Listening to music, for me, is immersive. I wish to be enveloped in melody, washed over by lyrical whimsy and transported through waves of sonic delights to transcendental states of heightened perceptions. I want to fall into music, to feel emotions and to become at one with the albums I listen to. Much of this requirement I blame on Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, as that is an album set a bar, that for many, is a totally unrealistic target with only a few bands reaching somewhere close; Fish era Marillion, moments from Dire Straits, recent albums from John Grant and Public Service Broadcasting standing out.
Putting on my headphones and listening to the six tracks on the new album from Starfish64, ‘The Future In Reverse’, I was reminded greatly of these highlight moments of musical enjoyment for me as the band, which comprises Dieter Hoffman, Henrik Kropp, Martin Pownall and Dominik Suhl (ably assisted by Kass Moody, Julie Pownall, Jan Thiede and Simon Triebal), have created a delicious flight of fantasy that echoes (pun intended) Floyd in its sweeping and swooping harmonies between guitars, keyboards and voices. Minimal in its concept and use of equipment, it nevertheless has shown craftsmen at the top of their game giving full vent to their talents.
For me, the great joy of this album is the interplay and harmony between guitar and keyboards, reminiscent of Messrs Gilmour and Wright but also, and perhaps more so Steve Rotherey and Mark Kelly of Marillion. I recently reviewed, for my own website:
Marillion’s last album where one slight criticism I gave was that I felt that many of the tracks felt like Steve and Mark were either held back or didn’t give themselves total full reign to really expand and develop their interplay.
‘The Future In Reverse’ does this, in spades and with knobs on; beautifully, elegantly and expertly. The harmonies developed are sumptuous, they drive with focus and they help create what is a most immersive and enjoyable listen.
Martin dropped me an email, as is his wont, and asked me to have a listen to these guys and see what I thought. Instead of the massive introduction that I wrote and then deleted, I am going to go straight in, after all, this is about the band and not me, and at the end of the day all you want to know is what this sounds like and did I enjoy it?
Starfish64 is the musical project of German guitarist and vocalist Dieter Hoffman, who has been working with a musical collective since 2006 as Starfish64, and this is the band’s second full-length album. The collaboration has been fleshed out by Henrik Kropp on drums and Dominik Suhl on guitars and keyboards.
It snuck out towards the end of last year, and whilst the name and music is new to me, I will never say no to listening to something different and original.
There’s only 4 tracks on here, and musically this is very much at the melodic end of the music scene, reminiscent of the more chilled out parts of Gilmour era-Floyd, south coast Americana, ‘Summer Teeth’ era Wilco and if you’d like a more contemporary comparison, they occupy the same song focused area that Fractal Mirror sit in.
Here the album is all about the song, and the melodies, so if you’re expecting chaotic time signatures, prog metal, or something that sounded like it was recorded by Yes or Genesis back in 1974 then you’re in the wrong place.
If you’re looking for a more contemplative, chilled out, mellow vibe man, then this is the journey for you.
I have spent the past few days immersing myself in this album on my commute to work through the cold winter mornings, and it feels like a perfect autumnal album, one to be listened to inside the pub, with a roaring fire, a leather armchair and nice glass of something alcoholic and relaxing.
The opener is the longest track on the album, and is nearly the title track, Altered States ebbs and flows with some sublime guitar moments, musical breaks and Dieters impassioned vocals that bring the whole piece together, his warm vocals have a hint of Mike Scott (from the Waterboys) about them, and they match the music perfectly, and even though it’s a 20 minute plus piece with great musical peaks as it pulses and flows, the greatest knack is that it doesn’t feel like you’ve listened to 23 minutes of music, you feel like that no sooner has it started then it’s stopped, and listening on headphones, phone away, really immerses you in the music.
The album continues a pace with the brilliant and beguiling TheBlack Dot, with some suitably wistful and mournful trumpet from Christian Wahl, and the brass adds so much to the track, (I’m a Yorkshireman, the sound of brass stirs something primeval in our hearts) and the beautifully reflective and ominous lyrics about the mysterious ‘Black Dot’, I think its about one subject, but I’ll let you make up your mind, and it builds and finishes with a superb ending arranged by collaborator Jan Thiede (guitars/flutes).
So Is Life, with it’s wistful feel, pulls a Beautiful South trick of a melodically haunting track, with some fantastic keyboard work, and dark lyrics, that have more of an impact tied to a melodic tune, this is again a sign of the bands fantastic craft.
The closing track Dusk, with it’s melancholic feel, it’s 70’s style synth sounds and laid back guitar vibes is one of those brilliant happy/sad songs, you can feel the mournful regret seeping through the lyrics, whilst the music is uplifting and soars with a sublime beauty. This simple, but potent mix encapsulates the feeling of dusk for me, and is one of those songs that have anthemic quality, another blinding solo, and that touch of late 70’s FM rock, mixed with something more as it builds to it’s haunting climax.
This is one of those deceptive albums, one that feels shorter than it should be, and yet gives you a good 40 plus minutes of music, ideal for one side of a C90 tape to listen to, on your way to work. Yet you don’t feel musically short-changed. There is plenty going on here, and like a well written book or TV drama, it reveals more and more of it’s magic as you listen to it.
This is not a revolutionary album, and it’s not meant to be, instead it’s an evolution of intelligent melodic rock, that gives you songs you can sing along too, melodies you can hum, and a feeling of pleasure and emotion that lasts long after the album has finished, and after all, when it comes to evocative albums, who can ask for more than that?