Hello again my friends, I am back after being refreshed by a great holiday and am ready to rock and roll again. Having a week of ‘Heart FM’ brainwashing me was quite cathartic really, it gave me the chance to cleanse my musical palate with some chart music going back from the present day to up to 30 years ago (some very good, some very bad).
The effect of this daily diet of non-progressive music was to lift any jaded feeling I may ever get from having so much music rushing at me all the time and I can come back with a new appreciation of the music that I love to listen to, share and write about!
So, onwards and upwards with the latest review………
Charles Baudelaire once said, “In literature as in ethics, there is danger, as well as glory, in being subtle.”
I recently reviewed two albums by the Geof Whitely Project and found out the history……
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…..!!!!”
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!
A very prolific music maker, I concluded that…
“the music takes a deeper, more thoughtful route through your mind yet still retains a simplicity and a lack of over-complication at its core. It is perhaps more ‘music that seeps into your sub conscious’ than easy listening…….”
What I also found was that there were no major differences between the two releases, just subtle changes in style and tac, it was in no way detrimental but, if the next album had only subtle, minor changes, would this still be the case?
‘Circus of Horrors’ is due to be released on 31st October 2015, let’s see if there have been any major changes to the sound or whether the Geof Whitely Project has followed the ‘less is more’ mantra again?
Arny kindly sent me out the CD version of the new release and this had two bonus tracks on, is this the version to have? do they add anything, or should you stick with the download? read on and find out………
The first two tracks on the album are The Hunter and Burning Sky, you immediately get that smooth, precise vibe that was felt on the previous release ‘Supernatural Casualty’ with swathes of piano and keyboards, lush melodies and saxophone that just lulls you into a calm state of mind. Arny’s vocal takes a monotone, even route that is immediately recognisable, like some of the great 1980’s synth-pop bands. You feel that there is possibly a slight change to the previous sound, perhaps a bit more sophistication but it is still indicative of what has gone before and that laconic, laid back vibe remains.
For people who want full on, in your face music, you need to walk on by and look elsewhere, some may call this a bit one-dimensional and tame but, when you are in the mood, it really hits the spot and puts me in mind of Mike Kershaw and Fractal Mirror with its electronic edge. Baila Conmigo has a more upbeat tempo, catchy and pleasing on the ears as the guitar convolutes around the keyboard sound (very reminiscent of a clarinet), intertwining and mingling. It is a nice, uncomplicated instrumental that is almost a melodic amuse bouche, cleansing the musical palate.
Piano and string-like keyboards combine for a cultured note on the next couple of tracks. I’m Not Your Leader and Something’s Lurking see Arny putting more emphasis into his vocal, a more human note than before and it takes the songs nearly into ‘singer-songwriter’ territory. Pleasing and pleasant, the musical flexibility is a nice change from what has gone before on previous albums and shows a growth in the way that Arny puts warmth and soul into his composition and performance, yes it is no huge change but it is noticeable nonetheless. The former track is more moving and full of pathos where the latter has a real uplifting vibe with some rather tasty, fuzzy guitar work as well.
Downtown returns to that electronic feel that has been the more recognisable style of the Geof Whitely Project except this time it has a more excitable rhythm, a real jazz infused beat to it with the funky guitar note and sax. Perhaps the classiest track on the album, subtle nuances abound around the concise vocals and smooth instrumentation. I feel that I have definitely returned to the 80’s with the intro to Work of a Human Mind, the swathes of piano and keyboards wash over you and that monotone vocal returns to maximum effect. It has a sparse, laid back feel to it, precise and meticulous. Heartfelt and quite melodramatic, just like the best 1980’s synth-pop tracks were, throw in a riff that any of the guitarists from the period would be proud of and what more could you ask for?
Piano driven, combined with a punchy driven riff, From All Sides should really work but it leaves me feeling short changed, like it was added last minute. Perhaps it is because it lacks the distinction of the other tracks but, for me, this is one song that just doesn’t gel. Story Book sees Arny give his voice that added timbre and power to lift what could have been another ordinary song up to a higher level. On this track it is the vocal that is the star and the instrumentation is there as back up. When the haunting guitar breaks out it really adds a touch of added lustre and leaves me nodding my head in appreciation.
The final song on the digital version of the album is the title track Circus of Horrors and it begins with a creepy fairground ride intro. On this track Arny really goes progressive big style in quite a departure from the ‘safe’ sound that has gone before. An intricate and complicated intro is driven along by a thumping drum beat and pounding piano note to give a feel that is ‘Hammer House of Horrors’ to the core. The vocals begin quite macabre and dramatic and give quite a disturbing atmosphere to the song. Perhaps more deep and meaningful than some of the other tracks on the album, there is something pensive and doleful about the whole thing. Edgy and quite disturbing, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and gleefully nervous in its deliciously dark way.
So the CD version has two extra tracks and I am here my friends to tell you to buy it over the digital download for the two bonus songs are the biggest deviation from what the Geof Whitely Band has done before to date and in a very good way……..
Aurora Borealis does begin with the signature intro we have become accustomed to but soon expands into a different animal indeed, there is added depth to the sound as if it is opening into a much bigger soundscape. An instrumental with space rock pretensions that gets under your skin with its brilliant cello sound and meditative piano note, it leaves you with more questions than answers with its expansive note.
Finally we are given Timepeace, a song that you would swear was from a completely different record, it is really nothing like anything that has gone before. Deep, dark and meaningful with a vocal performance that drips sincerity and pathos, it has more akin with a melodic rock ballad. The guitar work is exceptional and just adds to the feeling of ‘where the f**k did this come from?’. ‘Subtle’ is definitely not a word you would use for the transformation on this track and I really like the direction that it goes in, wonder if Arny has an album of this more direct musical approach on the sidelines?
So ‘Circus of Horrors’ sees the Geof Whitely Project evolve again with little changes like what we have seen between previous albums. ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is the saying and, to a point, it still applies here. A very nice album but, if those two bonus tracks are indicative of what might come to fruition in the future, there is a hell of a lot more to come from this bountiful and creative musician.
Releases on 31st October 2015
Order the digital version from bandcamp
Order CD direct from the GWP website