruno Ellingham and mastered by Matt Colton.
Steven Wilson has been very successful at re-inventing progressive rock over recent years and, with his long-term partner in crime Mr Bowness, it appears that they have decided to re-invent what would be considered ‘pop’ music to most ears.
And, to my utmost astonishment, it actually bloody works (I make no apologies for the expletive, I was that surprised!). Using the velvety, comforting tones of Tim’s excellent vocals over an EDM/electronica inspired back-beat is just genius. There’s a vibrancy that is absent from a lot of today’s music, be it pop, progressive or whatever, it just leaves a huge grin on my face.
This inventive and entertaining album never fails to surprise at every turn with elements of pulsating fusion and a wistful and poignant ambience interspersed with crashing guitars and edgy drumbeats.
I have no idea what Steven and Tim were on when they came up with the idea for this pulsating masterpiece but, by golly, can they please give some to the rest of what is becoming a very moribund music scene.
Love You To Bits is a utterly fascinating and overwhelmingly entertaining musical adventure with superb dynamism and a diversity rarely seen in the strictures of conventional music.
Just do yourselves a favour and go and buy it, you will not regret it!
“The expansive soundscape driven into their third offering blows the gates wide open with a wealth of captivating melodic prog rock tracks, delivered with a quintessentially British level of class and sincerity despite the very serious and thought-provoking undertones etched into the music.”
You’ve got to love a bit of PR blurb (well I do, because I used to write it!) and this gem, delivered with the latest release from UK based sextet The Room, certainly does capture the imagination.
On the subject of the album’s title, The Room comment that the concept of being ‘Caught By The Machine’ directly relates to the feeling one experiences when the state, a job, a relationship or even a drug begins to control their every living moment. It is a reflection on many aspects of the modern world, for better or worse.
Formed in 2010 by Andy Rowe along with Martin Wilson and Steve Anderson from neo-prog rock band Grey Lady Down, The Room never fail to deliver an outstanding performance – both in the studio and in a live environment.
I am going nowhere near the age old “Is it Prog?” debate with this review, I am judging everything on its own merits, after all it doesn’t matter what genre you may or may not think it sits in. There’s a simple question that needs to be asked, is it any good?
Well Martin Wilson’s vocals are on top form throughout, he has a commanding and powerful vocal style that really demands attention, the fact that is is very melodic just adds to the exciting mix. The addition of Eric Bouillette’s guitar, along with band stalwart Steve Anderson, adds a harder rock edge and some very impressive solos and the rhythm section of Chris York and Andy Rowe is as impressive and dependable as ever. April 2018 saw the departure of keyboardist Steve Checkley and the arrival of new keys maestro Mark Dixon who has fitted in seamlessly.
‘Caught By The Machine’ is a very tightly created collection of ten songs that have been crafted meticulously to the last detail (the Production by prog legend John Mitchell is particularly notable), excellent songwriting giving us gems like opener Bodies on the Road, The Golden Ones and Vanished. Tracks that flow perfectly from beginning to end with catchy chorus and exemplary musicianship.
The Room have created their own distinctive sound from debut release ‘Open Fire’ through to the sophomore album ‘Beyond the Gates of Bedlam’ and that continues on the latest release but here it has matured and become something very classy indeed. Driving guitars, swirling keyboards, a dynamic rhythm section and Wilson’s urgent vocals creating highs of the likes of Run, Drowning In Sound and my particular favourite: It’s Not My Home.
The reggae guitar infused Broken seems a little out of place to me but, other wise, there are no low points in this memorable album. I got to the end of the darkly delicious final track Bloodstream and just pressed play again.
‘Caught By The Machine’ shows a band who are evolving into a major player. Inventive, impressive and superbly crafted, the simple answer is yes, it is very good indeed…
What exactly is ‘A
Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows’?
According to Wikipedia (and who could doubt that source of information!) ‘A Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows’ is a website created by John Koenig that defines neologisms (that’s new words and phrases to you and me) which are designed to define emotions for which we do not yet have a descriptive term. When you hear this new album by Nova Cascade you can sense why they might decide to use that phrase to name their album. Previously describing themselves as ‘Ambient Progressive Rock’, on their promising but minimalist debut album Above All Else, Nova Cascade have developed that blueprint further with more defined pieces. but there is still an overriding sense of fragility and dreamlike visions which are hard to define.
Nova Cascade have now moved on from their peculiar origins in an online gaming chatroom out of which artists shared musical ideas, and now present a more fully formed and mature album. The sparse, organic feel which characterised ‘Above All Else’ now gives way to a more lush and layered approach but at heart they retain their more ambient and impressionistic style, with some echoes of later Talk Talk. The gorgeous cover artwork by Charlie Bramald places us in a warm, shimmering and comfortable candle-lit library, and the music conveys a sense we are sat in the glow of candle light as we hear these lush sounds which contain contrasting stories of light and darkness.
Dave Hilborne appears to lead this project with his distinctive light, breathy vocalisation and subtle synth laden soundscapes, such as the opening instrumental Unwavering. There is also a slightly harder edge on some songs, such as the bitter Rabbit Hole (with echoes of later Peter Gabriel) which features quite a percussive programmed edge and pointed lines about deceit:
‘This illusion you expertly weave,
Let’s take a trip to the far side,
Descend in a rabbit hole of deceit.’
However, even such perspectives are coated in fairly lush production with no sharp edges. Echo and Narcissus flows languidly in on a bed of keyboards and softly programmed percussion. Hilborne’s delicate vocals reflect the disappearing fragility of the legendary Echo as she wasted away until only her voice remained. Once again rather tortured lyrics are conveyed in swathes of restrained, rather gentle instrumentation, particularly the evocative violin of Eric Bouillette. Such agony rarely sounded so delicate:
And, oh, that stench in the air is your hate
Just leave me be with what’s left of my fractured soul
Nova Cascade seem to like touching on sinister or negative subjects in rather pastoral ways, such as the instrumental Apophis, which may refer to an Egyptian Pharaoh or an ancient Egyptian ‘chaotic being’ until you read the sleeves and note one small line: ‘All Eyes to the Sky in 2029…’ a quick internet search reveals that Apophis is a sizeable ‘near Earth’ Asteroid that in 2004 was thought to have a distinct possibility of striking Earth catastrophically in 2029. Readers will be pleased to hear that after re-calculations this possibility has now been deemed Zero! Nevertheless, it gives Nova Cascade the excuse to compose a suitably spacey soundscape, enhanced by Charlie Bramald’s stellar flute, which is then transformed with some more ominous synth throbs before floating off in to space again.
In contrast the nostalgic Plasticine and Paint touchingly conjures up idyllic visions and memories of childhood with Bramald’s subtle flute underlining the sense of pastoral reminiscence in a rather beautiful piece. In their previous album ‘Above All Else’ there was a sense of it being a rather ‘home made’ or even a ‘demo’ type album, which it’s organic and intuitive approach to capturing sound enhanced. Nova Cascade seem to have moved on from that rather lo-fi or sparse feel but have not lost that essence of fragility and dream like quality.
The centrepiece to the whole album is the decidedly more ambitious extended instrumental ‘A Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows’ which features the Blue Man Group drummer David Anania (indeed the album sound overall would have benefited from more use of a live drummer than programmed percussion.) It is interesting that in the sleeve notes in relation to this song Dave Hilborne has quoted a few ‘neologisms’ for hard to describe feelings, presumably from the aforementioned Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, including:
‘Sonder’ – The realization that each random
passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own
‘Kenopsia’ – The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a
place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet
Not only are those great new words I will try to use in the right context in future, but somehow the music in this imaginative and evocative piece of work conveys those intangible and almost impossible to define feelings. Hilborne paints the main canvas on keyboards alongside the ever present deft bassist Dave Fick, especially in the second half when Anania’s drums have more impact. Eric Bouillette chimes in with a subtle Steve Rothery like guitar solo in the closing stages in the most ‘progressive’ track on the album.
Nova Cascade quote the now sadly deceased Mark Hollis of Talk Talk in their sleeve notes;:
‘Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note,
y’know? And don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it’.
Such a quote tells us where Nova Cascade are coming from, and conveys their philosophy in where they want to go. This album is certainly no ‘Spirit of Eden’ by Talk Talk (and to be fair what else is? – it’s an all time classic!) but you can tell that would have been an influence, especially in the vocals. Guitars, piano, bass and guitars weave together melodically. There are times when it is beguiling and beautiful – there are other times for this listener when I just want something a little more of substance to hold on to as you drift in an ocean of ethereal , vague subtlety. Nevertheless, ‘A Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows’ is certainly a very significant step up from ‘Above All Else’ . This album would appeal to lovers of delicate, ambient soundscapes and softly pastoral sounds and images, and I have a sense that the ethereal and talented Nova Cascade will show even more development of their distinctive sound and style in the future…
… now I just need to find a word that can convey that hard to define that feeling?
Afenginn, which means “intoxication and strength” in old norse, is Danish composer and musician, Kim Rafael Nyberg, one of the leading neo-folk, post-classical voices in Scandinavia.
Having toured all over Europe, Australia and the US and performed at numerous festivals, concert halls and venues, Nyberg’s deeply ambitious, orchestrated compositions are based on his seemingly mercurial creative impulses with a strong DIY underpinning, with each of his previous bodies of work being a clear departure from the last. Obvious comparisons would be Hauschka, Goldmund, Jonny Greenwood and Dustin O’Halloran.
“Klingra (circle in Faroese) is one of my more delicate and introspective pieces that leans one degree further into the neo-classical realm. I’ve been working with the theme of circles/cycles to inspire both the way the music is composed and the story within the poetry”, says Nyberg.
With a sound palette of two pianos, a string quartet (The Danish String Quartet), pedal steel guitar, synth bass and two drummers supporting the haunting vocals of Ólavur Jákupsson (Yann Tiersen), the music is incredibly intense, both emotionally and dynamically.
It speaks of stark landscapes, too big for the human mind to comprehend, almost pagan and primeval, of the land and with millennia of history coursing through every note and word. It is a powerful and cinematic soundscape on which Nyberg layers his palette of beautiful and ethereal pieces of music.
So exquisite is the music that it is almost painful to behold in its minimalistic glory, the norse melancholy drawing you into its intricate web of gradually building emotive tension. The highlights are many but Vitin (the lighthouse) leaves an emotional mark on you that lingers long after the mournful strings fade away to just be a lingering memory.
Any of these wondrous compositions could be used as a dark cinematic soundtrack, the fragility and contemplative feel leaves you thoughtful and almost overwhelmed by empathy, I have not heard anything quite like this in a very long while. Ólavur’s deeply moving vocals are the perfect foil for the wistful and winsome grace of the music and will move you to your very soul.
Music for long winter evenings in the company of someone you love, ‘Klingra’ will make time stand still as you listen to every nuance and subtlety, it is an incredibly involving experience that I believe everyone should enjoy at least once.
“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” ― Alphonse de Lamartine
I love that quote and it expresses perfectly how I feel about music, music has been my saviour in times of need and my champion in times of triumph. An ethereal miracle that salves the soul and inspires the heart and the latest album by the Sussex-based (UK) singer/songwriter RISE (previously Talitha Rise) is the pure definition of ‘the literature of the heart.’
RISE’s (aka Jo Beth Young) new musical journey weaves together intimate and cinematic stories marrying reverberations from the past with the struggles of the present day.
Exploring themes of love, loss, rebirth and transformation, RISE says: “David Gray once wrote a line that has stuck with me – “and when we meet again, we will be strangers”. That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind this album. This album traverses the challenge of the personal ‘abyss’ and the emergence from the bleakness of loss and separation. This gives way to hope, wisdom and the taking of responsibility.
Each location adds another layer of meaning and context to the stories within each song. I wanted these songs to be a conversation with the land, the place, the history that I was in at the time but it is intertwined with some of my own intense personal experiences.”
‘Strangers‘ is a collection of 9 songs that explore human nature, relationships and the harsh realities of life but Jo Beth’s amazing vocals imbue everything with a dark and painful beauty and sepia tinged loneliness and despair.
These songs are more like stories, pieces of music that bring the characters to life and you are kept hanging on every note and every word, the inevitability and bittersweetness of change is apparent throughout.
Opening track Dark Cloud lays the foundations and sets the sombre atmosphere from the first stark note. There is a feel of a soul laid bare and a heart that has been broken time and time again and this runs throughout this phenomenal piece of music, through the classical tinged wonder of Temples and the harsh realities of title track Strangers, which speaks of a husband returning from war so changed that he is now unrecognisable. This is music that is utterly enigmatic, captivating and yet, in places, full of foreboding.
The simple, pared back allure of Cry Back Moon, the drama of Burnt Offerings and the mournful grace of the elegant Rabbit Eyes show a songwriter at one with her craft, weaving mesmerising stories that draw the listener in and when you have a voice as stunning as Jo Beth’s, it is an instrument in its own right and one which imbues every song with an aura of mystique.
The first track released from ‘Strangers’ was the wonderful Radio Silence and on the album it returns like an old friend, perhaps a little world weary and disheveled but a friend who you are happy to spend endless hours with trading nostalgic stories of a brighter past. Skysailing has that contemplative feel of a warm breeze on a hazy summers day, a thoughtful, slightly melancholy song that leaves traces in your memory long after it has finished.
The album closes with the utterly beguiling dark folk brilliance of The Old Sewing Woman’s Song, the story of a life lived unfulfilled and one which is told at Jo Beth’s enthralling best. Nine minutes of musical perfection that harks back to the old days of bards and storytellers as they regaled their audiences with tales of legend, often dark and forever fascinating.
Music truly is the literature of the heart when it comes to releases like ‘Strangers’, this album is truly a work of musical art created by one of the most avant-garde folk songwriters currently alive. Each track has layers of texture that are almost primeval in nature, each is a living and breathing entity that will take each listener on their own personal journey. I suggest you get your hands on a copy and see where this incredible record takes you.
Strangers Pre-order and Video on Indieogo https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/r-i-s-e-strangers/