“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity…” – Charles Mingus
Just take a minute to read that quote a couple of times and let it sink in…………
Right, are we ready now? Those words can be used to apply the meaning in many walks of life and, also, in music. Sometimes (and it seems especially in progressive music) we seem to be searching for the most intricate and complicated. Maybe this is to stand out from the crowd, maybe it is just one-upmanship? Who knows, if it is not convoluted enough, it can tend to be consigned to the metaphorical dustbin.
What is wrong with simplicity, if it is good enough being kept to the bare basics then why not run with it? I am as guilty as the next man for searching for twenty-four minute prog suites with meandering overtures and endless guitar and bass solos but, when you want a minute to yourself and your life to be a bit more uncluttered, there is some music out there that is perfectly suited, and perfectly good enough, for that mood.
I have oft spoken about how being a music journalist can elicit some very pleasant unexpected surprises and, as recent as last week, another one arrived unannounced at Progradar Towers.
I had never heard of the Geof Whitely Project before but, thanks to a fellow music loving friend on social media, Brasil Bond, I am now acutely aware of this intriguing musical outfit.
There is a bit of mystery surrounding this musical enigma, information is hard to come by so I did the digging so you, my friends, don’t have to…..
From the official website:
“The Geof Whitely Project was formed in 2011, it consists of Geof Whitely and special guest Musicians, the aim of the project is to put out original material in all types of musical formats from Prog Rock-Rock-Pop-Electronic-Instrumental.
All albums will contain a mix of such musical songs, there’s surely one that will appeal to everyone, thanks for visiting the site please feel free to email us, tell your friends…..!!!!”
It also appears that their biggest critic is Jasper the cat, being a cat owner myself, I can relate to that.
Well let’s cut through the shroud of mystery shall we because, having spoken to the musician behind the whole conundrum, I can reveal that there is no such person as Geof Whitely!!!
Geof is actually the alter-ego of prolific musician Arny Wheatley who hails from Stoke-on-Trent and basically does just about everything on all the Geof Whitely Project releases.
The story behind the moniker is that ‘Geof Whitely’ was the name on something that came through Arny’s letter box once addressed wrong and he thought that it would make a good name, simple really!
Having released around six full length albums already, Arny is not one to stand still, he already has another three new albums due out for release and that doesn’t include ‘Supernatural Casualty’ which releases on 3rd August 2015. As I said, prolific!!!
Before we get onto ‘Supernatural Casualty’ I’d like to take a short trip and delve into the Geof Whitely Project back catalogue and focus on two of the previous releases….
Geof Whitely Project – Pathfinder
Released in March 2014 ‘Pathfinder’ has huge cinematic soundscape at it’s heart. Haunting guitars and expressive keyboards form the backbone on which this electronic rock inspired release can build. The vocals are precise and, despite being mainly monotone, extremely expressive. The opening track Ship to Shore gives a very promising initial impression and this carries on through the album.
Other highlights include the the jazz influenced Chinese Burn and title track Pathfinder. There is a simplistic design to the music that can only be admired, the 80’s influenced keyboards are particularly memorable, especially on At Times and The Riddle.
The guitar work throughout is exemplary and reaches an entertaining peak on The Real Me and closing track Keeper of the Light, enforcing the underlying darker tone of this release.
All in all, my first exposure to the Geof Whitely Project has been a very enjoyable one.
Geof Whitely Project – Outlaw of Our Time
Released in February 2015 ‘Outlaw of Our Time’ takes a lighter, more commercial route than ‘Pathfinder’. The overall feel to the album brings thoughts of Asia, Foreigner and other AOR bands, there is even a touch of E.L.O in the vocal style and semi-orchestral feel.
Opening track Fibreoptic is a delightfully reminiscent of the synth inspired rock of the 80’s with a Georgio Moroder inspired keyboard that morphs into a guitar driven verse that Jeff Lynne would be proud of. The album segues though heavy electronica influence with Souless Night Driver, a considered and melodramatic track, to the ambient dance feel of Ricochet and back through the melancholia of Outstretched Hands to the World.
I get a real feel of the cinematic, ethereal atmospherics of Fractal Mirror running through this album, it is there in the background on tracks like Mediation, How Can One and Slow Motion, especially with the organ styled keyboard playing which gives a sci-fi inspired note to the music.
The vocals also conjure up thoughts of my good friend Mike Kershaw, measured and monotone they may be but extremely expressive with it. This comparison is most evident on Siren of the Sea, which has to take the gong of being my favourite track on the album. With its oriental influences and downbeat rhythm, there is an aura of David Sylvian all over this song and the meandering, intense guitar playing is a highlight of the whole album.
The album runs out with three extended tracks that all run with a laconic mood, pensive and wistful. Blind Faith, Gate to the West and Transatlantic Ghosts take a deeper, more thoughtful route through your mind yet still retain a simplicity, a lack of over-complication at their core. It is perhaps more ‘music that seeps into your sub conscious’ than easy listening with the more serious tone that they have. They close out the album on a very sombre note, I found my self getting lost in the midst of the final track.
Now onto the main course……..
Geof Whitely Project – Supernatural Casualty
The album that started my odyssey, ‘Supernatural Casualty is due to be released on August 3rd this year. All the Geof Whitely Project releases have interesting artwork and this is one of the best, I do tend to gravitate towards albums whose artwork I like and this was no exception.
Mixing Marillion with costume drama and theatricals, opening track Assassin is quite an addictive one with a dark edge to the guitar riff and moody keyboards. The vocals are neat and demonstrative and suit the music perfectly. The song has an apprehensive feel, as if you are waiting for something to happen and not necessarily something good! An intriguing opening track with its early 90’s feel. Healing has an unhurried rhythm to it, mournful and pensive with the delicate piano and trite vocal. Definitely not one for the depressed among us! There is stark beauty to its pared back and downcast delivery though. A heraldic keyboard note introduces The Secret, a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a film soundtrack. A nostalgic, gentle wistfulness plays out before you, the vocals heavy-hearted and imparting world weary experience to the proceedings. Interstellar, whilst not being full of joie de vivre, lifts the mood somewhat with its homage to a mix of early Ultravox with a smidgen of Steve Strange thrown in for good measure. As I’ve said before, there is nothing too complicated going on here but what you do have is transparent and honest and thoroughly enjoyable.
Piano is king at the start of House of the Holy, blended with the saxophone like keyboard, it leaves an entirely palatable taste in the mouth. One more turn of the knob of mood lightening and you can feel a measure of hope creeping into what was despondency before. This ambience runs through the vocals and the whole tone, this is one track where the Mike Kershaw comparison is at its height. The guitar at the end is a particular high point. Welcome to the Darkside (how many of you wanted to finish that sentence with ‘Luke’ ?) would indicate that we are going to regress but, no, not to my ears anyway. There is an inspirative timbre to the vocals that works counterpoint to the contemplative music in a very clever way. The beat leaps forward a couple of notches with F1, the lyrics in deference to that greatest of motorsports. A powerful riff runs in the background giving the whole song momentum and drive. I’d see this as a modern version of Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour de France dedicated to a different sport as the electronic beats vie with the sound of Formula 1 engines. I like the way that Hideaway invokes memories of bygone days, sepia tinged and rose tinted. Almost ballad like, it is a really nice song that leaves me feeling warm inside.
That glowing feeling continues with No Way of Knowing, the vibe seems to have gone across to ‘singer-songwriter’ with an electronic bent and I think it works really well. Again, pared back simplicity is key to how this works so well. Piano and sax inspired keyboard notes cover everything with a velvety layer of sophistication and that feeling of fulfillment remains. Apparition begins with a spooky, sci-fi inspired intro that opens up with a feeling of yearning into an aspirational song. Another track with an 80’s synthesiser inspired sound that resonates with me as a listener. Measured and metronomic in its timbre, it lulls you into a longed for sense of security. The flute like intro to Embargo is very catchy and the whole song really lifts you up as if the sun has started shining on a rainy day. It trips along gaily, dragging you along with its good humour and exhilaration. There is a childlike impishness to the song, guileless and trusting, fans of Tiger Moth Tales will know where I am coming from. Tide is Turning brings gravitas and maturity back and is a more mainstream rock track than some of the others on the album. There is a meditative and reflective quality to this piece and a respectful note to the vocals that adds a wealth and depth of experience to all aspects of the song.
No Time is another unadulterated piece of music that comes straight from the heart, weighty and serious. There is a depth of feeling apparent in the vocals and the powerful music that you can’t help but get involved with. An impassioned, heartfelt song that pulls at the heartstrings. The lament continues with Infront of Me, elementary passions pour out unheeded from the soul of the music and you find yourself in the middle of an emotional pull. Profound and sincere, there is an earnest plea at the heart of it all. Remembrance Day begins with the tolling of a bell and music that brings to mind the horrors of war. Doleful and dramatic it grabs your attention immediately, we will honour those that fought so we could have a better life. There is a solemn and weighty feel to the song yet one that commands and deserves respect. You find yourself engrossed in this philosophical and reflective track, rapt with the memories it invokes. The final track on this thoroughly enjoyable musical journey is Usurper, a gentle, meandering introduction leads into a graceful guitar that increases in tempo and vibrancy before the vocals kick in on perhaps the most commercial track on the album with its Floyd-like feel and tempo. The guitar flashes add style and substance to what is already a very good song and it leaves you on a high as it comes to a satisfying close.
I know Arny will have moved onto his next album by now but I found ‘Supernatural Casualty’ to be a box of delights. At sixteen tracks it is perhaps two or three songs too long but that doesn’t detract from what is a thoroughly satisfying piece of music and one that has introduced me to the Geof Whitely Project, an artist I will definitely be keeping my eye on going forward. Thoroughly recommended.
Release 3rd August 2015.