Review – Dec Burke – Life In Two Dimensions

Dec Burke is well known as the former guitarist/ vocalist with acclaimed UK progressive rockers Frost*. As well as his work with Dilemma, Audio Plastik and Darwin’s Radio, he has released numerous solo projects and is back with this brand new solo album.

‘Life In Two Dimensions’ is an album of our times, written against the backdrop of the UK lockdown throughout 2020.  It covers themes of loss, hope, excitement, and the modern world of endless advertising and materialism.

The album features contributions from acclaimed musicians; Scott Higham – Drums (Pendragon), Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass (Pain of Salvation), Robin Z. – Piano (Dilemma) Guilherme Aguilar – Bass and Cello, Reiner Siemens – Bass and Robin Armstrong – Mixing, Mastering, Backing Vocals, Keys, Bass (Cosmograf).

While Dec may be best known for being in Frost*, he has developed his own unique sound and it can be heard throughout all of his solo works. Powerful, guitar driven music with large slabs of modern era progressive rock combine with his effortless vocals to deliver huge soundscapes awash with soaring harmonies, elegant keyboards and a very stylish rhythm section.

This new album delivers more of the same, the emotive draw of opening title track Life In Two Dimensions gives an idea of the sumptuous musical experience that is to come. Emergency has a frenetic, in your face, energetic vibe that carries you along in its wake, Sister X has a heavier, more complex and progressive feel to it and This Time is a superbly melodic ballad with a compelling and stirring soul to it.

Dec’s vocals are the star here, his voice can carry emotion, energy and dynamism with equal aplomb and his dexterous guitar playing delivers some fine solos.

Sunlight is a little gem of a song with a pulsing beat and rapid guitar riff that immerses you some kind of mischievous thrill ride, Love Steel takes a monstrous riff and segues into something that could have come from the Hair Metal era of the 80’s, there’s a glint in the eye and a feeling of fun running throughout this track. There’s an elaborate seriousness to Energy with it’s primeval riff, demanding vocals and vibrant chorus that shows Dec’s songwriting skills of to perfection.

Talking of perfection, Fly With Broken Wings, is, in my opinion, one of the best tracks that Dec has ever written, infused with a brooding grandeur. There’s a building tension bubbling under that is released by another fine chorus, a fine track indeed. Sophistication and refinement are at the heart of another great track, Paper Fortress, a lush and polished seven minutes plus of musical splendour. The album closes with the no-nonsense rock of Trap Door, another edgy track full of verve and energy.

You always know what you are going to get with Dec Burke, an album full of polished, quality songs that have his musical aptitude and dexterity written all over them, ‘Life In Two Dimensions’ takes this to another level.

Released 24th September, 2021

Order from Gravity Dream here:

Dec Burke – Gravity Dream Music

Review – Cosmograf – Rattrapante – by Martin Hutchinson

I was talking to Robin Armstrong, the man behind Cosmograf, about how lockdown has really affected my writing. Barring a handful of reviews, my creative juices had dried up, I still loved listening to and appreciating the new music that was out there but I really found it hard to put my feelings into words.

Maybe it was happy coincidence, who knows, but the announcement of lockdown easing and a light at the end of the tunnel has seemed to get my mojo working again and it just happens to have occurred at the same time as Robin is about to release the latest instalment in the history of Cosmograf, happy days eh!?

Cosmograf was formed in 2008 when Robin produced his first home demo album, followed by the release of ‘End of Ecclesia‘ in 2009. The sound is rooted in 70’s classic rock with many contemporary influences from rock, progressive rock and metal. There is always a particular emphasis on concepts and atmospheric production leading to comparisons with artists such as Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson.

‘Rattrapante’ is Cosmograf’s eighth album and is a collection of 5 songs about our interaction with time; we measure it, but yet waste it more, it defines our existence and forms our memories. Some seek to beat it by being the first or the fastest and some can appear to outlive time itself through their achievements…

You may not know this but Robin is a rather fine expert in mechanical watches and goes on to say, “The idea for the album was inspired from from my work with mechanical watches. Rattrapante is a French word deriving from ‘rattraper’ meaning ‘to catch up or recapture. A Rattrapante chronograph can simultaneously time 2 events such a lap split time and a final race time, it was the perfect metaphor for our own interaction with time.

The press release speaks of comparisons with the likes of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree but, in my opinion, Robin moved past those a very long time ago and, when I hear a new Cosmograf album, I think of it as being Cosmograf immediately. Like a lot of my favourite musicians and bands, as soon as you’ve heard the first few notes, you can recognise it is them. This is most definitely the case here as the slow burning intro to In 1985 builds into a powerful crescendo guided by Robin’s compellingly dominant guitar and Kyle’s intense drums. Robin’s vocals are as good as ever and give a feeling of melancholy nostalgia to this potent and commanding song. The magic here is the feeling that you are in 1985 and yet the music is very modern in its delivery and textures, drawing you deeper and deeper into the narrative, the sign of a brilliant storyteller and songwriter at the height of his powers. As the track comes to a close, like a live recording, I can’t help but smile and give a nod to a master.

Well, if you thought that was good, then you are in for another fantastic treat as title track Rattrapante hoves into view like rock leviathan, all primal and monolithic at its core. The edgy and agitated keyboards in the background give a chaotic nervousness to proceedings and Robin’s deliciously dark and impish guitar work adds a real sense of mischievousness to proceedings. This track flies along as if caught in a maelstrom and leaves you breathless. I’m only two tracks in and yet I am really loving this album already, it has an immediacy that grabs but is full of hidden depths like the wondrously fluid and hyperactive keyboards and guitar solo that corse through the centre of the track like liquid fire.

The brilliant Chrissy Mostyn of The Blackheart Orchestra joins Robin on the airy, ethereal joys of I Stick With You, a mythical tale of a man who is growing older, but seemingly has been cursed with immortality. He is somehow trapped in time and unable to connect to his loving partner that he will outlive. A wistfully moody track with its roots in shades of darkness and light but one that really strikes a chord deep in your soul.

Memories Lie is a classic Cosmograf track, intelligent songwriting, note perfect musicianship and an insightful storyline that makes you think while you enjoy the velvety smooth music. While there is no such thing as a bad album by the band, Robin seems to get better and better with age and his music is maturing like a fine red wine, in fact you could do worse to pour yourself a glass while listening to this exquisite song in a darkened room, oblivious to the world around you. Special note must be made of the stunningly bewitching guitar solo that actually made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

Some cliches are actually 100% correct and, unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. ‘Rattrapante’ closes with Time Will Flow, another absorbing journey into the complex and wonderfully creative psyche of Mr Armstrong. I think Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson et al would be very happy indeed to put their names to this song, nearly thirteen minutes of progressive tinged rock of sublime perfection. A track that ebbs and flows with a fantastic voice over from Tommy McNally whose dulcet tones, full of a gorgeous, lilting Scottish brogue, fit perfectly. Guitar, keyboards and drums create a synergy of sound that creates a world in between your ears and Robin’s halting vocal performance is perfect.

There is no such thing as the perfect album as musicians are forever craving to create something more impressive than before but, every now and then, we should just stop and step off this ever evolving world and just enjoy the moment and what we have in front of us. At this moment in time there is nothing I would rather listen to than this incredible new album from Cosmograf, will Robin’s latest pièce de résistance still be up there at the end of the year? Most probably but, here and now, it just does not get any better than this!

Released 26th March 2021 (CD, vinyl will be later).

Order direct from Gravity Dream Music here:

Rattrapante CD (Pre-Order) – Gravity Dream Music

Rattrapante Vinyl (Pre-Order) – Gravity Dream Music