The one man, mighty music machine that is John Bassett returns with a new album from his Arcade Messiah project. ‘The Host’, released on September 17th, was mooted as a return to the angrier, heavier sound of John’s original, and best known, band, the imaginatively monikered KingBathmat and we have been given what we were promised… in spades…
John himself said that the new album was, “…more like KingBathmat ‘Overcoming the Monster’ than previous Arcade Messiah albums.”
That was nectar to my ears as I was, and still am, a big fan of the stoner/doom/psychedelic ‘turned up to 11’ sound of KingBathmat. The music sounded like it was hewn out of solid granite and ‘The Host’ certainly has that monolithic sound deep at its core but there’s also subtlety and not a little wistful, thought provoking going on in and amongst the usual huge wave of sound that John always seems to create. A wave of sound so monumental that it would have Phil Spector running for cover!
Also there has to be a big shout out for the ever excellent artwork on the album, a feature of every Arcade Messiah release, I’m always a sucker for a great album cover.
The first two tracks on the album are powerful, magnetic behemoths, Can Of Wormsand Electro Magnetic Divine both anchored on that hard hitting, grunge heavy guitar sound (one that any 70’s seminal metal band would be proud of) that is archetypical of the John Bassett sound, his urgent, edgy vocal adding further dynamism and efficacy to the songs. They move forward like an unstoppable force, inexorably heading wherever it is they want to go.
Hidden more in the background on the latter track is a rather elegant, 80’s inspired, keyboard sound and this comes to the fore on Show Me The Sun, a track more akin to John’s Sacred Ape project with its spooky, sci-fi inspired tone. Full on, in your face, heavy metal guitar returns on the intro to The Witch From The West, a compelling track that has opposing facets of a calmer, more reflective sound that is ying to the yang of that glacial inevitability of the heavier guitar and it’s a fascinating listening experience that draws you in to this musical juxtaposition of good and evil.
Title track The Host goes all techno and electronic on us again with a more laid back sound before opening up with some rather splendid guitar riffs and a mysterious undertone. John’s songwriting is as impressive as ever as each track lays its interesting tale before us, drawing you into a heavy, almost dystopian soundscape. Diagnosis is yet another fine song that takes John’s excellent guitar riffs and runs with them, if Ennio Morricone did stoner, doom rock Western movie soundtracks, this could well be one of them (trust me, it’s not as tenuous a link as it sounds!). I love the potent energy at the heart of this track, it is one of my favourites on the album.
The album closes with two shorter tracks, the haunting instrumental Wasteland, with its bleak, edgy guitar note and and austere, pared back feel (again, this could be a movie soundtrack but more in the Mariachi style methinks?) which then segues into the laid back, wistful nostalgia of Wildfire, quite a melancholy and reflective end to an album chock full of thunderous riffs and a primeval energy.
Well, Mr Bassett has only gone and done it again. I have no idea if it is a coincidence of his move to Ireland but this highly impressive songwriter and musician just keeps getting better and better. ‘The Host’, full of some of the most impressive riffs you will ever hear this side of Black Sabbath or Elder and yet containing moments of lucidity creating pathos and poignancy, is without a doubt, his best musical creation yet.
In this piece I talk to David Longdon of Big Big Train about his latest album, a collection of songs recorded in collaboration with the late Judy Dyble entitled ‘Between A Breath and A Breath’, which was released on the 5th September 2020.
DL – Thanks for writing such and insightful and sensitive review of the album, I really liked it and appreciate the kind words you wrote.
JWS – It was a privilege to be able to do so, I wanted my words to express my respect for Judy as a tribute and to acknowledge what must have been a labour of love for you. I really enjoyed it and we had it on yesterday whilst we were driving in Wales. We were driving from Dolgellau towards Porthmadog through the mountains and it was lovely music to accompany us as we were traveling.
DL – I am pleased that you are enjoying it, so I think Judy would approve of your choice of listening location too.
JWS – It’s obviously a labour of love for you really.
DL – Yes it certainly got that way at the end, I found out at the after show at the Hackney empire when she told me her diagnosis. I told her I can’t do anything about the medical side but I can get the album completed and so, a week later, I was in the recording studio getting things done and it’s been heads down ever since .
JWS – Well I feel that you have created a lasting memory and tribute to her.
DL – That’s very kind of you to say, I know shortly after she passed away I was kind of searching for it. It’s a strange thing because in my mind I thought she was in her house and that I could face-time her and talk about things and laugh about things as she has been such a powerful presence in my life for the last five years. If I need to find her I listen to the album, she’s there, very present in the music and that’s where her presence is. Rightly so too and I guess that is as she would want it to be.
JWS – I love the artwork for the album it is fantastic, Sarah has done a wonderful job with it.
DL – Sarah said that she wanted to give Judy the best of her and she was very happy to be involved in all of that. Sarah did a marvellous job of it all, along with the photographs by Sophocles Alexiou, who also shot the fabulous picture of Judy and I sitting by the fire where all great stories are told.
JWS – I have the CD version and there is a lovely picture of Judy with Jessie (Her greyhound).
DL – Again, another photo by Sophocles Alexiou. The portraits and the photographs are great, we were lucky to find Soph really.
JWS – I see Sarah incorporated jessie into the cover art too.
DL – Yes, it’s sort of based on Victorian Funeral Art really. The flowers are a wreath and are traditionally associated with funerals. The lilies and the others, if you look at the flowers closely some of them are in a state of decay, sort of past their best which is a look we were after. The crow’s skull is supposed to represent me, the wing is Judy and me and the crow, Grimspound, is on there as well and is a reference to a track of Judy’s called Crow Baby.
DL – I think the combination of Sarah, Sophocles, and Steve Vantis (who plays with Fish and who has worked with us since Merchants of Light doing graphics) working together, have all created something special that hopefully people will want.
JWS – Well everyone I have spoken to about this album is extremely excited about it and cannot wait to get hold of it which is encouraging.
DL – Yes, its very strange as when this comes out on the 25th that Dyble/Longdon will be done, completed. People have asked me if we will play these songs live and, at this stage, I cannot give an answer because everything is up in the air because of Covid. I feel like I’m living real life episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) at times, its all very strange. I’m talking about Judy a lot and that’s good and right too but its all very strange to me. It’s these strange times in which we are living at the moment.
JWS – Let us talk about some of the other tracks on the album like France, I wanted to chat about that because of my background in Progressive Rock.
DL – Judy and I wanted to do an epic track and, as Judy and I shared a love of France, it was a natural subject. Judy’s late husband Simon had French ancestry, the first part is about Judy and Simon’s time in France and also about the Occupation by the Germans in the war. Simon’s family still own a Chateau which was where the poet Jean Cocteau made the film La Belle et la Bête with Jean Marais as the beast and he would be eating breakfast in full makeup and the children of the household would see him made up eating so, France part two, is about that experience.
The song also includes most of Big Big Train playing apart from Dave – he appears on the first track Astrologers though, Rikard plays accordion, Rachel plays violin, Danny plays double bass and Greg plays bass and Moog Taurus bass pedals. I contribute guitars, piano, mellotron, flute vibraphone, marxaphone and effects.
JWS – I Love Rikard’s accordion on that.
DL – He learned it from his grandfather apparently, I’m not sure if it was his first instrument, but he certainly learnt a lots of polkas and such like. He does a great job of it all, Rikard’s a really great guy, very big hearted and he’s a rapacious consumer of comedy, he quotes Black Adder all the time.
JWS – And the story behind Obedience?
DL – Is about Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. When she was small her parents split up and her mother gave her arithmetic and algorithms to occupy her mind and would save her from her father’s madness, but you can’t stop the mind from wandering, can you?
JWS – Whisper is another great song…
DL – That song is about a friend of Judy’s called Jackie Morris who is an illustrator and writer and he was running a workshop about Faeries and asking if folklore had any relevance today. There was a lady who said that the distance between a breath and another breath could be an eternity in faerie world. It is also about an aunt of Jackie’s who, when she got older, lost the ability to speak loudly and was reduced to a whisper but I took it to be that it was about how, as we age, often older people’s voices are not heard.
We Didn’t want it to be old lady material, we wanted it to have some bite. It has teeth, it’s strident in places and it rocks in places. It has some huge soundscapes and comes back to these tiny fragile things too.
JWS – So what is happening with Big Big Train now?
DL – Well, we didn’t get to America or do the European dates as they were all cancelled until this virus situation goes away. The whole entertainment world is in a state of confusion at the moment as no one is sure when it will be safe to operate again, so, in the meantime, we have written the next BBT record and will look to record it later in the year. Next year I’ll do a solo album as well because it looks as if it will be this way for the short term future. Sarah and I are supposed to see the Who next year but if its still looking dodgy, then we wont be going, I simply won’t risk it.
JWS – Understandable, we’re supposed to see Genesis but its been put off till next year too. Although we did get to see you with BBT last year in Birmingham, it was a great show. We were on the front row and we really enjoyed it, we also saw you the year before in Basingstoke at The Anvil.
DL – Yes that was the night that England played. I thought we might not get many people but we did, we got a good crowd although England took a beating.
JWS – Anyway David, my time has gone, so thank you for your time and the information. We’ll get this all into shape and get it up online as soon as we can. (Ed. – You obviously mean the ‘Royal’ we, John?)
DL – Thank you John, it’s been great talking to you thank you for the review and all that you do, it really helps. Keep safe and well until next time, it is really appreciated.
Following the announcement that Lunatic Soul will release their new and seventh album Through Shaded Woods, through Kscope on 13th November: the band have premiered ‘The Passage’, the first single and video to be taken from the forthcoming album:
Of the new track Mariusz Duda comments “’The Passage’ is a signature piece of the new Lunatic Soul album, on which we enter a mysterious forest full of dynamic, ritual dances. The title “passage” is the destination for the main character, where he is to be cleansed and reborn. “Shaded Woods” are our worst traumas and nightmares, the most difficult moments in our life. Going through them symbolises facing and overcoming them. “Through Shaded Woods” is about reaching a better place in life, about giving yourself another chance.
“Shaded Woods” is also symbolic of our present, difficult times. Let us hope that at the end of this dangerous path we are on, we will have become richer in new experiences, wiser and much stronger, which is my wish for everyone. May this song, as well as the whole album, be like a torch, which not only makes the darkness disappear, but might come in handy when fighting monsters.”
On album number seven Mariusz Duda, the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and mastermind behind Lunatic Soul is extending his musical explorations to include dark Scandinavian and Slavic folk referencing bands like Heilung or Wardruna. Following the heavily electronic sound of previous albums Fractured and Under the Fragmented Sky, Through Shaded Woods is completely devoid of electronics and is the first album in Duda’s discography, on which he plays all instruments.
Mariusz found his inspiration for the album from his childhood home, an area of Poland known for its forests and lakes, ” I think I have always wanted to create an album steeped in nature and woodlands. These bring to my mind freedom, breathing and a dance ritual of coming back to nature, so I wanted the album to include such ritualistic primal dances, shamanic, Slavic and Viking moods. I wanted to mix it all up and put it all together, making “Through Shaded Woods” the most intense, dynamic and the most danceable album in my career.“
Mariusz Duda appears to have put the personal darkness that inspired his previous albums behind him, as more optimistic elements shine through in his new music. The album becoming musically “brighter” as it progresses – from the atmospheric introduction of “Navvie” through to the title track, which leads the listener to a melodious, trance like “Oblivion”, echoing the style of Dead Can Dance.
Through Shaded Woods will be released on CD; 2 CD featuring a bonus disc of 3 additional tracksincluding a 26-minute suite called “Transition 2; black vinyl LP in gatefold sleeve and digitally and is available to pre-order HERE (https://lunaticsoul.lnk.to/ThroughShadedWoods)
This autumn is about to become more and more exciting, as Avandra has now announced the title, tracklist and coverart for their upcoming album! The album shall be called Skylighting and features 7 brand new songs. The four core bandmembers, were joined this time around by keyboardist extraordinaire Vikram Shankar (Redemption, Silent Skies, Lux Terminus) who provided additional layers to the songs.
Production duties were shared by Christian Ayala and Daniel Schwartz (Astronoid) and mastering was in the hands of Jamie King (Between The Buried And Me, Scale The Summit, The Contortionist and more). The symbolic, spacey artwork was made by Mark Facey.
The band’s singer and guitarist Christian Ayala had the following to say about this album:
“This new album is the response to our current situation in the world due to everything that has happened to us. It became a voyage of loss and return through cosmic cycles in which I both searched inward and outward, combining my love for philosophy and current events into songs. We are really excited to share this record with all of you guys!”
The album will feature the following tracklist:
1: Celestial Wreaths (5:08) 2: Noetic Probes (5:12) 3: Life is not a circle, but a sphere (5:15) 4: Eternal Return (9:36) 5: ProcGen (5:44) 6: Afferent Realms (6:49) 7: New Origins (4:07)
This album will be released worldwide on the 20th of November 2020 through Layered Reality Productions on both CD and digital formats.
“No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
Crikey, there’s a quote that’s stood the test of time and how true it is. I am sat here listening to the much anticipated new album from the Norwegian masters of artful, melancholic prog, Airbag and it really has hit a nerve in the times we are living in. The soaring solos and mournful vocals paint a sparse musical scene but stir the soul and touch the heart in ways nothing else can.
‘A Day at the Beach’, the band’s fifth album, was released on 19th June, a mere four years after its predecessor ‘Disconnected’. Lyrically, it is very much a story of us and them, told by a husband, father and brother leaving his family behind into an unknown future. It’s the contrast between the desperate individual struggling to survive and people in power observing at a safe distance.
For the production of “A Day at the Beach”, Airbag has once again teamed up with long-time collaborator and engineer Vegard Sleipnes and it was mastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo. The album is produced by Asle Tostrup and Bjørn Riis and, as always, the cover is designed by vocalist Tostrup. The album, which is their first as a trio, also features talented guest musicians including Kristian Hultgren (Wobbler).
‘A Day at the Beach’ consists of six new songs recorded during autumn and winter of 2019-20 and inspired by the resurgence of 1980s electronica, new wave and movie scores. The album is an ethereal soundscape of cinematic vastness with a brooding, primeval backdrop.
Asle Tostrup’s vocals almost have a krautrock sensibility to them as he delivers each perfectly enunciated word. The music is full of tension and yet there is a wistful, almost nostalgic undercurrent that lies beneath. Central to the band’s sound is the incredible guitar work of Bjørn Riis, the vivid precision of his playing lends an otherworldly aura to every track and when he unleashes a solo it is a thing of iridescent wonder.
Every track is a mesmerising wonder of restrained grace, elegance and class with world weary feel deep at their core. Opener Machines And Men is ten minutes plus of Scandinavian theatrical brilliance with a driving, graphic urge that almost puts you in fight or flight mode and the complimentary A Day at the Beach (Part 1) puts you in a state of calm reflection with its laid back, almost intangible air washing over your senses.
The highlight for me is the utterly magical Into The Unknown, a mesmerising two-part melting pot of electronica inspired synthesisers, beats and percussion complimented by Asle’s halting vocals and a faint, background guitar that fades out before returning in all its guitar blazing glory. A jaw-droppingly brilliant piece of music that I listen to all the time, the guitar playing is just entrancing and spellbinding and will take you to another world (unfortunately only metaphorically!), take a bow Bjørn…
Sunsets is a much more in your face and urgent song with a rather funky bassline that is delivered with a compelling and weighty overtone. A powerful guitar riff, dominant drums and an authoritative vocal driving the track along with a much heavier vibe before swathes of stylish keyboards and punchy guitar wash over you. A Day at the Beach (Part 2) is an instrumental that gives a Scandinavian left field vibe to a Tangerine Dream soundscape, it draws you in and captivates you with its mesmerising repetitive tone.
The album finishes with the heart-rending, raw brilliance of Megalomaniac, near ten minutes of painfully exquisite music that leaves nothing out, like a soul laid bare for all to see. It builds slowly with Asle’s touching vocal and Bjørn’s haunting, plaintive guitar and the ever present edge of the percussion, digging deeper into your psyche and breaking down any barriers. A harsh, strident guitar riff then breaks clear before an utterly majestic guitar solo, full of pain but countered by pathos, dominates the song, leaving you spent and overcome with emotion.
Airbag have returned with a complex release, musically and emotionally. A serious album and one that is seriously impressive, combining ethereal soundscapes with their signature guitar driven progressive rock. They have created a mature, powerful sound that inspires on many levels, delivering one of the most sophisticated releases of the year.
B4tF is a progressive/alternative rock band from San Antonio, Texas. The music represents strong elements of prog as well as melodic passages that hope to maintain accessibility.
Drawing on a range of long time influence and admiration of bands such as Rush, Yes, Genesis, Tears for Fears, Gabriel, The Fixx, Ultravox and of course The Beatles. The first objective in the music is to create an emotional connection through melody and the lyrics.
The project began in 2014 when Patric Farrell found his many songs unfinished and at a stand still. The songs written and produced, but stuck. The missing element seemed to be a vocal that matched the level of the songwriting and production.
At the same time, Kenny Bissett was writing and experiencing the opposite, having a great ability to establish melody through his many years as a writer and vocalist. But not being able to hit his target as a producer. Although Patric and Kenny had been friends and musical comrades since the 80’s, they had never worked on a serious project together.
At a chance meeting in a coffee shop, Kenny and Patric comparing projects, Kenny just stated: “I just wish I could do something where I just showed up and sang.”
Realizing that a great vocal was the missing element to Patric’s music, and knowing that he admired Kenny’s vocal style, talent and work..the invite was issued to have Kenny sing on the stagnated music.
The result was the band’s outstanding debut album ‘Chasing Light’, released in 2015. The album had flavours of Yes(Rabin yrs), Rush(mid period), Tears for Fears and later Genesis, with some Beatles ‘peppered’ in as well and sold in over 12 countries around the world, with really kind and generous reaction from fans from so many different places.
‘Brave New World’ is the new album. This album is the next chapter in the metaphorical story that began with ‘Chasing Light’. The album was driven by a desire by Kenny and Patric to be a bit more progressive and a shade darker. Inspired by the emotion that the continuation of the personally driven lyrics would demonstrate, finding a ‘new life’ in a ‘new world’.
Much as I was impressed by the band’s debut release, ‘Brave New World’ is a big step forward. Infused with sc-fi themes, awash with synthesisers and punctuated with vivd guitar solos, this collection of tracks is as vibrant a release as you will hear this year.
Everything begins with the layered construction of the intro to title track Brave New World, a lengthy, immersive song rooted firmly in the world of progressive rock but the sort of prog rock you could imagine as the backdrop to an Aldous Huxley novel. It’s a mighty introduction to the album and a bold musical statement. Breathe takes a more easy going approach and delivers a fast paced track more akin to hard rock but no less impressive or enjoyable. Key to this is Kenny’s rather fine vocal with its unique delivery, adding that futuristic layer to an already modern sound.
This deeply engaging release continues with the elegantly relaxed vibe of The Sheltering Sky, a wistful and nostalgic song that has pathos and humility at its core and one that leaves a lasting impression. Zenith is an edgy and dramatic track that has a feeling of uneasiness around it before breaking out into a more melodic and uplifting song, Kenny’s vocal again at the heart of things.
More than just progressive rock, City of the Sun is a superbly crafted piece of music and one of the highlights of the album for me. The plaintive vocal and haunting music, highlighted by the expressive guitar of David Peña, speaks volumes about what this band are all about as musicians and songwriters. This release was dedicated to the memory of Neil Peart and no more can that Rush influence be heard than on Azimuth, and a fitting tribute to the legendary drummer it is. Dave was encouraged to run loose with his experimental approach to the guitar, and created the incredible otherworldly tone for the songs and it can really be heard here.
The final two tracks on the album, Distant Land and Line of Sight, are true epics in the sense of the word, both coming in at over twelve minutes long. The great thing about long tracks is that, when done right, it gives the artists chance to expand on a story and give it more life and B4tF do that here with mighty aplomb. These songs draw the listener in on an emotive musical journey, one where you feel welcomed and inclusive and Patric and Kenny are proving themselves to be master storytellers and skilled exponents of their art. Listening to DavidPeña’s articulate and masterly guitar, you feel that they have found the added layer of finesse that makes the band complete.
‘Brave New World’ has shown that the so-called ‘difficult sophomore album’ doesn’t happen to everyone. B4tF have created a masterful musical odyssey that builds on their debut release and brings everything full circle into a highly satisfactory conclusion and I recommend it very highly!
Pain of Salvation have been firmly at the forefront of the progressive rock and metal scenes for nearly three decades now. Led by mercurial multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gildenlöw, the Swedish band have consistently demonstrated a sincere passion for moving their own extraordinary music forward, while always remaining lyrically enlightened and ferociously intelligent.
The leaders in thoughtful, pained and poignant progressive-metal music, the band have had a stellar career that has produced ten studio albums and included such highlights as ‘Scarsick’, ‘Remedy Lane’, ‘Road Salt One’, ‘Road Salt Two’ and their brilliant previous release ‘In the Passing Light Of Day’. From elaborate and pointedly metal early classics through obtuse wizardry and genre-blurring mischief, Pain of Salvation’s all-encompassing musical vision has delivered some of contemporary prog’s most brave, bold and startling moments.
The band returned this year having deftly weathered the departure of guitarist Ragnar Zolberg, discovering a newfound enthusiasm for what happens next in the process.
“We did In The Passing Light Of Day and that ended with the departure of Ragnar from the band,” Gildenlöw recalls. “In the past, 10 or 20 years ago, that would probably have made me doubt the future of the band and all of that. I went through that a lot in the past with members leaving or things not turning out in a good way! It’s always difficult and it’s always something that makes you sad, when your little band family is disrupted, but I never came to the point where I doubted where to go or what to do. The other band members were pushing us on to continue, so I just kept writing music.”
The result of that sustained surge of creativity is ‘PANTHER’, the eleventh Pain of Salvation album and a very obvious landmark release in a career full of them. ‘PANTHER’ is a concept piece that delves into the conflicts and contradictions between so-called normal people and those who are wired entirely differently.
This is an album full of creativity and power, a simmering melting pot of brooding desire and thunderous riffs that creates a body of work leviathan in scope and content.
The edgy, almost funky opening track Accelerator gives a restless, tense feel to the music before opening into a sparse soundscape dominated by Daniel’s vocal before the stark, blasted landscape of Unfuture hoves into view, hewn from granite and taking no prisoners, “Welcome to the new world…”, indeed…
Gildenlöw has always been the master of simple, severe beauty and that is delivered in spades on the sublime Restless Boy, a song thats rawness is there for all to see. “This is not a test..”Pain of Salvation have a knack of producing songs that drip with bare emotion and Wait drops perfectly into that category with a simple piano note and acoustic guitar laying the foundations for a wistful and nostalgic piece of music that lives long in the memory. As graceful a song will be hard to find on any progressive-metal album.
So, who fancies a bit of electro-ambient progressive rock? Sounds an odd combination doesn’t it but PoS make it work brilliantly on Keen to A Fault, a fast paced, stylish track that works amazingly well. Fur is a short interlude that speaks to me of Eastern European 50’s film noire and segues into the title track. Well, what can I say about PANTHER? It’s superb, a complete melding of rap, oriental sounds and electronica that sounds like nothing else the band have ever done. It’s more akin to Linkin Park than anything else and, well, it’s just brilliant!
The final two tracks are Pain Of Salvation at their very, very best. The slow burning, monolithic power of Species has a simmering build up to a crescendo of crushing guitars and heartfelt vocals and then Icon closes the album out with humility and style in a similar vein to the title track from ‘In The Passing Light Of Day’. At once intense and dynamic, then calm and thoughtful, this is a song that contains all that is best about the band and showcases Daniel Gildenlöw’s consistent ability to write masterpieces of music.
One of the highlights of the year and an album that could become a seminal progressive-metal release, Pain Of Salvation have created a piece of music that could well be their finest yet.
There’s nothing else that sounds like a Tim Bowness album, they have such a unique palette of sound and a feeling that the music is washing over you with Tim’s soothing vocal deep at the core.
Tim is primarily known as the vocalist and co- writer with the band no-man, a long-running collaboration with Steven Wilson. Tim’s recent quartet of solo releases on InsideOutMusic/Sony have entered the official UK Top 5 Rock, Progressive, and Vinyl charts, as well as the official Scottish charts. Along with Steven Wilson, he is also the co-host of “The Album Years”, which has reached the Top 5 Music Podcast charts in over 25 countries (#1 in 10).
I’ve been a fan of Tim’s solo work since his first release with InsideOut/Sony – ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ about which I said… “Tim Bowness is not a slave to his art, he has added soul to the creativity and invention and has delivered an album that engages the listener on all levels.”
Each release since has shown how Tim’s stock, as not only a songwriter but as an artist who paints pictures with music, has risen exponentially. He is a musician who sees what he does as art and each album is a carefully crafted masterpiece which, to this listener at least, deserves to be listened to on vinyl with no distractions and preferably in a darkened room with a glass of full bodied red wine to hand.
To me, progressive music, be it neo-prog, art rock or similar, has all the attributes of what constitutes art. The intricate and sometimes complex music that weaves convoluted soundscapes around our conscience that we are left to decipher and then revel in has often left me speechless and held in a thrall as my mind leisurely decrypts it for me to savour and appreciate.
To listen to the first few notes of a Tim Bowness solo album is to enter a world of beautiful creativity where every note has its place and every word is carefully selected and then curated into perfection by his warm and soulful vocal.
‘Late Night Laments’ is another collection of superbly created musical gems where, contrasting with the sensuous beauty of the music, the frequently dark lyrical themes include meditations on generational divides, ideologically motivated violence, social exclusion, and a much-loved children’s author’s descent into madness.
This is a complex and ever evolving musical journey that, once drawn into, you remain, hypnotised by the elegance and grace of songs such as Northern Rain, We Caught The Light and Never A Place.
Delivering complex, sophisticated music without leaving the listener somewhat bewildered is an art in itself. This emotionally rich album combines a plethora of musical styles to create an intense, poignant and impassioned entry into Tim Bowness’ increasingly impressive solo catalogue.
UK HEADLINE TOUR FOR 2020 / 2021 CONFIRMED 1st Single – Cocoon released – video here
Jon Gomm, the UK based acoustic guitar virtuoso, has announced the details of his new album The Faintest Idea, due for release on Kscope on 16th October 2020, with this new album he has found new emotional depths in immense melodic pop landscapes.
When most people look at an acoustic guitar, they see exactly that – a wooden box with strings. As one of the pioneers of the modern fingerstyle sound, however, Jon Gomm has a rare gift for turning one instrument into what feels like an entire orchestra…
The Blackpool-born singer-songwriter’s 2003 home-recorded debut, Hypertension, was nothing short of a musical revelation: drumming beats, tapping chords and striking harmonics on his acoustic underneath that warm, soulful voice. Things changed for Jon with landmark single Passionflower racking up 17 million plus views on YouTube and other media platforms in 2012 – with British legend Stephen Fry describing him on mainstream television as someone “playing the guitar in a way I’d never seen it played before” and “an all-round genius”. Follow up album Secrets Nobody Keeps arrived in 2013, further cementing his stature as one of the driving forces behind an acoustic revolution – but now, having signed a label deal for the very first time in his career, he’s managed to truly refine the pop sensibilities and emotive expression within that unmistakable wall of sound. Latest full-length The Faintest Idea is set for release this October.
“I didn’t realise that my songs were worth anything beyond the crazy guitar playing,” shrugs the songwriter reborn, who originally started out on ukulele at the age of two. “When people started getting my lyrics tattooed on them, I had to accept that they’re not doing that because they’re fans of percussive guitar”
Perhaps one of the greatest surprises with The Faintest Idea is how it contrasts the incredible human warmth of Gomm’s acoustic articulation with more icy affairs, thanks to the synth parts and production work from Australian musician Andy Sorenson. Instead of a war between man and machine, the collaboration delicately cross-pollinates simple honesty with more forward-thinking atmospheres. It is a contemporary masterpiece – rich in its sense of paths travelled and roads taken, while also daring to gaze into the unexpected future.
“Andy has taken my raw, intimate solo acoustic performances, and placed them in an artificially expanded landscape of his own creation. I feel like I’m playing a gig, but the venue is a synthetic reality dreamworld. I strum a chord, and it bounces off a cyan cloud releasing a shower of notes, I hit another, and it echoes through a crystal chamber” Gomm muses.
The album earned its title through the notion that all of us, to some extent, are just The Faintest Idea. The singer/guitarist notes how that everything is made out of vibrating strings of probability, and it’s this scientific and spiritual meaning – as well as the more literal translation of total guesswork – that felt like the perfect summation of album number four… “It’s an enigmatic title,” smiles Gomm. “There’s a fine line between a metaphor and a pun, so I guess it dances on that.”
The album is complemented by the delicate hand drawn pen and ink cover art created by Lee Zimmerman.
Often cited as one of the most naturally gifted acoustic artists of the modern age, a one-man band with seemingly no limit to expression, it’s little surprise that the new music drew from the musician’s own experiences over the last five or so years. And while there have been moments of joyous celebration, by his own admission there has also been plenty of personal upheaval “This album has been a long time coming,” he reflects. “I tend to write in a really painstaking way. The last few years of my life have involved a lot of personal trauma – from me and my wife losing a pregnancy, through to losing other people in my life.”
There’s a sense of reinvention that arrives in The Faintest Idea’s 11 tracks – documenting a musician coming to terms with the talents that got him recognised and choosing to evolve into the unexpected. Despite having already gone viral and established himself as one of the modern-day masters of acoustic, this could very well be the release that sees the virtuoso transition to a mainstream audience far removed from the guitar community he’s long been revered by… “People knew I could play, I didn’t need to write an album to make that point anymore,” summarises Gomm. “And being aware of that brought out my music in a better way. The technique side can feed into the ego after a while. This is still acoustic guitar music, but the sound, approach and experiences behind it are totally different. I didn’t need to force myself to follow any musical philosophy when I could just make a beautiful-sounding album that was totally immersive and more emotional.”
Indeed, it’s as immersive and emotional as music gets. And while these are the most expansive recordings of JonGomm’s career so far, it still really just boils down to the magic of one man with his guitar and voice. And what a powerful magic it is.
The Faintest Idea is due to be released on 16th October on the following formats: *CD *Double gatefold LP with D-side artwork etching * Digitally *As a stunning limited edition deluxe 3 disc hardback book edition which will feature: CD1 – The Faintest Idea album CD 2 – The Naked Artist Mix – a stripped back version of the album a DVD containing6 exclusive performances filmed in a medieval church Guitar technique presentations A 35 minute Jon Gomm interview Song description videos The Faintest Idea in high resolution stereo audio. The beautiful book will feature Lee Zimmerman illustrations, song descriptions, handwritten lyrics and full guitar tablature for the song “Check You’re Still Breathing”.
The Faintest Idea – UK & Eire headline tour – tickets on sale now December 2020 Sat 5 – Huddersfield – Parish Pub Sun 6 – York – The Crescent Thu 10 – Trowbridge – Emmanuels Yard Fri 11 – Cheltenham – Frog And Fiddle Sat 12 – Swansea – Sin City
Jan 2021 Mon 4 – Southampton – Joiners Tue 5 – Brighton – Komedia Wed 6 – Bury St Edmunds – Apex Fri 15 – Nottingham – Rescue Rooms Sat 16 – Bristol – Thekla Sun 17 – Birmingham – Hare & Hounds Fri 22 – Manchester – The Bread Shed Sat 23 – Liverpool – Leaf Fri 29 – Leeds – Brudenell
Feb 2021 Wed 3 – Runcorn – Brindley Theatre Fri 5 – Milton Keynes – Craufurd Arms Sat 6 – Haverhill – Haverhill Arts Centre Sun 7 – Reading – Sub 89 Thu 11 – Cardiff – The Globe Fri 12 – Blackpool – Bootleg Social Thu 18 – Preston – The Ferret Fri 19 – Newcastle – Cluny Sat 20 – Glasgow – Oran Mor Sat 27 – Dublin – Academy 2
March 2021 Fri 5 – London – Bush Hall Sat 6 – Guildford – Boileroom
Many of you will be saddened with the cessation of daily routine and life, especially in the area of live music. Big Big Train have certainly had a rough time of all this with their inaugural headlining show at Rosfest in Florida being cancelled due to the virus. During this time David Longdon has not been idle, instead he has been able to complete a rather significant and a very personally special project with Judy Dyble (whose pedigree includes being Fairport Convention’s original vocalist and also being latterly of Trader Horne, alongside an interesting solo career of late). When Big Big Train undertook a run of shows at King’s Place in 2015, Judy was introduced to multi instrumentalist David Longdon and they bonded over their shared love for words and history to the extent that Judy performed a duet with David on The Ivy Gate from the band’s ‘Grimspound’ album and they expressed the desire to work together further at some point.
This new album is a further and, sadly, final chapter to that friendship as Judy passed away shortly after the completion of the album. So this release will be a celebration of that very special friendship and act as both a testament and a tribute to Judy.
‘Between A Breath And A Breath’ is a very fine album indeed, there is a lot of very fine music compositions and sublime lyrics on offer on this release. The artwork by Sarah Louise Ewing is exquisite & sensitive and the photos are lovely and dignified, especially the lovely photo of Judy and her beloved greyhound Jessie.
Of interest to many will be the appearance of most of BBT in some form or another and whilst the music is far more folky than rock, there is still enough punch to bring this into the progressive rock realm, especially on the longer tracks like the epic France and Whisper, both of which are intriguing compositions.
Judy wrote interesting lyrics and she often said strong things within her songs, as evidenced by her scorn for Astrologers who dupe people with their false promises. This song is the first single from the album and it is a great opener with a fine guitar line from Dave Gregory, whose complex playing adds layers of depth to the song. Obedience follows which is a wonderfully expressive track that swoops and soars with David providing an impressive vocal performance, especially on the chorus. Possibly the most powerful track on the album and one on which the BBT influence can be heard the most.
Tidying Away The Pieces is another song that speaks of preparing for death but is still somehow a positive experience. It is a beautiful song, very emotional but not cloying, rather it is practical and decisive. This song made me smile and cry at the same time. Between a Breath and a Breath is the title track for the album and is a duet between David and Judy in which they swap lines to great effect. A subdued song that has a totally other worldly feel to it.
Then we are onto side two of this remarkable record and the lengthy epic track France at nearly eleven and a half minutes. The song is split in two sections linked by a mirror ball dance section and is about impressions captured on a trip to France and the history encountered whilst there, how war came and changed the home again. This is a sombre piece but the music it contains brings great pathos to the proceedings. It is very expressive and has great guitar solo performed by David Longdon, sweeping accordion from Rikard Sjoblom, in fact pretty much all of BBT bring this song to life beautifully and sensitively, a truly magnificent piece of music.
Whisper is next and is another strong piece, the playing on this track is graceful and full, very satisfying. It rewards the listener with repeated playing, unlocking different nuances as the song plays on. It is about being isolated and left out but still being able to listen.
Final track Heartwashing is a bit different in that Judy doesn’t sing on it but she does speak the words. I gather that illness had consumed Judy by this stage and she couldn’t sing but she did speak with the final lines telling much of the tale when Judy says, “For what will be the next adventure, should there be such a thing…” Sadly it was not to be as she died on the 12th July in advance of the release of the album.
It is an absolute pleasure to be able to recommend this music to you all, between them David and Judy have gifted us with a graceful poignant and touching record that is a fine testimonial to the unique gentle talent of Judy Dyble and one that is brought to life by the great skills of David Longdon, the members of Big Big Train and a few others.
This is an album that you must listen to or you miss it at your peril. I cannot recommend this highly enough, I think it is one of my albums of the year. Indeed the beautiful music and the grace that the album offers make this worthy of a place in any albums of the year listing. Yes, it is that good, truly remarkable in fact!