Review – Tonochrome – A Map In Fragments – by Emma Roebuck

Tonochrome are a London based art rock quintet whose grunge aesthetic is peppered with jazz harmony, contemporary classical influences, Andean sounds and pop hooks. A coming together of opposites, of texture and colour, of the acoustic and the synthetic, Tonochrome are a joyful reminder of what music can be when you just don’t give a damn about convention.”

Their own publicity from the website speaks volumes and Tonochrome have been making noises in the capital for a short time now with some very positive press. They have an interesting take on music and draw from any muse that feels right, plundering from across the board from world music to blatant pop and seem to believe nothing is off the table. The music draws from the melancholy end with melody at its core and Andres Razzini’s voice has a definite quality to it that slots into that downbeat shoegaze, indie feel.

12 tracks, no epics just solid song writing but definitely not verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle-eight, verse, chorus, fade …

Border Crossing is just what it sounds like – a narrative of refugees and the loss of life and human rights. The use of understated percussion and violin sounds along with an open guitar where space is left in abundance until the build up of tension drops into a driving riff adds to a measured pace that reflects the cold way the politicians have used the refugee crisis to their own ends. Disputed Area definitely channels Sigur Ros with its use of melody and space. This again has a current affairs storyline with an awareness of what is happening in the world. What stands out here on this track for me is the use of percussion and rhythm or actually a lack of a driving beat, Jack Painting playing an open game, layering textures of sound.

Humbled & Broken is faster paced and up beat and, for me, connects Charlie Cawood’s influence and Knifeworld into the band. The keyboards play a big role with a Latin American rhythm and phased electric piano. The Three interludes that are spread through the album act as punctuation and have the feel of a jam session that helps the flow of the album from one space to the next. They highlight the talent on display and are so understated with it.

Conformity comes under examination with Just Like Us, the use of the string section and wah wah guitar sound has harmonic overtones that can be heard through much of Knifeworld’s material. Kilometre Zero reflects the power a solo voice and piano can carry with a string section adding an eerie back drop in the final third. Truly spine tingling in its tone and feeling, this is a hidden gem in the album.

I don’t do track by track reviews, I normally just want to give the music fan an idea of what they are buying and then let them decide but I cannot finish without mentioning The Gates. This stands out head and shoulders for me personally, the structure, the composition and the sheer quality show a maturity and restraint that others should take note of and learn from. It is melancholy concentrated into one piece of music.

I refuse to brand this outfit as Prog, but it is truly progressive in its nature. The Delinquent Pachyderm has a real stand out album here. If you are going to start a new year with a bang this is it! Tonochrome sit on the fringes of shoegaze/ alternative/indie in a very real way. I reckon with some luck and a little mainstream coverage (Radio 6 are you listening), they could shatter the glass ceiling that is blocking much of the good music around right now.

Released 2nd February 2018

Order ‘A Map In Fragments’ from bandcamp here:


Review – Arcaeon – Balance – by Emma Roebuck

A band so new they have not reached their first birthday release their first EP and stamp a clear identity on the music they create. Based in Reading, self defined Prog Metalcore band Arcaeon give us 4 songs and try to show the variation and style they are writing and performing.

The album opens with Endeavour and a deceptive ethereal guitar riff and what I assume is guitar synthesised melodic line that begins to intensify and then drops into a power chord and heavy bass line as William Alex Young begins his vocals. Like a shock trooper in a musical war he hits hard and strong with deep and rasping tones for the first verses and to reinforce the Prog credentials the Metalcore shifts, the manic becoming calm and the storm fades. A voice not entirely dissimilar from James Hetfield comes from the speakers but, like the eye of a hurricane, that passes and the storm returns.

Fade has a similar mix of vocal styles and rhythm variances with harmonies and screaming and pounding bass lines. It is intricate and technical along with a high level of skill involved, the discipline and control involved is impressive. The contrasting use of clean vocal harmonies and the intense growling gives an interesting and additional element to the music. The guitar lines shift from frenetic then calm soloing eases the mind lulling it into a false sense of security.

Mind’s Eye opens up and immediately I am reminded of Maschine’s last album and Kyros, tight and melodic before they shift into the powered vocals for the verse and an out of nowhere a guitar solo that comes straight out of the classic rock playbook. There are moments when the intensity relaxes and shows that these guys are capable and talented musicians and can deliver more than just one style.

Dysaxis opens with a dial up modem connecting and drops into a similar pattern of mixed rhythmic and bass driven sound with the guitar and effects dancing round it! Eifion and Joe are in tune with each other totally.

Arcaeon are one of the increasingly large number of band that are coming from influences such as Muse, Animals As Leaders, Opeth and TesseracT rather than the route of bands from 40 years or more ago. They are young, keen and ambitious and appear at first glance to have no real connection to Progressive Rock in the traditional way. It was inevitable that the “golden age bands” would lose their grip as an influence as time distanced them from young musicians. BUT they draw from bands that had those bands as influences, so the experiences are second hand and so less precious to them. The metalcore aspect will not be for everyone but it does have merit and skill and is progressive. They are learning their art and will grow and that will be an interesting journey to follow. I can see this being a great and powerful live experience as well.

This is not music for the faint-hearted neither do I think that the fans of the pastoral and symphonic silo of the Prog genre will enjoy this EP. Fans of Opeth, Dream Theater, Ne Obliviscaris and Animals As Leaders will find something to love here. This is one area of the Progressive Rock movement that is getting young and talented bands coming through more and more. They have a young audience too, I think if any band will break through the wall into mass acceptance it will be Arcaeon or of their ilk.

Released 26th January 2018

Order ‘Balance’ from bandcamp


Review – Tom Slatter’s Murder and Parliament – Murder and Parliament – by Emma Roebuck

Secret Project **** released, and I have to admit my personal prejudices got the better of me when the worst kept secret at Evil Pachyderm Central Lab 558 was actually announced ready for release.

My bigotry being I see Tom Slatter as a wordsmith turned musician rather than a musician who can do words too! I gave it a cursory spin to choose a track for my show on Progzilla then, as is my wont, set it aside for proper listen when I had no reviews in hand. Martin then suggested I have a go at the review so I have the reason and motivation to examine this release closer with my singular brain cell.

The opening track A Scattering begins with swelling, rising keyboard riff that introduces a distorted guitar sound then a repeating riff that I assume is from Alun on bass. The refrain is passed from instrument to instrument then devolves into a manic feeling ‘battle of the musician’s’ jam session. Imagining Tom essentially jamming with himself is something too torturous to actually retain. In the central section it transforms into a jazz improvisation and tennis match as sections are passed across the studio. Consider four versions of Tom in the studio grinning in the classic evil Professorial manner of a Verne/Wells classic and you get my imagery and should be rightfully worried. This, in all honesty, shows some real depth and texture that makes me smile and I see my prejudices were flawed and incorrect.

Crookedness has the feel of a Tom Slatter track, the “Steam Punk Skiffle” guitar and drums combo racing into the track, seeing who gets there first and unsurprisingly ending in a draw at the middle eight. This is not a bad thing and Grey Malkin is a fine piece of similar proportions of manic guitar and lilting tempos for variety. It appears there is actually a Slatter Guitar sound! You can hear his musical voice and technique in the sound and structure. Both these tracks could have been songs with words but they turned hard left at the lyrical and melody corner and the lyrical content became a guitar line with keyboard harmonies. They both have enough to keep the listener busy if they want to dig deeper but also can wash over you as whole pieces if they are on in the car or while performing those other functions that life demands.

That is the first three out of the way and they feel like what I would expect from Tom knowing his previous work in the way I do. The next 5 all show something very different and one of the reasons why I think this actually is an album that should not be forgotten in the seasonal melee that was Christmas and New year.  Kettle and Cauldron sounds like it is straight of an experimental Berlin school jam between Can Neu! and Kluster and is annoyingly short at 3 minutes and a bit.  It could be expanded to a 15 or 20 minute zone out percussion and synth electronic dream. Firecracker has the addition of Chrissie on Violin giving a softer feel and a drifting continuance from the previous track into that guitar sound.

Embers is, by a country Victorian Mile, my favourite on this album. The violin, atmospheric keyboards and sonic landscape understate what is going on and hide, to some degree, a complex but very easy on the ear piece of music. Think a Steam Punk Floyd Shine on You Crazy Diamond and you get some idea from words but only listening to it can you really get it! Alun does the bass line as a melody in parts and vanishes in others. Again Slatter, too short! I want a longer track with more beyond the fade.

Clamour and They Broadcast My Birthday on a Numbers Station (no, I have no idea what that means either!) flow together from Embers developing and growing almost as if they were from a common session. Clamour is a mature piece and shows insights of an avante-garde and metal combination without sounding like either. Tom has an ear for a riff and a refrain and is fond of bouncing them around and playing them to create larger works. Both tracks have that finger print on them. On deeper listening, Tom is hinting at his influences from the rock, metal, thrash, jazz (and possibly prog too) genres.

Instrumental albums are never easy, especially when you are a songwriter, and it could so easily have been and album of music “I could not find words for so let’s make an instrumental album”. Instead it shows a side of Mr Slatter that lies hidden too often in his other albums; the composer is exposed here at his most vulnerable and it is all the better for that exposure. I know there are plans afoot for Tom to play with a full band in a live setting and I think there is room for these tracks in that set. I would love to hear him experiment in some long form electronic material too.

I said I went into this with a fair amount of prejudice and expectation and I apologise for that and a slapped wrist for me. I think this is one for your collection, despite missing the inevitable end of 2017 best of lists and no doubt the forgotten of 2018 to come lists.

Released 1st December 2017

Order ‘Murder and Parliament’ from bandcamp here


Review – Jess And The Ancient Ones – The Horse And Other Weird Tales – by Emma Roebuck

From the opening chords to first sentences from the opening titles of the Twilight Zone dropping into the rhythms I remember hearing on the 60s teen movies where the kids moved in strange gyrations to the psychedelic sounds of the club scene. That is just the first track, Death is the Doors, from this Finnish band hailing from Kuopio. They are distinctly drawing their influences from the 60’s underground scene but they also pull from other areas of influence for the spread of music on this anthology of stories ripped from the dark imaginations of the band.

It has short, punchy and powerful music with intelligence and accessibility as well as a lot of variety. There are also longer pieces that stretch the listener and allow for musical expression and variation.

You and Eyes, at 7 minutes long, has moments of slow intensity and space which drifts and takes the listener along on a journey inside yourself and descends into madness with heavy distorted metal guitar sounds and then out again.

Radio Aquarius is an all too brief musical scoring to a conversation about LSD that drops straight into Return to Hallucinate, following the actual trip to drop the acid and fall down the rabbit hole again. This lets me talk about the eponymous Jess and her vocal style and skill. She has an incredible range but has total control of it. I hear much of Grace Slick in there but also I hear Janis Joplin and Nina Simone on some of the pieces as well. She is fearless and fills the space with a primitive energy with her voice.

This 9 track album is thoroughly refreshing and exciting and reminds me of how good some of these new bands are right now. They  cannot be pigeonholed and are driving their own destiny in a musical sense. They draw like magpies from the history of modern music from the Jazz of the 50s to the NWOBHM of the 80s to the Psychedelica of the late 60s, and I even hear bits of Siouxsie Sue briefly in Jess’ intonation. The musicianship is excellent and they have a very cohesive feel where no one dominates. The bass and percussion are a powerful engine in this machine but know when to drop the revs and disappear so the keys and guitar and become light and carry the musical journey where it needs to go. The use of speech sections is liberal but not intrusive and fits very well into the album and the whole of the narrative.

Who will like this? Anyone truly interested in music who is willing to slip outside their personal silo and loves to hear a band joyously celebrating being able to write and play music. Fans of Birdeatsbaby, Half past Four, and Purson will either already be aware of them, if not check em out NOW! If you think they grew from a Finnish Death metal band and only began in 2010 then they definitely are on my one to watch list.

Released 1st December 2017

Buy the album in various formats from Svart Records:

All band pics by Mari Väliaho

Review – Wobbler – From Silence To Somewhere – by Emma Roebuck

Wobbler, a Norwegian band formed in 1999 near Hønefoss; no, I had no idea until I looked either; release their fourth album.

Who are Wobbler?

Lars Fredrik Frøislie – keyboards, backing vocals, Kristian Karl Hultgren – bass, bass clarinet, bass recorder, Martin Nordrum Kneppen – drums, percussion, recorder, Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo – vocals, guitar, glockenspiel, percussion, Geir Marius Bergom Halleland – lead guitar, backing vocals.

It is a 4 track album with 3 tracks between 10 and 20 minutes and one that comes in at 3 minutes. On my first play through I am going to own up to having some immediate judgements on the band and the music they make. I am new to them and have not heard any of their music, I am though a fan of Trevor Pinnock and his work creating authentic music on the instruments in the classical field and I see something of this in the music of Wobbler and their desire to create the authentic sound of the bands of the “golden age” of progressive rock. They also have channeled the bands of the time as key influences of creative process.

From Silence to Somewhere is the opener and at 21 minutes is indicative of the desire to be the wormhole to the late 60s and early 70s. Musically it carries the spirit of the 70s but is recorded in an analogue way through digital technology. We then have a quandary because sonically this is better than their heroes, or at least those they seem to witch to emulate. Mellotrons, time changes, light and shade abound with woodwind of the medieval instruments and flute dropping in left right and centre. The harmonies are well constructed and the jigsaw puzzle of the music fits together inch perfect, well nanometre perfect. It is very slick.

Rendered In shades of Green is a simpler beast., piano and strings with light percussion that lifts from a requiem overture to something with more of a lightness of touch.

That is light relief for Fermented Hours hits like a steam hammer through a polystyrene wall. Over 10 minutes of more rapidly changing musical sound scapes than may actually be good for the health.

Finally Foxlight, pastoral in its introduction and lightness, is a relief after the previous track. Harmonies and a very acoustic drive to it give the listener a memory of laying in a hay meadow by the moon light in a balmy summers evening. Well at least for the first 3 minutes before they crash into a full-on-band-beast; Harpsichord flute bass and drums dance around each other for supremacy with Andreas’ vocals bouncing along the track to narrate the storyline.

I am going to be honest, I have no idea what the songs are about and I am not trying to get inside the heads of the writers. They are obviously passionate about what they do and are focused on creating music that is a reflection and wear the musical influences like a heart on their collective sleeves. They draw directly from the source and you can hear it. Fans of King Crimson, PFM, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Gryphon, The Tangent and Big Big Train will find something in this album worth listening to and enjoying. There is a market for their music and, after being done over by the visa department by the good old USA this summer, some recompense is due to them.

Released 20th October 2017

Buy ‘From Silence To Somewhere’ from bandcamp



Review – Playgrounded – In Time With Gravity – by Emma Roebuck

Playgrounded is a Greek band born and forged in the heart of the financial crash post 2007 and whose first album ‘Athens’ is a narrative of Greece and a Greek youth in crisis and ultimately the European Project. They moved to Rotterdam to explore their music more, in their own words “Heavy Rock meets Electronic”, this is of course is not happy joyous music.

‘In Time With Gravity’ is 8 tracks of music but, technically, only 6 as the final track is a long form piece subdivided into 3,  The Stranger, based on the Albert Camus book of the same name which can be summarised in Camus’s own words.

‘I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.”

I will let that dangle for a while as I explore the rest of the album and return to it later.

To begin properly at the beginning, The Crossing, the meaning of this song eludes me if I am honest. It could be a metaphor for their journey from Greece and learning to connect to a Northern European culture? It could also be a metaphor for the journey of the refugees making a similar journey or I could well off the mark. Musically it is very dark and electronic driven with an understated but definite slow grinding guitar work woven around the main themes.

Mute is a definite stand out track on this album for me. There’s big sounding and very powerful guitar work but not in a way that swamps the rest of the music. They manage to sound big and yet leave space in the music, it is a trick some of the other Prog metal bands could do with learning if I am honest. There’s an addictive guitar hook that repeats often enough to become an ear worm.

Waves, now this is to me where the band show their influences at their clearest. A song of a wasted generation lost in the turmoil of politics and chaos of the times. Playgrounded have played on the same bill as Anathema and Riverside and they are very comfortable musical bedfellows here.

In Time with Gravity is the title track and the most electronic based track on the album. I have not heard ‘Athens‘ so it could be a hangover from the past or a hint at the direction to come but it has a lighter tone and feel to it almost but not entirely optimistic in outlook. I suppose this is as close to a love song as this album has but a pop song it isn’t. Coming in at over 10 minutes long it has plenty of time to explore the themes and melody and give a few opportunities to have off-shoots and pathways to explore.

Rotterdam is obviously the band trying to express their first experiences of living in a new country and finding their feet, moving to be as close to the heart of Europe as they could to see where the music could take them. Musically the main driver here is the bass line and keyboard sequencing.

Finally we Return to The Stranger, I will be honest with you here, I only know of the book but  have never read it. Praise the internet and a cheat sheet to help me with cross referencing Camus’ book and the tracks that make up the whole piece based on that tome. In short man attends his mother’s funeral then kills someone and is then sentenced to death. The primary character, the Stranger of the piece is an outsider of the society that he inhabits and ultimately that society destroys him because he is an outsider.


‘ I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.”

The three parts “Funeral”, “Killing” and “Verdict” break down the story into its component parts. It expresses the film noir of the 50s French film scene very well and how the outcome of one who is outside the whole is doomed in one way or another, in this case execution by guillotine. The Cure’s ‘Killing an Arab’ is based on the same book.

I have avoided genres here as much as possible in this review as I honestly think that these guys sit apart in many ways from any specific genre or type. I have chatted with a couple of fellow DJs about it and they agree, they sit in an area of their own BUT I am going to make a few comparisons and references for people who have an interest.

Dark moody emotional and different are good words for these guys. If you have a liking for mid/ late period Anathema, NIN, some of the slow grinding Black Sabbath with added late Depeche Mode and Gary Numan for a little spice then this could be for you. If you want happy and lightness with lots of sparkling unicorns then i would suggest that you steer well clear!

I have a feeling that live these guys are far less restrained and rip it up good and proper.

Released 19th October 2017

Order ‘In Time With Gravity’ from bandcamp here

Review – Charlie Cawood – The Divine Abstract – by Emma Roebuck

This landed in my inbox and I will admit to anticipating this with a huge amount of glee. Knifeworld are a personal favourite (hint new album please), Mediaeval Baebes and the wonderful My Tricksy Spirit album released not long ago appeal to my love of the leftfield of music. The publicity from Pachyderm Central (a hidden cave on the coast of Yorkshire) leads with:

“A veteran of the London music scene for over a decade, Charlie is best known as bassist of critically acclaimed psychedelic octet Knifeworld, and instrumentalist/co-arranger for Emmy-nominated Classical choir Mediaeval Baebes. He also plays stringed instruments in Bad Elephant Music stable mates My Tricksy Spirit”

Charlie must feel great pressure to deliver something very special and on the more eccentric side of the esoteric. In truth I had no idea what to expect as all three of the projects that Charlie is involved in were so different and not really all him but more where he is a contributor or guest of the primary writers. The list of musicians he has on this album is massive and listed at the end of this review. There are instruments that I had no idea what they were let alone what they sounded like.

To the actual music, which is after all what folks really want to know about. Imagine a place in heaven or another world or plane of existence where you have access to living and dead masters of their instruments jamming in a space.  From Ravi Shankar, John Mclaughlin and George Harrison to Vangelis, Mike Oldfield and many others, I think this is what is in Charlie’s head in this album. He has sat and heard all these and has filtered what he has heard and made it The Devine/Divine Abstract ( both spellings are used on my copy).

Shringara, the opening track is a melee of Sitar and guitar instrumental music yet has clarity and lilting tone. I assume it Comes from the Rasa, meaning the love of art and beauty, because it does channel that feeling to me.

The Divine Abstract is next falling into 4 subsets –  Echolalia, an endless repetition of someone’s speech often associated with mental health issues is just that, a refrain shared with instruments with a sonorous cello linking the music.  The Earths Answer picks up the theme and carries it to an acoustic modern quartet classical piece, Fearful Symmetry carries on balancing the sonic journey but lifting the pace with a violin taking the lead and finally Western Lands is carried by a melodic drifting connection of the three previous pieces into a final whole to complete the journey. I don’t know a great deal about Charlie but it feels like he is channeling or commenting on the human condition with music, no words just the honesty of his composition.

Earth Dragon from the Chinese Zodiac is a three part piece using what sounds like a very classical Chinese music approach. There is nothing fiery about this dragon but a meditative repetition of musical themes using instruments true to the form. You are carried on the breeze of the music which is easy on the ears yet far from simple in its form.

The Garden of the Mind, this is a tranquil jazz fusion freeform piece that is the closest to Knifeworld in form but without the manic intensity of the band in free flow. I could drop this into a Weather Report or Miles Davis set and it would not be lost in the melee.

Skip two tracks because I like to leave a little mystery and we finish with Apotheosis. One meaning is to deify and raise to its peak. In this Charlie has drawn together the thematic musical strands of the album to create a piece that stands apart from the rest.

First the gripes, I want more exploration and testing of the limits of the music. Just as I get into a piece it ends and I feel there is more to hear.

This is an album that can be heard on multiple levels. Put it on in the background and let it wash around the room and a tonal pleasance will fill your senses and make whatever you are doing feel easier. Headphones on in a darkened room it is akin to musical meditation with layer upon layer of music to discover, clever sophisticated music that opens doors both spiritually and emotionally. Charlie has opened his musical heart in this album and it shows being very accessible and yet very varied in influence.

It will grow on you as you listen. I struggled looking how to get my feelings about it over but not because it is a hard album but the way it made me feel was complicated.

Released 3rd November 2017

Order ‘The Divine Abstract’ from bandcamp here

Charlie Cawood: acoustic, electric & classical guitars, Fender VI, acoustic & electric bass guitars, sitar, pipa


Katharine Blake: treble & sopranino recorders
Lucy Brown: French horn
Flora Curzon: violin
Hannah Davis: vibraphone, glockenspiel
Julie Groves: flute
Chlöe Herington: bassoon
Steve Holmes: piano, celeste, Minimoog, bass synth
James Larcombe: piano, dulcitone
Dennis Kwong Thye Lee: xiao
Nicki Maher: clarinet
Ben Marshall: oboe, cor anglais

Review – Constructs – Shapes – by Emma Roebuck

Constructs – ‘Shapes’ – well, where to start on this one? Foolishly my first run out of this was ill considered. I normally try out a to-be-reviewed album in the small hours around midnight in the thick silence of my bedroom; this is an EP but more of that later. My error is that I never check promo materials before hand or I would have parked this for a more appropriate time. This is not, I stress NOT, an album to help you chill and ease you towards the land of nod. My insomnia is bad enough but, by the end of track 1 – Tempest that was it, I had been hit by a shot of the musical equivalent of a double espresso. A deceptive electronica  intro drops rapidly into a bass and guitar battle not dissimilar to the war of the god that a see in a thunder and lightning storm. Thick solid sonic sound scapes abound with apparently chaotic but in reality a very disciplined musical approach.

Who are Constructs,

Trayen Burke – Guitars
Gordo Leete – Bass
Dennis Willoner – Drums

Constructs is a three-piece progressive metalcore band hailing from San Jose, California that formed in 2015. Their name comes from the idea that everything in our reality is in some way, shape, or form, a construct, whether it be thought patterns, society, or the way we interact with each other and the world. The band, consisting of Trayen Burke, Gordo Leete, and Dennis Willoner, have spent the past two years polishing and refining their sound while writing and recording. The band draws influence from metal titans such as Northlane, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, Dream Theater, and is focused on creating a precise, articulate, and stunning live performance.”

Ok to the EP/Album then I struggle here with what it actually is. This EP is 6 tracks long yet comes in at a length not far short of the albums I bought as a Teen back in the dark ages of vinyl, hang on are we not re-entering those days again? 30 minutes plus of  a Californian Trio that has its roots more in the 90s when Dream Theater, Kings X and Queensryche were pressing the metal button but being progressive in their attitude to composition structure and song length.  There is no reference directly to the Prog that served my teen years in the 70s. This actually cheers my heart no end rather than scares me. The ghost of prog bands past haunts way to many bands for my liking and is limiting what bthey do in their creativity and development.

Being an instrumental album, getting meaning from the music, is often very personal in the way you read a title and apply to the music. Atmospheres, the second track, feels like a flight to me through the varied weather systems of our planet from calm to threatening and destructive using the distorted thundering bass sound that reverts to softer textures of the electronic effects and the scaling solos of guitars.

Event Horizon, one of the most destructive things in the universe set to music, is never going to be a happy place for music and this is far from a light and fluffy track.  It implies chaos and obliteration but still within the rigid systems of physics and the music reflects this very well indeed. This track typifies a thing they do well yet some of their equivalents seem to forget. They do space and time where others do not and pummel the listener with constant double kick drum and bass without relief, saving the intensity for when it will have greater impact.

I always leave out tracks for others to discover for themselves on any album but be assured I have not cherry picked but given a flavour of what these guys deliver.

Rather than saying who should stay away from this I will say who would best appreciate this intense, dark and yet still uplifting product. Anyone looking beyond the mainstream of melody, verse, chorus, verse, solo, middle 8, chorus and then repeat. Fans of The Fierce & The Dead, Mars Volta, Animals As Leaders and the likes of Voyager and Ne Obliviscaris would sit very well along side of this EP.

It heartens me to think that there is music being made that has depth and power and retains an identity that pushes the boundaries. Many will not like this but many will see its merits and the true progressive spirit of some of the stuff that is out there.

Released 6th November 2017

Order ‘Shapes’ direct from the band

Review – Johannes Luley – Qitara – by Emma Roebuck

The guitarist from Moth Vellum and, more recently, Perfect Beings comes out with his second solo album ‘Qitara’ after 2013’s ‘Tales From Sheepfather’s Grove’ which, if I am honest, I have not yet heard but, after hearing, ‘Qitara’ I shall be it hunting out.

Johannes says this is a collection of music he has created over the last few years and was looking for a way to put it on an album for people to hear. The album is mainly instrumental with one vocal song Sister Six which is not that far from what Perfect Beings produce and has a very slow percussive atmospheric feel to it along with a psychedelic edge from a pseudo Sitar sound on the guitar parts and sweeping sonic landscapes.

The rest is instrumental and is essentially Johannes exploring musical styles, slipping from jazz to rock to avante garde via the progressive greats. Some of it is outright jamming by some amazing musicians, Soliloquist being a good example of that musical telepathy that happens when musicians get in sync and let things happen. Faces in Reflection is taken from the same mould and, although it is a George Duke, composition they take it to places that only they can do when in the moment. Both tracks have a deep jazz/rock crossover and are delights to these ears.

The Doer is classical guitar with a very open beginning which then flows into  a track that has Weather Report clashing with Frank Zappa at his jazziest.

Hot Sands has a fat chunky keyboard line with soaring guitar lines channelling a desert journey and the constant drive for thirst and water. Red and Orange, the other cover, is a Jan Hammer piece with tons of edge, drive and virtuosity  and yet is neither sterile or cold. Fans of Mahavishnu will find much to like here.

White City & Agni Rahasya have the feel of a homage to Steve Howe and his works with a big chunk of Luley interpreting the style.

This album moves across styles and genres but has jazz rock at its core. If you like Dave Gilmour, Pat Metheny, Frank Zappa, Steve Howe or Steve Vai then it has much to offer. There is a brief reunion with his band mate from Moth Vellum Ryan Downe – on vocals. The sleeve notes are remarkably comprehensive for the guitar geeks of this world and the way he has constructed the album.

I would say that this is far from a mainstream album and sits in a niche of primarily instrumental guitar music. Having said that, I played Red & Orange on my show last week and it received praise and interest from the listeners. If I have a criticism then I would love to have heard longer pieces and more musical navel gazing and exploration from the album. It feels like he has edited down which makes me want to hear the stuff on the cutting room floor. But I suppose, as P T Barnum said, “Always leave them wanting more!”

Released 15th September 2017

Order ‘Qitara’ direct from the artist




Live DVD Review – The Pineapple Thief – Where We Stood – by Emma Roebuck

Darran Charles, Steve Kitch, Jon Sykes, Gavin Harrison and, of course, Bruce Soord are the current touring version of The Pineapple Thief. On the 11th February 2017 they played the Islington Assembly Rooms, touring in support of their ‘Your Wilderness’ album. It was a packed audience and was a much anticipated tour and album.

The set list for the night was:

  • Tear You Up
  • The one you left to Die
  • No Man’s Land
  • Alone At Sea
  • That Shore
  • Reaching Out
  • In Exile
  • Take Your Shot
  • Show a little love
  • Fend For Yourself
  • Part Zero
  • Simple as that
  • Final Thing on my mind
  • Encores Snow drops / Nothing at best.

The show was recorded and will be released in various packages on the 6th October as ‘Where We Stood’.

First the limitations. I had no access to the package in itself with the multitude of mixes and vinyl stuff which Kscope have produced as a rather excellent showcase of a live band in full flow in front of a passionate audience. I will review what I have seen which is the concert DVD footage and the documentary footage. After all, this is the actual product they are selling in its many forms.

I am a music fan and believe the arena of the stage and live presentation is often the best judge of what a band is capable of in the purest form. A band can live or die on what it does on stage and putting out a DVD of a stage set is a brave thing to do for any band but it seems to be a common thing to do these days.

The set is mainly drawn from the recent album and shows the music in a new light with an additional dimension to the material. The band is completely together in this and are a very slick and tight outfit putting on a show worthy of a much larger stage and audience.

Visually it is a delight and it is also of a very high quality sound (which is available as a standalone live album). It comes as close to letting you be there during the actual performance as any DVD can. The band as individuals get fair shares of shots and it lingers on key musical moments like solos, licks or breaks.  High points for me are, obviously, Snow Drops and Take Your Shot but Exiles and the opening tracks Tear You Up and The One You left To Die also deserve special mention. The set flows like water and is a fine surrogate for those who missed the tour and also as a souvenir for those who have seen this line up recently.

Bravely the new album fills the set list but has a different tone and quality to the studio version. Gavin brings a new feel to the older songs and adds to the live versions. Bruce is a great front man and connects to the audience well. This brings me to a couple of frustrations which I hope can be resolved with the DVD menu manipulations. The show is interspersed with interviews with the guys which ruins the flow of the concert. They could as easily been dropped into the additional 15 minute documentary of the back stage, pre and post show scenes.   Instead I would have let the whole gig play and get the interactions of the band with the audience. I want to feel like I am at the gig and that gets broken up.  Having said that it is relatively minor gripe for what is a great visual presentation of a great band in full flow.

For fans it is an essential purchase but also if you have even a slight interest in good intelligent music then buy it and see what ‘good’ looks like as well as sounds like.

Released 6th October 2016.

Order all formats from the Kscope store at Burning Shed

(Featured image credit: DIANA SEIFERT)