Review – The Aaron Clift Experiment – Outer Light, Inner Darkness

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“You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness.” – Terence McKenna

Let me ask you a question, where does great music come from? Well, for me, it starts with an idea, to quote Sir Terry Pratchett“a small inspiration particle”, that can then flower and grow into something more tangible. These ideas may take input from other people and morph slightly to be something similar and, yet at the same time, different.

Add layers to these ideas, music, lyrics etc. and you can then end up with a complete song. One song on its own does not a musical cornucopia make but, when a collection of songs can join together into one cohesive record, then you finally have something that people will love and will stand the test of time.

The skill is repeating this process more than once and coming up with something different every time. There doesn’t have to be a large divergence but enough to differentiate the works and show the listener that you have moved on and are using new and exciting concepts. Evolution here is key or musicians can stagnate and lose any momentum or goodwill.

So, to tie up my opening thoughts, recently I was asked if I’d like to listen to the new album from The Aaron Clift Experiment. I reviewed their first album, ‘Lonely Hills’ and said,

“Notable on first listen but, like all the best releases, delivering more and more on further plays, ‘Lonely Hills’ blooms into an album that should be in every music lovers collection.”

Have they taken that initial promise and built on it with new ideas and inspirations to deliver something new and exciting yet defined by their signature sound? First a quick band history….

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Aaron Clift (vocals, Keyboards) began writing the songs that would appear on ‘Lonely Hills’ back in 2008. In 2009 he met the band’s drummer, Joe Resnick and they cut the demo with just piano, drums and vocals. Originally Aaron was going to release the music under his own name but, after hearing the demo he decided the songs needed a rock edge so he recruited Jim Ragland on guitar (Jim left in 2013 to be replaced by Eric Gutierrez) and Joe Green on bass. Now he had decided to work with a full band, he gave the project the moniker The Aaron Clift Experiment. Joe Green left in 2014 and  Devin North now sits on bass duties.

I have to admit that I was expecting something special from these guys after the considerable promise shown in ‘Lonely Hills’ so the new album ‘Outer Light, Inner Darkness’ would really have to shine.

Frontman Aaron Clift tells us about the concept behind the release,

“‘Outer Light, Inner Darkness’ is a concept album about duality: light vs. darkness, individual vs. group, hope vs. despair, etc. Songs in the first half of the album detail the conflict between these opposing forces, while the songs in second half of the album are a journey toward reconciling the extremes. The album culminates with ‘Bathed in Moonlight,’ a song about how humanity can learn to embrace its outer light and inner darkness and become one with both sides of its nature.”

Unlike the first album which was conceived and written solely by Aaron himself, ‘Outer Light, Inner Darkness’ was mainly a collaborative project which the band believe has resulted in some of their strongest material yet.

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Well blow me down, the first track on the album Kissed by the Sun hoves into view like a particularly well intentioned chariot of fire with guitar and violin blazing a stylish trail to cut through all before them and you immediately sit up and take notice. A subtle bass line and drum beat then anchor the song as a diverse guitar winds melodies around your mind. Aaron’s vocal begins, sinuous and notable, backed by the eloquent violin before breaking out on the dynamic chorus. Energetic and full of good will, this track vitalises you, running a musical current right through your nervous system. The powerful guitar riff, spirited piano and passionate violin really give it enormous substance, add in a really impassioned guitar solo and a funky break in the middle of the song with some great harmonies and a super smooth bass run and you have a rather impressive opening to the album. I’m getting a pastoral note with some american rock vibes going on here, as if Ben Folds Five reformed with members of Echolyn and spent a whole summer listening to the Big Big Train back catalogue and that feeling is only enforced by Locked, the second track has a much more laid back, stylistic edge to the opening. The vocals have a note of impassioned emotion to them. The whole rhythm section takes on a stylish jazz feel with the piano front and centre and it all feels like a journey though someones wavering emotional state. Highs and lows abound, the guitar solo has a real raw centre and scrapes your raw nerves to the bone. As the track closes out, it seems to take a thoughtful, pensive note as if looking back in a rueful manner. An intelligent, deep song that leaves a lasting impression on you.

A more discordant note opens Fragments of Sleep, counterbalanced by a repeated one note piano melody over which Aaron’s recognisable voice delivers the story. It is almost like you are having an interrupted night’s sleep with the rhythm and sound having a fuzzy, jarred edge to it, all sharp edges and yet its distinctive feel really resonates with me. Emotive words and a gently strummed guitar give it some pathos and the delicate violin adds poignancy as it it all comes to a profound close. Sinister and with a darker note to the introduction, Your Arms Hold Them to the Dark takes you on a journey through a world of perpetual twilight. The pace is determined and slow, the guitar riff crashes around you like a dissipating storm clashing with the drums, jolting and rasping against your senses. Deliciously malevolent and mischievous, there is a perverse pleasure to be had listening to this deep and intricate track. The staccato riffing and haunting keyboards add a melodramatic aura and Aaron’s menacing vocal adds the final layer of foreboding to this notable song.

That full-on feel of the first song returns with the rather energetic and uplifting introduction to Aoide Goddess of Song. With the distortion seemingly turned up to maximum and and insistent piano note hammering the point home, it is one hell of a pleasure ride around your mind. Things calm down for a moment as the vocals kick in with a layered keyboard note and balanced drum beat setting the tone for the verse but it isn’t long before that oriental sounding guitar note flies off again. This interplay continues throughout the song occasionally moving aside for the heartfelt, rousing chorus. There is an earthy core to the track, something primal and direct that drives it on and this erupts into the coruscating solo that fires straight through you leaving a blazing trail behind. You are left feeling fired up and invigorated, ready for anything. In a stark contrast to the previous track, The Last Oasis begins all sweetness and light, like a boat becalmed out on the ocean. The gentle, meandering piano is underscored by a subtle bass note and the introduction of the graceful violin adds an ethereal tactility to the song. The classical undertones to the music of  The Aaron Clift Experiment are at their most evident here, the strings add a subtlety and grace that only orchestral instruments could. As the guitar and drums blend into the sound, the whole song takes on another persona and dimension, not losing that refined semblance but adding a dynamic backbone to the artful fare put before you. It is almost a surprise when the vocals begin, I was expecting this to be an instrumental but Aaron’s profoundly compassionate voice adds a further degree of gravitas to what is already a very sophisticated piece of music. The fundamental integrity and graciousness at the heart of the band’s music is at its zenith on this beautiful song.

At just over twelve minutes long Moonscape is the longest track on the album and begins with a military style drum beat at the back of Aaron’s vocal and a repeated keyboard note. You get a feeling of stasis as the repeated intro carries on in a pleasant manner but the anticipation is always rising. The drum beat carries on, overlaid by the sound of a child. This part of the song has a sun-kissed, hazy feel to it, like an early morning walk through a lush countryside. It ambles and meanders with no seeming destination in mind, lulling you along on a wave of good feeling. The guitar saunters on a journey of its own, nothing dictating where it must go next and you end up feeling like your are free of any earthly worries, any shackles are broken and your heart and soul are liberated from worry and strife. This is a track to kick back and relax too, one to listen to through headphones and with a long drink at your side as the delicately strummed guitar leads into an extended keyboard section with a slightly supernatural quality to it, almost an outer body experience. The repeated singing of the album title resonates within and without with a trance like feel and, as the song comes to a close with a harder edge guitar riff and Aaron’s vocalising, the trance is broken, leaving you peaceful and serene. The segue into Bathed in Moonlight is seamless and, once again, the band deliver an utterly serene experience. Aaron’s divine vocal, backed only by a refined, sublime keyboard has a moving quality to it. It lifts your soul and leaves you rapturous as the celestial music washes over you, the guitar bleeds emotion and fervour, leaving you in a sustained state of euphoria. There is nothing complicated happening here but, sometimes, the simplicity of music can be its greatest asset and the effortless musicianship on this track is a delight in itself. As the song, and the album as a whole, comes to a close, I feel a sense of closure, of something coming round full circle to a most satisfactory conclusion.

Ideas have blossomed and become something rather special on this album. That early promise of the music on ‘Lonely Hills’ has been expanded upon and ‘Outer Light, Inner Darkness’ is a much more sophisticated and complete record as a result. Intricate and subtle yet with raw passion at its heart, it will cement The Aaron Clift Experiment as one of the most exciting and interesting bands currently writing and playing music today. I would advise you to go out and buy it as soon as it is released.

Releases 18th September 2015

Pre-order direct from the band at their website here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7vcMZNN_YE

 

 

Review resurrected – Gabriel – Unforgiven

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I have come to the conclusion that pigeon-holing bands into certain categories or genres can often be more detrimental than advantageous to their continued popularity and success.

Where, in some circumstances, it will mean that the music will appeal to smaller cross section of the music loving public, in others it can lead to a mass exodus (Prog seems to be attaining this level of notoriety at the moment, for whatever reason).

Unfortunately, music lovers and journalists as a whole (and I include myself in this too) seem unable to talk or write about bands without shoehorning them into a particular classification. This is okay if that actual artist portrays themselves as being unashamedly of that ilk, however, in most cases, we need to broaden our brush strokes.

Gabriel is a collaboration between singer/songwriter Sally Elsey from London and guitarist and recording engineer Albert Vinasco from Buenos Aires. Together, Sally and Albert combine their highly melodic approaches to create music that is both sweet and powerful.

I have often heard them called a ‘Female-fronted Metal’ band but this is to shower them with faint praise, their music contains a lot more influences and nuances. ‘Unforgiven’ is the fifth album from the duo and has rock, progressive and metal hints all over it, time to immerse myself further….

First, and title, track Unforgiven has a Celtic, Latin feel tot he introduction with a bit of Gregorian chant thrown in. Symphonic in feel with the string sound and our first meeting with Sally’s mercurial vocal talents. Her voice has an operatic undertone to it, add this to the ominous sounding rhythm section and scurrilous guitar solo and you feel that you are in a melodramatic soundscape, quite intriguing. Within the Circle takes on a Gothic-metals style that has hints of Within Temptation allied to the powerful and expressive voice that Sally Elsey owns. Delving deeper into the track, you feel a depth of quality to the music and Albert gets to rock out on the guitar with this one with a spirited riff and high-tempo percussion. Haunting and melodic but with a heavier feel to it, it is really addictive and catchy.

A crack of thunder followed by a proper heavy metal riff and married with a thunderous drumbeat sees Two Worlds Collide hove into view. This song puts a smile on my face as you get a proper beast of a rhythm section combined with Sally’s decorous, if slightly menacing, vocal. The guitar runs and solo are quite grin inducing too, just a real good rock-out track with a late 70’s metal vibe to it. Here in You begins with a delicate string and piano combo before the breathless and precise vocal adds a sheen of panache to proceedings. This patina of calm doesn’t last for long before Sally takes on a sort of mischievous Kate Bush persona and Albert moves into full-on rock hero mode. The coruscating guitars and hectic rhythm delivers a high energy ride that leaves your head spinning at times before the track returns to its chilled out roots and comes to a gentle close.

With an intro that smacks of mid 70’s classic rock and Americana, Do You Believe has a further sense of depth to it. Sally Elsey delivers her cultured, almost operatic vocal and the crunching guitar interjects at certain points to give a theatrical feel to the song. With toes fleetingly dipped into 80’s metal and modern symphonic power-metal, it is an interesting melting pot of styles that keeps you guessing. The coruscating guitar solo has me damning my lack of luscious locks and reminiscing about denim. Taking the soothing qualities of all that’s best of Karnataka and adding their own spin on it, Shelter From the Rain is a classically tinged pop-rock song with strong folk and Celtic ties. Superb vocals and more dynamic and expressive guitar work leave you with a particularly polished taste in your mouth, this track appeals to all musical palates.

Now to the ‘prog-epic’ on the album, well not necessarily progressive but it surely takes it cues from that genre. Time Train is twelve minutes of intriguing music that beguiles and fascinates. The 80’s synth-pop style introduction with Sally’s incessant repeat of the title gives way to a piano and vocal that drips sincerity and bonhomie. Like musical building blocks, the track heightens the tension as it continues, the complexity swelling and the music taking hold of your senses. The guitar, drums and programming are compelling and deliver an intricate musical mosaic as a backdrop to the vocals and keyboards that are narrating the story. The guitar work smolders and simmers, low key yet dominant and potent, it delivers a sombre and pensive feel to this eloquent and passionate song, one that lingers long in your memory. House of Shadows takes Gabriel down a more mainstream route with its slight nod to pop/rock sensibilities. The gentle and ethereal keyboards match the charming vocals perfectly and the whole song has a feeling of goodwill to it even venturing into Mike Oldfield territory with the distinctive guitar sound. A track that leaves you in a calm and contented state of mind.

Soul Taker begins all mercurial and mysterious with haunting vocals and a lilting piano before breaking into another rock/metal power track. Heavily symphonic with a hard hitting riff and pugnacious drumming, it has to be doing my poor relation’s version of a headbanger again. Sally’s vocal has an edge to it, imbibing the song with a carefree attitude that is pure rock n’ roll. That feel runs through into Stone Cold Redeemer which immediately puts me in mind of Heart and ‘Barracuda’, a really deep and dangerous 1980’s guitar riff married to Sally’s singular vocals. Simple with a clean delivery, it makes no bones about what it is, another pure hard rock delight. The slightly off-kilter guitar solo is a breezy delight that grabs your attention and really hits home on this enjoyable romp.

The final track on the album, Meant to Be, finishes things off in a symphonic metal style. Like a lament, it has an almost mournful feel to it, the vocals subtle yet effective. The guitar solo is full of feeling and pathos and has a heavy hue of 80’s British heavy metal deep at its core. Another fine slab of hard rock with a strong whiff of symphonic metal served up for your delectation.

A classy blend of hard rock, metal and symphonic rock with its own core identity, Gabriel a massive sound for just two people. Pigeon-hole them if you dare, there is more going on with this musical collaboration than you could fit into any one box. Sally Elsey’s vocals are worth the entry fee alone but, with the excellent musical talent of Alex Vinasco at her side, you have something a little bit different and special.

Released 2nd July 2014

Buy Unforgiven from Ravenheart music

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Maddison’s Thread – Maddison’s Thread

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“Better the rudest work that tells a story or records a fact, than the richest without meaning…..”  – John Ruskin.

At the heart of the music I love the most are storytellers and modern-day bards, musicians who can take all that life throws at them, good and bad, and put it in to song. Songs that can affect you deeply and stir up huge wellsprings of emotion. Joy, laughter, sadness and woe all hit deeply into our souls and take us on a journey into the world envisaged by these musical magicians.

Lightweight music has its place (maybe the gym or some other) but I prefer music that can teach me something or enhance a mood, even music that makes me feel sad or forlorn is still great music if that is what it intended. Maybe those of us who appreciate the finer music in life have a bigger capacity in our hearts, who knows?

One thing I do know is that there is no single style or genre of music that achieves this, it is a capacity of all music to move you deeply and leave a lasting impression on you. Certain types can have a higher propensity to musically enhance us just by their generic definition.

Folk music is all about telling stories and tales, generally local legends and characters are brought to life by these earthy musicians and the use of flues, violins and other instruments tends to lends it more originality. Folk and progressive rock tend to cross paths quite often and influences of both can be heard in the other (check out the Canterbury scene for an idea of what I mean).

In my role as a’musical treasure hunter’ I often unearth unexpected gems by the strangest means but, sometimes, just a recommendation from someone who I trust is enough to get me to listen to something new. This time it was Brendan Eyre (of Northlands and Riversea fame) who pointed me in the right direction.

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Lee Maddison is an acoustic folk rock musician from Hartlepool in the North East of England and is releasing a self titled album under the pseudonym of Maddison’s Thread. I was intrigued by the excellent artwork (I do like a nice album cover) designed by local artist Amanda White (check out her artist’s page www.mandascat.com) and Brendan’s nod in the right direction sealed the deal.

When playing live Lee’s line up has him playing acoustic guitar and performing vocals, Stewart Hardy on fiddle, Nigel Spaven on bass and Michael Kitching on drums & percussion.

Joining Lee and his regular players on the album were a stellar cast of many whose contribution, in Lee’s words “far outweighed my contribution to their bank accounts..”

These additional musicians were Bob Garrington (acoustic and electric guitars), Shayne Fontayne (drums), Sue Ferris (flute and sax), Shona Kipling (accordion), Rachel Robinson (cello), Tony Davis (keyboards) and John Day (trombone on ‘A Crooked Mile Home’). Backing vocals were provided by Suzy Crawford and Rachel Gaffney.

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(Image copyright Howy White, featured image also copyright Howy White)

A gentle if determined acoustic guitar introduces us to The Viking’s Daughter before Lee’s magical vocals invite us to listen to the story at hand. There is a timbre to his vocals that give them a serious honesty and a gravelly note that has hints of Dylan to it (well if Bob had bothered to take singing lessons that is). I find myself entranced by the lilting air to the song, the intriguing lyrics and the definitive folk mood it induces, especially when the fiddle and gentle backing vocals join. The short, enchanting fiddle solos leave me imagining I’m in a crowded bar in a tiny fishing village on the North East coast, party to something secretive and  wonderful. As an opening track to entice you in further it is just about perfect. There is a more pensive feel to the guitar at the beginning of Where Eagles Fly, a more sombre atmosphere added to by Lee’s vocal that engenders a sparse beauty to all that is around it. When the chorus opens up with the stylish percussion and captivating backing vocals it adds a real feel of longing and hope, the flute is like a free spirit that eludes you, always out of reach. I feel a lump rising in my throat, a wistfulness pervading my thoughts as this enchanting song continues to entrance me. I really have the feeling we are listening to something special here.

Come the Springtime opens up with that hypnotic guitar note that has become signature now and then Lee starts singing and you really feel like spring is upon you. The vocals are more measured and precise, the chorus lively and addictive. This song is less weighty than what has preceded it but it feels in keeping with the whole premise of the track, flute and fiddle adding any necessary gravitas. It bumbles along as if it has not a care in the world, flitting and organic and really lightens the air and the mood, a short breath of fresh air that leaves your musical palate ready for what is to follow. Jaunty and immediately memorable, Making the Morning Last takes a small step away from the folk leanings and towards the mainstream. There is a breezy and carefree feel to the song, emphasised by Lee’s vocals and the percussion, which add a playful note to proceedings. The chorus is definitely a paid up member of the ‘sing-along’ society and the interjections of the stylish fiddle playing are quite sublime. A song that makes you want to jump up and dance, self-confident and dapper.

After the flippancy of the previous track things become slightly more serious again with Wonderful Day, the guitar has a fragility to it and Lee’s vocal begins with a purposefulness before opening up with an injection of levity. This track reminds me a bit of Seth Lakeman with a Northern contrast, it is pared back but the fiddle once again adds lustre and finesse and the counter-play with the accordion is just brilliant. I get the impression that Lee and his fellow musicians must put on quite a live experience, I will have to go find out for myself. The Country Song does exactly what it says on the tin, Lee’s vocal having an age-old timbre to it. This track has a touch of simple country rock to it but with a definite Britishness at its core, humorous and playful, it is like a serious version of The Wurzels with its metaphorical cap set at an impish angle.

Heading right back up mainstream road Don’t Care About Tomorrow is a catchy, high-tempo sing along that really gets under your skin and into your mind. The feel good factor is turned up to ten and smiles are obligatory. The backing vocals are stylish and harmonised and the piano and keyboards really add a grown up note. Folk takes an unapologetic back seat and the good times roll. Throw in a guitar solo and you can’t really ask for much more as Lee shows he is definitely not a one trick pony, Ed Sheeran eat your heart out! Hang on, what’s this? Have I just been transported to a smoke filled jazz joint? Night Circus is all Martin Taylor-esque guitars and funky rhythms as Lee swiftly shifts focus once again. The chorus and backing vocals have a real feel of original R&B to them, you know what? this guy has some real musical chops and, just to top it off, we have a smooth as caramel sax solo thrown in, outstanding! Intricate guitar work and super cool percussion just add to the effortless skill on show, the suave close to the track is just sublime.

On your first listen to Misty Morning Blues you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported across the Atlantic and into mid-town America. With a vocal style akin to John Denver and music that wouldn’t seem out of place on an Eagles album this is Americana inspired country rock that reminds me of Abel Ganz and that is no mean comparison. Enchanting yet heartfelt, there is a real depth of emotion at the heart of this genuinely sincere song, when the flute floats in it just adds the final part of this beguiling musical jigsaw. Honest to its core, One Day is a wistful, whimsical delight. The pared back to basics guitar is ethereal and bewitching and Lee’s vocal has a charming candor to it so you take everything at face value. Suave and sophisticated, when the percussion joins in, it has a real smooth jazz feel to it, a lightness of being that you feel is catching as your soul leaves your body to join the party. Without a worry in the world, you are just left to enjoy this unruffled delight.

Too soon we come to the final track on the album and a return to folk-focused beginnings, albeit with a country rock edge. The guitar and accordion focused introduction to A Crooked Mile Home has a solemn, melancholy note to it as if the subject is a weighty one. Lee gives his most grave vocal performance yet, all serious and mournful and you can’t help but become involved in the dignified and subdued atmosphere. The trombone and accordion add the required saturnine and sober edge to the yearning quality of the vocals. A starkly graceful song to close out this exquisite album.

Music often astounds me in the way that, when you think you’ve heard it all, something comes along to amaze and inspire you with its brilliance. I had never heard of Lee Maddison before that fateful day but this discovery is one of the best of recent years. Folk is rooted at the core of Maddison’s Way but this album is all about the music and the way Lee can diversify with aplomb is very impressive. A contender for album of the year for me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.

Releases on 4th August 2015

Buy Maddison’s Thread from bandcamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Wallet Emptier – 22nd July 2015

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The Fierce and the Dead – Magnet E.P.

“A soundtrack for the current generation”, The Fierce and the Dead have a new EP on the way. For those unfamiliar with these ‘funny music’ pioneers they play instrumental music with a huge amount of substance, powerful and majestic with sheer brutality in places yet they can turn their hands to pensive and thoughtful or expressive just as easy.

“I think this EP represents a different sound for us, it’s important to keep moving forward. It more joyous and intense with bigger riffs and more of an electronic feel.” says Dead guitarist Matt Stevens. Bassist & Producer Kevin Feazey continues “We’re doing what we want to do. Full circle. Back to sounding like the bands we grew up with, from Nuclear Assault to Boards of Canada. Every record we’ve put out has had it’s own character and story, with different sounds and a different reality for each”.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the limited run of 250 CDs is looking as if it will sell out before the 14th August release date so get one whilst you can!

Stand out track – Palm Trees

Due to be released on 14th August 2015 via Bad Elephant Music.

Pre-order Magnet from bandcamp

 

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Echolyn – I Heard You Listen

I was a late comer to the Echolyn party and it wasn’t until 2012’s self-titled release that I discovered their captivating style of progressive rock. Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America, I have heard them called the US’s answer to Big Big Train. To me that is a compliment to both bands, they play music that will engross you and lift your soul. Sometimes a band can come very close to perfection with a new release and this album is as close to a must buy album as I’ve heard this year.

Album due to be released on July 31st 2015

Stand out track – Empyrean Views

I Heard You Listening will be available to order from bandcamp from July 31st

 

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Wilco – Star Wars

Stepping out of my usual comfort zone, this next release is forged from the fires of alt-country. Wilco have been around for a while and I have dallied with their music before to no avail for my record collection and their bank balance. This time, due to a free download on the band’s website, I may have finally found an album from the band that I can appreciate in every facet. Fast paced and energetic, there is also a darker core explored on some of the tracks. There is a slight progressive note to a couple of the tracks but, overall, it is quite a gem of an alternative country focused album.

CD release date 21st August 2015 , Vinyl 27th November 2015

Stand out track – You Satellite

Free download (limited time) and CD, Vinyl pre-orders here

 

Blast from the past……..

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Parzivals Eye – Fragments

 

I featured the new Parzivals Eye release ‘Defragments’ earlier this month and, as is my want, I have gone back in time to the original 2009 release ‘Fragments’ to find that, to my ears, it is even better. Ex RPWL bassist Chris Postl’s solo project is a multi-faceted delight. Soaring soundscapes, brilliant vocals (Christina Booth and Alan Reed) and some superb guitar work (Ian Bairnson) all combine to produce an album of high quality neo-progressive music that really should be in your collection.

Originally released 9th September 2009.

Buy Fragments at The Gentle Art of Music

 

 

 

Review – Tiger Moth Tales – Story Tellers Part One

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For the majority of us our childhood was a place full of fond memories. They invoke sepia tinged images of innocence and happiness before the realities of the big bad world that is out there begin to sink in.

You know the saying, ‘regressed to their childhood’, when you no longer have a care in the world and the simplest things give you joy and bring a smile to your face.

I get that familiar warm glow begin to envelop me when I listen to certain albums or music, a feeling like a big hug, a freshly made bed or the smells of coffee and toast wafting across your nostrils. They may be simplistic ideals but they are the catalyst for complex emotions in your mind and soul.

There was one album recently that invoked these feelings intensely, Tiger Moth Tales’ debut release ‘Cocoon’. ‘Cocoon’ is a concept album on the subject of Childhood, and coming to terms with the loss of childhood. The journey goes through stages of Innocence, joy, imagination, stories, friendship, love, nature, nostalgia, grief, acceptance and rebirth.

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There is a very interesting story behind Tiger Moth Tales and it goes something like this…..

Tiger Moth Tales is essentially the brain child of Nottinghamshire based musician and writer Peter Jones, who has been involved in the music industry performing around the UK and recording his own material since the late 90s.

Pete Live

(photo copyright Martin Reijman)

Pete, (35) was born on October 6th 1980. At fifteen months he lost his sight due to Retinoblastoma. From an early age he was into all things musical and at the age of four had his first piano. Peter composed from an early age, usually in the form of improvisations which he would capture on his cassette recorder.

He studied music and music technology and performed in bands singing and playing jazz, swing, rock and classical pieces. On leaving school in 1999 he formed the successful duo 2 to Go with friend and vocalist Emma Paine.

Over the next ten years they became one of the most successful duos on the circuit performing at clubs and corporate events around the UK and abroad. During that time they were finalists in the BBC’s Star For A Night in 2001 and ITV’s ‘The X Factor’ in 2004. They went on to appear in the National Arena X Factor Tour which followed in 2005.

in 2010 Pete had his first official album release with ‘Look At Me Now’. This self penned and produced album was a collection of songs from the previous 10 years, including different Genres but with an overall adult contemporary feel. ‘Look At Me Now’ enjoyed good sales online and also on the road, and the plan was to start work on a follow up album in a similar vein.

At the beginning of 2013, Pete started work on a new project. This took the form of a concept album, and it was the first progressive music he had written since he was a teenager. Throughout 2013 he continued to write and record new progressive music and by October 2013 ‘Cocoon’, the new album, was complete.

(Excerpts from the website www.tigermothtales.com)

Pete

July 2015 sees the release of the much anticipated follow up to ‘Cocoon’, ‘Story Tellers Part One’……..

After seeing an internet challenge to conceive and record an album in the month of February 2015, Peter Jones was inspired to get back into the studio.

To record an album in 28 days was quite the challenge but armed with a vivid imagination and his childhood memories, Pete has written seven songs based on some of the classic children stories he listened to as a young boy.

He has put his unique twist to such classic tales as Sleeping Beauty, The Pied Piper of Hamelin and The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and for those of you who like fantastic instrumentation and stunning vocal performances, look no further.

(taken from www.tigermothtales.com)

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The introduction to Beauty Falls (Part one of Sleeping Beauty) is like a Disney trumpet overture played on keys and gives you an immediate impression of a playfulness and childish joy to the music before it opens up in a very similar vein to the opening credits of Red Dwarf (if you don’t believe me, go have another listen..), all low key pomp and circumstance. Then Peter’s intricate guitar playing leads you into the song along with some humorous keyboards. There is pantomime feel to this instrumental as it gallops along at a fair lick with all manner of amusing sound effects going off around you. Moments of clarity and fairy tale magic are interspersed among the jocularity and the intelligent songwriting of Peter Jones is already coming to the fore as everything comes to a more grown up, serious conclusion.

Maturity enters the fray with Story Tellers and the high jinks and fantasy are put on the back burner just for a short while. A subdued and sober piano note introduces the song before Peter’s earnest vocals begin, a voice that convey a real wide range of emotions, here it is thoughtful and intent. This song is all about the highs and lows of writing the stories and the lyrics convey those emotions perfectly. The music winds around your mind and your soul and envelops you in its embrace. There is a longevity to the story that will always outlive the writer and that adds a slight tone of sadness that can be felt in both the vocals and the music. The track then opens up with an extended keyboard run of increasing dexterity that lifts an melancholia and Peter adds a winsome tone to his vocals in a children’s TV style. This song is all about leaving an enduring legacy for those that follow and it closes having performed that task to a tee.

Beauty Sleeps (no surprise that this is part two of Sleeping Beauty) opens with a delicately strummed classical guitar full of grace and refinement. It has a finesse to it that befits a princess and her story and also shows off Peter Jones’ instrumental prowess, it may just be me but I  get ‘Cavatina’ (the theme from Deer Hunter for the Luddites out there) running through my mind everytime I hear certain instrumental sections of this song, not a bad comparison I’d have thought. It holds you in a trance-like state as the simple beauty of the music washes over you, seeming to cleanse your musical soul with the elegance of the guitar and the charming flute note. This is no merely simple piece though, there is a complexity at the heart, it is just delivered in such a genial manner that you can take it in so easily. Overall it is uplifting and inspiring and leaves your soul soaring.

Right, that’s enough of the inspirational, the whimsical and the charming, where is the ‘batshit crazy’ I remember from ‘Cocoon’? Ah, here it is and aren’t we in for a treat. A Kids Tale is based on the story of Billy Goat Gruff yet with the wacky humour turned up to 11, I challenge you to listen to this track and not be smiling like an inane lunatic by the end. Box of frogs? It’s as mad as whole container load from the bleating in the background of the introduction and the irreverent instrumental run in right through the Benny Hill Theme inspired section to Peter’s regional accent infused vocal. Just imagine if Disney had employed Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine to bring the story to film and you’ll have some idea of the off kilter humour that runs throughout it. The lyrics are inspired, “Hold on, you were about to bite my head off and now you’re lecturing me on morality….”, “Fair enough, on you go….”. Mad and touched with a kind of insane genius that could only be English, this guy has definitely been out in the midday sun. There is a touch of music hall to the playing that runs throughout, especially the dancing piano, it is one of the most mirth filled, tongue in cheek songs I have heard in quite a while, the joyful singing of the three goats that closes out the song being a perfect ending.

The Quest for Beauty (Sleeping Beauty part three) brings us back to the more contemplative feel of the earlier tracks with a triumphant note to the introduction and Peter’s deadpan vocals that open up into a delightful chorus, did I say that this guy can really sing? This is a down-to-earth, astute musical fairytale where the hero must overcome arduous tasks to save the heroine and the music is sympathetic to that more grown up feel whilst never losing the magic that is the core to the best of these stories. The vibrant feel builds up as we come to the close of the latest chapter in the tale, more to follow…….

There is a dark humour at the core of The Piper, the introduction has all the markings of a dangerously funny musical like Sweeney Todd and is delivered in a fashion akin to Gilbert and Sullivan with overblown, pompous characters you can tell are heading for an ignominious downfall. Peter does all the different voices with aplomb, investing the Mayor and townsfolk with a farcical side and giving the piper of the title a sinister, darker edge that makes your skin crawl just a tiny bit. The lyrics are full of slapstick, absurd humour that works perfectly with the feel of the track, “You need to take stock, there’s a rat in my sock….!”, “Oh God no, it’s running up me trousers….”. There is a conveyor belt of whipcrackingly comical phrases that keep you laughing out loud. You feel a mysterious thrall take over the song when the piper arrives and whenever he speaks, a dangerous man who you shouldn’t cross. The track grips you for all of its near thirteen minute length and, despite the fact we know how the tale unfolds, you feel yourself holding your breath wondering what is going to happen next. That is the measure of the skill of a songwriting storyteller like Peter Jones, he puts you right in the middle of the story as if you were really there. A deliciously menacing track with a touch of the macabre to it, just remember how the Child Catcher from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ used to make you hold your breath and hide (and you loved it!) and you’ll know exactly what i mean.

The final part to the Sleeping Beauty saga closes out this superb album, Beauty Awakes starts with a jubilant and exulted instrumental section topped with touches of magical fairy dust that skips lightly across your mind leaving hints of playful abandon where ever it has been. Peter Jones finishes the song and album with the expected happy ending, his lyrics touching on the fact that we know the outcomes of these fairytales but we just cannot get enough of them, “The story will never end….”, indeed it won’t Peter my friend, not with musical maestros like you around….

Well, Peter Jones has delivered what is, to my ears, an album that is even better than the delights of ‘Cocoon’. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm and allure of ‘Story Tellers Part 1’, it takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood. Peter is one of the pre-eminent songwriters out there today and has given us a little piece of wonder to enjoy, roll on Part Two.

Released 1st July 2015

Buy Story Tellers Part One from bandcamp on mp3

Buy Story Tellers Part One on CD from White Knight Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Wallet Emptier – July 15th 2015

Circus of Horrors

Geof Whitely Project – Circus of Horrors

Prolific musician Arny Wheatley returns with his latest album under the Geof Whitely Project’ pseudonym. The laid back, electronic 80’s style feel of previous works is given a spruce up and relaunched with a classy and smooth delivery. The rather memorable guitar work and laconic vocals are still in place and, as such, it is very much ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ but no less impressive for that. And what about that album artwork, deliciously spooky eh?

Stand out track – The Hunter

To be released 31st October 2015, full review to follow.

Buy the CD with 2 bonus tracks direct from the band

 

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Northwoods – Black Skies

‘If you’re old enough, you’re good enough….’

That is a saying often attributed to sporting prowess but it really does apply in the musical world as well. Bristolian Saul Blease released his debut album ‘Daybreak’ at the end of 2014 and I really liked it. I went so far as to say:

“Excellent songwriting showing a depth of knowledge well beyond his nineteen years and an ear for an addictive tune combine to deliver an album that pleases on many levels.”

Saul returns with new electronic project Northwoods and a debut E.P. ‘Black Skies’ and, darn me, if he hasn’t gone and done it again! 4 killer tracks that really grab your attention. Yes it might not be for your ‘died in the wool’ traditional progressive fan but, in my opinion, there is enough in there to keep any music fan involved and happy.

Stand out track – Black Skies

Released 4th July 2015, full review to follow.

Pay what you want release at bandcamp

 

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Maddison’s Thread – Self-titled

This year has seen some rather excellent releases already and, thanks to a friend’s recommendation, another contender arrived at Progradar towers recently. I don’t like the word ‘folkish’ but this album has definite tendencies in that direction. It also has a whole host of other influences including soul, country blues and even some R&B hidden in there and they all combine to produce as near as perfect a summer album, for those with progressive and folk leanings, as could possibly be envisaged. Just buy it……

Stand out track – Where Eagles Fly

Released 4th August 2015, full review to follow.

Pre-order and download two tracks immediately at bandcamp

 

And a blast from the past………

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Flicker – How Much Are You Willing To Forget

Sadly now on an indefinite hiatus, British progressive band Flicker came to everyone’s attention with this 2013 release. Interwoven melody lines and rhythms dynamically combine with intricate arrangements, thoughtful lyrics and the use of the appropriate sound or genre necessary to convey the meaning and feeling of a song. A distinctive vocal and powerful music delivery complete what is a rather good album and one that should be in your collection.

Stand out track – Counting Time

Released 28th January 2013

Buy the album at bandcamp

 

 

 

 

 

Review – The Enid – The Bridge

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To be still at the forefront of progressive rock over forty years since their inception in 1974 The Enid are the definition of ‘enduring’ as is their popularity with their fanbase of enthusiastic supporters.

Their unique and individualistic style of progressive rock does not appeal to all but, when you are hooked by the beauty, efficacy and intricacy of it all, you will become a lifelong follower.

The band use music as a saga teller, creating huge soundscapes and classical influences to lead you on an all encompassing musical journey that will captivate and enrapture your sensibilities.

An excerpt from the band history on the website goes on to say….

“Formed among friends in 1974 The Enid invented a school of intelligent powerful romantic popular music which is unique to them. It is now clear that over more than thirty years they have developed an exceptional approach to music creation in the sense that there are no generic limitations whatever placed on bands ability to create their music.

The Enid “school of art” for want of a better description, is free from constraints of template rock/pop where rhythm, harmony and melody are invariably dictated by the traditions, prejudices and limitations associated with style.

Under the tutelage of Robert John Godfrey, The Enid set out to avoid the obvious traps; the learned/received riff based music which distinguishes so much rock – the well trodden harmonic progressions – familiar melodic lines and stock-in-trade rhythms.

They were also the first band to be funded entirely by their fans which became the obvious way ahead after losing their recording contract with the now defunct PYE records.  This was a revolutionary concept when first deployed in the early 1980’s and led to the current situation with bands as diverse as Marillion, Radiohead and Hawkwind following this lead.”

There have been many changes to the band line-up over the years, the current being founder members Robert John Godfrey (pianist, composer and mastermind) and Dave Storey (drums) ,  vocalist and charismatic frontman Joe PayneJason Ducker (guitar and lots of other stuff), Max Read (bass, keyboards and loads of other stuff) and Dominic Tofield (drums and dab hand at design).

The Enid - Invicta - Artwork

There have been many albums down the years yet 2012’s ‘Invicta’ saw a relative resurgence for this niche, cult band. The Enid have followed this up with ‘The Bridge’, the first in a trilogy of albums which will focus on the development of members Joe PayneJason Ducker and Max Read.

On this release Robert and Joe wanted to further explore the classical elements of the band’s music in finer detail. The orchestral arrangements and vocals are accompanied by Jason’s symphonic guitar textures and Max’s choral arrangements. The stunning artwork is the exceptional work of drummer Dominic Tofield and gives this release an indicative gravitas as soon as you see it.

‘The Bridge’ is a collection of mainly re-imagined versions of songs from the vast back catalogue of the band and a bit of a risky one at that as it feature next to no percussive elements at all, only relying on the amazing piano skills of Robert and Joe’s impressive vocal skills to deliver the expected symphonic power.

Earthborn takes a delicate route to introduce the album with the vocals gradually increasing in force backed by the empathetic piano and wind instruments to deliver a romantically inspired opening that could have come straight out of London’s West End theatres. Gentle, humble and yet with a steely core, it captivates you with an uplifting grace. Atmospheric and almost operatic in its delivery ‘Til We’re Old is a brief but powerful piece where the voice and piano provide impressive counterpoints to each other with a slightly suspenseful and quizzical note. What it lacks in length it certainly makes up with substance.

Dark Corner of the Sky opens with a hushed piano and then Joe’s dulcet vocals join in what is a slightly sombre sounding beginning. Joe Payne’s heartfelt delivery is as seductive as it is powerful, almost beseeching you as it impacts on your psyche. Max Read’s sympathetic choral arrangement delivers an ethereal feeling, a seductive spell that you never want to break. Now to a track that seems to split opinion, Bad Men has a nervous jocularity to it with its simple (yet effective) lyrics and ever present hint of mild insanity. One reviewer who was less than impressed said: “it is a track that tries its hardest to be politically relevant to British politics, yet falls flat with lyrics.” I have to disagree, to me it has a hint of the a melodramatic Gilbert and Sullivan comedy opera to it, slightly tongue in cheek. It flows majestically in places and, in others, hammers at you like a persistent and petulant child. Not my favourite track on the album but one that rises above the merely good with its sense of humour.

The introduction to My Gravity lifts you up and takes you away to a place of pomp and circumstance and classical beauty. For all you know, you could be at the Royal Albert Hall listening to some classical masterpiece before it segues into an engrossing cinematic style that would befit a 1950’s Hollywood blockbuster. There is a vivid melodrama at the heart of this affecting song. Joe’s voice has a tender catch to it and the choral arrangements once again impress. As impressive as it is on record, this would be an almighty piece of music in a live setting as Joe reaches the heights with his fervent and earnest voice and the whole track has you committed from the first note, a superb and enduring song. Adding lyrics to previous instrumentals is the USP of this latest album and that can be seen to the best and most striking effect on Wings (a reworking of the track ‘La Rage’ from 1988 release ‘The Seed and the Sower) where Joe’s deeply moving lyrics are undeniably the icing on the cake of a wondrous track. Deeply moving and emotional, it is the highlight of this arresting record. Starting from humble beginnings, the vocals dance around you and insinuate your every pore, like a sinuous vocal dance around your aural receptors. Ardent and profound, there is a sincerity deeply ingrained in this incredibly passionate and poignant song. The musical arrangements are precise and yet flow with a allure and artistry and help deliver a profoundly stirring and moving work of musical art.

First Light takes the sophisticated choral arrangements to another level. The voices intertwining and harmonising to brilliant effect. A slow and deliberate tempo holds you in sway as the music washes over you to leave you in a musical state of grace. The whole album is composed of music that demands your attention and makes you stop what you’re doing and concentrate on what is put before you and no more so than on this singular slice of wonderment. The segue into Autumn is seamless, your trance like state retained. This time the music is just as conducive to your utterly relaxed and calm state of mind, providing a perfect foil for the beguiling voice of Joe Payne. When the song opens up and releases its full potential you are knocked back by the power and the glory in its ultimate wisdom, the ending an uplifting culmination of all that has come before.

When you listen to ‘The Bridge’ the merely good is transformed into the sublime and exalted.The Enid have delivered a set of songs that enable you to take time away from your hectic life and give you a melodic treat of great magnitude, the closest thing to a legal high, an oasis of calm in a world of chaos. Yes, it will not appeal to all with its delicate sensibilities but, for me, it is something that, once I have heard, I cannot ever do without.

Released 10th July 2015

Buy The Bridge direct from The Enid

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeB3UmaVfaY

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Wolve – Sleepwalker

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If you are of my generation (born in the late 60’s/early 70’s) I’d like you to take a walk back in time with me. To a time when the internet was in its very infancy and discovering new music was not the simple task that it is now.

How did we find new bands and new albums that we had never heard of before? In fact, how did we find out information about our favourite bands regarding new releases and tours etc.?

For me it was ‘Q’ Magazine, I was an avid reader in the days before the world wide web and bought many a new record from the number of ‘Q’s it would receive and the relatively small write up that print media would allow.

But, you know, I bought as many dogs as I did diamonds and, in my old 800 plus CD collection, there would have been at least 150 albums that never got past the initial first play stage. It was a very costly mistake in the days of £13 CDs and word of mouth tended to be a rarity in those times, don’t ask me why, so I never seemed to get recommendations from friends.

Ever since the internet arrived big time, and especially in the last three or four years, it has been a hell of a lot easier to dig out new music thanks to social media and get solid advice from fellow music lovers. I say this for all genres, not just the relatively insular world of progressive music that is my fix.

The advent of free streaming and youtube means that it should be virtually impossible to make a duff choice now. The actual negative to this is that there is now so much more music that appeals to you out there than you actually have time to listen to but, let’s be thankful for small mercies eh?

A recent social media suggestion that popped up on the right hand side of my feed was French post/progressive rock band Wolve and clicking on the link took me to their bandcamp page where their latest album ‘Sleepwalker’ was streaming for free. The rest, as they say, is history 🙂

Band live

From the band’s own PR:

Julien Sournac’s artistic vision is an uncompromising quest for authenticity.
Unburdened by labels, he infuses his riffs in 90’s alt-rock, can unplug his amp and pick up an accoustic guitar when it is the best way to sincerely represent his feelings in the moment. It is thanks to this approach that ‘Sleepwalker’, WOLVE’s first album written by Julien Sournac and co-produced by Brice Chandler, has been lauded by the media.”

For live performances Julien (guitar and voice) is joined by Alexandre Aguilera (guitar), Hugues Lemaire (bass) and Simon Lemonnier (drums). The band have opened for Fish and Arena before being invited to the famous Prog’ Resiste festival in Belgium.

Dreams are voyages, from nothingness to a far away nowhere. ‘Sleepwalker’ is the chronicle of this voyage in three parts, at the limit of REM sleep.

The album starts with the tender The Tall Trees, just under two minutes of a delicate, heartfelt monologue that drips emotion and sincerity. The vocals exude an ennui ages old and the gentle acoustic guitar almost makes you weep with empathy. Brace yourselves for the earth shattering introduction of Cassiah which enters the fray like an gigantic tidal wave of musical force and focus. There is no pause as the monstrous riff kicks in accompanied by huge drums to blow any cobwebs away. It is a momentary shockwave as the gentle feel returns and the earnest, sincere vocals calm your beating heart. The atmosphere is relaxed, if a little tense, the nonchalant rhythm section lulling you into a possible false sense of security. Julien’s voice has a brooding quality to it, as if the weight of the world lies upon him, especially when the tension is ramped up with an increase in pace and dynamism. Fans of that other enigmatic French band Demians will feel at home here. The suspenseful feel increases as the guitar seems to edge along, leading to some sort of confrontation? The coruscating guitar solo feels like finger nails scraping across a blackboard but you cant turn away from the delicious agony. The depth of feeling and fervor ratches up another notch as a crunching guitar pounds your aural synapses. This track is like a life affirming journey through mysterious highs and lows and you are enraptured throughout.

A smooth bass and jazzy guitar introduce Ocean as the drums begin to ramp up the apprehensive atmosphere, a strident guitar wailing slightly in the background in an off key manner. The air becomes one of lightness though, losing that oppressive feel with an almost ethereal quality taking over. Hints of an early Porcupine Tree abound throughout yet given Wolve’s own stamp of authority as the track takes a more intricate bent. Intelligent and yet eminently accessible, I have found myself warming to the maturity and sincerity that this music has in abundance. Like a set of slightly different musical pieces all joined together by a common link, it is a fantastical dreamscape set to indulgent music. The instrumental sections are precise, inventive and involving, you dare not take your attention away in fear of missing something important. The dreamlike vocal parts, accompanied by a surreal sounding guitar and a smooth jazz bass beat leave you almost transfixed as this profound song comes to an enlightened conclusion. Coming in at around eighty seconds Countdown feels like a dividing line between the past and the previous, a subdued art of noise that leads you from one track to another.

The restrained, solemn introduction to Colors Collapse is becoming signature now. Edged with uncertainty and hesitancy before the acoustic guitar and laconic, curbed vocals add a beseeching note to the track. Once again there is a turn into left field with a grungy and dangerous guitar riff kicking in, it all feels slightly menacing to me, in an exciting way, as the instrumental section uses you as a buffer between it and the timorous vocals. You have to listen carefully to the music as there are little nuggets of brilliance thrown in everywhere. A Steve Howe-esque guitar noodle opens up into an extended uplifting section that builds, layer upon layer, increasing the excitement and spectacle. A seriously intense and dramatic guitar heavy instrumental section closes out what is perhaps the most focused song on the album. The album finishes with title track Sleepwalker, a mesmerising acoustic guitar leading you in slowly, accompanied by Julien’s undemanding yet touching vocal and it seems to amble along politely asking you to join it on this poignant trip through mind and soul. You find yourself caught in the euphoria of the moment as the song and album come to an affecting close.

An unexpected treasure thrown up by the good side of social media. You cannot help but be drawn into the captivating worlds that Julien Sournac and Wolve create. Epitomized by intuitive and visceral music and vocals that lay their heart before you, ‘Sleepwalker’ is a hidden gem that I feel privileged to have discovered.

Released 29th January 2014.

Buy Sleepwalker from bandcamp

Main featured image copyright Adrien Oumhani.

Band pic copyright Christian Arnaud.

 

 

 

Review – Geof Whitely Project – Supernatural Casualty and more……

Geof Whitely 2

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity…”  – Charles Mingus

Just take a minute to read that quote a couple of times and let it sink in…………

Right, are we ready now? Those words can be used to apply the meaning in many walks of life and, also, in music. Sometimes (and it seems especially in progressive music) we seem to be searching for the most intricate and complicated. Maybe this is to stand out from the crowd, maybe it is just one-upmanship? Who knows, if it is not convoluted enough, it can tend to be consigned to the metaphorical dustbin.

What is wrong with simplicity, if it is good enough being kept to the bare basics then why not run with it? I am as guilty as the next man for searching for twenty-four minute prog suites with meandering overtures and endless guitar and bass solos but, when you want a minute to yourself and your life to be a bit more uncluttered, there is some music out there that is perfectly suited, and perfectly good enough, for that mood.

I have oft spoken about how being a music journalist can elicit some very pleasant unexpected surprises and, as recent as last week, another one arrived unannounced at Progradar Towers.

I had never heard of the Geof Whitely Project before but, thanks to a fellow music loving friend on social media, Brasil Bond, I am now acutely aware of this intriguing musical outfit.

There is a bit of mystery surrounding this musical enigma, information is hard to come by so I did the digging so you, my friends, don’t have to…..

From the official website:

“The Geof Whitely Project was formed in 2011, it consists of Geof Whitely and special guest Musicians, the aim of the project is to put out original material in all types of musical formats from Prog Rock-Rock-Pop-Electronic-Instrumental.

All albums will contain a mix of such musical songs, there’s surely one that will appeal to everyone, thanks for visiting the site please feel free to email us, tell your friends…..!!!!”

It also appears that their biggest critic is Jasper the cat, being a cat owner myself, I can relate to that.

Well let’s cut through the shroud of mystery shall we because, having spoken to the musician behind the whole conundrum, I can reveal that there is no such person as Geof Whitely!!!

Geof is actually the alter-ego of prolific musician Arny Wheatley who hails from Stoke-on-Trent and basically does just about everything on all the Geof Whitely Project releases.

The story behind the moniker is that ‘Geof Whitely’ was the name on something that came through Arny’s letter box once addressed wrong and he thought that it would make a good name, simple really!

Having released around six full length albums already, Arny is not one to stand still, he already has another three new albums due out for release and that doesn’t include ‘Supernatural Casualty’ which releases on 3rd August 2015. As I said, prolific!!!

Before we get onto ‘Supernatural Casualty’ I’d like to take a short trip and delve into the Geof Whitely Project back catalogue and focus on two of the previous releases….

Pathfinder Cover

Geof Whitely Project – Pathfinder

Released in March 2014 ‘Pathfinder’ has huge cinematic soundscape at it’s heart. Haunting guitars and expressive keyboards form the backbone on which this electronic rock inspired release can build. The vocals are precise and, despite being mainly monotone, extremely expressive. The opening track Ship to Shore gives a very promising initial impression and this carries on through the album.

Other highlights include the the jazz influenced Chinese Burn and title track Pathfinder. There is a simplistic design to the music that can only be admired, the 80’s influenced keyboards are particularly memorable, especially on At Times and The Riddle.

The guitar work throughout is exemplary and reaches an entertaining peak on The Real Me and closing track Keeper of the Light, enforcing the underlying darker tone of this release.

All in all, my first exposure to the Geof Whitely Project  has been a very enjoyable one.

OoOT cover

Geof Whitely Project – Outlaw of Our Time

Released in February 2015 ‘Outlaw of Our Time’ takes a lighter, more commercial route than ‘Pathfinder’. The overall feel to the album brings thoughts of Asia, Foreigner and other AOR bands, there is even a touch of E.L.O in the vocal style and semi-orchestral feel.

Opening track Fibreoptic is a delightfully reminiscent of the synth inspired rock of the 80’s with a Georgio Moroder inspired keyboard that morphs into a guitar driven verse that Jeff Lynne would be proud of. The album segues though heavy electronica influence with Souless Night Driver, a considered and melodramatic track, to the ambient dance feel of Ricochet and back through the melancholia of Outstretched Hands to the World.

I get a real feel of the cinematic, ethereal atmospherics of Fractal Mirror running through this album, it is there in the background on tracks like Mediation, How Can One and Slow Motion, especially with the organ styled keyboard playing which gives a sci-fi inspired note to the music.

The vocals also conjure up thoughts of my good friend Mike Kershaw, measured and monotone they may be but extremely expressive with it. This comparison is most evident on Siren of the Sea, which has to take the gong of being my favourite track on the album. With its oriental influences and downbeat rhythm, there is an aura of David Sylvian all over this song and the meandering, intense guitar playing is a highlight of the whole album.

The album runs out with three extended tracks that all run with a laconic mood, pensive and wistful. Blind Faith, Gate to the West and Transatlantic Ghosts take a deeper, more thoughtful route through your mind yet still retain a simplicity, a lack of over-complication at their core. It is perhaps more ‘music that seeps into your sub conscious’ than easy listening with the more serious tone that they have. They close out the album on a very sombre note, I found my self getting lost in the midst of the final track.

Now onto the main course……..

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Geof Whitely Project – Supernatural Casualty

The album that started my odyssey, ‘Supernatural Casualty is due to be released on August 3rd this year. All the Geof Whitely Project releases have interesting artwork and this is one of the best, I do tend to gravitate towards albums whose artwork I like and this was no exception.

Mixing Marillion with costume drama and theatricals, opening track Assassin is quite an addictive one with a dark edge to the guitar riff and moody keyboards. The vocals are neat and demonstrative and suit the music perfectly. The song has an apprehensive feel, as if you are waiting for something to happen and not necessarily something good! An intriguing opening track with its early 90’s feel. Healing has an unhurried rhythm to it, mournful and pensive with the delicate piano and trite vocal. Definitely not one for the depressed among us! There is stark beauty to its pared back and downcast delivery though. A heraldic keyboard note introduces The Secret, a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a film soundtrack. A nostalgic, gentle wistfulness plays out before you, the vocals heavy-hearted and imparting world weary experience to the proceedings. Interstellar, whilst not being full of joie de vivre, lifts the mood somewhat with its homage to a mix of early Ultravox with a smidgen of Steve Strange thrown in for good measure. As I’ve said before, there is nothing too complicated going on here but what you do have is transparent and honest and thoroughly enjoyable.

Piano is king at the start of House of the Holy, blended with the saxophone like keyboard, it leaves an entirely palatable taste in the mouth. One more turn of the knob of mood lightening and you can feel a measure of hope creeping into what was despondency before. This ambience runs through the vocals and the whole tone, this is one track where the Mike Kershaw comparison is at its height. The guitar at the end is a particular high point. Welcome to the Darkside (how many of you wanted to finish that sentence with ‘Luke’ ?) would indicate that we are going to regress but, no, not to my ears anyway. There is an inspirative timbre to the vocals that works counterpoint to the contemplative music in a very clever way. The beat leaps forward a couple of notches with F1, the lyrics in deference to that greatest of motorsports. A powerful riff runs in the background giving the whole song momentum and drive. I’d see this as a modern version of Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour de France dedicated to a different sport as the electronic beats vie with the sound of Formula 1 engines. I like the way that Hideaway invokes memories of bygone days, sepia tinged and rose tinted. Almost ballad like, it is a really nice song that leaves me feeling warm inside.

That glowing feeling continues with No Way of Knowing, the vibe seems to have gone across to ‘singer-songwriter’ with an electronic bent and I think it works really well. Again, pared back simplicity is key to how this works so well. Piano and sax inspired keyboard notes cover everything with a velvety layer of sophistication and that feeling of fulfillment remains. Apparition begins with a spooky, sci-fi inspired intro that opens up with a feeling of yearning into an aspirational song. Another track with an 80’s synthesiser inspired sound that resonates with me as a listener. Measured and metronomic in its timbre, it lulls you into a longed for sense of security. The flute like intro to Embargo is very catchy and the whole song really lifts you up as if the sun has started shining on a rainy day. It trips along gaily, dragging you along with its good humour and exhilaration. There is a childlike impishness to the song, guileless and trusting, fans of Tiger Moth Tales will know where I am coming from. Tide is Turning brings gravitas and maturity back and is a more mainstream rock track than some of the others on the album. There is a meditative and reflective quality to this piece and a respectful note to the vocals that adds a wealth and depth of experience to all aspects of the song.

No Time is another unadulterated piece of music that comes straight from the heart, weighty and serious. There is a depth of feeling apparent in the vocals and the powerful music that you can’t help but get involved with. An impassioned, heartfelt song that pulls at the heartstrings. The lament continues with Infront of Me, elementary passions pour out unheeded from the soul of the music and you find yourself in the middle of an emotional pull. Profound and sincere, there is an earnest plea at the heart of it all. Remembrance Day begins with the tolling of a bell and music that brings to mind the horrors of war. Doleful and dramatic it grabs your attention immediately, we will honour those that fought so we could have a better life. There is a solemn and weighty feel to the song yet one that commands and deserves respect. You find yourself engrossed in this philosophical and reflective track, rapt with the memories it invokes. The final track on this thoroughly enjoyable musical journey is Usurper, a gentle, meandering introduction leads into a graceful guitar that increases in tempo and vibrancy before the vocals kick in on perhaps the most commercial track on the album with its Floyd-like feel and tempo. The guitar flashes add style and substance to what is already a very good song and it leaves you on a high as it comes to a satisfying close.

I know Arny will have moved onto his next album by now but I found ‘Supernatural Casualty’ to be a box of delights. At sixteen tracks it is perhaps two or three songs too long but that doesn’t detract from what is a thoroughly satisfying piece of music and one that has introduced me to the Geof Whitely Project, an artist I will definitely be keeping my eye on going forward. Thoroughly recommended.

Release 3rd August 2015.

Buy Supernatural Casualty here

Check out the back catalogue here

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Wallet Emptier – 27/6/15

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Gekko Project – Reya of Titan

Gekko Project are a California based five piece Progressive Rock band, with duel vocals, symphonic keyboards, progressive guitars, driving bass and adventurous drums. Their latest album ‘Reya of Titan’ has all the ingredients of a classic progressive album with an intricate storyline given substance by some rather good musicians. Extended tracks mix with the briefer variety to deliver an entertaining release that is well worthy of a listen

Released 20th June 2015

Stand out track – This is Now Our Home

Buy Reya of Titan here

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Solstice Coil – Commute

Starting a run of progressive metal releases in this week’s WWE, Solstice Coil hail from Israel. Operating for over a decade, Solstice Coil blends the powerful sound and emotional charge of international alternative rock with the precise compositions and arrangements of progressive rock, with major influences such as Radiohead, Muse, Porcupine Tree, Oceansize, The Mars Volta and Dream Theater. Their latest release ‘Commute’ is another example of their take on straight up prog-metal and, to my ears anyway, is a rather good album.

Released 21st June 2015

Stand out track – The Bargain

Buy Commute here

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Geof Whitely Project – Supernatural Casualty

One from out of the blue that I had never heard of before, the Geof Whitely Project. No two albums use the same musical influences but there is a core of cinematic, atmospheric progressive rock that puts me in mind of Fractal Mirror and Mike Kershaw. Thoughtful and precise, it is a sea of calm in the frenetic world we live in and quite addictive.

Full review of the this and the two previous releases coming next from Progradar.

Releases 3rd August 2015

Stand out track – Assassin

Supernatural Casualty available here

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Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar

“Welcome to the carnival of the dysfunctional and the disturbed”

Formed back in 1997 with an idea to mix progressive rock, doom metal and 70’s-inspired psychedelic rock, Subterranean Masquerade creates music with that edge of extreme metal and the loose atmosphere of Pink Floyd and Iron Butterfly. So goes the publicity blurb anyway, I’m not a fan of growly vocals so for me to listen all the way through an album containing quite a lot of them and come out the other side saying I really enjoyed it must be a positive. The mix of progressive and metal is dialed well over to the progressive side on this interesting release and it is all the better for it.

Released 13th January 2015.

Stand out track – Early Morning Mantra

Buy The Great Bazaar here

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Anuryzm – All is Not For All

A great album cover does not always a great album make but, in this case, it certainly does. More progressive metal with leanings definitively to the progressive corner, this time from the UAE, classy and very precise yet able to really rock out as well. I’m hoping that this album will catapult Anuryzm onto the big stage, it is certainly good enough.

Released June 15th 2015

Stand out track – Humanoid

Buy All is Not For All here