Review – Riverside – Wasteland – by Progradar

“The darkness of the ultimate light is better than the lights of the ultimate darkness.”
― Mohsin Ali Shaukat

One cannot truly appreciate the light unless one has first walked in the dark. We talk of the light at the end of the tunnel, you see this through the dark and it is the ultimate goal, you must, however, travel through the dark to reach the light.

The tragedy that befell in February 2016 called into question the very existence of Riverside. The co-founder and guitarist of the band, Piotr Grudziński, died suddenly just before his 41st birthday. The band cancelled all the concerts planned for that year and dedicated the album “Eye of the Soundscape”, released in September 2016, to their late friend.

To begin a new chapter of Riverside, they would have to record an album from the point of view of someone bereft, someone who has survived a tragedy. The fact that the album would be recorded without their guitarist might result in having to experiment musically a little more than usual but, most of all, it might translate into deeper symbolism and carry a more profound meaning. “I had a feeling we would be alright and we could make something beautiful and exceptional,” recalls vocalist and main composer Mariusz Duda.

In the spring of 2017, Riverside resumed playing live. During the “Towards the Blue Horizon” tour the band were joined on stage by Maciej Meller who officially joined RIVERSIDE as their live guitarist. Why has he not become the official fourth member of the band? “It’s not so simple,” Duda explains, “To catch up with 15 years takes time. I love Maciej but everything has to have its place and time. For now we are a quartet only live.”

So that band is coming back this year with their seventh studio album called “Wasteland”, recorded as a trio: Mariusz Duda – vocals, guitars and basses, Piotr Kozieradzki – drums and Michał Łapaj – keyboards and Hammond organ.

The band entered the recording studio in December 2017 and Duda assumed the duties of the band’s guitarist. “We recorded a demo. It turned out alright and we had come to the conclusion that I would manage to play all the rhythmic parts, all the melodies and some of the solos. Naturally, to enhance the sound of the album, we left some space for guests.”

And so on the new album, you can hear a few guitar solos by Maciej Meller, as well as one by Mateusz Owczarek, a young, talented guitarist, who played with the band during their Warsaw memorial concert for Piotr. For the first time in their music, there are also violins played by Michał Jelonek.

Touted by the band as the spiritual successor to ‘Second Life Syndrome’, the new album is a much heavier and emotive proposition than fan favourite ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’. From the opening strains of Duda’s a-cappella vocals on The Day After and the segue into the sparse, industrial riff of Acid Rain, this is immediately apparent. An underlying feel of apprehension and darkness takes over the first few tracks on the album, for an album whose theme is attempting to survive in a world after the Apocalypse this is, perhaps, quite understandable.

This opening may surprise long term fans but it is superbly well crafted and delivered music that seeks to find a way through an increasingly turbulent world full of new divisions and conflicts. The closing couple of minutes of Acid Rain seem to bring a feeling of light and hope but that is immediately dashed by the granite heavy, staccato riff that delivers Vale of Tears onto an unsuspecting world. A powerful and imposing track that is delivered in one serious and heavy manner. So far ‘Wasteland’ and its predecessor are proving to be polar opposites.

The symbolism of the album refers not only to the post-apocalyptic visions of the world, but also to the death of Piotr Grudziński, to the band’s attempt to find themselves in new circumstances. The wistfully heartbreaking Guardian Angel with its understated vocals and delicate piano and guitar is calmness personified among the dark, post-apocalyptic feel of the earlier tracks. There’s a melancholy feel and a longing at its heart that brings a lump to your throat, a sepia tinged look back in time perhaps?

The elegant acoustic guitar that opens Lament gives no indication of what is to follow, Duda’s keening vocal heralds the entrance of the heaviest riff on the album so far, one that Mikael Åkerfeldt would have been proud of. A song that will inevitably draw comparisons with Opeth (well, I’ve done it!!) with its spacious and melodious verse and thunderous chorus. It’s the song on the album that really hits home with me, emotionally and musically, and Mariusz Duda’s solo just bleeds passion.

There’s a slight change in feel on the album as we head into the ying and yang of the 9 minute-plus instrumental The Struggle For Survival, a feel of the fight to pull away from the hold of the darkness and fight to get to the light. An invigorating first half where Duda’s bass line orchestrates proceedings with a deftness of touch is replaced by the more frantic and chaotic guitar and keyboard heavy second part where Łapaj comes to the fore. The graceful River Down Below sees the seeker getting closer to the light but there’s still a slightly forlorn edge to the music and a fragility to the vocal, a touching and truly moving song that wears its heart on its sleeve.

Title track Wasteland has a world-weary aura, a feel of an ending to a journey of extreme hardship but also one of hard fought knowledge collected along the way. The song drifts along with a lightness of being that can only come from the triumph over adversity. There’s a break into a frenzied instrumental section that fights to overcome the calm before sanity finally regains control. This gives an epic and cinematic feel to the song, an allegory of the fight between darkness and light which has been at the crux of the whole album. For me, the best is saved till last, the wonderful The Night Before where the sparsity of just piano and vocals gives humanity and reality to the song. It’s sublime, almost intangible grace seeps into your very soul until the song finishes and all is left is the vacuum of total silence.

Simply put ‘Wasteland’ is two things, a triumph of the light over the dark and a fitting tribute to Piotr. A compelling and engrossing musical journey through darkness, grief and loss to emerge into the light. A spiritual catharsis that sees a new chapter in the life of Riverside and puts them back at the forefront where they truly belong.

Released 28th September 2018

Order the album from Burning Shed here

 

RIVERSIDE – Reveal “Wasteland” album artwork and first release details!

Polish Rock masters RIVERSIDE are pleased to announce that their upcoming seventh studio album ‘Wasteland’ will be released via their longtime label partner InsideOutMusic on September 28th, 2018.

The album will once again feature artwork designed by longtime visual partner Travis Smith (Opeth, Devin Townsend, etc.) and the record’s main track-listing reads as follows:

RIVERSIDE – “Wasteland”:
1. The Day After
2. Acid Rain
3. Vale Of Tears
4. Guardian Angel
5. Lament
6. The Struggle For Survival
7. River Down Below
8. Wasteland
9. The Night Before

RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda checked in with the following comment about the album’s overall concept: I’d been thinking about exploring “post-apocalyptic” regions for a long time. I read books, watched films, played video games, all connected by stories about an attempt to survive in a world that had just ended. But writing such a story myself didn’t make much sense until now. RIVERSIDEare starting a new chapter and after our recent experiences, a story like that has gained more meaning. “Wasteland” is mostly about what’s happening in the world these days but it also makes a reference to the tragedy that befell the band in 2016. Musically, we’ve returned to darker sounds but we have also turned a new page and recorded the album in a different style. It’s still RIVERSIDE but expressed in a much deeper and more mature way. Most artists say the same thing while promoting their new releases: that they have just created their best work to date. I won’t say that because everything we have done so far has been consistently very good and unique. But I will say that we have never had such an incredible emotional load on any of our previous releases, and it’s not likely that we will ever make such a charged album again. “Wasteland” is an epic, multidimensional, poetic and very deep album. Perhaps of the once in a lifetime kind.”

RIVERSIDE’s “Wasteland” marks the first studio album effort with newly composed music after the tragic passing of founding member and guitarist Piotr Grudziński on February 21st, 2016.

Attention: More album details, its pre-order option as well as a first single will be launched on July 27th, so stay tuned for more news soon…

After having just performed on a string of European festivals including the prestigious Night Of The Prog festival at the historic Loreley Amphitheater in Germany last weekend, RIVERSIDE are next embarking on the “Wasteland 2018 Tour” throughout October/November to support the release of their upcoming album. See an overview of all confirmed upcoming dates below:

RIVERSIDE – “Wasteland 2018 Tour”:
12.10.2018 Gdansk (Poland) – B90
13.10.2018 Poznan (Poland) – Tama
14.10.2018 Wroclaw (Poland) – A2
16.10.2018 Katowice (Poland) – Miasto Ogrodów
17.10.2018 Lódz (Poland) – Magnetofon
18.10.2018 Torun (Poland) – Od Nowa
20.10.2018 Kraków (Poland) – Studio
21.10.2018 Warszawa (Poland) – Hala Kolo
30.10.2018 Berlin (Germany) – Kesselhaus
31.10.2018 Schorndorf (Germany) – Manufaktur
03.11.2018 Lisbon (Portugal) – LAV
04.11.2018 Madrid (Spain) – MON LIVE
05.11.2018 Barcelona (Spain) – Salamandra 1
06.11.2018 Lyon (France) – CCO
07.11.2018 Paris (France) – La Machine
09.11.2018 Manchester (UK) – Academy 2
10.11.2018 London (UK) – The Electric Ballroom
11.11.2018 Sint-Niklaas (Belgium) – Casino
12.11.2018 Utrecht (The Netherlands) – TivoliVredenburg
14.11.2018 Hamburg (Germany) – Markthalle
15.11.2018 Oberhausen (Germany) – Turbinenhalle 2
16.11.2018 Pratteln (Switzerland) – Z7
17.11.2018 Neunkirchen (Germany) – Gloomaar Festival
Tickets: https://riversideband.pl/en/gigs

RIVERSIDE – Festivals 2019:
04.-09.02.2019 Tampa to Key West & Cozumel – Cruise To The Edge
More dates to follow soon…

Look out for more news on RIVERSIDE in the coming weeks…

LUNATIC SOUL ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM ‘UNDER THE FRAGMENTED SKY’ AS THE FOLLOW UP TO 2017’S EMOTIONAL OPUS ‘FRACTURED’ WITH A TEASER VIDEO

MARKING THE 10th ANNIVERSARY OF THE SOLO PROJECT FROM RIVERSIDE’S CREATIVE FORCE 

Lunatic Soul is Mariusz Duda, the talented creator, singer and multi-instrumentalist behind some of the finest and most captivating progressive music coming from Europe, including his output on UK label Kscope and with Poland’s shooting stars Riverside. Duda is now releasing his sixth studio album, the companion to 2017’s ‘Fractured’ and the pinnacle of the first decade of Lunatic Soul.

Following on from last year’s material, which covered content about grieving, hope and a fractured society, ‘Under the Fragmented Sky’ rebuilds Lunatic Soul as we know it, with dark and haunting atmospheres coming to the forefront, taking its name from the lyrics of the 12-minute epic “A Thousand Shards of Heaven” from Fractured. Duda explains “Fractured is not a full picture of the latest Lunatic Soul recordings. These more classical pieces have been waiting for their own time which has now come. “Under the Fragmented Sky” will be both a supplement to “Fractured” and an artistically independent release with its own character and identity.”

“It’s a very unexpected and spontaneous release” – says Mariusz Duda – “Initially, I was thinking about a maxi single “A Thousand Shards of Heaven” with a couple of other tracks but the material had evolved so beautifully in the studio that I ended up with 36 minutes of brand new music. It’s a truly enchanting album. 

“UTFS” is a music journey with very subtle electronics and vocal experiments, it’s incredibly coherent and much closer to the mood of the earlier Lunatic Soul albums. Thanks to “Under the Fragmented Sky”, the last red album will gain a fuller meaning and the whole Lunatic Soul discography will be enriched with another shade of my music fascinations, which have been suspended somewhere between life and death from the very beginning.”

The album was recorded during the Fractured sessions at Serakos Studio, Warsaw from June 16-17, and finalised December 2017 and February 2018. The final track “Untamed” sees a guest appearance on drums for Wawrzyniec Dramowicz (aka Vaaver). The album was designed and illustrated by Polish artist Jarek Kubick.

Under the Fragmented Sky will be released in the following formats on 25th May and is now available for pre-order here: http://found.ee/UNDER_FRAGMENTED_SKY

 •CD
•LP – 180g heavyweight clear vinyl as a single LP in gatefold packaging.
•Digital
Follow Lunatic Soul online:
Photo of Mariusz by Oskar Vramka.

Review – Lunatic Soul – Fractured – by Kevin Thompson

Life, like glass, is a fragile thing. Blows to both cause them to crack and fracture, delicately hanging the shards together as fissures creep across the surface, threatening to shatter at any moment.

Sharp edges and words cut deep red like blood and run with the dark crimson of passion. The reflections distort and twist our outlook on life.

Glittering and glistening in the light like fond memories slipping between the cracks into darkness, as we try to grasp what we had but see it slipping away and out of reach, things will never be the same.

We pick up the pieces to try and fit them back how they were, but there will always be a difference. How we deal with the changes makes us who we are, the person we evolve to be in the aftermath.

Travis Smith’s album design for ‘Fractured’ captures the essence of this album perfectly, a good start.

Pain can weigh heavy as we seek ways to lighten the load, allowing us to move forward. Not to dwell on Mariusz Duda’s own dramas that have befallen him of late, but the theme of this album under the Lunatic Soul guise, by his own admission is about coming back to life after personal tragedy. It’s inspired by what happened in his life in 2016 and by everything that’s happening around us and what’s making us turn away from one another and divide into groups, for better or for worse.

This catharsis involves him spreading his talents further from the paths run by his previous albums and taking a leaf out of the musical parchments of such luminaries as 80’s electronic masters Depeche Mode and others.

Mixing synth and programmed beats with loops of Duda’s voice, and adding his distinctive complex bass grooves, he creates what is probably his most commercially accessible and varied solo output to date.

From the throbbing beats and looped voice samples, almost aboriginal in tone, with synths and piano building in layers on the first track, Blood on the Tightrope marks a route through the jagged edges of doubt and indecisiveness, a fine balance without falling and edging forward to end on a determined note.

Baring his soul so honestly on this album, the music sometimes reflects a little uncomfortably. As in second track Anymore where sounds and notes flit in and out over the rhythms, jerking as if to remove some of the painful crystals buried in the exposed heart. There are also traces of Peter Gabriel buried in there somewhere.

Crumbling Teeth And The Owl Eyes may be the closest in sound to his Riverside roots on this album and is the first of two tracks on which the Sinfonietta Consonus Orchestra weave their magic nurturing the mood of the song. Mariusz’s struggles with his pain and the way he yearns for the age of childlike innocence to relieve him of this heartache, are hauntingly beautiful.

A darker feel as Red Light Escape scratches at anguish on track four. He explores the way people try to come to terms with tragedy. How some search for an emotional crutch to cling to rather than face their fears and slip back into dependency on things they find comforting, even if it is not necessarily a good thing and prevents them from dealing with the problem, so they can move on.

Title track Fractured has a sparser feel, with Mariusz’s signature bass pulsing as synth and other sounds inject like dark drugs into the grooves of unnerving beat pattern, that leaves you on edge and unsettled.

A hopeful ballad, A Thousand Shards Of Heaven is delicately ushered in with acoustic guitar and the emotional vocals from Mariusz then joined by the wonderful  Sinfonietta Consonus Orchestra once more. It offers glimmers of hope amongst the sadness, as the silky saxophone of Marcin Odyniec floats into the mix and gentle ripples, torn into submission by Wawrzyniec Dramowicz’s syncopatic percussion, a feeling of calm bringing it to a close.

Synth bubbles on Battlefield awash with digital waves and electronica, in this slow burner that builds with rolling, rhythmic percussion. A cautionary warning of the dangers of holding things inside and letting them destroy you and a reflection of the inner fight he has faced and stood strong echoed in the assertive ending.

Moving On with it’s Depeche Mode influences worn on it’s musical sleeve, could easily have been a single. Melodic and catchy, Mariusz bares himself one last time for the listener, to let us know he is not going to let what has hurt him stop him moving forward, climaxing with a few positive notes from the saxophone.

It’s an awkward review, as this is so personal to Mariusz. As you look deeper into it you can feel a little voyeuristic and that you may be prying. But the attitude and bravery he shows in releasing this material is a testament to the man and those around him. He has put a positive spin on everything that has happened and fully embraces the adage ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.

Clearly his best solo output to date, ‘Fractured’ is in some ways a huge departure from previous works, a progression and isn’t that what this album is all about. A tremendous album that I believe everyone should have a copy of, certainly one of the best releases of 2017. Fans may have been concerned for his welfare after what befell him, but Mariusz has reassured us all that he is stepping into the light and the future looks bright.

Released 6th October 2017

Order ‘Fractured’ in all formats from the Kscope store:

Lunatic Soul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Amarok – Hunt – by Kevin Thompson

I have no qualms in pushing bands that are new to my ears. The plethora of talent around at the moment is wonderful to behold. I don’t wish to detract from the older bands of my youth and still love and listen to the music I grew up with, but more and more I find myself checking out the new kids on the block (no, not the boy band) as they truly represent a progression in the genres. Everything can go in the musical blender and come out in the mix and though not all of it works and won’t appeal to everyone, there should be something you will find to your taste in there.

I personally feel this is the best time since the 70’s for new music and like an addict I devour neoteric tunes and the bands that make them, trying to sate my appetite. Whilst I am time poor, the chance to review some of these releases is an opportunity I relish and, with a couple of exceptions, have been lucky to like most of what I’ve heard.

So it came as a surprise to me when I agreed to review Amarok‘s album ‘Hunt’, that it is their fourth release and I have not heard them before. Mr Hutchinson sent me this after suggesting it could be in the running for album of the year, so high expectations. Essentially a project of the very talented Michal Wojtas, from Kielce in south central Poland, who sings on five of the tracks and plays a number of instruments (guitars, harmonium, keyboards, audio samples, percussions, electronic drums, theremin, low whistle), he also has other invited artists contributing on various tracks. Michal credits Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield as being particular musical influences on him and their inspiration can also be felt throughout.

Now there is something about Polish artists, the beautiful, melancholic melodies they create resonate with me and some people will find obvious comparisons to another very popular Polish act, but that would be to denigrate the talent here. The further into the album the more the music spreads and occupies different genre spaces. At the heart of the album the lyrics deal with trying to retain our individuality against the social media and powers that be, who try to conform us whilst distorting the truth to their own ends.

After giving this a number of listens I don’t think Michal will remain Anonymous for long as the throbbing pulse of the first track ushers us into his musical world. Pawel Kowalski plays drums on this and most of the tracks on the album, adding to the rising rhythm, with Marta Wojtas filling the sound further on wavedrum as she does on a number of tracks on this album. I’m already hooked as the track mounts to a crescendo with driving guitars and relaxes again in Michal’s vocals to the close.

The incomparable Mariusz Duda lends his delicious vocals to second track Idyll, ably backed by Konrad Pajek. I make no apologies for waxing lyrical on the magic Mariusz’s vocals bring to this or any tune, as it builds gently in mouthwatering layers and he gilds it to perfection. Guitars weep with joy and rippling keys sing, growing as a field of colourful blooms, resplendent in their gilding.

The echoing keys of Distorted Souls haunt us gently, with skittering electronic distortion bouncing between the speakers and staccato drum beats jabbering away under the wistful vocals from Michal Wojtas with an earworm of a chorus. We are then caressed by a wonderful theremin passage midway which serves to accentuate the impactful ending of heart torn guitar strings and keys on what is yet another beautiful track.

We are only three tracks into this and I am sold.

The eerily stunning Two Sides, played mostly on the Duduk (an ancient double-reed woodwind flute made of apricot wood, indigenous to Armenia, for you fact lovers) by the gifted Sebastian Wieladek, blows gently through your ears like a warm Scirocco across a moonlit desert as you lay and watch the stars twinkle in an endless sky, the sound echoing away into the distance, leaving you entranced.

The twisting rhythm of  Michal Wojtas’ harmonium breathes in and out on Winding Stairs, with sampled noises and Pawel Kowalski’s percussive beats dancing back and forth. Michal’s gentle voice soothes and muted guitar flurries strain in the distance gently pushing to the fore, contesting the harmonium on it’s last breaths.

An aggressive, distorted riff blasts you out of your reverie and tribal beats kick in, the guitar stuttering and lurching in and out, bouncing between speakers. Delicate swathes of keys wash on the pounding rhythms as they resonate In Closeness with your increased heartbeat whilst Michal Wotja’s whispering vocals hold it all together.

I love emotional guitar solos and Unreal cries to my very soul as Michal Wojtas bends and slides the frets on mournful waves, underpinned by Michal Sciwiarski’s eddying keyboards. Quite simply bliss.

(Picture by Grzegorz Szklarek)

A different voice softly accompanies the keys and synths on Nuke, courtesy of Colin Bass guesting on vocals, harmonising seamlessly with Michal Wojtas. Steadily and subtly building the music expands, widening the sound to arena proportions with another sublime guitar solo slipping in before the end of this, the penultimate track.

The title tune plays us out starting with the lector narration from John England adding a conceptual feel to Hunt. At just under eighteen minutes this could be classed as an epic musical story, with splendid keyboard passages and samples emulating Michal Wojtas’ quoted influences. Once again there are some fine guitar solos that swoop and fly between Michal’s wonderful vocals. John reflects on questions we should be asking and if can we stay true to ourselves avoiding the pitfalls of a virtual world where hidden people covertly hunt out our personal details for their own benefit, before the album is dramatically brought to a close as a crying guitar collides with the sounds of hammered metal.

Those of you who have read any of my past reviews know I often try to string a storyline through an album in an attempt to illustrate the tunes and catch your attention. I can’t with ‘Hunt’ as every time I listen I’m drawn in and have trouble concentrating as I become immersed in the glory of it all.

I apologise for not hearing of Michal Wojta before and I don’t want to gush, but Martin asked the question, ‘could this be a contender for album of the year?’ The answer is probably not. No reflection on the album but like myself, I am sure Amarok have not been heard by the majority of people.

So I feel a desperate need to redress this balance with what little influence I have, please listen to this album because if nothing else it is most definitely one of my contenders for album of the year.

Amarok are tremendous, let’s give Michal Wojta the recognition he deserves.

Released 23rd June 2017

Buy ‘Hunt’ from Rock Serwis here

 

LUNATIC SOUL ANNOUNCES ANTICIPATED FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM – FRACTURED – WITH THE RELEASE OF A VIDEO FOR THE TITLE TRACK

(Album art by Travis Smith)

Lunatic Soul is Mariusz Duda, the talented creator, singer and multi-instrumentalist behind some of the finest and most captivating progressive music coming from Europe, including his output on UK label Kscope and with Poland’s shooting stars Riverside. Duda is now releasing his fifth and long-awaited album Fractured – the follow up to 2014’s acclaimed ‘Walking On A Flashlight Beam’. ‘Fractured’, has been described by Duda as an album of catharsis after a challenging year in his personal life.

Mariusz explains further “the main theme of “Fractured” is coming back to life after a personal tragedy. It’s inspired by what happened in my life in 2016 and by everything that’s happening around us and what’s making us turn away from one another and divide into groups, for better and for worse. Musically it will be the most original album I have ever made as well as the most accessible and personal album in the Lunatic Soul discography.”

Fans can watch the new video & hear the title track “Fractured”:

As well as a conceptual development, Duda gained the self-confidence to allow himself greater creative freedom with the new material, experimenting more with electronics and rhythm and inspiration with influences from the likes of Massive Attack and Depeche Mode to Peter Gabriel and David Sylvian. ‘Fractured’ features Poland’s Sinfonietta Consonus Orchestra, conducted by Michał Mierzejewski, on two of the album’s most personal tracks “Crumbling Teeth And The Owl Eyes” and “A Thousand Shards Of Heaven”; the album also features saxophonist Marcin Odyniec who first worked with Mariusz in Riverside.

The album was recorded in Poland at Serakos Studio and Custom 34 Studio, mixed by Magda & Robert Srzedniccy and Mariusz Duda, and the artwork was created by long time collaborator, renowned cover artist Travis Smith, whose previous work includes the likes of Anathema, Katatonia, Opeth & Riverside.

‘Fractured’ will be released in the following formats and is now available for pre-order here: http://found.ee/LS_FRACTURED

·       CD

·       LP – double gatefold LP in heavyweight 180g vinyl in black and limited edition red vinyl (w/ MP3 download code)

·       Digital – with digital pre-orders receiving the song “Fractured” as an instant download

(Picture of Mariusz by Oskar Szramka)

Follow Lunatic Soul online:

Website: www.lunaticsoul.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lunaticsoulband

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lunaticsoulband

Twitter: @Marivsz_Riv

Review – Riverside – Lost ‘n’ Found: Live In Tilburg – by Kevin Thompson

So let’s face the elephant in the room straight away.

This is always going to be emotional on so many levels and affecting people to different degrees. The album was recorded in Dutch Club 013, Tilburg, in the autumn of 2015 and features Piotr Grudzinski who is sadly no longer with us. Not a subject I intend to dwell on and this should be seen as a glorious celebration of the man’s talent at the top of his game.

Every ten years Riverside add an exclusive release to their discography, and ‘Lost ‘n’ Found: Live in Tilburg’, is the latest. The double CD with graphics designed by Travis Smith was to be available only at this year’s shows on the “Towards the Blue Horizon Tour”. This raised an amount of consternation and unrest amongst those who would not be able to attend, no doubt fuelled further by enhanced emotions due to the sad loss of Piotr.

I was lucky enough to attend the concert at The Marble Factory in Bristol on May 20th, last Saturday in fact, and a copy was bought for me which has enabled me to write this review.

Closing the door on the above and opening the one saying ‘Backstage Only’ I stride down the corridor toward the stage where all the action is to take place on these discs. It would be the obvious thing to do, going through the tracks individually and commenting on them. But those who love Riverside’s music don’t need telling how good the songs are, or to be advised on the quality excellent musicianship of the individuals.

Better to look at this as a ‘Live’ experience. So what separates a poor live band from a great one and a quality ‘Live’ album from a dismal disc that ends up on your coffee table as a coaster? Every individual may differ in their opinion, but there are certain things that I like/dislike on ‘Live’ recordings.

It is a feeling, the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck with the electrical charge sparked between the band and their audience. It takes you back to that night if you were there, if not it transports you through the speakers to plant you, front row amidst the heaving throng of swaying bodies, as one in unison with the music pumping from the speakers.

A quality sound is imperative, too muddy or overproduced and it will be ruined. A fine line and delicately balanced it’s not easy to achieve the right mix and excellence whilst retaining the ‘Live’ atmosphere. The one that puts a smile on your face as you sit listening, a slave before your master, the sound system. The first applause introduces the arrival of the band on stage and the notes of the introductory track kick in, you close your eyes and raise your arms in supplication to the gods of your living room.

Your head nods and you mouth the lyrics to yourself, by now blissfully unaware that no one else is in the room (except the pets) and if the magic is taking a hold, then neither are you.

This brings me to another possible pitfall, the applause and running dialogue betwixt band and discerning crowd, or should I say, distinct lack of it on some so called ‘Live’ recordings. It saps the very energy from the atmosphere like a music hating succubus. The vampire intent on draining every last bloody drop of musical theatre from the sound. It has always puzzled me the urge to eradicate any and all components that allow a ‘Live’ recording to breathe naturally, nurturing the adoration and adulation blossoming from the performers and watchers alike.

It is the lifeblood which links the individual tracks, the pitfalls, dropped notes and reciprocal banter, in stilted attempts at the local dialect causing a warm felt humour. The band tune and retune whilst taking the opportunity to introduce the individual musicians, allowing you brief respite to settle back in your armchair whilst staying connected, before unleashing the next eagerly anticipated adrenaline injection of melody through the speakers.

By now the cat and dog have left the room, convinced you have lost a grip on reality and you don’t even notice the twitch of a whisker. You have no need to rise from your seat as the multi-disc player slides into the second CD, carrying you away on waves of euphoria, the bliss of release from day to day strife falling away as time slips by without a care in the world. All that matters is the here (or there) and now. Nothing can pull you from the crowd, eject you from your respectful reveries as your mind applauds an imaginary stage.

All too soon they reach the final song then leave the stage, the ecstatic crowd baying for more, clapping, stamping cheering and whistling. You are participating in the temporary auditorium created among the sofa and coffee table, with the closed curtains across the bay window shutting out the light, enhancing the illusion.

You, along with the attendant throng will the band to return for just a little while, play some more, don’t let go, not yet. Wetted appetites are slated as the members wander casually back into view, towels caressing well earned perspiration from weary but satisfied brows, in the knowledge that the final line is in sight and they will cross to the winner’s enclosure.

Every last drop of remaining emotion is wrung from the instruments, vocals accompanied by audience participated backing voices, from dry throats tortured to burning point by the smoke machines. Louder they get, to near hysteria levels, the ultimate note is struck and there is the briefest of silent pauses before realisation dawns that the band have played their last. Tumultuous waves of sound  from suffering air-pipes erupt in fervent appreciation for the unforgettable evening that has been bestowed upon the dedicated listener. The band leave the stage throwing drumsticks and plectrums to the hands reaching out and they’re gone.

Animated and enthused the multitude filter into the cold night air, steam rising from the heated bodies, wisps fading like the the lights, into the night.

It’s done and you rise flicking on the light switch to bathe the room in a warm glow, time to make a cup of tea and let the pets out into the garden. But don’t be too despondent as you can relive the event when and as often as you like.

‘But he’s hardly mentioned Riverside‘, I hear you cry.

Look again dear reader, they are there in every good word, every sentence to raise plaudits, every vowel, noun and space, for this is Riverside ‘Live’ in Tilburg. They have realised the dream and created moments to remember, scenes that will live forever in the mind. If you want a true ‘Live’ album then look no further, for the fan a must buy, for those interested a great introduction to one of the foremost modern bands on the scene.

Out of the darkness comes light and Riverside are bathed in it. Catch them on tour, you never know, you might even be on the next ‘Live’ release.

Available exclusively from each date on Riverside’s ‘Towards The Blue Horizon’ tour.

 

 

 

 

Review – Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape – by Kevin Thompson

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This was meant originally as a preview, but time and tide, as they say… By now many of you may already have this and be making your own minds up. So here is my review…..

Tragedy when it hits is never expected and the devastation, after initial shock, rushes out like waves and ripples flooding over all it touches. Seeping like damp into everyone’s hearts it leaves you cold and numb. Many bands have faced upsets in their lives, some have survived others not. Many losses are through age and/or self abuse taking it’s toll, but when you lose someone before their expected time, it hits hard. Over the last few years Riverside have become one of my favourite bands and watching them ‘live’ last year we got the feeling they were on the verge of breaking through to the next level and greater things.

But fate is a cruel mistress and I was surprised the sudden passing in February of guitarist Piotr Grudziński affected me so emotionally. Then going online to find the outpouring of sympathy from other fans and the support for the other band members, families and friends was overwhelming. Bassist/vocalist, Mariusz Duda then lost his Father in May and further personal issues have dogged him since. He, along with drummer Piotr Kozieradzki and keyboardist Michał Łapaj, could be forgiven for wanting to take some time away, but it is to their credit and the measure of the men that they have decided to continue as a trio and have started to make future plans as well as continuing solo projects in the wings.

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The band have already issued “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” in 5.1 and last Friday (21st October) they released the double disc instrumental “Eye Of The Soundscape”, a fitting homage to their  friend Piotr.

To misquote from Star Wars, ‘this may not be the Riverside you are looking for’. It is a collection of  ideas the band have composed and accumulated over a number of years, some of which have already appeared as bonus tracks with other albums. There are traces of the Riverside we know and love and the beautiful strains of Piotr’s guitar haunts the melodies, but this extensive work  has more in common with the likes of Tangerine Dream mixed with hints of Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd.

You may be accustomed to my reviewing album tracks on an individual basis, but in this case I feel the album works better if listened to as a whole. It will not be for everyone and with the best will in the world, you will find the direction and length of this formidable album (though the tracks on the second disc are generally shorter) tests you and it may be that only the hardcore Riverside fan will persevere and last the distance.

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The ambient mood and atmosphere of this album floats you down a dark river of keyboards and effects, the bass and drums causing the eddy and flow, with the guitar propelling “Eye Of The Soundscape” along a dreamy and immersive journey, some of which will engage you whilst other tracks will wash over you like liquid velvet. Jazz infused saxophone passages echo in the night-lit jungle as you drift along, the large bright moon of sound casting fleeting shadows of effects through the dense foliage of music.

 Piotr’s fluid (at times Gilmoresque) fretwork is quite sublime if understated in places, on what some may see as an album of pleasant enough background music, soporific or even uninteresting. Before the devout following tear me to pieces, I hasten to point out I do not fall into those categories as I am also a fan of Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd and own many of their recordings in my collection along with other ambient classics and instrumentals.

 Some may only listen to “Eye Of The Soundscape” once and place the album on a shelf, leaving it to collect dust or brushing it off occasionally to attempt further understanding and convince themselves they do like it; you don’t have to. It will split opinion with it’s diversification but I feel  it stands as a fitting tribute from the band and on behalf of everyone Piotr’s presence touched, to a sadly missed and greatly loved friend.

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There have been better Riverside albums musically, but none more emotionally charged from a band who truly have remained as positive as possible in the face of adversity. Never losing touch with their fans, sharing visions and hopes and updating everyone with every tentative step along this personal journey, they humble us. The quality of the instrumentation from the band is also first class.

I would recommend you listen before buying to ensure it is for you and those with a taste for the more chilled side of music give it a try, even if Riverside’s previous output has not been to your taste. There is light through this dark tunnel which will see this band emerge to you either as a bright new butterfly or a dull coloured moth, I know which I will follow as it flutters over the musical landscape.

On this occasion it seems only fitting to leave the last words in this review to the band as a parting farewell to Piotr:

“This is our last journey together so we dedicate this album to you, Brother. In our hearts you will stay forever.”

Released 21st October 2016

Buy ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ from InsideOut Music

Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape – releases 21st October 2016

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Following RIVERSIDE’s sixth and highly successful studio album release, “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” and its recently launched 5.1 edition, the Warsaw, Poland-based Progressive Rock innovators return with a very special complimentary instrumental release dubbed “Eye Of The Soundscape”.

“Eye Of The Soundscape” features 13 experimental and highly atmospheric compositions, previously used as bonus material for the “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” (2103) and “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” (2015) albums, alongside rare cuts (e.g. a new mix of “Rapid Eye Movement” and the single “Rainbow Trip”, so far only released in Poland) as well as 4 new songs (“Where The River Flows”, “Shine”, “Sleepwalkers” and “Eye Of The Soundscape”) into a massive +100 minutes 2CD/3LP package, which showcases RIVERSIDE’s ambient electronic side.

RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda explained and introduced this rather unorthodox and experimental release as follows:

“I had a feeling that the sixth RIVERSIDE album might be the last chapter of a story. That the future releases might have a different sound, a different character… Unofficially, I called our latest three albums “the crowd trilogy”. Each subsequent title was longer by one word – four, five, six. Six words were long enough as a title and I thought that was the one to finish it off with…

Before we started a new chapter, perhaps a “new trilogy”, I had an idea to release a complementary album. An album in between. An album we had always wanted to record. It wouldn’t be just new music but in our case and in such configuration it would definitely be a new quality because we hadn’t released such an album before.

For years, we have accumulated a lot of material, a part of which was released on bonus discs. I know that some of our listeners still haven’t heard those pieces and do not realise that Riverside, basically right from the start, have been experimenting with ambient and progressive electronic music. And that’s always been a part of our music DNA.

So I presented the idea to the rest of the band and the decision was unanimous. We decided to make a compilation of all our instrumental and ambient pieces, and release it this year as an independent album. Some of the songs would be re-mixed to make them sound better, but most of all, we’d add new compositions.

At the beginning of the year, we locked ourselves in the studio and we started to compose. We even published a picture on our facebook page, in which Grudzien is holding a small keyboard as a joke. That was that recording session. We were working with smiles on our faces, genuinely excited, knowing that this time it wasn’t just a bonus disc or an addition to something “bigger” but a fully fledged, independent release with that kind of music, full of space, trance, melodies and electronics. The day before I got a text message from Grudzien, “I really can’t wait for this release, I have always had a dream for RIVERSIDE to release such an album.”

The release of “Eye Of The Soundscape” therefor also honours late RIVERSIDE guitarist Piotr Grudzinski, who tragically passed away of natural causes on February 21st, 2016.

“Eye Of The Soundscape” is composed of material created between 2007-2016 and concieved in 2015/2016 at Serakos studio in Warsaw with Magda Srzednicka, Robert Srzednicki as well Mariusz Duda as producers, and the release comes packaged in artwork by RIVERSIDE’s longterm design partner Travis Smith (Opeth, Katatonia, Nevermore, etc.).

© 2016 by Inside Out Music – All Rights Reserved

Review – iamthemorning – Lighthouse – by Progradar

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What is Music?

A literal definition could be:

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound and silence. The common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm, dynamics (loudness and softness) and sonic qualities of timbre and texture (which are sometimes termed the ‘colour’ of a musical sound…

Or, if you want to get more personal about it, Victor Hugo once said:

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent…

In any way, music is an intangible thing, you cannot touch it, only your ears translate the tiny pressure waves of sound into what you think the notes are. Music, to me, is an inspiration and part and parcel of my everyday life. I can’t live without it and I have music that helps me appreciate the highs and music that helps me get through the lows.

Some music has a beauty and grace all of its own and that is what I am here to talk to you about now. Today’s review is the new album from the Russian duo iamthemorning…

Marjana Gleb

Formed in 2010 in St Petersburg Russia, iamthemorning features pianist Gleb Kolyadin and the charismatic vocals of Marjana Semkina. The band self released their debut album in 2012 before signing to Kscope and releasing ‘Belighted’, their first record for the label in September 2014. In 2015 they toured Europe with labels mates, the art-progressive outfit Gazpacho last year.

As with ‘Belighted’, the engineering and mixing on ‘Lighthouse’ is handled by Marcel van Limbeek (Tori Amos) and self produced by Gleb and Marjana. The album also features guest musicians Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass and additional vocals on the album’s title track by Mariusz Duda (Lunatic Soul, Riverside).

‘Lighthouse’ is a rich and eclectic album, with echoes of classical music, the Canterbury scene, northern folk, jazz and electronic sounds. Featuring a story of the progression of mental illness, the album takes the listener through the stages with the story’s central character, her attempts to fight it, temporal remission leading to a final breakdown. Lyrically, the works and lives of Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath inspire the album.

Recorded across London, Moscow & St Petersburg, the core instrument of the band, the grand piano, was recorded in Mosfilm Studios Moscow, the largest and oldest studios in Russia. Founded in 1920, Mosfilm is renowned for recording orchestras for soundtracks for the most famous Soviet-era films, including works by Tarkovsky and Eisenstein.

The album artwork for ‘Lighthouse’ was created by watercolour artist Constantine Nagishkin who the band have previously collaborated with before.

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I Came Before The Water, Pt.1 is a short track with a decidedly ethereal quality. Marjana’s spellbinding and beautiful vocal just grabs your heart and, backed by delicate strings, it just leaves you full of emotion. There is more of an urgency at the start of Too Many Years, Gleb’s driving piano driving the whole song on at a fair lick. Marjana’s earnest vocal joins the ivories to give you a melting pot of desire and heartfelt passion. The song opens up with the stylish rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Colin Edwin to become an intelligent and incisive narrative that holds your attention. The swirling strings add an admirable backdrop to this impressive tune that insinuates itself into your psyche. The next track Clear Clearer begins with a wistful note, a winsome tone that Marjana takes up with her captivating vocal. The driving piano once again stops the track from becoming too delicate and lacking substance. The lovely little vocal interludes whee the lines are repeated just leave a charismatic smile on your face before Gleb’s piano and some rather tasty keyboards add another veneer of class and let the track run out with a knowing nod. The charming and absorbing intro to Sleeping Pills is provided by yearning vocals and an a delicately played piano to leave you with a feeling that something momentous could be about to happen. Here Gleb gets to be centre stage with his artistic fingers directing the music, the haunting strings and breathy vocals adding a light alien feel of otherworldy-ness. The track begins to rise to a powerful crescendo, leaving you transfixed and left in awe.

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Libretto Horror is a pared back little piece of chamber music inspired beauty. The vocals dance around your mind and Gleb’s piano holds court over everybody. It is transfixing with its simple and uncluttered delivery. There is a feel of wild abandon to Marjana’s voice and it adds a little bit of the unknown, I like it. Now onto the wonders and delights of the title track, Lighthouse. The song opens with a meandering piano and graceful, guileless vocals from Marjana that bewitch your very soul. It works its way around the inside of your mind, holding your attention, slowly brooding as the track builds to a zenith and the introduction of Mariusz Duda. The song takes on a smoother vibe with the delicious vocal interplay between Marjana and Dariusz, iamthemorning definitely seem to have matured with this new release, there is less of a gossamer feel to their sound. The music has a sophisticated and cultured feel to it, there are layers and layers of intricate depths that slowly reveal themselves and it is showcased perfectly on this brilliant track. Harmony invites you into its own little world. The delicate soundscape brings to mind a bright summer day with birds and butterflies aimlessly traversing the skies and leaving you feeling like you don’t have a care in the world. Music used to create a picture in your mind, a world set aside from the one you’re really in, subtle and very clever. The piano then begins, Gleb’s playing is brilliant and almost takes on a life of its own, it is mesmerising and enchanting and I find that I have stopped whatever it is that I was doing just to make sure I don’t miss a note. The song steps up another level with the quality bass and drums of Colin and Gavin added to a sleek guitar to give this classy instrumental even more kudos, a very creative and perceptive piece of music. The opening to Matches brings back that pared back, more simpler feel where Marjana’s delightfully unadorned vocal joins Gleb’s piano to deliver an aural delight. The rhythm section then joins in to give it a feel of classical mixed with jazz and it works exceedingly well, the music seeming to evolve, becoming more complex than it was before.

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Heartfelt, emotional and purely delivered vocals open Belighted giving it a contemplative and melancholy feel. The tinkling of the piano keys and the mournful strings only add to the plaintive and sad feeling. However, beauty and grace can be found in all situations and it is thus with this tastefully refined track. It does feel sorrowful and it leaves your own heart open and bleeding but with a feel of something sublime that has been lost and you feel bereft by its loss. The first track released from the album was Chalk and Coal and it made me sit up and take notice. Perhaps a more radio friendly song but defiantly non-mainstream. A powerfully building opening with Gleb’s slightly discordant piano and the haunting vocals leaving a slightly ominous atmosphere, only added to by the eerie trumpet playing. I get a feeling I’m in the middle of a musical version of an Edgar Allan Poe novel as a slightly off key guitar and that forlorn trumpet leave you slightly on edge. It is subtle and clever stuff and really gets your mind working overtime. I Came Before The Water, Pt. 2 revisits the refrain of the opening track on the album but, this time, with a much more sparse feel, Marjana’s anguished vocal opening the song as a lone note. The feeling of grief presses down on you, almost overwhelming, as the strings seem to tear your heart apart before the song closes out all mysteriously. The final track on this majestic musical journey is Post Scriptum, a mellow track where Gleb’s piano directs proceedings. Colin Edwin’s bass is much more demonstrative and emotive, driving the track on. There is a feeling of a lament at the heart of the music, it closes out the album with a slight note of mourning but doesn’t detract from the wonder of what you have just had the pleasure of listening to.

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

Released 1st April 2016

Buy ‘Lighthouse’ from bandcamp

(ALl artist photography by Alexander Kuznetcov)