“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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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 PiedPiper of Hamelin and The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and for those of you who like fantastic instrumentation and stunning vocal performances, look no further.
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 Gruffyet 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 SpikeMilligan 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 andtouched 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.
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.
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.
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……
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.
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 Payne, Jason 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).
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 Payne, Jason 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.
I must ad mit to a vested interest in this release as my alter-ego is PR Chief for Bad Elephant Music, the label that the album was released on but this is a fair review and not biased in any way (your Honour) so please sit back and enjoy.
To me Music is more than a mere soundtrack, it has become a part of my life. Music is a treasure that I seek out at any given opportunity.
“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” – Leopold Stokowski
That is one of my favourite quotes because I don’t like to live my life in silence, I fill every pause and every gap in my whole being with the joy of music and one of my favourite things is finding an artist whose work I have never had the pleasure of hearing before. It is like hidden treasure that is unearthed and unveiled in all its glory, to wash over you and become part of your life.
I have to ask the question of where this artist or musician has been all my life, why have I not heard their music before? But I cannot berate myself in any way, I just need to enjoy the fact that I now can appreciate that music in my life every day. The musician in question this time is the mercurial jh, a solo artist from London. jh is the nom de guerre of Jon Hunt, he writes, arranges, performs and mixes all his material himself, with the exception of some of the drums.
It is impossible to describe jh’s music in a nutshell, as the only ethos he has is to make exactly the music he wants with no regard to commercial thought. This makes him extremely difficult to market, but more importantly his integrity remains intact. His albums hearken back to the spirit of the ‘album’ as being an artform in itself, jh’s music is eclectic, honest, and quintessentially English. His recordings are startlingly honest pieces of work that reveal more and more on each listen.
There have been three previous albums, all of which have been self-released, 2008’s ‘Truth and Bullshit’, 2011’s ‘Wanderlust’ and 2013’s ‘So Much Promise’.
2015 has seen jh link up with the eclectic record label Bad Elephant Music to release a fourteen track compilation of his most iconic tracks to date. ‘Morning Sun’ will be released to an expectant public on March 16th and Jon took a minute to talk about the record and his link up with BEM.
“Morning Sun is a 14-track, 77-minute retrospective of my three albums to date (Truth & Bullshit (2008), Wanderlust (2011) and So Much Promise (2013)). I have tried to showcase all aspects and styles of my music, and sequence it all in a coherent way.
I have had some complaints and sarcastic comments regarding songs I have left off at the expense of some of those included, but this will always happen with compilations unless you burn yourself a personal CD!
I’m very happy with it, and I thank David Elliott of Bad Elephant Music for letting me have free rein to choose the tracks myself. It’s great to be working with BEM, as they have such an array of talent, and everyone involved with the label from the CEO to the acts absolutely lives and breathes music.
The fact that David and Co. enjoy and understand mine is a great feeling, as you don’t usually associate this kind of affinity with the term ‘Record Label’! I’m looking forward to a long and rewarding partnership.”
Enough talking, time to immerse myself in this labour of love……
The first song Next Time begins with a welcoming introduction that takes you straight into Jon’s distinctive vocals, like Billy Bragg with a personality transplant. This slightly lilting and melancholic track is definitive of that singer/ songwriter style song with expressive and clever lyrics and a velvety touch to the music. The earnest vocal delivery and classy guitar add a touch of elegance to the hometown feel. I Wanna Spend my Summer With a Rich Girl flies into view like The Beatles chased by Blur in a fiery coach and horses. It doesn’t just make your ears prick up as hit them with a taser! The jangly guitar note and wide boy vocals are instantly catchy and it runs along at a rollicking pace with a huge grin on its face. Jon takes some of the better elements of Britpop and melds them to his own recipe to produce a song that couldn’t come from anywhere but England, the chorus is a work of genius. Originally part of the 40 minute London Road Suite on ‘Wanderlust’ the next track London Road gives a hint of the more progressive and expressive side to jh. The song begins with a measured and meaningful introduction, a gentle piano and Jon’s wistful vocal invoking in you a nostalgic and pensive state of mind. When the strings join in it brings a lump up in my throat, I get the feeling it is a nod to sepia tinted past where life, whilst being hard, was much more simplistic. As the track builds up and gets into its stride your mind opens to the poetic vista that the music hints at. A painfully beautiful song that leaves you with a sense of loss as it comes to a close.
The off-beat ending to the previous song is a perfect introduction to Lucy’s Party and you are transported to the pop sensibilities of the 1980’s. More highbrow than some of the nonsensical fare from that decade, there is inventiveness to this track and it has more than a hint of mischief to it. The vocals are delivered in a style more akin to spoken word and the clever use of the drum machine adds that feel of big hair and bigger collars that the decade that taste forgot will always imbue. Wartime Spirit is a song that has an intimacy to its core, one man and his guitar playing to a rapt audience. The pared back acoustic guitar and heartfelt vocals draw you in and, when it opens out and blossoms with the clever drum sound, you nod in silent appreciation, a serious yet approachable track with honesty deep at its heart. Quirky from the start Fort Dunlop has an off-kilter and slightly chaotic feel to it as it messes with your head. The initial instrumental seems to be deliberately obtuse and out there with a drum beat that seems set to random, it is a cacophony of noise that imparts a delicious agony to your eardrums. There is a feel of a David Lynch film soundtrack going on here as it moves into an electronic jazz vibe unlike any other track on the album, you are kept guessing at every turn with this song ,it is not for the faint hearted but you get out of it what you put in.
A nod to Pop-Punk with its grungy, reverb heavy guitar and antsy vocals In Ascension is raw and earthy and a short, sharp punch to the kidneys. Almost like a musical palate cleanser after the intensity of the previous two tracks, it holds nothing back and is a riotous alternative to the sophistication elsewhere. An ethereal track with a hint of discord hidden behind the beauteous exterior Angels begins with a subdue gentility and an apprehension that leaves you holding your breath, almost unable to move. The subtle use of a distorted guitar leaves a trail of dissonance to be followed on this intelligent and idiosyncratic piece of music. As the tension builds and the vocals take a digitised note the hairs on the back of your neck begin to rise. There is such expressionism deep at the coal face of this music, it is captivating and holds you rapt in attention as it plays with your sensibilities. After the haunting, fierce aura of the previous track I’ll See You Tomorrow in a Different Light has a delicate fragility and refinement to it. Subtle instrumentation and an earnest vocal with an emotional catch combine as the song glides in like a breath of fresh air. Another composition solidly in the singer/songwriter style, I love its underlying simplicity and modesty. Taking the social commentary of a Paul Weller and imbuing it with a guitar note reminiscent of 60’s pop, it takes you on a sun-kissed musical journey that leaves a touch of joy in your soul.
What comes next is simply jaw-dropping, taking the progressive-rock mantle and running with it full tilt, Making Tea is Freedom requires you to take eighteen minutes out of your day, sit down, put the headphones on and forget about everything else. When I first heard this multi-faceted track, I just played it straight back again, it’s that good, jh takes all of his influences and puts them into one big melting pot. There is the social commentary of Billy Bragg and Paul Weller, the alternative style of Talk Talk, the Britpop feel of Blur and the progressive tendencies of Porcupine Tree and Genesis but, that is all they are, influences, Jon takes them into himself and gives them some a part of his own soul to deliver a monumental musical epic that shakes you down to your roots. An acoustic guitar that seems more than three-dimensional takes the helm and drives the early part of the song on its fateful route. A hesitant and understated vocal provides the narration, leading you to a crossroads where you wonder what direction you will be taken in next. A flamenco hued guitar grabs your attention and roots you to the spot before your world is turned upside down. A guitar note that has a sinister undertone creeps into your psyche and makes your skin crawl a little, in an enjoyable manner. The middle part of the track is an instrumental smorgasbord of ideas all held together by that distinctive, raw-edged guitar note and transfixes you in its full on glare. The piquant musical onslaught continues unabated, running through your very soul before it breaks onto your aural receptors and you are left empty as the musical landscape turns bleaker. In your mind, an open, blasted vista appears before you, waiting to be populated by the music as you focus on that sound hailing from the distance. The drama comes full circle as Jon’s powerful vocal leads the final moments of euphoria and his superb guitar playing brings this monumental track to a close. A full on rock track as heavy as they come, like a wall of sound pressing you against your chair, The Sky is Breaking is BIG in every sense. A demonstrative vocal allied with a crunching guitar note and a huge drum sound fill every silence and shout from the rooftops on this enjoyable romp. Reminiscent of The Who at their pomp but with Jon’s distinctive touches, it is one of my favourite tracks on the album, especially that notable guitar sound that has an unending depth to it. Your ears are left with a not unpleasant ringing sound in them as it comes to a triumphal close. Collapse has an anecdotal feel to it, a tender, heartfelt vocal accompanying the ever present acoustic guitar that has rapidly become synonymous with this intriguing artist. With an integrity that comes deep from his heart, it is powerful and soul stirring.
Something’s Happening Here sees Jon take his guitar and enjoy himself again, another fast paced escapade that carries you in its wake, kicking and screaming as you try and rein it in. However, there is a seriousness deep down that surfaces now and again, an antidote to the frivolous feel, one that would be sure to be a live favourite with its sing-along chorus and high energy delivery. This superb collection of songs has to, unfortunately, come to a close at some point and the final track is aptly called The End. It does have feeling of finality to it, amongst the gentle fragility and sorrowful note of the vocals. The whole song is contemplative and forlorn and plucks at the heartstrings with the feelings of loss and yearning that it engenders in your heart and soul. A sublime and rarefied track that brings to mind 10CC and I’m Not in Love and leaves you glad to have listened to it but sad that it is over.
This is a compilation of songs that are thoughtful and thought provoking from a musician who is comfortable in his own skin and has found his own niche. Eclectic, quirky and off-beat jh may be but, overall, there is something rather clever and intelligent at the core of it all. Distinctly English and proud of it and one of the best singer/songwriters at play today, you could do hell of a lot worse than invest in this release.
I have myself a dilemma. I have often said in the past that I am not a fan of growly vocals in the main. On the majority of albums where I have encountered them they have seemed to detract from the generally impressive music and clean vocals that they accompany. Occasionally they actually can compliment the rest of the music but, to my ears anyway, those occasions are very few and far between.
Recently I reviewed Anuryzm’s latest release‘All is Not For All’ and I was impressed by the way the growls were integrated relatively seamlessly to deliver a very good album. Will lightening strike twice as I approach the review of another progressive metal album with the seminal ‘cookie monster’ vocals front and centre?
Subterranean Masquerade and their latest release ‘The Great Bazaar’ were brought to my attention by social media and their record company Taklit Music.
The PR tagline is:
“Welcome to the carnival of the dysfunctional and the disturbed”
Interesting start eh? Lets find out more….
The band were initially formed in 1997 by mastermind and guitarist Tomer Pink and came to the attention of the music world back in 2000 with a cover version of Peter Murphy’s ‘Cuts you Up but the first official band release was 2004’s two track E.P. ‘Temporary Psychotic State’.
This was followed by 2005’s full length release ‘Suspended Animation Dreams’ before Tomer departed the US to take a hiatus travelling the world. 8 years later he returned to the studio with a new line up to record the ‘Home’ E.P. which was released on Tomer’s own label, the already mentioned Taklit Music.
2015 sees the latest line up Tomer, Matan Shmuely (drums), Or Shalev (guitar), Golan Farhi (bass), Shai Yallin (keys) and new vocalist Kjetil Nordhus and the release of the band’s most ambitious album yet, ‘The Great Bazaar’.
“This is the first time I feel like we are a real band and not just a studio project.”
Let’s see what we have in store for us…….
The album starts with an Eastern orientated guitar heavy intro (worthy of OrphanedLand)to Early Morning Mantra that immediately grabs my attention with its catchy upbeat rhythm and addictive riffing. Almost melodic rock but with just enough pizzazz to lift it above the ordinary, the addition of string like keyboards is a clever touch. There is an enigmatic break into a vocal section that is staccato and edgy, slightly apprehensive before it opens up, with a snatch of a growl, into a flowering chorus. A technical progressive metal interlude, perhaps a tad over heavy with the growly vocals, provides a counterpoint as it segues into a sharp instrumental break complete with flute to really push the progressive buttons. An interesting start to the album and one that leaves me intrigued as to what will follow, the run out at the end is a really interesting juxtapose to the rest of the song. Relive the Feeling takes a more straightforward hard rock route with a pacy, fire breathing intro that lights the blue touch paper and lets all hell break loose. An edgy riff drives things along before the fulsome vocals begin, awash with passion and fervor. When the cookie monster voice begins it seems slightly at odds with the melodic background that it is delivered over, the jury is out this time, especially when you consider the clean vocal delivery of the chorus. Not to mind, a nice guitar break delivers an additional punch and an extended finish to an intriguing song.
That Eastern feel returns with Tour Diary, the introduction is all string effects before an earnest vocal, touched with a hint of darkness delivers a mysterious verse, slightly melancholy and sombre. There is a serious sense of regret at the heart of this song and the guitar solo is delivered in a wistful and mournful fashion. A song that has one foot firmly symphonic rock, it is quite an attractive proposition while it never moving any boundaries. Did someone mention wistful? The introduction to Nigen has ‘forlorn regret’ written large all over it and that feeling of longing runs throughout this short but tasteful instrumental. The perceptive saxophone adding real class to an already very likeable song. Perhaps the most mainstream track on the album Blanket of Longing is actually a very clever song. The intro is upbeat and inventive, all acoustic guitar and strings, before breaking into a neat riff and calming down before the vocals deliver an impassioned tale. This is proper hard rock with a touch of hair metal and showcase the versatility of Kjetil’s voice. A charismatic and engaging piece of music with just enough subtlety added in parts to make it interesting. This track also contains the best use of that growl type vocal and it works very well.
Specter begins with a lot of Eastern promise and follows with a crushing guitar riff that shakes you to your foundations. The drumming is precise and profound and the tale continues with the superb vocals. Heavy metal combined with Eastern tradition is quite an tempting combination when delivered with aplomb like this. There is a sense of mischief at the heart of the song, as if it has a metaphorical twinkle in its eye, as it bounds along. A mesmeric instrumental interlude adds a hint of pure showmanship and mystery to what is my favourite track on the album. An inventive and very gratifying track comes to a close with a return to that magical eastern note. This relatively short album comes to a close with the longest track Father and Son which begins with a gently strummed intro before the song begins properly with anguished and forlorn vocal delivery. This song is very much a lament, a heartbreaking ode and one that I am not sure benefits from the growling vocal. It does seem to grate a tad in places and, if I am being honest, takes some of the enjoyment away for me. The powerful and transcendent guitar playing soon makes me forget my slight disappointment though and, when the growl is subdued behind the imposing music, it does seem to add another layer of completeness. There is a subdued interlude in the middle of the track, quite meditative, before you are blind sided by a brilliant little off kilter progressive section that really makes you smile with its tongue in cheek technical efficiency and abundant joie de vivre. As the song comes to close clean and growling vocals are interlaced to good effect and the finale is an arresting combination of folk style instrumentation with choral style vocals before a sombre piano note brings everything to a satisfactory conclusion.
To be blunt this album does not solve my dilemma, in places the growls add considerably but, in others, they don’t work for me. What is true however is that it does not detract from what is overall a very enjoyable and impressive record that has delivered more than enough to leave me hoping there will soon be a follow up.
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 🙂
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 SteveHowe-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.
Something of a hidden gem, Italian band Camelias Garden deliver a beauteous blend of folk rock and progressive rock to warm the soul and lift the heart. The delicate vocals and ethereal musicianship is a wonder to behold and in ‘Kite’, the E.P. follow up to the equally impressive ‘You Have a Chance’, they deliver an undoubted highlight of the year so far. Hopefully this will widen their audience considerably, in fact it is only 3 euros for the mp3, what are you waiting for???
Hailing from Chicago, District 97 were formed in 2006 as an instrumental tour de force. Wanting to expand their sound with the addition of a practised vocal talent, they found ex American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt and the addition of her excellent vocals has produced a complex sound laced with brilliant harmonies. The musically adventurous style produced two releases, ‘Hybrid Child’ and ‘Trouble With Machines’ before they took another step forward with this latest release, one which is garnering praise across the whole progressive community.
German progressive rockers RPWL have been around since 2000 and produced a multitude of excellent mellow prog rock releases. Bass player Chris Postl formed his solo project Parzivals Eye and released the debut album ‘Fragments’ in 2009 and this year has seen the excellent follow up ‘Defragments’. Featuring the vocal talent of Christina Booth and the fiery guitar virtuosity of Ian Bairnson it is quite enigmatic. From straight laced progressive tracks to intricate wonders and an impressive acoustic cover of ‘Long Distance Runaround’, there seems to be something for everyone. Not an album for those who like their music more challenging but, at the right moment in time, it certainly hits the spot.
I called the man behind Tiger Moth Tales, Peter Jones, ‘batshit crazy’ when I reviewed his previous release ‘Cocoon’ and he has gone on to prove me quite correct in my assumption. Challenged to write, record and release an album in 28 days he has come up with one of the year’s most fun filled records so far and not at the expense of any quality. With tracks based on childhood fairy tales, but giver Peter’s own inimitable spin, ‘Story Tellers Part One’ is a grin inducing journey through our early days steeped in remarkable music and intelligent lyrics. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that this man is one of the most talented song writers out there.
Formed in 1989 and now with 11 full length albums behind them, Echolyn have become a connoisseurs progressive rock/alt-rock band. Not out there and in your face, however, you will often hear their name said in hushed and revered tones among those in the know. I am a late comer to their charms but having delved into their 2012 self-titled release quite a lot of late I now know what I have been missing. This beautifully melodic, mature homage to small town America is quite a revelation indeed and has an honesty rooted deep in its core. One band that, despite being relative;y new to me, I can heartily recommend and I am hoovering up their back catalogue with quite indecent haste.
‘What a refreshing change….’ became the tagline for a well known brand of cider in a run of 1990’s adverts. Indicating that, every now and then, it was good to think out of the box and go for something that you wouldn’t usually choose or be associated with.
This can be pertinent to a lot of things in life including your musical tastes. We all have our favourite types of music and bands we listen to and there is nothing wrong with that. Every now and then, however, I like to step out of the box or even take a trip down memory lane to listen to something new or something from a genre that doesn’t resonate as much with me nowadays.
I used to be a huge fan of Progressive Metal and the likes of Dream Theater and Symphony X and have seen the former play live quite a few times but, in the latter years, my taste has gravitated away from this style of music. Not too far away that I don’t like to reminisce now and again though and, recently, a few releases have caught my attention. I’d like to start with Anuryzm……
Anuryzm is a progressive thrash metal band consisting of six members from different cultural backgrounds and is based in theUnited Arab Emirates (in the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai).
Originally started by founder and lead guitarist JohnBakhos, after many ups and downs and line up changes, the debut album ‘Worm’s Eye View’ was finally released in 2011.
The now-settled line up sees John joined by his old school band mate, vocalist Nadeem Bibby, Imad Dahleh on drums, bassist Rany Battikh and Jay Jahed on keys.
To date, the band has performed extensively in the local & regional musical scenes, including the Dubai Rock Fest and the Byblos International Festival. They have also shared the stage with artists such as Black Sabbath, AvengedSevenfold, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nightwish, Epica, Dark Tranquillity, and more.
Now signed to Melodic Revolution Records, their latest release ‘All is Not For All’ was released on 15th June 2015.
If you wondered about the album title, this is what the band say:
“The album title ‘All Is Not For All’ is a warning to those who claim that they can have their cake and eat it too. Not everything can be handled by everyone, whether it be money, fame, women or power.”
And the general themes of the album:
“The album’s songs span a variety of topics including humbleness, nanotechnology, illness, astral projection, extraterrestrial encounters, love, longing and remorse, third culture upbringing, displacement and Japanese warrior code (Bushido) to name a few.”
Time to see what ‘All is Not For All’ is, after all, for me…..
Opening track Mineral begins very low key with subdued vocals and keyboard leaving an air of suspense. The guitar that follows just adds to that atmosphere aided by some restrained drums and a delicate piano. It is all very civilised so far with Nadeem’s cultured vocal lending gravitas to the stylish calm that surrounds him. Definitely more ‘progressive’ than ‘metal at the outset of the album with the added intricacy of John’s classy guitar run. ‘Metal’ soon follows ‘progressive though as the track immediately segues in to Full Agonist as a bare-bones riff kicks in with some powerful, staccato drumming high tailing it along for the ride. There is a polished feel to the music, an early promise of what’s to come, Nadeem shows the other side to his voice with an in-your-face delivery that immediately grabs your attention and John enters the fray with some fiery guitar licks and interventions that just leaves you nodding your head in appreciation. Did I hear some growly vocals there? hmmm, never mind, they in no way detract from the enjoyment (it is not often you will hear me say that). A proper ‘metal’ song with some progressive elements interspersed between the riffage, this is fun so far, let’s see where it leads….
The next track is the first single released from the album Humanoid, a Sci-Fi epic about being watched by intelligent ETs who question whether they started us off on the right path to technological awakening or whether it was a mistake to give away knowledge. A crushing riff introduces the song, proper metal now, one that gets me wishing I had hair to mosh with! Superb flashes of guitar and intense rhythm work really add to the might of this track. Nadeem gives another monster vocal performance, really reminiscent of Russell Allen, to add a touch of those might prog-metal pioneers Symphony X, even the growling is catchy (yes, I did just say that). There is some consummate musicianship on show here with a blazing guitar run blowing you away. The eastern influenced mystic interlude just adds to the feeling of solemnity. A seriously addictive track that has you reaching for the repeat play button. Depolarized begins with a an almost blues bent to the intro. Here the guitar and bass lead the track along before vocals and drums join in. The muted voice has a yearning, straining feel to it, the elaborate guitar adding dynamism, building up to something profound. This track is perhaps the most balanced between the progressive and metal elements in its storytelling style, laid back instrumental sections and complex solo.
A pause for breath at the start of The Challenger before a thunderous riff knocks you out of the way with no apology. Heavier than a ten tonne heavy thing (thanks Queensrÿche) it pulverises you into submission with some mighty drums and that potent guitar note. The vocals (including the growling) just add to the feeling of barely hidden menace that is all around this deliciously dark song. It takes no prisoners in its execution and delivery and is pleasantly satisfying, coruscating guitar solo and all. Like a breath of fresh air Oceans Apart enters on the delightful tone of an acoustic guitar and gently whispers serenity in your ear after the bombast of the previous track. Emotive and calming, it is a sea of tranquility compared the energetic aggression that surrounds it and leaves your aural synapses suitably refreshed and ready for the next onslaught.
Title track All is Not For All walks confidently into the room accompanied by an echoing guitar and a synth-heavy back note. The drums are kept decidedly low key at this point of the song before the blue touch paper is lit and off we go!! The tempo and intensity rise as a measured riff sets the pace. Vocals join in, not quite a full growl but the intent is obvious, Nameed interjects clean vocals to add a feel of honesty and this compelling track strides on. A convoluted section follows with mysterious sounding guitars and repetitive drumming, the vocals more demanding and demonstrative and almost moving into thrash metal territory whilst walking the dividing line expertly. An intricate guitar run-out leads us to the close of this impressive song. A taut, funky riff drives 199x along from the start before an almost electronic grind kicks in, you know you are moving into serious territory here. Slightly off beat drums add a wild feel to things and an almost hard rock vibe seems to infuse the song. Deliberately intent vocals and some serious ass-whoopin’ guitar add a groove metal feel to the increasing smorgasbord of metal influences. The guitar solo leaves you temporarily blinded with its intensity before a swirling Hammond-like keyboard lends a sense of stoner rock induced psychedelia to complete the full set. Quite mad and incredibly interesting.
The mood is subdued at the beginning of Impermanence but it doesn’t take long for that signature guitar sound to erupt from the depths. A manic riff ensues with hushed vocals lending a demonic feel to the track. Furious and ferocious it claws at your damaged pysche in a huge wall of sound that envelops your whole being. The fiendish growling vocals are unleashed upon the unsuspecting and add a real intimidating feel to the song. Those of a weak heart and bladder should not enter for their own good but I love the diabolic sense of fun it imbues as the guitar fires off like a maniacal cackle. My first foray into Prog-Metal for a while comes to a close with the final track Perispirit. A meandering guitar line leads in a heartfelt and earnest vocal performance from Nameed. Some elaborate guitar trickery follows from John, all neat and precise before the song opens up with a commanding riff and weighty turn to the vocals. Seriously dense riffs abound with matching vocals yet the chorus is seriously addictive and adds a slight levity to the monstrous sound that surrounds you. John fires off yet another burning solo and then a light, acoustic interlude foxes you for a moment before the ferocity returns. Now I know what it is like to be run over by a truck, survive and enjoy it!
Well, my first foray back into the world of Progressive Metal was a thoroughly enjoyable one. Music like this is never going to break new ground or forge a new furrow but I never expected that. What I got was a really good album delivered by excellent musicians who obviously know their music inside out. The musical world may just have found itself some new Prog-Metal Titans and I will be keeping an eye on these talented guys.
Released through Melodic Revolution Records on 15th June 2015.
“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….
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.
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……..
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.