Review – Steve Hackett – Selling England By the Pound & Spectral Mornings Live at Hammersmith

This 2 CD / Blu Ray package is the latest release from the former Genesis guitarist who has, for the last 8 years, been repackaging and marketing his own version of his Genesis era history. Quite rightly so, when the rest of the original band are all doing decidedly different music these days.

This nostalgic revue is both commercially and musically viable and valid, people love these songs and Steve has both compiled a top notch supporting band and also tweaked the songs enough to bring their subtle tones and deep emotions to life. Steve’s tours invariably sell out and he has kept ticket prices to an affordable level thus making his shows accessible to many fans who may never have seen the original band. This latest release sees a return to Hammersmith after last year’s successful run of  shows under the ‘Selling England By The Pound‘ and ‘Spectral Mornings‘ banner.

What’s different this time is that Steve has a new drummer who has replaced the departing long term member Gary O’Toole. He had occupied the drum stool for nearly 20 years and, whilst this hasn’t changed the sound, it has brought a fresh power to proceedings. Craig Blundell is the new man behind the kit and he certainly makes his presence felt on this album, adding new flourishes and also forming a solid, reliable rhythm section with bassist Jonas Reingold and, in doing so, creating a platform for Steve’s guitar to soar freely.

The show is divided into two separate parts, part one being a mix of ‘Spectral Mornings’ tracks and including three tracks from Steve’s latest album, ‘At The Edge Of Light’, these being Under The Eye Of The Sun, Fallen Walls and Pedestals, and Beasts in Our Time. These add to the dynamics of the first half well, ‘Spectral Mornings’ being considered by many to be a crowning glory in Steve’s musical legacy or canon of recordings.

It’s an album that is certainly warmly received here at Hammersmith, the songs will be familiar to most so I don’t really need to comment on them to much except to state that all receive sterling performances here with contributions from both John Hackett on flute and Amanda Lehmann on guitar and vocals.

This section of the show is bookended with two of the tracks from ‘Selling England By the Pound’, namely, Dancing with The Moonlit Knight and an extended take on I Know What I Like, both of which are superb renditions, the latter giving Steve a chance to stretch out on the guitar.

The second part contains the remainder of SEBTP including an unreleased track, Déjà Vu, that was co-written by Peter Gabriel. Steve consulted with Peter who then gave his consent to a reworked, finished version and split the writing credits with Steve. As the track was omitted from the original album, its appearance here is most welcome indeed, it is a feisty and strong number that fits in well with the remaining tracks on SEBTP.

Also of note is the simply magnificent version of Firth of Fifth, a song that is as much about Steve as any other Genesis song. This is probably the best of the many live versions of this song that exist, somehow surpassing all the other versions including the orchestral version from last year’s Festival Hall recording, whilst that was great, somehow this is even better. I think that Craig Blundell’s drumming throughout gives the piece hitherto uncovered power, kick and bite and that elevates it above all the other takes released previously.

You could argue that every year brings a new release of old material and do we really need this one? My answer to that is a definitive Yes! These performances are from the heart and certainly satisfy demand and, whilst the original band are reluctant to perform these, Steve’s troop can certainly do so more than adequately and with conviction, power, dignity and grace. This set does that on every count, the blu-ray is a lovely addition and supplements the recordings with a crisp sound and sharp picture. The lighting used throughput the show is stunning and lighting operator Chris Curran certainly adds emphasis and dynamics in bringing his flair in making this a great visual show. This is made all the better with the sharpness that the blu-ray version delivers and the option of the 5.1 surround version that has been sympathetically mixed by Steven Wilson.  

If you have enjoyed any of Steve’s previous live sets, then I certainly recommend this one to you there is so much to enjoy and relive here.

Released 25th September 2020

Order direct from Steve’s website here:

http://www.hackettsongs.com/news/newsAlbum30.html

Review – Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good – by John Wenlock-Smith

Lonely Robot is the name that John Mitchell (It BitesFrost*, Kino and Arena) uses for his solo projects, and this really is a solo album as it all performed, composed and produced by John himself with Percussive duties being handled by his Frost* colleague and drummer extraordinaire Craig Blundell. This is the fourth release to bear the Lonely Robot name, the previous three were his ‘Astronaut’ project (‘Please Come Home’, ‘The Big Dream’ and last year’s ‘Under Stars’). This time around the fare is far more Terra Firma focused and deals specifically with the events and memories that John says have made him who he is today. 

It’s been a few years since I last listened to John Mitchell’s music and I don’t know why that is really as he offers a decent brand of prog/pop crossover material that is really fine to listen to, so it’s me who has missed out really. This album will hopefully rebalance that scenario. 

‘Feelings Are Good’ is an emotionally revealing album that is not afraid to face some difficult times that John has been through and lessons he has learnt from these experiences. John refers to these moments as being the cornerstones, both good and bad, that he is back on planet Earth and has a personal lyrical axe to grind

The albums cover features closed eyes and a taped over mouth that represent how people are very guarded about their emotions. This album, however, is less guarded, far rawer and much more open about the emotions it addresses  You really must listen carefully to the songs to get the measure of what John is on about but, certainly, there are songs about broken relationships, night-time fears (spiders), small town life and grief and loss.

The album is generally Prog lite although it has touches of progressive metal in certain parts. It has excellent musical accompaniment and the sound is crisp and clear with good separation between instruments and, at all points, John’s guitar playing is very elegant and soars when the song calls for it. He has worked hard here to convey his emotions and backed it all up with powerful songs that will elicit a response from his listeners

Whether that response be anger, sadness, despair or hope is up to each person who hears this album and how this music makes them feel. No matter what your reaction may be, this is most certainly a well crafted and well written and recorded set of songs.

The songs them selves are very varied, all pretty much even tempo and most feature a guitar solo within them. John is very good at using his playing to accentuate the emotions within the songs. He also uses keyboards in a highly effective manner to further enhance these pieces and to add colours to the emotions and feelings that are so openly displayed.

His voice is strong and clear and he sings with real conviction and feeling, sometimes with force and anger, but always for the song and not just for effect. I commend John for being so open to all listeners. Doing so takes real courage and bravery, as some of these songs deal with painful moments for John, and yet he handles his emotions positively and without bitterness.

There are several key songs on this album, Crystalline (which uses the words of winter to reflect emotional coldness as a metaphor for emotional feelings), Life Is A Sine Wave, Keeping People As Pets and the brief Grief Is The Price Of Love, which tells us that there is no there is no rainbow without there first being some rain. This track is a remarkably simple but emotional song, played on acoustic guitar with a single heartfelt vocal from John. This is a stunning short piece but one that has real gravitas to it. Armour for My Heart, which is about protecting your heart and how one must do this at times, is also another emotionally bruising song.

In summary this album is a marked departure from the science fiction that occupied his last three albums and takes on a far more down to earth, closer to home theme and all that that entails. This is an excellent album that is well worthy of being heard I recommend it highly.

Released 17th July 2020

Order the CD from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/lonely-robot_feelings-are-good_cd?filter_name=Lonely%20ROBOT&filter_sub_category=true

Review – Frost* – Others E.P. – by John-Wenlock Smith

The ‘Others’ E.P. is basically a collection of left-over tracks from their last album (‘Falling Satellites’) released in 2016 and with a running time of 32 odd minutes.

Acting as a taster for their next album, that is due to surface in September, this 6 track EP is most welcome treat one that, once again, proves that the creative force found in the mind of Jem Godfrey never rests and that, even now, his mind is still crafting and creating aural treasure for our delectation.

The EP opens in style and with a real presence in Fathers which utilises lots of vocal tricks to enhance the sound alongside some pretty ferocious drums and guitar work. There’s an almost thrash tempo to it that is softened by some prominent synths before an altered vocal is brought in. This is a very powerful song with some serious drive to it, thanks to Craig Blundell’s hearty drum patterns.

This is the suddenly interrupted by a brief xylophone break, which is very different, and then the main riff crashes back in again before a child’s voice says ‘goodnight’, leading into Clouda, which opens with gentle keyboard effects and a sole vocal. The song then morphs into an electronic dance sounding track interspersed with more keyboard effects among pounding drum patterns, keyboard effects and samples. An acoustic guitar lightens the tone, rendering some gentleness to the song before reverting to the harder format again.

This song is very atmospheric,the middle section is dreamy in tone with lots of effects surrounding the music, although I must confess that I don’t know what he is singing about! It is certainly effective though as, once again, this sound hurtles along with barely a breath. The music is very interesting and effective before another gentle dreamlike section towards the end, sounding like something out of a fairy tale, brings it to a close.

Exhibit A opens with a guitar and some chant type vocals that fade to sampled keyboard sounds. Again, it is very dance driven and sounds almost like an African rhythm before a huge guitar riff and drums crash in. More treated vocals are employed before the choral chant is introduced with more keyboards and programming, “We won, we own you…” is repeated to great effect before a brief keyboard riff and then onto verse 2! Telling us again that we are owned and will do as we are told. There is a middle section of some spaciness and then the guitar solo and drums play their parts along with a wild synth solo. It is all very effective asthe chorus plays out, with a female vocal this time, and more keyboards/samples bring the song to a fine conclusion as a strong spoken male voice riffs over then end of the song. The track is all about the downside of fame and how it’s not always what you thought it would be and how it can be a prison of your own making.

Fathom is a song about a wife who goes to war with her husband rather than him leaving her on her own. The piece has a military feel and beat to it and it certainly tells a different story. This is a very emotional song talking, as it does ,about the reality of war and the lengths this wife went to be with the one she loves. There’s sounds that are reminiscent of ELO in the Synths and there is also much tenderness to it too, in the emotions it expresses. Next up is Eat, which is very vocally effected and manipulated to good effect, the clever effects really adding emphasis and emotion to the song again, most impressive. The song is actually about a blood sucking insect and its view of a victim!!

The final song is called Drown. Again a very languid and dreamy piece with lots of chiming keyboards and samples. Craig’s drumbeat keeps it all in time and holds it together. Quite a simple piece but it is an effective and reflective one to round off a very different style of progressive rock music, the sort that makes you think WTF initially but that gradually grows on you the more your hear it and become acquainted with it.

I have to confess that I know very little about Frost* overall, never having heard their previous albums. That is something I will have to rectify now, I think, as this has certainly impressed me and whetted my appetite for more!

Released 5th June, 2020.

Review – Semantic Saturation – Paradigms – by Progradar

Does anybody remember Infectious Grooves?  The funk metal supergroup led by Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir released a completely bonkers album in 1991 called ‘The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move…It’s The Infectious Grooves.’ It was so out there it made my CD collection and I’ve yet to hear anything come close to that infectious energy that the album contained.

Fast forward to 2013 Semantic Saturation (a progressive rock/progressive metal project founded by Canadian guitarist Shant Hagopian) release their debut album ‘Solipsistic’ featuring progressive metal gurus such as drummer Virgil Donati, bassist Ric Fierabracci and guests; keyboardist Derek Sherinian (ex. Dream Theater) and vocalist Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas). A dizzying and complex release that has touches of the spirit of Infectious Grooves hidden in its convoluted depths.

After 5 years wait virtuoso guitarist Shant returns with the mind blowing ‘Paradigms’, this time aided and abetted by legendary musicians, drummer Craig Blundell and bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw. The album also features guest musicians, some of the greatest names in metal, with Derek Sherinian returning to feature on the track Ulterior Harmony, Alex Argento on Carousel of Death and the lovely jazz vocalist Houry Dora Apartian on Empty Whisky Jar.

As instrumental albums go ‘Paradigms’ is an absolute monster featuring such amazing tracks as the powerfully funkadelic opener Mirrors of Confusion and it’s identical twin Carousel of Death which are a real echo of that Infectious Grooves monster of 27 years previous. On the former, edgy, thunderous guitar combine with Blundell’s cacophony of drumbeats and Gildenlöw’s stylish bass drives all before it. It’s a grin inducing roller coaster ride and one you don’t want to get off. The latter takes you on an insane, acid jazz trip through a really warped mind where Alex Argento stands tall like a crazed professor.

The infectious grooves (see what I did there?) of Pareidolia give a moments pause of foot tapping energy before calm is finally restored with the elegance of Empty Whiskey Jar where Houry Dora Apartian adds her sultry jazz vocals.

The riffs and grooves come thick and fast almost giving you no pause to really appreciate the mind blowing musical structures and spellbinding melodies. Personal favourites are the intelligently constructed charm of Until We Meet Again, the otherworldly experience of Disturbance Within and the calm and collected polish of classic rocker Universal.

This magical experience is completed by Where Dreams Have Died, a ten minute journey that becomes Shant’s grand paradigm of musical intrigue and astounding mastery. It is an elaborate, baroque composition that trades on each musician’s undoubted skill and dexterity to deliver a sublime listening experience.

As the last note fades out a small but knowing smile appears on my face as I reminisce back to 1991. ‘Paradigms’ is a wonderfully complex and accomplished piece of work but, deep at its core this album is full of incredibly infectious grooves. Shant Hagopian and your stellar cast of musicians please take a bow for this fantastic achievement.

Released 20th August 2018

Order the album in various formats direct from the band’s website

 

 

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