Review – iamthemorning – Lighthouse – by Progradar


What is Music?

A literal definition could be:

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound and silence. The common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm, dynamics (loudness and softness) and sonic qualities of timbre and texture (which are sometimes termed the ‘colour’ of a musical sound…

Or, if you want to get more personal about it, Victor Hugo once said:

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent…

In any way, music is an intangible thing, you cannot touch it, only your ears translate the tiny pressure waves of sound into what you think the notes are. Music, to me, is an inspiration and part and parcel of my everyday life. I can’t live without it and I have music that helps me appreciate the highs and music that helps me get through the lows.

Some music has a beauty and grace all of its own and that is what I am here to talk to you about now. Today’s review is the new album from the Russian duo iamthemorning…

Marjana Gleb

Formed in 2010 in St Petersburg Russia, iamthemorning features pianist Gleb Kolyadin and the charismatic vocals of Marjana Semkina. The band self released their debut album in 2012 before signing to Kscope and releasing ‘Belighted’, their first record for the label in September 2014. In 2015 they toured Europe with labels mates, the art-progressive outfit Gazpacho last year.

As with ‘Belighted’, the engineering and mixing on ‘Lighthouse’ is handled by Marcel van Limbeek (Tori Amos) and self produced by Gleb and Marjana. The album also features guest musicians Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass and additional vocals on the album’s title track by Mariusz Duda (Lunatic Soul, Riverside).

‘Lighthouse’ is a rich and eclectic album, with echoes of classical music, the Canterbury scene, northern folk, jazz and electronic sounds. Featuring a story of the progression of mental illness, the album takes the listener through the stages with the story’s central character, her attempts to fight it, temporal remission leading to a final breakdown. Lyrically, the works and lives of Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath inspire the album.

Recorded across London, Moscow & St Petersburg, the core instrument of the band, the grand piano, was recorded in Mosfilm Studios Moscow, the largest and oldest studios in Russia. Founded in 1920, Mosfilm is renowned for recording orchestras for soundtracks for the most famous Soviet-era films, including works by Tarkovsky and Eisenstein.

The album artwork for ‘Lighthouse’ was created by watercolour artist Constantine Nagishkin who the band have previously collaborated with before.


I Came Before The Water, Pt.1 is a short track with a decidedly ethereal quality. Marjana’s spellbinding and beautiful vocal just grabs your heart and, backed by delicate strings, it just leaves you full of emotion. There is more of an urgency at the start of Too Many Years, Gleb’s driving piano driving the whole song on at a fair lick. Marjana’s earnest vocal joins the ivories to give you a melting pot of desire and heartfelt passion. The song opens up with the stylish rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Colin Edwin to become an intelligent and incisive narrative that holds your attention. The swirling strings add an admirable backdrop to this impressive tune that insinuates itself into your psyche. The next track Clear Clearer begins with a wistful note, a winsome tone that Marjana takes up with her captivating vocal. The driving piano once again stops the track from becoming too delicate and lacking substance. The lovely little vocal interludes whee the lines are repeated just leave a charismatic smile on your face before Gleb’s piano and some rather tasty keyboards add another veneer of class and let the track run out with a knowing nod. The charming and absorbing intro to Sleeping Pills is provided by yearning vocals and an a delicately played piano to leave you with a feeling that something momentous could be about to happen. Here Gleb gets to be centre stage with his artistic fingers directing the music, the haunting strings and breathy vocals adding a light alien feel of otherworldy-ness. The track begins to rise to a powerful crescendo, leaving you transfixed and left in awe.

MG1 Alexander Kuznetcov

Libretto Horror is a pared back little piece of chamber music inspired beauty. The vocals dance around your mind and Gleb’s piano holds court over everybody. It is transfixing with its simple and uncluttered delivery. There is a feel of wild abandon to Marjana’s voice and it adds a little bit of the unknown, I like it. Now onto the wonders and delights of the title track, Lighthouse. The song opens with a meandering piano and graceful, guileless vocals from Marjana that bewitch your very soul. It works its way around the inside of your mind, holding your attention, slowly brooding as the track builds to a zenith and the introduction of Mariusz Duda. The song takes on a smoother vibe with the delicious vocal interplay between Marjana and Dariusz, iamthemorning definitely seem to have matured with this new release, there is less of a gossamer feel to their sound. The music has a sophisticated and cultured feel to it, there are layers and layers of intricate depths that slowly reveal themselves and it is showcased perfectly on this brilliant track. Harmony invites you into its own little world. The delicate soundscape brings to mind a bright summer day with birds and butterflies aimlessly traversing the skies and leaving you feeling like you don’t have a care in the world. Music used to create a picture in your mind, a world set aside from the one you’re really in, subtle and very clever. The piano then begins, Gleb’s playing is brilliant and almost takes on a life of its own, it is mesmerising and enchanting and I find that I have stopped whatever it is that I was doing just to make sure I don’t miss a note. The song steps up another level with the quality bass and drums of Colin and Gavin added to a sleek guitar to give this classy instrumental even more kudos, a very creative and perceptive piece of music. The opening to Matches brings back that pared back, more simpler feel where Marjana’s delightfully unadorned vocal joins Gleb’s piano to deliver an aural delight. The rhythm section then joins in to give it a feel of classical mixed with jazz and it works exceedingly well, the music seeming to evolve, becoming more complex than it was before.

MG2 Alexander Kuznetzov

Heartfelt, emotional and purely delivered vocals open Belighted giving it a contemplative and melancholy feel. The tinkling of the piano keys and the mournful strings only add to the plaintive and sad feeling. However, beauty and grace can be found in all situations and it is thus with this tastefully refined track. It does feel sorrowful and it leaves your own heart open and bleeding but with a feel of something sublime that has been lost and you feel bereft by its loss. The first track released from the album was Chalk and Coal and it made me sit up and take notice. Perhaps a more radio friendly song but defiantly non-mainstream. A powerfully building opening with Gleb’s slightly discordant piano and the haunting vocals leaving a slightly ominous atmosphere, only added to by the eerie trumpet playing. I get a feeling I’m in the middle of a musical version of an Edgar Allan Poe novel as a slightly off key guitar and that forlorn trumpet leave you slightly on edge. It is subtle and clever stuff and really gets your mind working overtime. I Came Before The Water, Pt. 2 revisits the refrain of the opening track on the album but, this time, with a much more sparse feel, Marjana’s anguished vocal opening the song as a lone note. The feeling of grief presses down on you, almost overwhelming, as the strings seem to tear your heart apart before the song closes out all mysteriously. The final track on this majestic musical journey is Post Scriptum, a mellow track where Gleb’s piano directs proceedings. Colin Edwin’s bass is much more demonstrative and emotive, driving the track on. There is a feeling of a lament at the heart of the music, it closes out the album with a slight note of mourning but doesn’t detract from the wonder of what you have just had the pleasure of listening to.

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

Released 1st April 2016

Buy ‘Lighthouse’ from bandcamp

(ALl artist photography by Alexander Kuznetcov)







Review – People As Places As People – For The Time Being – by Progradar


I don’t review an instrumental album for ages and then two arrive at once, it’s like the old London buses analogy!

This time it was a message from fellow Yorkshireman Cai Sumpton,  following on from my review of Flicker Rate,

Hey there!

If you like post-rock then you might like my band People As Places As People. We just released our debut EP ‘For the Time Being’ on 180-gram marbled translucent blue vinyl last month!

Well, you know me, I’m a sucker for instrumental music so I was never going to turn it down. I really like good album art too and I thought the album cover was quite intriguing.

So, who are People As Places As People? To be fair, they are not very forthcoming, about all I could glean was that they are, “an instrumental post-rock band from Halifax, England.” (Yorkshire, that’s a good start).

The band consists of Cai (guitar), Cameron Gledhill (guitar and piano), Ryan Fairclough (bass) and Sam Whyman (drums).

Looks like it will be a case of the music doing the talking then….


‘For The Time Being’ is a 3-track EP. It’s quite long for an EP at thirty minutes so, without any further ado, let’s dive in and see what we’ve got…

Opening track Preta begins with delicate strummed guitars giving a low key vibe. The drums join in and it is a rather pleasant place to be, evoking hazy and carefree summer days. The music seems to make its own course, like a gently bubbling little stream, across your sensory synapses. The rhythm section of drums and bass act like a guiding hand, keeping everything on course. A nicely judged and uncomplicated journey through a musical world of wonder that takes a turn into a darker arena, a powerful riff and thunderous drumming adding an insistent urgency, as if the peaceful world of before is suddenly threatened by the sinister unknown. The furrowed brow is replaced, once more, by calm serenity yet an intricate guitar line never lets you settle before the huge soundscape returns, this time with a harsh, coruscating edge. This is clever musical storytelling.

Because That’s The Only Time There Is begins with another huge and monstrous riff before settling down into something much more poised and tranquil. To me, it has a nostalgic, sepia tinged feel, evoking thoughts of times gone by with its languid and unhurried pace, more emotive than the fierce aura of the first track before. All of a sudden, it changes tack into a staccato and edgy tone, the guitars chopping at each other and the drums intricate and solid, this assault carries on for a while before it seamlessly moves back into that original peaceful and easy tempo, all sweetness and light. Both the songs seem to have had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character to them, making them unpredictable and interesting and this track transforms once more with a veritable mountain of a riff that knocks you clean off your feet, leaving you breathless and dazed, really powerful stuff yet never being anything less than melodious.

The final track of this instrumental trilogy is Dutch Boats and it opens with a slightly plaintive note, high pitched, short sharp picks of the guitar metronomically resounding in your mind. It builds momentum slowly, a wistful and contemplative tune that has a strong yearning ambience to it. It leaves a sentimental footprint on your soul, leaving you longing for something you just can’t put you mind to, perhaps golden days of long ago. It has a beautiful, if melancholic air, like a fragility that is only one step from breaking. Ethereal and almost insubstantial, it wisps across you mind, transfixing and hypnotising you. What happens next makes your hair stand on end, the dominant and compelling rise of the music hits you right in your solar plexus as this track leaves a forceful and lasting statement of intent and, as the last notes fade away, I can’t help but to feel a little sad and overwhelmed, that’s the power of great music.

It is not easy to make instrumental music that can touch the listener and resonate at their very core but these Yorkshire lads can do it with aplomb. You immerse yourself in every note and become intricately involved and, if that’s not what music is all about then, why do we bother?

Released 12th February 2016

Buy ‘For The Time Being’ from bandcamp




Review – Misto – Infinite Mirrors – by Progradar


Sometimes I doubt the validity of my Progradar endeavours, am I really any good as a writer?, can I do the music justice? Then I get messages from people actually asking for me to write a review of their music so I must be doing something right, yes?

This time is was a direct message to the facebook page from Italian post-rock/instrumental one man band Mirko Viscuso requesting my journalistic services.

Mirko, who hails from Genoa, writes and performs under the pseudonym of Misto, he’s mainly a guitarist who, after playing for several years with different bands, decided to produce a solo record. It is a 20 minute instrumental post rock work inspired by bands such as This Will Destroy You, Explosions in the Sky and 65daysofstatic. It has a touch of prog sounds mixed with a sort of ‘Aphex Twin’ style electronic influence.

So, not much to go on but, as you may be aware, I do like my instrumental music, be it prog, post-rock or otherwise. Let’s give it a spin shall we?


Six tracks, twenty minutes, will I feel underwhelmed or short changed?

Intro // Sleepy Eyes is a short, laid back gently meandering piece of music that actually does make you feel like you have just woken up to a gloriously sunny world, ready to take on anything that comes your way. The mellow tone of the guitar is quite peaceful and mesmerising, a nice start to the album.

The second track, Felixstowe, is the one that really caught my ear, a brilliant, undulating instrumental that glides along smoothly with its fairly fast paced guitar and delicate percussion. Wistful and a touch nostalgic, I really felt a connection with this track, especially with the string like synthesisers.

I Dreamt Of A Thousand Airplanes raises the bar even higher. The tinkling and jangling guitars leave you fixated on heir sound as they dance around your mind. It is a really captivating and addictive track that hooks you in as it increases in tempo, the percussive element making it almost seem like a train running along a track. You find yourself mesmerised by its hypnotic charms, the further you get into this little gem of a release, the more you get out of it.

misto mirrors

Interlude // Satan seems like an intentional and intensive clash to the good feeling of the previous tracks. It has a harsher tone and sharp edges compared to the soft and rounded fluidity of the rest of the album, like a musical palate cleanser.

The next track belies its title, The World Is An Ugly Place To Live is not an ugly song. It has a beauty deep at its core in its calm and collected demeanour. Yes, there is perhaps a longing to be felt in the haunting refrains but there is dignity in its elegant deportment. Touches of heartfelt melancholy drift in and out of the earnestly tender music, electronic beats being the only discord, it is a beauty that could virtually break your heart.

Fring is the closing track on this little masterpiece and it, once again, opens your heart and mind to the delicate grace and refinement of the music on offer. The gentle dissonance of the guitars combines with some elegant percussion to give an overwhelming feeling of goodwill and calm serenity. It does seem to have a more grown up and mature feel at times, perhaps bemoaning a lost musical childhood but it still resonates with you on all levels.

Mirko has some delicate sensibilities to his musical endeavour and it appeals to me on a subliminal level, ultimately I feel relaxed and as one with the world as I listen to this beauteous offering. Trust me, you should do yourselves a favour and listen to it too.

Released 18th February 2016

Buy ‘Infinite Mirrors’ from bandcamp as a ‘name your price’ download




Review – Nem-Q – Fault Lines – Subduction Zone – by Progradar


I’ve often said I see myself as a musical ‘Indiana Jones’, searching through the musical waters for little nuggets and gems of deliciousness. Music that can transport you to a different place and make the world seem insignificant in comparison.

Quite often though, it is the music that searches me out, as if I am a magnet, attracting all that is good in this wonderful musical stratosphere.

My good friend Aloys Martens from RockLiveRadio recommended Progradar to Mark Reijven, guitar player with Dutch progressive/metal band Nem-Q and, after a few emails passed back and forth, the promo for their latest EP, ‘Fault Lines – Subduction Zone’, arrived in my inbox.

It only took a couple of listens to draw me into this intriguing piece of music and for me to find out more about this interesting band.

Nem-Q Logo

Nem-Q were formed in 2004. The five-piece band from Nederweert (The Netherlands) produced a unique blend of melodic rock/metal, jazz/fusion rhythms and pop rock influences on their first album ‘Opportunities of Tomorrow’ (2007). Comments were very positive. In the five years since that first release,  the band mainly focused on their live performances and musical development, thus creating Nem-Q’s own sound.

In 2012 they released a new concept album ‘301.81’ which showcased the development that Nem-Q had gone through. The title of the album refers to the medical term for a personality disorder. ‘301.81’ distinguishes itself from its predecessor by having much more complex melodies and vocal lines, heavier riffs and a much darker tone.

The new EP, ‘Subduction Zone’,  is the first part of the new album ‘Fault Lines’. ‘Fault Lines’ will consists of two EP’s with the subtitles: ‘Subduction Zone’ and ‘Terranes’. A “fault line” means fracture. The cover of the EP shows a heart divided by a fraction. This not only marks the division of the album, but it also shows the inner struggle of choices and the consequences. A kind of collision, hence the choice for the title ‘Subduction Zone’: a clash between two tectonic plates, like in an earthquake.

The second EP will carry the subtitle ‘Terranes’: the emerging of new rock formations after a landslide. ‘Terranes’ will be available later this year as a merged digipack with ‘Subduction Zone’.

Nem-Q are Paul Sieben (vocals, guitar), Mark Reijven (guitar), Maarten Meeuws (bass), Dennis Renders (keys, vocals) and Twan Bakker (drums, percussion).

Promo Pic Date

And now, the music…..

Opener Inner Struggle begins with a staccato riff and swirling keyboards while the percussion thunderously provides the backing. The vocals are quite stentorian and precise. It is like a smorgasbord of modern progressive metal mixed with 80’s heavy rock, like the Scorpions having an illegal liaison with Symphony X and it works really well. The gentler sections are punctuated by acoustic guitar and delightful piano and Paul has a great range to his voice mixing the bombastic with the humble and restrained with aplomb. The frenetic progressive metal elements are like a wild ride, epitomised by the brilliantly over the top keyboard solo about four minutes in and the crunching riffs that abound throughout and that lead the track out to a measured and masterful ending.

Shooting Stars has a much more restrained feel to it as it enters the fray with gentle acoustic guitar and reserved keyboards. The vocals are clipped and deliberate adding gravitas to this calm and considered track. It dances along with a gossamer-like step, filling you with an incredible lightness and ease to your soul and a feeling of well being. It has a feel of some of the more composed Marillion tracks of latter years, mature and sensible, yet there is a playfulness lying just under the surface.

Nem-Q Promophoto 2014 (1)

Vanity is one of the best progressive metal tracks I’ve heard in a long while, a brooding opening built up by fractious and insistent guitar riffs puts you on edge, the percussion adds a note of apprehension and then the vocals come in with a prophetic tone to complete the dark nature. This feeling is carried on as the guitars take on a more urgent note, driven on by the bass and drums and a heavy riff presages the building of the harmonised vocals into something very like Metallica at their pompous best. It is a gripping song that will not you look away, there a little intricacies, twist and turns that lead you up blind alleyways, it feels very angst ridden in places, especially on the rising chorus that makes the hairs lift on the back of your neck in a spine-tingling fashion. This is one of those tracks where, as soon a sit is finished, you immediately press play again for another dose of its stylish brilliance. It is a suitably impressive canvas of musical intensity that is being painted before your very eyes and the repeated chorus and powerful riffing hold your attention right until the heartfelt ending.

The final track on the EP is a laid back, if a little sinister in places, instrumental. Desaturate has a jangling guitar at its core, one that seems to be taking you on a hushed journey of foreboding and mischievousness. It moves across your psyche in a stealthy fashion leaving little notes of trepidation with every footstep. A deliciously dark and mysterious end to this wonderful record.

Nem-Q have delivered a brilliant twenty minutes of intense progressive rock music with more than a healthy dose of metal. Very impressive musically and with some excellent songwriting, it drew me in from the first note. I am now waiting with extremely bated breath for the next instalment.

Released 19th February 2016.

Buy ‘Fault Lines’ from RVP Records




Review – Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden – by Shawn Dudley


I was unfamiliar with Knifeworld when the advance copy of ‘Bottled Out Of Eden’ arrived in my inbox and, following my usual practice, I decided to just listen to the album prior to researching anything about the band. Going in without any preconceptions is something that’s not always easy to accomplish these days since every release is plastered across social media months in advance. In the case of Knifeworld, a band that joyously throws in elements from a myriad of musical styles it was exactly the correct approach to take. The element of surprise runs throughout ‘Bottled Out Of Eden’.

Opening track High Aflame was an obvious choice for a single. The bouncy, effervescent arrangement is so addictive that it’s practically narcotic. The song begins in a mysterious fashion, a vaguely eastern-tinged drone that vocalist/guitarist Kavus Torabi uses as a pedal point to lay his vocal line over. It creates dramatic tension and heightens the anticipation of the full band entrance.

Knifeworld is a rarity in that they employ an octet format with two altos and a baritone sax creating a “little big band” vibe. This lineup allows them to bring in instrumental colorations that you don’t often hear in modern Prog . The main section of High Aflame is introduced by the horns playing a repeated figure as the band slowly swells in behind them. The groove is rock solid and creates a sense of brisk forward motion; the kind of song you want to hear blasting from the car stereo. Another unique aspect of the arrangement is the dual-lead vocals of Kavus and Melanie Woods, they employ dissonance and a harmonic tension which meld together nicely with the horn charts creating a sense that the band is actually larger than it is.


Knifeworld is frequently described as psychedelic and, while there is most definitely an element of that in both arrangement and some of the instrumental choices, I think labeling them with that tag underestimates the breadth of influences at play here.

The Germ Inside demonstrates how effortlessly they balance these various elements. The opening piano introduction, and the knotty riff section that follow, are straight out of 70s progressive rock but then the verse section is a bright, swinging 4/4 with a vocal line that is reminiscent of 80s British pop. Just about the time you feel comfortable with where the arrangement is headed it veers off into a bridge that employs borderline atonal vocal harmonies. This dissonance is then transferred to the horn section for the restatement of the opening theme and the ride-out. Not an easy balance to strike, especially in a tight, under 5-minute arrangement.

My favorite track on the album is the impressively complex I Am Lost.  It eschews the relatively concise running time of the other tracks and allows the band to stretch out a little more.  Again the push & pull dynamic between the overt pop-leanings and the underlying experimental nature of the arrangement really enriches the overall flavor.   There is also a fantastic little funky riff that comes in during the outro and I could easily see the band being able to stretch this section out in live performance.

The horn section gets a brief time in the spotlight on Vision Of The Bent Path, a sadly all-too-brief introduction to the primarily instrumental I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait. This is a wonderfully dense, dark and rocking track that really shows off the power this octet can conjure. I’m especially fond of how the baritone sax is layered in with the heavy guitar riff in the outro section.


While the overall impression of ‘Bottled Out Of Eden’ is relatively bright and sunny there is a dark undercurrent that runs throughout the album, an air of sadness and melancholy.  In the press release Kavus describes the album as “…a celebration of this all too fleeting life, as it is a reflection on death and its impact on those left behind in its wake”. I believe these songs perfectly attain that goal, as humans we’re all too familiar with the need to “laugh to keep from crying”. One of the most impressive examples of this duality is album-closer Feel The Sorcery, the joyous nature of the arrangement contrasts effectively with the sense of grief expressed in the lyrics and that mood seems to carry on even after the song has concluded.

Other highlights are the plaintive acoustic ballad Foul Temple (gorgeous horn chart with bassoon and clarinet), the ominous Lowered Into Necromancy that features a vaguely Zeppelin-esque acoustic guitar riff and the beautifully melancholic A Dream About A Dream.

I have a couple very minor caveats.  I would love to hear the horns get a chance to step forward a little more and maybe take some solos, they are beautifully employed on the album but being a major jazz fan I also kept hoping to hear them really cut loose. Also, while the production is a definite step forward from the prior album ‘The Unraveling’ it’s still a little claustrophobic sounding for my taste, a little boxy. As detailed and expansive as the arrangements are, I think a larger soundstage would have complemented them even further.

As a whole ‘Bottled Out Of Eden’ is an effective and eclectic experience. It’s not going to be an album for everyone as I think some of the more adventurous harmonic elements might be challenging for some listeners. But for those attuned to the more experimental and avant-garde it’s a pop album of rare substance.

Released 22nd April 2016

Pre-order ‘Bottled Out Of Eden from Inside Out




Review – Sunpocrisy – Eyegasm, Hallelujah! – by Kevin Thompson


I was told many years ago, to never volunteer for anything. This thought crossed my mind again tonight when I took up the challenge from the wise sage, Mr Hutchinson, to review this without having heard it previously.

He sent it to me with a knowing grin, so apprehensively I downloaded and opened the files expecting many horrors, maybe I’d find chamber music played on nasal hairs, or naked devil worshipping men, slapping each other with fish to create many versions of the Birdies Song. Don’t be afraid Kevin, move toward the light……

Sunpocrisy, not a band I had heard of prior to this. Formed by Jonathan Panada (Guitars/Vocals), and Carlo Giulini (Drums) in 2005 in Brescia, Italy and joined by Matteo Bonera (Guitar) in 2006, they then became a quartet in 2007 when Gabriele Zampieri (Bass/Vocals) joined. The band recorded and produced their limited edition debut EP named “Atman EP”. There then followed tours with bands such as The Secret and Amia Venera Landscape in 2009 and in 2010 they gained further recognition, coming 4th in an unsigned band contest.

Sunpocrisy then changed direction and re-emerged as a six piece, with Stefano Gritti (Synth) and Marco Tabacchini (Guitars & Noise) adding themselves to the line up. 2011 saw the band entering the studio to record their debut concept album ”Samaroid Dioramas”. With influences such as ISIS and Between the Buried and Me, they create a sound wall of post rock experimentalism, at times reminiscent of a fusion between Explosions in the Sky and Tool.


So the album, and all the secrets it may hide, commences with Eyegasm. The throbbing synth sounds from the fluttering fingers of Mr Gritti are followed by heartbeat drums, building with looping guitar hooks as harmonious vocals drift over them. Interludes of instrumentation, interspersed with vocal lines from  Jonathan and Gabriele. This is sounding rather good and the track reaches a third of the way through and I discover why Martin smiled. I am not a lover of ‘Growling’ on songs, it generally does nothing for me and very few bands to my mind actually use it successfully and effectively. So this is probably where Martin expects me to baulk, turn off and send the files back to him post haste, asking for him to find another mug, sorry ‘reviewer’, to cover this. But, what I can only assume is Marco’s ‘noise’, does not overpower the song mix when it enters the fray and merges like a neatly fitted brick in the wall, helping to carry the tune into a fury of guitar riffs. In fact the growls seem to be trapped like a vocal prisoner within the music, which in a sadistic kind of way appeals to me.

The growling fades and this segues neatly into Mausoleum of the Almost, the echoing grumbles protesting as they are dragged away into the distance and melodious vocals come into play again. I have to say I am very impressed with Matteo’s percussive chops, the drumming is excellent. Washes of synth see us out of the track.

Transmogrification rumbles in on huge clouds of thunder with vibrating synth swathes on one of only two instrumentals and the only two tracks under seven minutes, bridging the gap to track four….

Eternitarian: guitar licks start the wall building again as vocals, mortared with Gabriele’s bass and hammered into place with pneumatic drumsticks, rise slowly to some heavier guitar and yet more background grunting which, again, sits far enough back to not detract from the music. The guitars come to the fore and reach a climactic cacophony before the synthesiser ushers us out once more.

Musical box notes with gentle vocals innocently introduce Of Barbs and Barbules, drifting into a piano solo, on this the second brief instrumental, soothing your ears, stopping suddenly as if a switch has been thrown.

sunpocrisy 2

Tortured, weary distant growling, dragged like a reluctant slave across a wasteland of plodding beats and quietly ominous guitars, replaced with vocals and a building wall of music, then the growls return on Kairos Through Aion. He’s not a happy chappy our growler, continuing to rage at the music and calm vocals which strangely harmonise with him for a short while before leaving him behind and rising into an increasing instrumental passage with female narration, the intensity increases and growler thrashes in the background, battered by percussion, halting abruptly.

However, there is no respite as it’s straight into the heavy guitars and drums as they pound growler once more and he screams his discontent at the savage beating he takes on Gravis Vociferatur. Like a caged animal chained securely, he can only stand helplessly, berating the instruments taking him to task, the growls turning to cries of pain and one can begin to feel some empathy for the beast. The beating stops and the growler is quiet, keyboards and acoustic guitar mourn his silence and a guitar solo warbles rays of death across the track, disintegrating into noise.

Glockenspiel and Gregorian chants give praise to Festive Garments, until growler appears in front of them. Has he escaped his chains? It would appear not as, whilst he hurls a tirade of insensible abuse at the passing pontificators, he stays, held back, and can only watch bereft as they proceed unhindered on their passage, the guitars and drums arriving to lay loud assault again. Growler’s pain continues in the background, his abuse at odds with the gentle vocals in the fore. The attack halts the growls and spins dizzily, disorientated, twisting their grip on the the unfortunate creature. The musical blows slow but become heavier as the assailants appear to weary with the effort and take a break whilst growler almost coherently tries to plead his case and call foul injustice. A human voice, plaintive, takes up the case but the guitars and drums object and drown out the voice, leaving the swirling guitar to delay judgement as the track ends.

sunpocrisy 3

‘Jean Michelle Jarre’ like chords echo from speaker to speaker, quickly fading as rolls of drums and piano switch at the beginning of final track, Hallelujah, bookending the album into an Alan Parsons instrumental style passage reminiscent of The Fall of the House of Usher, but is then diverted into calm vocals over guitar riffs. There is a sense of an impending end in the wind. Growler’s pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears as he once more berates the wall of sound he resents. The music reigns and carries in a gravelly human response to drift dreamily along, (not sure I haven’t heard this bloke singing ‘Finchley Central’ in the past), eventually replaced with harmonious singing and the band rise to give their verdict, ascending  higher, ever higher, crashing together and exploding at the albums summit, notes floating away in the air.

We are left to wonder at the fate befallen Growler and we may never know. Yet, despite my reservations at some of his species on other bands’ albums, I find his voice is an integral part of the musical story, Eyegasm/Hallelujah!, and I will return to listen again and wonder at this forlorn creature’s wrong doings, misgivings and final sentence or reprieve.

I promised I would approach this with an open mind and have had my mind opened, I like this.

Released 1st November 2015

Buy ‘Eyegasm, Hallelujah!’ from bandcamp

Review – Jump – Over The Top – by Emma Roebuck

Jump Over The Top Cover

Music has long been a mechanism for storytelling and the broad church of the Prog scene has it’s fair share of these tellers of tales. Some tell tales of ancient mythology, others speak of tales from the nursery; some speak of dystopian futures while Jump speak of a real world of toil, strife and pain but still retain a joy of living. They are truly progressive but not by creating some ‘new’ sound or feel but by drawing together a whole cadre of musical styles and yet. make it sound like themselves and not a mash up or a messy sound.

Certain musical journalists have gone on record as saying that this is nothing new or ground breaking, I disagree with them in that prog music is not always about being ground breaking and shattering barriers. I would say that it is about evolving as musicians and travelling on your own journey, bringing people along with you on that journey and giving pleasure.

The 15th album from the band that is Jump is the end of a long line of product developed over 26 years. This album has been anticipated by fans of the band for some time now. Many of the songs have been in the live set for a while and, as such, will be instantly familiar to those fans. The worry that the translation from live performance to studio recording could take some of the gloss off the songs is quickly destroyed after one listen of the album.

Jump Live

‘Black Pilgrim’, the last studio album, was rooted in folk tradition. It suited John Dexter Jones’ vocal style like a glove. ‘Over The Top’ brings them to a more rock based feel but it does not feel like a backward step. The overall feel of the album is one of a wide variety of musical styles gathered together from a long period of writing. The benefit of this is that the quality is consistently high across the album yet it does not feel like a disparate collection of music that has been cobbled together.

First, the familiar tracks that have been promised. The Wreck of the St Marie has been a live track in the set for over a year, a tale of wreckers off the coast of Anglesey based on a true story of the Royal Charter. The drama of storms and the deliberate wrecking of a cargo of gold treasure and pillage. This is a masterpiece of storytelling that Jump are so good at you can feel the time the place and event happening  as song unfolds.

Fast forward to Johnny V. We all had a Johnny V in our lives, the one guy that seemed to have an almost telepathic connection to what was the great music of the time. The prophet who you knew would keep you right with music. The story of his passing and the celebration of Twisted Sister in the cathedral as he shifts off this mortal coil is strangely fitting in a time when more of our heroes have crossed the veil recently.

The album crosses the centuries like a time lord ‘Jumping’ from one historical event to another with ease. The title track Over The Top personalises the story of a father and his son in WW1 and the sacrificial lambs that generation became in the 1914-18 ‘war to end all wars’.

50 is a real rock out and feels to me like a railing against the aging process and a demand to not give in to the ravages of aging.

Overall this is an accessible album full songs that Jump fans will enjoy but, I think, if you have never heard of Jump as a band then this is a great introduction  to find out what they are about. You won’t get a revolutionary new sound or style but, I believe there are no new styles to found anyway, just reconfigured old ones. If you like music that has melody and some sing-along choruses along with the great story telling tradition of the Bard this is for you.

Released 12th March 2016.

Buy ‘Over The Top’ direct from bandcamp


Review – I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time – by Gary Morley


The school of Prog has a new swot or 4.

This collective of cetaceans are young & hungry and have absorbed the last 40 years of music , digested it and produced this nugget of ambergris.

Like that semi mythical product, this is rare and smells a bit in places, but that’s part of the charm.

As you listen to the opening shot across the bow, Open Your Eyes, the years roll away. I think back to first hearing It Bites floating across the ether, then there’s a blast of Moon Safari vocal harmony, some Queen influenced guitar harmonics, all are mere constituents, base ingredients that the perfumer uses to weave a complex and pleasing fragrances that mature as they are exposed to warmth and skin.

I’m not suggesting that this CD be listened to naked, but the warmth and sheer joy it contains would have saved Baron F a fortune in electricity bills.

It starts with the most “Prog” intro – Piano, treated guitar and a drum beat underneath it, a time change sneaks in before the first words. The voice is young, kicks with a mighty tune, chorus and a thundering gallop through verse, chorus, instrumental flourishes falling by the wayside as it speeds up , before leaping up and into the night.

When ( rather than if) they decide to dip their collective appendages into the water of live performances, this is the show opener, a statement of intent topped off with a guitar solo and piano counterpoint that many bands twice their collective age would sell relatives for.

It’s not breaking new ground, has a warm familiar feel, but that’s a positive , a hook to hang the rest of the album on. It’s Prog Jim, but enthused with harmony, a tune with a great melody and a sense of a great journey just starting.

In short, a perfect debut album opener.

Pages next, an epic story that starts with Monks studiously hand writing the words , we then get the industrialisation of printing, the typesetter as revolutionary, the advent of mechanical printing, words freed up to spread by typing , all under pinned by the loftier concept of information freedom and intellectual emancipation ringing through the ages. The story flows as the years go by, then a gentle pause illustrated by an acoustic foray into BBT /Jethro Tull land, with a gentle melody that then repeats with electric amplification, underlining the journey that we have been taken on.

The piano here is gentle and refined; acting as a bridge to modern ideas of machines writing the word, the “big idea” that information being transmitted freely could change the world for the better.

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As if to then reinforce that idea, the next track relates a thoroughly modern situation, addressing cyber bullying and the effect of words on children as they gro.

I find the viewpoint disturbing, as it’s neither the protagonist nor the victim, but a (not so innocent ) bystander telling the story.

Simple , effective and with  instrumentation that just reeks of class, the track builds to a climatic shoot out between guitar and keyboard that deserves to be played loud .

As you can probably infer, I like this CD.

The Cetacean collective are based in my home town, and I found them via Facebook, the snippets posted there hooked my interest and I was a small part of the crowd funding for the physical CD.

A thing of beauty it is too, illustrated with haunting photographs of a deserted swimming pool, the subject of the final epic on the CD, Derelict, an ode to the forgotten glory of a neglected municipal pool.

Before that, there are 3 more classy tracks, Circle(Show Love) which pays homage to Jon Anderson’s tenure with “That Band” in terms of musical concept and lyrical theme with more great keyboard and guitar for the air instrumentalists out there , this time the Queen vibe is running under the harmony guitars as they build to the thunderous conclusion with extra keyboards and drums taking us home on our starship.

Listening again as I type this, the achievements of this band in bringing 10 years of ideas to us are many.

If you like music that has melody, choruses and space for the musicians to demonstrate their harmonic intention, then this is for you.

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As I mentioned earlier, there are countless memory triggers and hooks in here, echoes of previous musical pioneers flash by, a hint Of ELP there, a bit of Yes there, a big chunk of Queen , a smatter of 10cc , a nod to the Flower Kings , something of the choral beauty of Moon Safari all add to the mix.

Clock of the Long Now is a prime example. a song about a clock , not one that’s ticking away the days or counting down to zero, but this one is a proper “Prog” clock – counting out time in centuries rather than minutes. The chorus here is a real ear worm, you too will sing along to “10 thousand years”, invoking your internal Gabriel, Collins, Lee and Anderson whilst the music crashes around you on your trip through time. The track triggers a memory of that other great Canadian rock trio, Triumph, with the harmonies and vocals on their “Thunder Seven” album’s centrepiece – Time Canon /Killing time.

Next up, a lovely piece to a son or daughter- The Mess. All finger picking and acoustic steel strings with a sentimental piece about how our children grow up too fast.

It’s at odds to the epics bookending it, but it is not out of place, it’s a very human piece about simple pleasures fitting between time and space and the big questions that we all tend to leave out of our daily lives.

This was supposed to be a short sharp shock of a review. But listening to the CD as I type, I realise that I can wax lyrically for as long as it plays and still not describe the warm , sunny morning in the warmth feeling that it generates every time.

If you want to hear a band proudly displaying their influences whilst performing melodic and memorable tunes, expertly recorded by Mr Rob Aubrey (that name might be familiar to some of you, passengers on a Big Big Train where he rides the mixing desk) then go and invest in a little slice of the future that is being written here in Reading.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am The Manic Whale are well worth your valuable time and a little bit of your money.

Excitingly, the whole band has now met, rehearsed and are contemplating live shows.

I for one will be there, supporting a local band, not because they’re local but because they are good. Very good indeed.

Released 6th December 2015

Buy ‘Everything Beautiful In Time’ from bandcamp


Review – John Bassett – Aperture – by Progradar


I continue to be drawn to clarity and simplicity. ‘Less is more’ remains my mantra – Stephane Rolland

My mate John Bassett is like a one man music factory. If he’s not making prog-tinged psychedelic albums with the brilliantly named KingBathmat or the seriously heavy and melodic instrumental colossus that is Arcade Messiah, he’s laying down some more personal and intimate tracks as a solo performer.

John’s last solo outing under his own name was the sophisticated restraint of the uncomplicated ‘Unearth’, released in March 2014 and I had this to say about it:

It is a shining beacon of simplicity in an over-complicated world and an antidote to the ponderous, heavy and dull music that can clog up our airwaves in this industrial age.

With no fanfare or previous promotion, John announced he was releasing a four track E.P. called ‘Aperture’ and, in his typical humble style, he had this to say about the recording process:

It only took me 10 days to make it from nothing, which is some difference to 6 months to putting together the last arcade messiah….

Now, if another artists has told me it had taken them less than two weeks to make a record, I’d be either worried or very sceptical, but not John Bassett. I was pretty certain that he would have produced something quite brilliant as usual….

John Bassett Promo 6

The E.P. opens with Break The Wall, the intro to which is a bewitching brew of jangling guitars, all immediately recognisable as being John Bassett. The drums and bass join in what is quite a whimsical and wistful melody and then the vocals begin. Yes, vocals, I’d been so used to the power and pomposity of the instrumental only Arcade Messiah that I forgot that John has quite a delicate, yearning voice that works perfectly with the clarity and purity of the music. The whole song has an openness at its core and I find it emotionally cleansing as it carries my worries away, yep, I was right, John doesn’t do ordinary or mundane, this is sheer class.

There is a haunting feel to the opening of Joy In Despair, an all pervasive feel of hushed restraint to the pared back music and John’s guileless vocal. The fog of uncertainty begins to lift as the rhythm section opens up, there is a chink of light appearing in the misty gloom. There is an undercurrent of nostalgic melancholy running throughout the song, a feeling of whatever will be , will be that manifests itself as stoic fortitude and the track closes out with a very stylish guitar run, near perfect.


Awaiting has a slow burning opening, a low down guitar and vocals full of longing are accompanied by an expressive bass, just lulling you into a state of dignified solemnity. The chorus is all breathy vocals and a stand out guitar note that lifts the tempo slightly. A thoughtful guitar solo is laced with feeling and sentiment and you well up with emotion, a superb thought provoking track that left me in a reflective state of mind.

The final track on the EP is the delightfully eclectic instrumental Jenna. Sepia tinged memories flood your mind as the plaintive and longing guitar leaves wishful notes on your mind. A meditative and unhurried track of musical rapture that cleanses your mind and soul to leave you in a calm state of well being.

There is a beauty and grace to ‘Aperture’, John  can do immense walls of sound in his sleep but, this time, he shows he has a gentle and rarefied touch to deliver a small and perfectly formed musical gem. Any negatives? yes, just one, it’s not long enough…..

Released 3rd April 2016

Buy ‘Aperture’ from bandcamp

Listen to ‘Break The Wall’

John Bassett Promo 3


Review – Mothertongue – Unsongs – by David Rickinson

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What on earth is this album?

You just think you’re getting the hang of Bad Elephant’s eclecticism when they spring this on you…


Yes, a pop album.

A really rather wonderful progressive pop album, full of surprises and quirky little tunes.

Now, I grew up with proper pop music back in the 1960s and we all know that pop music nowadays is, to put it mildly, rubbish. But this album isn’t like that – in its inventiveness it really does hark back to the giddy heights of the 1960s: if not in style (which is more reminiscent of the 1980s) but certainly in intent.

For example, the opening track King of the Tyrant Lizards is 3 and a half minutes of clever wordplay, not one, but two, hooks, a lovely little guitar solo and horns like some mad Mariachi band. One of the hooks is such an earworm that I couldn’t shake it for a couple of days…

Track 5 Nautilus starts off like some lounge jazz bastard son of Swing Out Sister before switching after 40 seconds into yet another catchy chorus which has been cross-bred with post-punk angst. Oh and it ends up as some weird oriental singalong with optional headbanging.

And then it suddenly makes sense – this band and this album fit perfectly into the Bad Elephant stable. Eclectic Music for Eclectic People.

I know comparisons are odious and it’s a good job they are because I can’t really think of anything to compare with this wonderful, wacky, weird album. There are a couple of times when I think to myself “Oh! That’s a bit like XTC’s Drums and Wires”, but I’m also reminded of Haircut 100, The Jam, The Piranhas and Ooberman, Blur, Suede, early Pink Floyd, The Kinks, The Small Faces. I can really imagine David “Kid” Jensen introducing Mothertongue on Top of The Pops in about 1981 and a much younger me sitting up and taking notice.

So who are this Mothertongue? According to their Bandcamp page they are “A random collection of musicians from Manchester who fell in love on a Tuesday night. They like terrible jokes and dinosaurs, and make odd progressive pop music.” I don’t think there is any more to be said.

Buy this album. It might just make you smile.

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Released 15th April 2016

Get a copy of ‘Unsongs’ from bandcamp