New video for ‘I Don’t Know Why’ by KINO featuring Pete Trewavas, John Mitchell and Craig Blundell

Kino are set to release their new album ‘Radio Voltaire’ on March 23rd, 2018, arriving 13 years after the band’s much-loved debut ‘Picture’ back in 2005. It sees John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot) & Pete Trewavas (Marillion) teaming up once more, with Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) on drums & John Beck (It Bites) guesting on keyboards.

Yesterday saw the release of the third and final track to be taken from the album prior to release, titled ‘I Don’t Know Why’:

Pete Trewavas comments: “This is a kind of Jellyfish/Queen inspired song which I wrote just towards the end of the first Kino album sessions. It was just too late to be on the record but I remember playing it to John Mitchell while we were at his finishing off the ‘Picture’ album. At the time I expected it to be on the second album, which never happened until all these years later.”

The album will be available on Limited CD Digipak (including bonus tracks), Gatefold 180g Double Vinyl (incl. CD) & Digital Download. Digital pre-orders on iTunes and Amazon receive ‘The Dead Club’ immediately. Pre-order now here: www.insideoutmusicshop.com

ecorded at the end of 2017, writing began at the end of that Summer. “We actually began the writing process in late August” says John Mitchell. “Pete had a few tunes and so did I, and we went from there.” Mitchell and Trewavas were both a crucial part of the original band more than a decade ago, with the former providing lead vocals and guitar parts, while the latter played his trademark bass lines and also contributed backing vocals.

Keyboard player John Beck, who is also a bandmate of Mitchell’s in It Bites, has been brought back. But while he was fully involved on the debut album, this time his role is that of a guest musician. “Yes, I am delighted to say we’ve gone John on board. His keyboard playing is splattered throughout the album, and I’ve also done the odd keyboard part myself.” The task of drummer this time fell to Craig Blundell, as Mitchell explains: “This time around Craig was the obvious choice to be the drummer, as far as I was concerned. I have worked with him so much that there was nobody else in the frame.”

Of the albums direction, Mitchell illustrates: “The title sounds very cool and obviously there’s a connection with the band Cabaret Voltaire. But Voltaire himself (the 18th century French philosopher) had a fascination with death, which appealed to me. He also stood for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. On top of that, I love the idea of a radio station that would reflect his views on life and cut through the bullshit which seems to be all over politics. Now, that is the type of radio station I think would reflect what a lot of us want to hear.”

The album cover has been designed by Paul Tippett, who is one of the most in demand artists of the modern era. “I like what he’s done with this sleeve. It reminds me of Moulin Rouge meets ‘Live And Let Die’. It is very striking, and I am sure everyone will have their own interpretation of what it reminds them of.”

The tracklisting can be found below:

1.Radio Voltaire
2.The Dead Club
3.Idlewild
4.I Don’t Know Why
5.I Won’t Break So Easily Any More
6.Temple Tudor
7.Out of Time
8.Warmth of the Sun
9.Grey Shapes on Concrete Fields
10.Keep The Faith
11.The Silent Fighter Pilot

Bonus Tracks

12.Temple Tudor (Piano Mix)
13.The Dead Club (Berlin Headquarter Mix)
14.Keep The Faith (Orchestral Mix)
15.The Kino Funfair

Review – Kino – Radio Voltaire – by Kevin Thompson

Thirteen years ago Kino opened the doors and eager fans flocked to the blockbuster ‘Picture’.

Starring a stalwart cast of Trewavas, Mitchell, Beck and Maitland, much was expected. Fans and critics alike gave the collaboration a warm reception and they toured venues with Spock’s Beard.

One may have expected to see this Super-group follow up their success with a ‘part 2’, or a ‘return of’, individual commitments permitting, but it all went quiet.

The projectors stopped rolling and the doors closed. Dust settled on the red velour seats, whilst spiders built webs across discarded popcorn containers and their remaining contents long since dried and adhered to the now moth eaten carpeted steps. The lights went out, the drinks machines dried up and a distinct musty hot dog scent drifted on the dust motes, floating across the sunbeams coming through the smeared window panes of the foyer.

Nothing in the last 13 years, barring a vinyl release of ‘Picture’, until, out of hibernation they emerge with new offering ‘Radio Voltaire’.

So what to expect, most of the original cast are back, starring John Mitchell (Lead Vocals/Guitar) and Pete Trewavas (Bass/Backing Vocals) with special guest appearance from John Beck (keyboards) along with a co-starring role for Craig Blundell on the drum stool, replacing Chris Maitland who had in reality already left the band before the release of ‘Picture’ due to other commitments.

But this is a somewhat different affair to the first album and was a far shorter gestation period in the making, with the main driving forces being Trewavas and Mitchell (who also produced, coordinated and organised everything). Having been ready to start work on a further Lonely Robot album, it was suggested by Inside Out that Mitchell might consider the idea of a new Kino album and after a fruitful meeting with Trewavas unearthed the fact they both already had some material between them, they completed the writing process in August 2017. The recording process ran smoothly and was completed over the final two months of  last year.

Will this album bring them back into the spotlights again and reintroduce the glitz and glamour of yesteryear to become another cinematic offering to great applause, or will it be confined to the bargain bins with lacklustre ‘B’ movies, as the ravages of time dealt their scorn and indifference?

With a striking album cover design from in demand artist Paul Tippet we’re off to a good start, let’s see. The lights go down, the curtain opens and the silent motion of the digital projection hits the screen…

A crackling German 1920’s radio announcement for Radio Voltaire the title track, preceding John Beck’s swirling keyboards before guitar punches from the gramophone speakers, settling into John Mitchell’s familiar voice building harmoniously on driving rhythms from Messrs Trewavas and Blundell, to epic guitar swashbuckling from Mitchell in his own inimitable style, as scene one fades in the echo of sonar.

Dusty German voices (must get the stylus cleaned) introduce the plunking keys of first single, The Dead Club, as heavy driving guitars and ‘spacey’ swirly knob/key twiddling projects into our ears as this scene races along, spewing PopProg fuel in it’s wake. Building into an edgy musical storm before the repeated track title from John 1 concludes with John 2 stabbing furiously at those terrified keys and we are blasted off track from a ray-gun synth. Kino are flying.

Gentle, haunting keys from the fingers of John Beck break the pace as John Mitchell pitches the emotional vocals and beautiful lyrics of Idlewild perfectly. Swelling gradually, it comfortingly fills all your instrumental emotions as you sit transfixed on the ballad playing out on the screen, dabbing at the corner of your eyes.

A pastiche of 70’s classic rock influences abound on track 4 which, without the guidance of our illustrious Director in Charge, Mr Mitchell could easily have fallen into a derivative mess. I Don’t Know Why anyone could possibly think this fabulously talented quartet wouldn’t pull it off, as they are all performing at the top of their game, adding just the right touches to keep it a refreshing, glittering smile and wink homage.

 We are returned to a twenties, cobwebbed vocal/piano introduction (where is that needle brush?) which is suddenly robbed by a cheeky riff on The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ from Mr Beck, as JM tells us I Won’t Break So Easily Any More. Blazing guitar work, throbbing bass and  thundering drums between only slightly restrained verses, with a nod to a MMEB keyboard style, are all rolled into a perfect Kino energy bar.

A Baroque style, acoustic guitar and piano riff dance balletically round Temple Tudor castles,  as the wistful lyrics are delivered with honest emotion, crafted beautifully.

The ticking clock with ringing alarm bell, breaks us from our reveries as we are rocked into a warning of our own mortality spanning genres and tempos as we are advised we are running Out Of Time. Pete Trewavas and Craig Blundell shine and glisten like polished glass, as they blend in and out of each other. The commanding bass rhythms are splashed with drops of time signatured percussion that leave you hanging on the edge of your seat wishing it would never end. Anyone who knows me is aware I am not a great lover of jazz, so believe me when I tell you this is a delicious feast for the ears.

Relax in hazy summer keys and soft wispy clouds of vocals as they float above us in the Warmth Of The Sun basking in this soothing moment of relaxation.

Craig Blundell‘s percussive patterns navigate us back on board for the ride around Grey Shapes on Concrete Fields changing tempo and showcasing his phenomenal mastery with panache. Driven with keys, guitars and vocals on a race, hitting a breathless abrupt end, that comes all too soon for me. You just want tracks like this to never end.

If there is to be a ‘B’ movie actor on this award hunting album, it would be this track for me though I should Keep the Faith. There is nothing inherently wrong with the music or vocals, but it treads water after the fire of the previous track and the relaxing interlude before it. As the penultimate track it applies the brakes as we had just begun to press the accelerator down the finishing straight.

All is forgotten as the The Silent Fighter Pilot, flies into view for our final foray across the silver-screen, engines roaring defiance as it passes overhead. Telling the the story of a fighter pilot giving his life, through John Mitchell‘s embittered vocals with his raging guitar showering notes like bullets of vengeance. Struck by the futility of war, a fatal blow that sees the track spiral out of control to it’s tragic demise, in a haunting memory.

I’m struck silent for a minute and the Wow!

Wow! Wow! WOW!

‘Radio Voltaire’ is a must buy for anyone who liked ‘Picture’, who rate anything the band members have produced in the past, in fact all lovers of Prog music at it’s most sublime.

Everyone performs like their lives depend on it, with a joyous freedom to explore, whilst keeping the Kino sound they have built, but expanding the experience to ear busting IMAX levels.

I declare this cinema well and truly open for business and suggest getting your tickets booked, this could attract a full house, night after night.

Released 23rd March 2018

Order ‘Radio Voltaire’ from Burning Shed

 

KINO return with new album Radio Voltaire; 13 years after their debut

Kino have announced the release of their new album ‘Radio Voltaire’, arriving 13 years after the band’s much-loved debut ‘Picture’ back in 2005. Out on March 23rd,  2018, it sees John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot) & Pete Trewavas (Marillion) teaming up once more, with Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) on drums & John Beck (It Bites) guesting on keyboards.

Recorded at the end of 2017, writing began at the end of that Summer. “We actually began the writing process in late August” says John Mitchell“Pete had a few tunes and so did I, and we went from there.” Mitchell and Trewavas were both a crucial part of the original band more than a decade ago, with the former providing lead vocals and guitar parts, while the latter played his trademark bass lines and also contributed backing vocals.

Keyboard player John Beck, who is also a bandmate of Mitchell’s in It Bites, has been brought back. But while he was fully involved on the debut album, this time his role is that of a guest musician. “Yes, I am delighted to say we’ve gone John on board. His keyboard playing is splattered throughout the album, and I’ve also done the odd keyboard part myself.” The task of drummer this time fell to Craig Blundell, as Mitchell explains: “This time around Craig was the obvious choice to be the drummer, as far as I was concerned. I have worked with him so much that there was nobody else in the frame.”

Of the albums direction, Mitchell illustrates: “The title sounds very cool and obviously there’s a connection with the band Cabaret Voltaire. But Voltaire himself (the 18th century French philosopher) had a fascination with death, which appealed to me. He also stood for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. On top of that, I love the idea of a radio station that would reflect his views on life and cut through the bullshit which seems to be all over politics. Now, that is the type of radio station I think would reflect what a lot of us want to hear.”

The album cover has been designed by Paul Tippett, who is one of the most in demand artists of the modern era. “I like what he’s done with this sleeve. It reminds me of Moulin Rouge meets ‘Live And Let Die’. It is very striking, and I am sure everyone will have their own interpretation of what it reminds them of.”

The album will be available on Limited CD Digipak (including bonus tracks), Jewel Case CD, Gatefold 180g Double Vinyl (incl. CD) & Digital Download.

The tracklisting can be found below:

1.Radio Voltaire
2.The Dead Club
3.Idlewild
4.I Don’t Know Why
5.I Won’t Break So Easily Any More
6.Temple Tudor
7.Out of Time
8.Warmth of the Sun
9.Grey Shapes on Concrete Fields
10.Keep The Faith
11.The Silent Fighter Pilot

Bonus Tracks

12.Temple Tudor (Piano Mix)
13.The Dead Club (Berlin Headquarter Mix)
14.Keep The Faith (Orchestral Mix)
15.The Kino Funfair

Review – Moonparticle – Hurricane Esmerelda – by James R Turner

Already well known as a talented guitarist, Niko Tsonev profile was raised by stepping up and becoming the touring guitarist and member of John Young’s Lifesigns project, and whilst his guitar was missing from their debut album he toured with them from 2013 – 2016 becoming an integral part of the bands sound, and appearing on their successfully crowd funded live CD/DVD package ‘Under the Bridge’, and guests on their second release ‘Cardington’.

Stepping away from the Lifesigns, Niko has thrown himself into his latest project Moonparticle, and as a guitarist and performer of his calibre he could pretty much pick and choose who he works with, this means the band is full of talent like Craig Blundell on drums, Theo Travis on flute, Adam Holtzman on keys and Grog Lisee adding the female touch with her superb vocals.

The pedigree in this band suggests that what you’re about to listen to is going to be something special, and the huge bandwidth of genres that they span means that musically you’re going to be in for a treat.

In lesser musicians hands this eclectic mix of genres and styles would fall apart, and be a bit over complicated and cluttered, luckily we are listening to masters of their game, and you can tell they have enjoyed working on this album, as the musical ideas crackle with the sort of electricity that comes from bands just clicking.

Niko is definitely one of the finest guitarist plying his trade currently, and it’s no surprise that on tracks like Hurricane Esmerelda or Helium 1 & Helium II his guitar is at the fore, and it’s amazing how he can move from rocking out to pulling some fine melodic sounds out of the guitar.

Again, anyone who saw Lifesigns would know how important he was to the live sound and the stage presence he had.

You then get tracks like the sublime Strength of a Thousand Year Rose, an absolute epic rock ballad for want of a better word, where Grog’s amazing vocals come to the fore, and the solos that Niko pulls off throughout are the most melodically restrained, you can tell he is holding back and the restrain and power shines through.

There are quirky song titles that draw you in, and I do wonder in calling one track Reverend Mum whether one of the band is a fan of Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins books, throughout this track there is some lovely fluid guitar work, Blundells percussive work is on point as ever, and the way the guitar, percussion and subtle keyboard sounds work here are fantastic, ebbing flowing and building to a wonderfully euphoric finale.

This is also the second prog(ish) record to feature a track called Winter Mountain, and it’s about as far removed from the Mostly Autumn track as is possible to get, this one brimming with power and warmth.

Adam Holtzman and Theo Travis are sublime throughout, which is to be expected, and what is wonderful with this album is that whilst the guitar sound is at the fore, there is no hogging of the limelight, each artist gets room to breathe and the way they meld their sound is a joy to behold, all the while pulled together by the rock steady beat of Craig Blundell (who has been doing a sterling job with Lonely Robot recently) the haunting guitar and keys sound on the closer Leon’s Experiment, with some great crunchy riffs and powerful drumbeat, pulls this mightily accomplished album to a close.

Blending sublime instrumental work with some superb songs, and a cracking vocalist, Moonparticle have surpassed themselves and created what I reckon is the debut album of the year. A wonderful blend of genre hopping musical light and shade, heavy when it needs to be, chock full of tunes and serious musical talents at work, with vocals to die for. This is how to do a debut album and it shows to anyone who hasn’t realised yet, just how mighty a talent Niko Tsonev is.

Released 20th January 2018

Order ‘Hurricane Esmerelda’ from bandcamp on CD, digital and vinyl

 

Moonparticle (The Project of ex-Lifesigns guitarist Niko Tsonev) Announce Debut Album Hurricane Esmerelda

“Hurricane Esmeralda is a hard hitting album that grows on you with each listen. Bursting with the virtusosity of Prog and the sophistication of Jazz, it above all impresses with its beautifully crafted songs that take you places…”

Moonparticle is the music collective put together in 2017 by virtuoso guitarist/producer Niko Tsonev (ex-Steven Wilson, Lifesigns) featuring an extraordinary group of musicians: Pianist Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Robben Ford), Saxophonist Theo Travis (Robert Fripp, David Gilmour), Drummer Craig Blundell (Frost*, Steven Wilson), Violinist Samy Bishai (Natacha Atlas, Digitonal) and Vocalist Grog Lisee (Die So Fluid, Ozzy Osbourne).

Recorded between January and July 2017, Moonparticle’s debut was funded by a
successful PledgeMusic campaign. The recording took place in various locations – each musician adding their contribution from their own recording studio (London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles) via online file sharing. Produced and mixed by Niko Tsonev, the album was mastered by Jon Astley (Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Porcupine Tree). The artwork and graphic design were conceived by digital artist Be Wilde.

The title ‘Hurricane Esmeralda’ was inspired by themes of inner awareness and growth, and the process of pure creation. The virtuoso level of musicianship displayed by the aforementioned musicians throughout the 40 minutes of music, complements the primary focus of the album – inspired songwriting and brave musical performances.

If you didn’t get involved with the Pledge Music campaign then you can pre-order the album ahead of a January 2018 release here:

 

Live Review – Lonely Robot – The Big Dream Album Launch by Gary Morley

The following was scribbled on my phone as I watched from the vantage of the Merch Desk’s Forward command post (thanks to Brigadier Nellie Pitts).

It’s a good crowd of people with hair that time forgot… I’m jealous. My locks decided to leave me years ago, sacrificed to the trinity of job, mortgage and respectability. A plethora of tour t shirts…  Yes, sundry variations on a theme of keep calm and prog /play on.

I can report that Nellie doing a brisk trade in robot paraphernalia
everyone seems to know each other and the atmosphere is good, a smell of anticipation in the air. I’m amazed that my hometown has all these like minded people.

Where do they hide? Why don’t I know anyone?  Is the Lonely Robot me?
Perhaps Mr Mitchell and his crew will enlighten me. It will be an experience, seeing him on stage rather than nodding in passing as we orbit around Reading.

Sub 89 is filling up nicely and the band are on stage…

And they’re off, a quartet of songs from the debut album setting their stall out with panache and style. John Mitchell’s on stage banter is honed to a fine precision.

Craig Blundell on drums – he’s not shit!”, being the first bon mot to raise a groaning cheer…

And the robot appeals to all,  as can be seen from the Reading wildlife grooving to the first new song,  a slow burn with gorgeous guitar and a hypnotic vocal.

More banter, Ian Holmes, on bongos…”, then it’s their theme song, Lonely Robot, with its chiming guitars and thunderous drums… Some fine piano over that hypnotic drone, a robot’s soul exposed as a dark broody labyrinth of noise .

John is on fine form, singing with vigour and passion, then peeling off intricate guitar parts casually,the way only a true expert can. Equal parts Peter Gabriel and Chris Martin, he has a distinctive voice, suited to Prog or Pop.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Robot, they mix rock, prog and pop into a swirling mix that, like a black hole, draws you ever deeper in. There are flashes of Porcupine Tree guitar, those thunderous drums, a solid bass rumbling throughout and keyboards that fill out the few spaces left.

John now introduces his special guest, Kim Seviour to perform a track. Much more pop and upbeat, their voices fit and the music steams on. The hook line, “don’t forget me”, is an instant earworm and the song gets heavier until the middle 8 breaks down to a heartbeat drum pattern with some fine synth layers draped over it.

There is a commonality in Mr M’s work, from The Urbane through Arena and It Bites to The Robot clan, a melodic core, songs that burrow and charm in equal measure, vocal harmony as important as the instrument. “Are we copies” demonstrated that, with the impassioned vocals equal to the guitars.

We are then treated to a lighters in the air moment, as the next track floats over us, building the castle of sound, the voice and guitar increasingly emotive and the crowd rapt in attention, following the melody and swaying with the chorus. It was a beautiful moment. And finally, a vocal tour de force, Mr Mitchell and keyboards drifting weightlessly across our event horizon before Mr “Not Shit” thunders and bashes a drum piece, more demolition job than drum solo. He hits as hard as John Bonham and the electronic percussion effects add to the Bonham groove.

We are then warned that we are getting a velociraptor riff, a T- Rex, according to it’s creator  , and the next track does just that, guitars roaring and snarling to a climactic finish.

Now for a short personal interlude, fellow passenger, Jane Armstrong has retreated from the front to recuperate and berates me for looking nothing like my Facebook avatar!  It’s loud but very clear here at the merch desk, the band are in full flight now, and what a band they are, jamming away, first the keyboards taking the lead then John and his cybernetic guitar scything through the mix.

We then are treated to another of the new tracks, Sigma, which is all Nirvana approved quiet/ loud /quiet and another earworm chorus, great keyboards and stun guitar, in fact a fitting end to a great set.

So, there it was. The 4th Law of Robotics – “Thou shall Enjoy the sounds emanating from the Robot Clan , even if you know no-one, are run down and in need of a battery charge”.

After that set, my life meter was reading full again and I slipped off into the night, clutching a copy of the new CD that Nellie insisted I purchase as, “It’s alright and they’re OK people …”

Far be it from me to question the wisdom of a Prog Queen, but sat here listening to the CD, you know what? She had erred on the side of caution. It’s a great CD, well worth investing in.

I know, I was that Lonely Robot.

Order ‘The Big Dream’ from Nellie Pitts at The Merch Desk

 

 

 

Review – Lonely Robot – The Big Dream – by Leo Trimming

‘To go to sleep and never wake up… to be simply not there forever and ever…

… That’s such a curious thought… that’s such a curious thought’

These spoken musings of an unidentified philosopher about sleep and death permeate the instrumental cinematic opening sequence Prologue (Deep Sleep) of Lonely Robot’s second album ‘The Big Dream’, and atmospherically sets the scene for an album which considers our mortality. Lonely Robot is a solo project from John Mitchell, renowned as guitarist, producer and vocalist with bands such as Frost*, Arena, It Bites and Kino. ‘The Big Dream’ is more reminiscent of Kino than It Bites, but such is the excellent quality and imagination of the ‘Lonely Robot’ project Mitchell has arguably now created material which surpasses the achievements of his time with either of those bands. Following on from Lonely Robot’s impressive 2015 debut ‘Please Come Home’, which featured a range of guest artists, in ‘The Big Dream’ John Mitchell takes on all the vocal, guitar and keyboard duties to great effect, alongside his Frost* band mate Craig Blundell on drums.

‘The Big Dream’ once again showcases Mitchell’s strong song writing and distinctive fine guitar style, but also shows his excellent keyboard work throughout this musically dynamic album. Whilst this is an album of ‘Big Ideas’ it is largely expressed in a series of accessible and polished rock songs, alongside some more progressive cinematic passages. For John Mitchell the song is key and whilst he undoubtedly has the musical chops he is not about indulgent technique, preferring songs punctuated with memorable hooks and riding along on waves of melodic progressive rock, such as the ‘earworm’ song Sigma and it’s heroic sounding refrain.

Similarly to ‘Please Come Home’, once again the album has a science fiction context – not a concept album as such, but with recurring themes and featuring the central character of ‘The Astronaut’. However, whilst the previous album was largely associated with Space it appears in ‘The Big Dream’ The Astronaut wakes from a cryogenic sleep in a strange woodland. There are peculiar hints of a space age Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with the gentle pastoral prog pop of Floral Green, featuring some delightful vocal dexterity from Mitchell, presumably supported by Kim Seviour (ex-Touchstone) on backing vocals. A short expressive guitar solo over sensitive keyboards skilfully  illustrates this delicate number… sometimes less really is more.

In contrast Everglow blasts in like some sort of sci-fi movie spectacular with powerful, driving guitars intertwining with sparkling, pulsing keyboards, whilst Craig Blundell provides a remarkable drumming masterclass to drive this impressive highlight of the album along… oh, and Mitchell throws in yet another short but golden guitar solo before we rejoin the thunderous refrain and heavy curtain of sound that introduced the song. If that’s not enough we then segue into the lighter, dreamy and appropriately shimmering False Lights, in which Blundell initially shows a much more subtle side on percussion, before it builds in intensity and then recedes in echoes. Symbolic, is rather insistent, perhaps lacking some of the subtlety and in my view somewhat interrupting the flow of the cinematic sweep of the latter half of the album, but it’s still a trademark Mitchell finely honed rock song… which is no bad thing!

In 2016 John Mitchell released under his own name an E.P. called ‘The Nostalgia Factory’, featuring four cover songs (which is well worth seeking out). ‘The Nostalgia Factory’ included a fine version of the Phil Collins song Take Me Home and it sounds as if The Divine Art of Being has distinct echoes of that great anthem… which is a good thing! John Mitchell certainly knows how to pen a song with great melody and choruses that resound around your brain like The Divine Art of Being, a song which also highlights the great quality of his voice, perfectly suited to his pitch and intonation.

The Big Dream feels like the finale of the album and projects us into spacey, epic Floydian territory, reminiscent of A Godless Sea on ‘Please Come Home’. The Big Dream is widescreen in nature with a wall of grandiose, cosmic keyboards echoing the intro of ‘Awakenings’ over which a wonderful high pitched guitar swoops eerily. This is spectacular stuff which feels like a film soundtrack. As this evocative track closes the philosopher returns with his spoken musings on death and sleep and then in a direct link back to ‘Please Come Home’ we hear the strangely heartbreaking lines:

‘Please Come Home Lonely Robot, Your Heart is Beautiful, Programmed to Receive, We Miss You now Lonely Robot, Ever so Beautiful’

After the drama of The Big Dream there is a sense of release and optimism as the coda song Hello World Goodbye is like musical sunlight breaking through the clouds. A piano plays a simple melody before Mitchell’s almost whispered soft vocals resonate with optimism, beautifully backed by Kim Seviour, and Mitchell pours a lovely soaring, rippling but subtle guitar solo over the conclusion. Epilogue (Sea Beams), with it’s title hinting at the tragic replicant Roy Batty from ‘Bladerunner’ (the ultimate Lonely Robot?) is a delicate ending, feeling like the end credits for a movie. The elegiac whistle like sounds underline the nautical but cosmic connection and underlines the emotion at the core of this remarkable album. John Mitchell has released a remarkable album which subtly conveys meaning and depth with accessible and finely written songs.

The juxtaposition of machine and emotion in the ‘Lonely Robot’ project is peculiarly touching, and one wonders if many of us lead similarly robotic, regimented lives, not knowing how to escape or truly express our inner feelings…

‘…That’s such a curious thought…’

Released 28th April 2017

Order ‘The Big Dream’ from InsideOut Music

 

 

BE PROG, MY FRIEND! 2016 part 2 (t-shirt wars) – by Kevin Thompson

KF_Amorphis_PosterA1.eps

Day two arose to bright sunshine and we ate an ample breakfast in the hotel before a morning in the wonderful Museum of Art, with so many treasures to see. But enough of that, I am not here to talk about the wonderful historic sites in Barcelona, the colonnades  lining the street to the museum, waterfalls and twin towers replicating the style of San Marco Campanile in Venice. Nor am I about to tell you of the excellent Spanish guitarist delighting a crowd in front of the museum, on his ‘silent guitar’. No, we shall leap forward to our much needed early afternoon siesta from which we woke abruptly, making haste to reach  the Pobel Espanyol and the beckoning sounds of day 2, at Be Prog My Friend.

Unfortunately the second day started an hour earlier and we joined the queue of latecomers as we fed into the square just in time to catch the last three songs from the ravishing Anneke Van Giersbergen and The Gentle Storm. This lady’s voice as those who have heard her will know, is a tour de force and her powerful vocals tore through the tracks with gusto engaging with the slowly swelling crowd in some grand Prog Metal. Her energy was infectious and warmed the audience up nicely as did the mid afternoon sun and we watched from floor level partaking of much needed liquid refreshment.

Anneke

Buoyant from the night before and with a rousing first act to start the day we were feeling rather pleasant and whilst we waited for the next band we wandered round and checked out the t-shirts. No contest as I have to say the lovely Sarah Ewing’s artwork conquered all comers. I thought I had done well in the t-shirt battle yesterday but Big Big Train’s ‘Grimspound’ drew so many admiring glances it felt like being on a catwalk.

Grimspound

We briefly met the gang from yesterday for a chat, but they wanted to go down the front and we decided we would hang back and find a seat somewhere with a decent view, if we were lucky.

And so to the second band, whilst I had only heard a couple of tracks from Between the Buried and Me which sounded promising. They appeared to be attracting favourable attention from the media recently and I was looking forward to being impressed as they had travelled over from the US of A. I’m still waiting I’m afraid. The sound wasn’t brilliant, louder than clearer and Konnie and I agreed it was like listening to an extended promo reel, with clips from songs cobbled together.

Konnie said she was unable to decipher when one track ended and another began as it sounded so disjointed. Despite an enthusiastic following nearer the stage and you may read differently elsewhere, we didn’t seem to be the only ones and for me the guttural vocals only added to my disappointment, sorry guys I’m sure there are many disagree with us including those at the front, but here’s a photo.

Between

I was a child of the 70’s it was the blossoming of my teenage musical years and the awakening of my eyes and ears to Prog. Now I’m sure many will agree, some records are timeless and transgress all era’s without ageing badly and some you raved about then, you find hard to reconcile why in the present day. I would not have bought the next band’s albums then and wouldn’t now as I will happily tell you, ‘it’s not my sort of thing’. So on an increasingly hot and sunny, Spanish afternoon surrounded by a sizeable crowd of MAGMA t-shirts, what happened?

Like a rabbit in headlights or with myxomatosis, I stood rooted to the spot as MAGMA took the stage. They seemed quite the perfectionists and had taken some time to set up which may have explained why they couldn’t play as long as they wished, but as they strode on to the stage and the music and chanting of the first song began I was transported to Summerisle. I was transfixed as if drugged and the tune grew like some creeping, Dario Argento film soundtrack as it swelled most disturbingly. I forced myself to look away from the stage and those around me seemed entranced and swayed to the the throbbing rhythms. I’m glad there was still daylight to bring me comfort.

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As the music continued the young man in his twenties standing in front of us took up the song. A cherub faced middle aged man, with rosy cheeks and glasses, clad in walking gear with a backpack, wandered through the ranks of the audience singing the lyrics in a deep resonating tone, an angelic smile spread across his face, arms wide in subjugation. Had I stepped into a pagan festival? Konnie stood on my left enraptured and I glanced to my right and the terrace above. A boy of no more than twelve stood in front of his father, chanting in the knowledge of every word, his small hands air drumming without missing a beat.

And then they finished , disgruntled they could not extend their set, with a shorter tune (over 10 minutes) and the veil lifted from everyone’s eyes. Konnie talked enthusiastically and I tried to figure out what had just happened. Would I buy the music, no. Would I travel and pay to watch them, I don’t think so. Would I be able to resist the lure of their unique performance if they were on a festival bill again, probably not and they have a new disciple in Konnie. Strangely watchable, if you have never seen them and happen upon them, watch, you may be enchanted but rest in the knowing you don’t have to weave flowers in your hair and there are no human sacrifices required during the performance.

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It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the transitions between bands was not as smooth as the previous day. Whether the crew were different or more likely the bands on the second day were more demanding, either way the wheels were not as well oiled. This gave us more time for food and liquid sustenance and to soak up the atmosphere. A couple of large tattooed Scandinavian  bikers asked we take their photos and they kindly reciprocated snapping the ‘Grimspound’ shots of Konnie and I. They also gave some of their stone step space so we could sit for a while which was most welcome until we found seating a little further back with a better view.

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It was time for the main acts of the day, first came Opeth. I am a late convert and up until now only have ‘Pale Communion’ and still feel some of their older material may not be to my liking. But I have since ordered a couple of older CD’s to try and Lamentations DVD on the strength of their performance and what a show. The sun descended as the atmosphere grew, Michael Akerfeldt and the band striding the stage as giants of the prog metal genre, rousing the crowd who need little encouragement. With acknowledgement to the long faithful that the newer material has not always received favour, they pulled old favourites from their earlier albums to rapturous applause and drove them like giant machines crushing any doubters under the sound, loud and clear with the lighting matching the moods. It is well known Michael and Steven Wilson have become firm friends and you can catch elements of influence in the work, enhancing the massive production here.

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Revelation of the day was Konnie’s response, she has never taken interest in Opeth before and had neglected to listen on the occasions I have played ‘Pale Communion’, fearing they weren’t to her liking. By the end of the first song she was hooked, loving every minute, extolling the virtues of their live performance and on completion she was grinning like a kid at Christmas. Had they been the only head-liner, the day would have finished on a tremendous high. As it was, we were to be spoiled further…..

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We knew what to expect from Steven Wilson as we have seen him on his last three tours, but this did not lessen our excitement, merely settled us in the privy we bestowed upon our Spanish friends, eager to watch a man who verges on deity status in the genre and learn all they can about him. Mr Wilson has developed and perfected his style with such precision he holds all in his sway and has carefully honed his stage craft since we first saw him. Again I feel his friendship with Michael has influenced and benefited him especially in performing as he seems more at ease talking to and joking (yes, joking), with the crowd. His live sets are always louder these days, the tracks played are heavier and rockier than the album versions. We always pack our ear defenders, but that could be our age, yet he balances the delicate, ‘Lazarus/Routine’ finely, gently sprinkled like fairy dust on the sounds emanating from his current band.

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All masters in their own fields, with none finer on the drums than Craig Blundell, as readily recognised by the work he has done as an international clinician for Paiste, Premier, and RolandAdam Holzman is a rare keyboardist, having moved from the jazz fusion field to his current position in the band, he consistently earns critical acclaim as one of the most daring and best contemporary keyboardists alive.

No one could have predicted back in the Kajagoogoo days that Nick  Beggs would go on to be such a luminary in Bass guitar and Chapman Stick, his mighty presence up front ably bookending Steve with current guitarist Dave Kilminster. Having spent the last few years as principal guitar player in the Roger Waters band, Dave brings his own, skillful style to the well renowned tracks and my only regret is that they didn’t play Drive Home, as I would like to have heard his take on the beautiful guitar solo.

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It’s a commanding show and a fitting end to a wonderful couple of days though the fuzzier lighting employed for the majority of the set prevented my getting many photos.

But not quite an end: it was by now 02:00, weariness took hold and with an early start the next morning we elected to leave with the majority and head for our hotel. Which leaves me to apologise to metalcore band Textures, who bravely came on after we left and played to a greatly reduced crowd, so I cannot comment on their performance.

It only remains to say ‘Gracias’ to the organisers of BPMF, everyone who helped make it possible the bands themselves and the Spanish people we met along the way. Watch for next year’s line up, take the leap, make the trip and revel in what Barcelona and Be Prog My Friend have to offer, you won’t be disappointed.

Adios, hasta pronto………

Review – Frost* – Falling Satellites – by Progradar

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“You can decorate absence however you want- but you’re still gonna feel what’s missing.”
― Siobhan Vivian

Bloody hell, I didn’t realise it has been 8 years since Frost*, the brainchild of seminal keyboard wizard Jem Godfrey, released their last album ‘Experiments In Mass Appeal’.

This was a band who I saw supporting Dream Theater in Leeds and, despite the fact I’d never heard of, or anything by, them, was utterly blown away by the combination of incredibly complex keyboards and fizzing guitars which, combined with impressive melodies, gave us the breath of fresh air that was the ‘Milliontown album in 2006, one that is still revered in hushed tones to this day.

My love of Dream Theater began to wane in earnest that evening but I have been waiting with bated breath for news of a new Frost* album.

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So, to bide the time awaiting the new record I came up with imagined scenarios as to what Jem could have been up to in the intervening years (I know, I need to get out more).

Have any of you watched DC Comic’s The Flash? I bet a few of you have but, if not, a quick summary.

Uber genius Harrison Wells has his own particle accelerator (like you do) at his company Star Laboratories which goes into meltdown and causes a huge explosion. Some of those caught up in the blast end up with super powers, Meta-Humans, some good and some bad.

Now, imagine if our Jem was one of those caught in the fallout and his supercharged, manic energy came as a result of the Star Labs explosion? (still with me?, good!) and he has been kidnapped by some evil Bond villain and forced to sit in a room and churn out turgid mainstream hits for the last 8 years?

Enough to send you mad, you would agree? Not Mr Godfrey, upon his exciting escape, he set about writing the latest Frost* album ‘Falling Satellites’ and put all of his near 8 years in captivity into this latest bombastic musical extravaganza!

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On ‘Falling Satellites’ Jem Godfrey is joined by long term collaborator John Mitchell (Lonely Robot/It Bites) on guitar and vocals plus Nathan King (Level 42) on bass and drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson).

“This line-up has been in existence since 2010 and is now the longest version of Frost* that there’s ever been”, says Godfrey, “so it’s strange to think that this is the first time we’ve recorded an album together”.

There are 11 songs in total with the final 6 songs forming a 32 minute long suite called “Sunlight”. Within this collection of songs comes an unexpected guest appearance from none other than Grammy nominated guitar legend Joe Satriani.

As to the album’s theme… “It’s about chance and life. The astronomically unlikely chance of being conceived to start with and then surviving to old age”, Godfrey says, “the near impossible odds of the things that happen to you in life benefitting you rather than killing you are gigantic and yet it happens all the time. It’s about celebrating how extraordinarily rare the period of us being alive is and how we should take more time to appreciate it while we’re here. We’re a long time dead at either end of this brief little flicker.”

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What were we going to get after eight years? opening number First Day is a short introductory track that has Frost* writ large all over it, reverential keyboards and hushed, breathy vocals given a real sense of anticipation before we get into the new music proper…. Numbers showcases the new high energy prog/pop style perfectly with a funky keyboard intro, full of energy and innovation. The harmonised vocals are excellent and you just find yourself toe-tapping madly to the addictive sound of crunchy guitars and Jem’s manic keyboard style. The fast paced guitar licks and solo add even more impulse to this high octane four minutes of near-perfect musical vivacity.

How do you incorporate dub-step into progressive pop music? I have no idea but Jem Godfrey obviously does! Towerblock begins in quiet, reverential fashion, all calm and collected before all hell breaks loose and a really dynamic and grungy keyboard takes over. To be honest I had no idea what to make of it at first but, do yourself a favour, just go with the flow and it soon starts to make addictive sense as it gets under your skin. Flowing, fluid  and off the wall keyboards writhe around never quite letting your brain comprehend them and Jem’s fiercely protective vocal gives a serious edge. It really shouldn’t work but it does, gloriously, as you find yourself playing air keyboards and jumping up and down (what do you mean, you didn’t?). One of the most innovative and fresh tracks to hit progressive rock in many a year, I loved it, the utterly demented keyboard and drum frenzy that closes out the song is inspired.

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The calm after the storm, Signs begins as a wistful and whimsical delight with carefully delivered vocals before opening up with a monster riff and some towering keys. The rhythm section of King and Blundell (new cop partnership anyone?) ably providing support. the track flows between these calm amd collected verses and the lofty and imposing chorus where the organ-like keyboards add a real note of veneration. A superbly crafted piece of songwriting with some punchy powerful riffs that showcase Mr Mitchell’s guitar prowess and an utterly compelling performance behind the kit from Craig Blundell. This song sees a more influential return to the expansive and charismatic soundscape well beloved of Frost* fans everywhere and brings a smile to my face. Oh you thing of infinite wonder and delight, Lights Out is a gorgeous little track that pulls at your very soul with its unclouded resplendence. The keyboards have an ethereal edge to them, Craig’s drumming is sublime and the vocals have a soft yearning feel underlying them. A touch of longing fills your soul and you drift away on a cloud of well-being, notably Frost* but with a new and stylish veneer. Belay that feeling of goodwill, the high-energy intro to Heartstrings takes no quarter and fills you with a feeling of expectation. That keyboard heavy sound returns and the instantly recognisable and harmonised chorus could only be Frost* at the height of their powers. Like a white water ride in a tumbling raft, the irrepressible dynamics of the song pull you along in their wake, an utterly willing victim of its charismatic persona. The final repeat of the chorus feels like an outpouring of emotion as the track closes out with a hook filled ending.

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The whole album is full of superb tracks and this is only intensified with Closer To The Sun. Another fine exponent of the new found pop sensibilites it just feels right. The introduction is catchy, upbeat and utterly persuasive and has a feel of lazy summer days without a care in the world to it. The vocals are kept in the background and everything is expertly subdued before John Mitchell delivers another spellbinding guitar solo that squirrels through your mind, touching every sensory receptor before making way for Jem’s potent and progressive keyboards that tell a musical tale all of their own. Zone out these two musical maestros though and you can hear the notable chops that Nathan and Craig bring to the party. If the previous track was smoother than an otter’s pocket (thanks to Robin Armstrong for that gem) then (deep breath all) Raging Against The Dying Of The Light – Blues in 7/8 is as forceful as a tsunami. The thunderous opening is dominated by the evil sound of Jem’s keyboards, literally blowing everything out of their path. The vocals have a real dark edge to them, forceful and demanding and Craig really gives his kit a work out. The real star of this track though is the hugely demonstrative tone of the keys as they forge their own way, brooking no argument. The occasional lulls only seem to enforce the aggressive and potent intent of the rest of this red-blooded track, it’s like Frost* on something entirely illegal, it shouldn’t be allowed, just be glad it is! I do like a good instrumental from these boys and they really scaled the heights with Hyperventilate from ‘Milliontown’ so it was great to know that ‘Falling Satellites’ would feature it’s own. Nice Day For It….. is another great track, technically it’s not fully instrumental but you’ll forgive me that foible I’m sure, that just seems to flow perfectly from beginning to end, all the musicians working in perfect harmony to deliver a near flawless slice of melodic precision that is just bliss to the ears. It rises and falls superbly, the keyboards being the driving force once again, guitar adding the finishing touches and drum and bass playing the perfect wingmen.

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Hypoventilate is a two minute wall of sound, a musical force of nature that blots out the Sun around it. An slow burning, brooding and intense musical experience that just knocks you over, leaving you senseless before the gentle persuasions of Last Day pick you up and get you back on your feet again. The tender, mellow piano matching the placid, if a little care-worn, vocals to close out ‘Falling Satellites’ in a nostalgic, sentimental, even slightly regretful, manner.

So, after an eight year hiatus Frost* have returned with a triumphant third album that ticks all the relevant boxes for this tired old music hack. Definitively Frost* and yet with a distinctive lustre and some rather inspired new sounds that give it even more depth. Instantly accessible but, also, with untold layers of sophistication, oh bugger, this musical year just keeps getting better and better!

Released 27th may 2016.

Pre-order ‘Falling Satellites’ from The Merch Desk