Reviews in this issue:
- La Desooorden – El Andarín
- Believe - Seeing Is Believing [DVD]
- Fish On Friday – Shoot The Moon
- Claudio Milano, Erna Franssens (aka) KasjaNoova – Adython
- The Radiata 5tet (Claudio Milano) – Aurelia Aurita
- Uwe Cremer & Thomas Rydell - Sirius Singularity
- Moon Of Ostara – The Star Child
- Elf Project - The Great Divide
- Ian Gordon – The Box
- Relocate To Heathrow - Often Lost, Never Forgotten
- Relocate To Heathrow - An Ordinary Poison
- Mike Kershaw - Reason To Believe
La Desooorden – El Andarín
Tracklist: Clave Anfibia (1:07), Campante Andarín (3:00), Viento De La Llanura (0:15), Puerto Allende La Pampa (5:28), Las Alturas Reflejan Los Aires (5:55), Sueños De Carnaval (3:57), Iniciación En La Selva (1:42), Ayahuasca (3:23), Sombras Y Fuego (0:22), El Rescate De Mí Mismo (3:50), Las Armas Y Las Guaguas (5:53), Llegando A Los Llanos (2:31), Escape De La Favela (5:54), Preámbulo De Lluvias (2:41), El Perro Que Me Guía Alegre (7:15), Mi Jardín Interno (3:19)
Chilean band La Desooorden were one of my finds of 2007 and their album Ciudad De Papel deserved its place in my top ten of that year. If anything the album has increased in stature over the intervening period and is one I reach for quite often so it was with a great deal of excitement that I heard that a new album was finally arriving in 2012. Sadly, this was tempered with disappointment as it appears that the band is now no more and El Andarín is a posthumous release.
It is often difficult for a group so steeped in their native music and culture and who release albums independently to get themselves heard in the outside world but La Desooorden is certainly one that merits further investigation from those who enjoy music that is outside the box and influenced from a multitude of disparate sources. Their music is an exquisite melding of traditional indigenous sounds and instrumentation with rock rhythms and influences from all over the world. The playing from this septet and guests is top notch and the album well recorded with an atmospheric feel shot through with South American vibes. Sounds from nature are used to conjure up mental images of the vastness and diversity of the continent and the eclectic array of instruments is deployed to great effect in a concept that tells of The Walker of the album’s title and his journey across the continent on a course defined by his spirit, the landscape and the characters he encounters along the way. The scenery and his experiences are captured in the variety of textures within the music.
Trumpets and saxophones feature prominently in a number of tracks and plaintive violin is well used as a guest here and there allowing the natural timbres of the album to shine through. Short, linking tracks build atmosphere while the music strays from jazz rhythms through almost metallic guitar to haunting ballads, all sung in Spanish, that give a sense of the journey as it unfolds through city and wilderness. The brass colours the sound but direct comparisons are hard to note in this heady and thought provoking brew with a particularly positive edge.
The traditional rock instruments mix on an equal footing with their more traditional counterparts, each faction getting the spotlight where the music requires it, often within the same piece. Drums build steady rhythms with influences from their latin heritage but also jazz and rock and percussion is used to great effect featuring a vast array of instruments including berimbau, djembe and tabla, the mix of exotic and driving rhythms is compulsive.
The vocals are strong and the melodies interesting and accessible. Sometimes the band takes on an almost metallic hue but the brass instruments and violins don’t let it become one-dimensional and this is a fantastic listen from a band that deserves a far wider following.
Solo instruments from flute to saxophone, violin to electric guitar come and go in an exhilarating flow. Mouth harp and didgeridoo add their own individual voices and the result is quite breathtaking, the variety of the journey described in full by the chosen instruments. La Desooorden aren’t afraid to mix genres and go where their muse takes them and for this they are to be applauded. El Andarín is a pan-global delight that keeps the flavour of its local inspirations close. The mix of simple flutes and drums in an Amazonian rainstorm sit well with the more driving rock and jazz settings and, like groups such as Afro Celt Sound System, they enjoy dropping in instruments that may be alien as long as the sound fits such as a tabla that works a treat with spoken word Spanish voice, thrashing rock guitar and jazz rhythms. There are aggressive sections that verge on metal or freeform jazz but it is the beauty and variety that makes it all work so well.
There are the carnival rhythms of Rio, indigenous sounds of Amazon and Andes, the industrialised bustle of the port city of Buenos Aires and a fast paced track that could be the theme to a ‘50s cop show set in downtown Valpariso. The CD-ROM portion of the beautifully packaged disc includes many features to help understand the journey including lyrics translated into English and a game that follows the route of El Andarin through South America. Also included are photo galleries and two videos of the band in action, one cut together in the studio, the other live in concert. This is a package that has been put together with great care and is well worth investigating.
Hopefully this review may have sparked the interest of some and if you would like to find out more about this fascinating group please follow the links at the top of this review. There are also a selection of videos on YouTube that give a good flavour of what the band do. It seems that El Andarín has been pressed in very limited numbers so if you would like a copy please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This album is a compelling and satisfying listen, another candidate for a high placing in the end of year poll. La Desooorden are a particularly talented bunch and it is sad that they’ve decided to call it a day.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Believe - Seeing Is Believing [DVD]
Tracklist: No Time Inside, World Is Round, This Bread Is Mine, And All The Roads, What They Want [Is My Life], Lay Down Forever, AA, Guru, New Hands, Cut Me Paste Me, Poor King Of Sun/Return, Silence Bonus Material: Interview with Mirek Gil and Karol Wróblewski; Music for One Leg (documentary), Live at Progresja, Warsaw, 2011; Friends for Robert, 2011. Other extras: Biography, Discography, Photo Gallery and Desktop images
In reviewing Believe's first DVD when it was released in 2008, I voiced my disappointment that Hope To See Another Day (Live) was actually recorded before the release of the band’s breakthrough album, Yesterday Is A Friend. As a result, it featured almost exclusively songs from the band's début album of which most people would be unfamiliar. It was however a good performance and provided an alternative to me having to track down the CD version of the debut.
Fast forward four years and the profile of this Polish quintet has continued to rise. After the release of the wonderful Yesterday Is A Friend the vocal duties moved on from Tomek Rozycki to current vocalist Karol Wróblewski. The first release under the new line-up, This Bread Is Mine, was widely regarded as a patchy album with the new singer’s style not really fitting with the band’s trademark sound. However a year later and Karol seemed to have gelled with the songwriting style and World Is Round was a great return to form.
The set list for this DVD consists entirely of songs from the band’s second, third and fourth albums. None of the songs which appeared on the Hope To See Another Day DVD are repeated here.
This performance took place in November 2011 at the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice, Poland, a venue which is rapidly establishing a reputation as the home of live prog thanks to the sponsorship of Metal Mind Productions.
The band clearly relishes the opportunity to present a nicely balanced set. The majority of the songs come from World Is Round with four from The Bread Is Mine. Sadly What They Want is the only one to appear from the second album, which I feel is a shame as that record has some of the band’s finest songs.
Whilst musically Believe offers easy comparisons to Hogarth-era Marillion and Mirek Gil’s old band Collage, it is the trio of guitars, keyboards and especially violin which gives the band an identity of its own.
Karol's emotional and dynamic vocals are excellent throughout, as is his animated and confident stage presence. Along with new keyboardist Konrad Wantrych it is great to see two younger musicians able to give their more experienced colleagues a run for their money. The whole band seems to be having a great time with lots of interplay between the members.
As we’ve come to expect from Metal Mind DVDs the picture and sound quality from his traditional, tiered concert hall is superb. In terms of the editing, I just wish they’d allow the cameras to linger a little more often. The constant cutting between cameras really doesn’t go with the pace of the music. Also the audience continues to be ignored. As a document of a live event, that always seems rather an odd omission to me – even if they are all seated.
The live renditions are largely faithful to their studio originals but with frequent, extended instrumental sections which work well. The contributions of violinist Satomi continue to impress me.
As with many progressive bands, Believe are noticeably heavier in the real world which for me makes their live music even more captivating,
Compared to some of the Metal Minds DVD, the extras on this package offer genuine extra value, providing longer viewing time than the concert itself. There are two additional concerts covered. One is from a Progresja gig in Warsaw where although the quality is inferior, it offers an good alternative view of the band playing live. There is also a live cover of Marillion’s Chelsea Monday from Believe's participation in a tribute concert for a well-known Polish rock dignitary.
There is an interesting documentary, Music For One Leg, about a mono-pod drummer plus one of the more engaging DVD interviews that I’ve seen, here with Karol and Merik (in Polish but with full English sub-titles).
Overall, this is a great value, great quality live DVD which shows why Believe stand as one of the most entertaining modern heavy prog bands on the scene today.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Fish On Friday – Shoot The Moon
Tracklist: 9.1 Surround (6:12), Listen (3:12), Don’t Go Knocking Me Off My Feet (3:27), Shoot The Moon (5:09), Move South (3:27), Fish On Friday (4:01), Star (5:00), Smile (4:12), Surviving November (4:20), Flower Song (3:51), All Falls Into Place (4:50)
Belgium is not a country that one immediately associates with progressive music, that said during the mid-80’s there was a considerable synth pop movement and it is in that very scene where this music has its roots. Fish On Friday was formed in 2009 by the meeting of two like-minded musicians who shared a love of both progressive rock and pop music and this CD Shoot The Moon if the first offering from this partnership.
The CD comprises of 10 songs and 1 instrumental which Fish On Friday describe in their own words as:
“It’s all about life, It’s all about having lived hard, it’s about having being hurt, it’s about being happy, it’s about love, it’s about pain, it’s about madness, it’s about fear but most of all it’s made from the heart, that’s what it’s about.”
This is an interesting album in that to me, it has a very open sound with a lot of “Space” in the music which allows the subtleties that exist to emerge, it is at turns strident and then laid back, it is an interesting blend of approaches – it reminds me considerably of the mid period Alan Parson’s Project output, it is a very well-produced album and sounds good.
The album starts with the track 9.1 Surround opening with lazy ascending synth swirls and a gentle percussion simmering away before a strident riff kicks in and then some fine keyboard work follows. This is an atmospheric opener that ploughs a steady groove before Frank’s low pitched voice comes in. This song will get under your skin with its catchy chorus, it’s a fine opener by any standard and it’s the rockiest track on display here.
Shoot The Moon features some further atmospherics including some transcripts of 911 calls played in the background, this is a more gentle track but no less interesting indeed it is on these quieter songs that you can see how well recorded this disc is as the sound is both expansive and full yet with a lot of space between everything. These songs grow on you as you listen to the CD with repeated listenings revealing hidden depths – this track builds in intensity by using subtle dynamics to enhance it. Fish On Friday certainly know how to write choruses that will stay in your memory after the song has finished.
Move South is one of the best tracks on offer here sounding very Pink Floyd like in its opening – very sparse indeed with a Roger Water’s style vocal and a lazy acoustic guitar motif throughout with Frank urging us to go southbound – this song is simply gorgeous and deserves a wider audience, the song ends with birdsong playing in the background
It is the attention to detail that is on display here that makes this album so enjoyable, the mix of styles and approaches used so that each song has its own individual stamp yet retaining an overall cohesiveness.
The instrumental track Fish On Friday is a fine example of this as it moves or progresses from a simple acoustic romp into a piece of great beauty full of contrasting sounds and timbres. Again you can sense the influence of the Alan Parson’s Project on William and Frank as this would not have sounded out of place on one of their albums.
Star cleverly emulates a live sound and names checks most social media such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube to portray how “You’re a Star amongst Star’s” – it’s a very simple song but with a great chorus and the clever use of crowd noises to give a live feel.
Surviving November is another great Fish On Friday song with another lazy acoustic guitar subtly adding depth to a beautiful song which reminds one of the gentler Hogarth/Marillion songs on their later releases, again another fine song with another great chorus.
These songs deserve a few listens to “get” what is going on, this is not an immediate album rather it is one that requires time and patience before it reveals its hidden depths, it is a very mature release with some really tasty but understated guitar work and a wide array of keyboards sounds and styles being used to give the music a real depth balance and subtlety.
Flower Song sound like it will be a twee number but no it is a great song with some fabulous harmonies and great guitar and Hammond organ work underpinning it. The repeated motif of “I sense your fear but I feel there’s nothing left to fear” being repeated several times to great effect. This song features a lovely synthesiser solo too – highly recommended
The album closes with All Falls Into Place and for me it certainly has this is a fine closing track to an album that has grown in stature with each repeated listening, it will need time to filter through your mind but it is a journey that is well worth the making.
Whilst not an out and out progressive album it certainly has moments of great beauty, exemplary musicianship and above all some truly fabulous songs all of which bodes well for the future.
Fish On Friday will be releasing another album later this year called Airborne and that is one disc I definitely want to hear especially as both Nick Beggs and Steve Hackett have been involved in the sessions...
Overall I would recommend this album to anyone who likes great songs and appreciates either later period Marillion or Alan Parson’s material give it time and attention and you will be duly rewarded. A most worthy release...
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Claudio Milano, Erna Franssens (aka) KasjaNoova – Adython
Tracklist: L’ Oracolo Di Delfi (14:49), Adython (32:20)
The Radiata 5tet (Claudio Milano) – Aurelia Aurita
Tracklist: Bile Dal Po (9:33), Eumetazoa (5:50), Planula Larvae (5:37), Diploblastic (5:35), Single Germ Layer “G” (2:23), Echinoderms (2:58), Spiralia (3:07), Radially Symmetrical Cnidarians (6:23), Vectensis (2:30), (c)tenophones (8:20)
NichelOdeon’s Claudio Milano returns to the world stage in 2012 with two rather stunning genre defining albums that push the boundaries of music to the limit. These two albums are dark Avant Garde/improvisational releases that do not cater for those of faint heart or weak disposition, those of you who are need not apply or participate as in all honesty you will not find anything here that will wet your palette. You will probably see me as some ranting madman.
Melody in the pure sense of the word is not a descriptive you could apply here as he works his way through these creations. If you don’t believe me then look at the contributors Erna Franssens (concept and lyrics), Claudio Milano (voices), Attila Faravelli (computer through modified speakers) and Stefano Ferrian (tenor sax) and their chosen utensils.
First up are the two tracks on Adython an album that will really drag you into his world, if you dare enter, that is warped and twisted, a world that is filled with atmospheric pain, offering colour to the vowels that pour forth, even though it is all in his native tongue; what I mean by that is that it is a musical language that Claudio manipulates perfectly. His vocals as ever are dynamic, pirouetting, being in all honesty an instrument in their own right, manipulating the vocal spectrum with his seven octave range.
On top of all this one cannot forget Stefano Ferrian’s contributions, (who also appears on both albums), as he seriously adds that final dimension, creating the responsive dialog to Claudio’s words. Claudio’s journey and world for that matter is adventurous and maybe one that you would not participate in on a regular basis, but one thing that is for sure is that this really is a masterclass as he proves that there is space within space itself. One might be mistaken that this presentation is unique but in all reality cultures throughout the ages have been using these varying approaches for some time. No matter though as I have bought into his work big time.
The second album Aurelia Aurita takes no less of a diverse approach to that of Adython, we are still talking about more fascinating avant garde presentations, though this time out there is more instrumentation involved over the ten tracks presented. The balance of power here lies in the free-form experimental jazz approach, a musical language that isn’t easy to decipher, that will leave most, I guess, perplexed. The conversational and punctuated pieces beggar belief as the quintet which consists of Stefano Ferrian (tenor sax), Cecilla Quintaros (cello), Claudio Milano (vocals), Luca Pissavini (double bass) and Vito Emanuele Galante (trumpets) triumph in their creations. The music is a dark chasm of loneliness, an atmospheric and threatening cacophony that is has been created by a genius. Its semblance, personality, clarity and preciseness have been captured perfectly which has allowed it to emanate from the speakers with confidence.
There has been no need for any sprawling soundscapes here as each track is been assembled with contorted precision, adept interactions that do not overplay the moment, moments that are haunting and disturbing.
Both these albums work in the same manner as say Diamanda Galas’ Plague Mass, where it more about the artistic performance, whether that be vocally or musically. Claudio and company have chosen to walk this brave path letting the presentations to do the talking. This is something that has endeared me to become an admirer of his work especially as these and his other creations enveloped my senses.
I have been listening to these albums for quite some time now before reviewing, evading that initial reaction to what one has heard, which has made these rich and enigmatic recordings even more appreciated. As a listener you will need to be attentive and patient, opening your mind to get any form of reward, but for me personally that is a small price to pay. Genius, what more can I say.
Adython: 8.5 out of 10
Aurelia Aurita: 8.5 out of 10
Uwe Cremer & Thomas Rydell - Sirius Singularity
Tracklist: Sirius Singularity (17:43), Revisiting The Art Museum (17:14), Gizeh Intelligence (15:19)
Sirius Singularity is the result of a collaboration between Uwe Cremer, the German mastermind behind Level Pi whose most recent album Dunkelstunde received a recommended rating on DPRP, and the Swedish composer Thomas Rydell whose work to date has mainly been writing soundtracks to various films and television shows. The two were introduced by a mutual friend, Chris Newman, who produced a podcast radio show featuring music written by fans of Tangerine Dream. Both Cremer's and Rydell's own compositions were regularly featured on the show so it was inevitably that the two would eventually meet up and share their mutual love for all things Krautrock. Of course, conversation soon turned to producing a collaboration and so between 2010 and 2011 the duo worked, mainly independently, on creating the music on this CD.
Given the circumstances of their meeting and the admiration for Tangerine Dream, it is no surprise that the music on Sirius Singularity falls squarely into the style of that produced by the Krautrock legends. However, this is no mere pastiche as each musician brings his own individual character to the table: Cremer adds touches of light psychedelia while Rydell adds a subtle orchestral score that lifts the individual pieces into a new dimension. The title track itself is a mini symphony all of its own with a wonderful array of instruments blending perfectly with the acoustic guitar. As the track progresses new instruments are added (in the words of Vivian Stanshall on Tubular Bells: Slightly distorted electric guitar!) although the music never loses its calm serenity and even though I know it must be synthesised, towards the end there is what sounds exactly like a mass choir singing a few notes in the background. Masterfully done.
Revisiting The Art Museum follows along the same lines but it is the second half of the track were the Tangerine Dream influences come to the fore with a repeated keyboard line overlaid with flute and swathes of synths. Final piece, Gizeh Intelligence, is where the duo's collaboration excels with an instrumental number that builds gradually culminating in the heaviest elements of the album. As with Dunkelstunde, the major resemblance is to the Tangerine Dream of the mid Virgin years and every bit as enjoyable as those celebrated albums. Unquestionably, Krautrock and TD fans should lap this up immediately but its reach should extend beyond such hardcore fans as the music on this release is at once relaxing, enthralling, entertaining and intriguing.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Moon Of Ostara – The Star Child
Tracklist: Star Child - Part 1 (9:11), Star Child - Part 2 (14:35), Star Child - Part 3 (5:46), Star Child - Part 4 (10:57)
Moon Of Ostara aka Fred Laird of Lancastrian space rockers Earthling Society has released this fine slice of righteous and ancient space rock “in celebration of the old ones” as the press blurb goes. Furthermore “Moon Of Ostara is a proto-druidic hallucinogenic journey into the realms of the starchild”, and who am I to disagree?
A journey through the melting mind of Krautrock disciple Fred on a psilocybin-soaked trip through the Rites of Spring bring forth influences from classic Deutschrock such as Ashra (both with and without the Tempel), Harmonia, early Tangerine Dream, Neu! and Walter Wegmuller’s Tarot, an essential album for devotees of the more mystical end the sprawling innovative beast that was Teutonic rock from 1969 to the mid 70s.
Ostara is the full moon on or after the Spring equinox, and is sacred to Eostre, the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility, and is a time of celebration and partying. Sequencers bubble along accompanied by reverbed and multi-tracked guitars, the spectre of Manuel Göttschning looming large over a druidic ritual centred on the joyous renewal of life. Throw in some xylophone, synth swoops and phasings and you’ll see why this album is a delight for fans of stoned K-rock.
Part 1 opens like a wakening flower as analogue synths (?) soundtrack the dawn of a new age before a simple but effective melody almost Floydian in construct takes us gently downstream. There are some very heavily reverbed vocals on this track, both sung and spoken, declaiming what exactly I’ve no idea, but they lend a shamanic vibe to proceedings. The second half of the track breaks down and back to the opening synth swooshes, before piano, cello and xylophone take us through a strange comedown.
A motorik sequencer pulse launches Part 2 which meanders along nicely in Ashra style, all the while slowly building in intensity, the multi-tracked guitars folding in on themselves and getting ever more strung out. A journey through a burning brain indeedy. Part 3 has the most form, sounding not unlike early Cure under the influence with added synthesisers, while Part 4 goes all Klaus Schulze on us. The whole album at a mere 40 minutes long never outstays its welcome as can be the case with some space rock, and would be a great soundtrack to the end of a warm summer’s evening party, when all but the devoted have gone home… should we ever get a warm summer’s evening again, of course!
Available as a very limited edition CD and an unlimited download, this album is a departure from Earthling Society’s more rock-inclined sound, and is experimental enough in its own right not to simply be a slavish copy of early 70s German synth-driven music. One hopes Fred will be serving up some more of this highly enjoyable fare in the future.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Elf Project - The Great Divide
Tracklist: We Pay The Price (4:43), The Sirens Call (4:26), Love For Sale (4:29), Illusion (4:55), Pull Me Under (4:26), No More Monkey Business (4:03), Reach Out (4:13), Heaven Above (4:18), What I Believe (3:58), Any Other Day (3:19)
Hailing from Voorheesville, in the greater New York area, Elf Project are a trio consisting of Mike Cappadozy (guitar), Dave Wayne (drums) and Carl Schultz (bass, keyboards and vocals). Their debut album, Mirage, released in 2009 on South Carolina-based label 10T Records, was more of a Schulz studio project that involved a number of guest musicians (including Cappadozy); while The Great Divide, their sophomore effort, and the first as a full-fledged band, was released in the summer of 2012.
With a press release stating that Elf Project were heavily influenced by Rush (and therefore likely to appeal to their numerous fans), I was quite prepared to hear those influences in The Great Divide. Indeed, the band have taken Rush's rather controversial (and accordingly denigrated by fans of the Canadian trio's epic-laden Seventies output) Nineties period as a template, resulting in a sound that is often a bit too reminiscent of albums such as Presto or Roll The Bones. All of the 10 songs featured on the album are between 3 and 5 minutes long, employing a rather conventional verse-chorus-verse structure (with an instrumental bridge in the middle) more typical of classic pop-rock than prog, and favouring accessibility over complexity.
Elf Project also reproduce Rush's enhanced power trio configuration, with Carl Schultz handling vocals, bass and keyboards (mostly synths). Keyboards, however, are used rather sparingly, more as an accent than as the main event, and solo spots are few and far between. On the other hand, Cappadozy's lead and rhythm guitar work is always in the spotlight, meshing seamlessly with Schultz's meaty, twangy bottom end. Dave Wayne's drumming, though not as pyrotechnic as Neil Peart's, more than rises to the occasion, lending texture and dynamics to the otherwise straightforward, hook-laden songs. As a whole, the tracks on The Great Divide display remarkable fluidity and clarity of sound, even if they may come across as a bit samey after a while.
The Great Divide kicks off with We Pay The Price, an upbeat song that is so similar to Rush's Bravado (from their 1991 album Roll The Bones) - both in musical and lyrical content - that I had to check the tracklist to make sure I was not listening to a cover. Schultz channels Geddy Lee both instrumentally and vocally, though his voice is not as distinctive. Most of the other songs seem to follow the same pattern, with only occasional forays into more varied territory. The only exceptions are the instrumental No More Monkey Business (which references one of the three instrumentals featured on Rush's 2007 album Snakes And Arrows, titled The Main Monkey Business) - an energetic number driven by slick bass-drum action and powered by Cappadozy's clear, jangling guitar tone - and the mellow ballad Any Other Day, which closes the album on a somewhat radio-friendly (though slightly anticlimactic) note. Even though the emphasis is on accessibility rather than prog's trademark instrumental fireworks, the listener can occasionally catch glimpses of something more ambitious, such as the dramatic synth-guitar interplay in the bridge of The Sirens Call. However, the songs are for the most part mid-tempos peppered with choppy riffs, and occasionally interspersed with more laid-back moments, such as atmospheric synth washes.
While undoubtedly a well-executed album, The Great Divide is a bit too derivative for comfort, and does no justice to the band's collective talent. The three members of Elf Project are all fine musicians, and have the potential to produce something with a stronger individual imprint than an album that ultimately sounds like a collection of Rush outtakes. On the other hand, the album is quite likely to encounter the approval of fans of accessible, song-oriented progressive rock, especially those who appreciate Rush's late Eighties-early Nineties stage.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10
Ian Gordon – The Box
Disc 1: Opening (2:46), Transcendence (5:50), Streets Of New Babylon (9:37), Eastern Lights (7:26), The Theatre (7:29), Cascade Scenario (8:55), Solutions (7:35), 57 (8:15), Intermission In Dreams (4:04)
Disc 2: The Child (8:14), Framed (6:41), Aftermath (8:42), Return To The Theatre (6:10), Dunes Of New Babylon (7:45), The Tower (4:38), Entombed (5:16), Crescendo (6:42), The Box? (6:10)
I have very little background information on Ian Gordon other than he is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter based in Bolton in the north of England and a member of the rock band Drama (not to be confused with the French band with the same name). As a solo artist he released two digital download albums in 2011, Terminally Brave and The Box. Weighing in at over 2 hours, the latter is now available as a double CD and as a result qualifies for a DPRP review.
Gordon originally came up with the idea for The Box back in 1999 but it took a full 10 years before the recording came to be. Responsible for all the instruments, vocals and production, as Gordon explains himself it’s been a real labour of love describing the story thus:
“Conceptually, the idea of one becoming ‘lost’ in some distant land was the catalyst for the story; in which a process of rediscovery would have to be undertaken in order for one to remember who they truly were. Being a fan of the surreal and the macabre, this concept evolved into something much more elaborate.”
Musically The Box sees Gordon exploring a myriad of styles and tempos combing mainstream rock and prog, making full use of the 122 minutes playing time. He has perhaps too much time at his disposal because in truth there is nothing here that is going to set the world alight and neither did it particularly engage my memory cells. That said Gordon proves to be a more than accomplished musician in his chosen fields (guitar, bass, drums and keys) especially the latter. He also fits in the occasional solos from collaborators Rob Heyes (guitar) and I assume family members Neil Gordon (keyboard) and Gary Gordon (guitar).
At times, particularly during a track intro, the music has a home recording quality, displaying a conspicuously tinny keyboard and rhythm sound. This I feel is a clever ploy on Gordon’s part because the track will suddenly surge into overdrive with a weighty wall of guitars and drums. When called upon his keyboard work can also be very colourful with authentic representation of synth, piano, organ etc. In Eastern Lights he even successfully replicas the sound of a fairground Wurlitzer and it’s during this same song that he conjures up some genuine moments of musical excitement with superb synth and guitar exchanges. His self-confessed influences (Genesis, Rush and Iron Maiden) are occasionally apparent but for me his style is more contemporary.
Perhaps (in my book at least) Gordon’s weakest link is his singing. He doesn’t have a bad voice by any stretch of the imagination is just that his strident, theatrical delivery veers a little too close to the David Bowie’s and Axl Rose’s of this world for my tastes. His production however is solid and spacious delivering a full and resonant sound that was equally at home in my car as it was in the home environment.
In addition to CD, The Box along with Terminally Brave is still available for download on Gordon’s website for a very modest sum and as such is well worth investigating. You certainly get a lot of music for your money and you may just find that given a little time and patience your investment to be very well rewarded.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Relocate To Heathrow - Often Lost, Never Forgotten
Tracklist: Often Lost, Never Forgotten (2:02), Skies (7:24), When Darkness Falls (11:42), Shadows (8:35), Ten Seconds Blue (4:12), The Waters Edge (5:44), After The Rains Came (9:20),
Tears Upon The Frost (5:21), Often Lost, Never Forgotten [Reprise] (2:02), Hope (3:34)
Relocate To Heathrow - An Ordinary Poison
Tracklist: An Ordinary Poison (5:54), I Can See The End From Here (5:14), Into The Soil (7:09), Is It Any Wonder? (4:10), Ancient Oaths (5:01), Fleeting Companions (5:53), My Town (4:47), Tower Of Lies (4:47), Wherever It Resides (5:06), ODK (2:51)
Mike Kershaw - Reason To Believe
Tracklist: False Hope (6:12), Inner Child (5:36), Testament (6:06), The End Of Love And War [i. A New Beginning (7:46), ii. Blessing Clouds (7:52), iii. Shades Of Quiet Terror (6:44)], Reason To Believe (5:12), Mask And Cape (4:55), They Follow (8:28)
Mike Kershaw is the man behind Relocate To Heathrow, which after two albums with that name he changed it to his own name. And why not, he is the solo performer on all three albums so therefore it is agreed he can use his own name. I did not know anything about these releases until they landed on my doorstep and still the man is a mystery to me as nowhere on the internet can you find a biography or a picture. The only thing that can help in this review are the disc themselves and the music that is on the discs. And to be honest it is nice to do a review only on the music and not knowing the where, why, who and what. All though I think the "where" is in the vicinity of Heathrow.
Often Lost, Never Forgotten is the oldest of the three dating back to 2009. The opening title track is an atmospheric keyboard intro, not really much can be said about that, the majority of prog albums starts this way. More can be said about the second song Skies but it not going to be good. The vocal lines are boring and, though not really challenging, Mike Kershaw is out of tune a couple of times. When the programmed drums start with the keyboard chords it makes it even worse. Sad to say it sounds like pre-programmed music from a cheap keyboard. When Darkness Falls has a heavier approach and the keyboard is replaced by a guitar. The first six minutes are again very bad, with the remainder of the song has some minor interesting stuff, however I doubt anyone can sit through the first half of the song and make it to the minor interesting stuff. Sadly the vocals of Mike Kershaw are unbearable, thankfully Shadows is an instrumental song and here he puts in more thought into this song, but it hardly brings the level up.
I could go on and on this way but I think I should leave it at that. The album is over one hour but I hardly hear anything worth mentioning. The vocal lines are too easy but even these simple lines prove at times difficult for Mike Kershaw. There are some nice ideas and some nice tunes, but without inspiration and a bad production.
After hearing the first album I was not really looking forward to hearing An Ordinary Poison, although the start of the album promises better - but not that much. The vocal lines are just a bit better and this time he re-recorded the notes he could not reach in one go, so no out of tune vocals. An Ordinary Poison is an OK song but it could also be because I was expecting the worst. I Can See The End From Here is an instrumental track that has more variety than the whole of the Often Lost, Never Forgotten album. The first part of Into The Soil continues in this manner, more variety than on it's predecessor, however the second part has vocal lines that are just not good, uninspiring and boring. Is It Any Wonder is a combination of Madness and UB40 and the chorus is ridiculous. The atmospheric ballad Ancient Oaths rises above the average level of this album.
The review of this second album reaches one rung further. An Ordinary Poison made me happy because it was not as bad as Lost Not Forgotten but it has the same flaws. The vocal lines have improved but are still boring and the level of singing is far below par. I believe Mike Kershaw put in a lot more effort because the improvement is noticeable. Still the overall average level is not enough.
I was not eager to hear another Relocate To Heathrow album but when I found out Mike Kershaw recorded a new album but under a different name I got curious, as a change of name could indicate a fresh start. Certainly the two Relocate To Heathrow albums did absolutely nothing for me so I wondered what Mike Kershaw could bring me now. I must say that Reason To Believe is a step forward from the Relocate To Heathrow albums. You can hear it is from the same person but on every part this album is better. Better vocal lines, better song writing and better recording.
Is the change enough to make it an album worth buying? Well the start of the album did not immediately give me that idea, it was more like "oh no, not again" and ironically the song is called False Hope. Also on Inner Child and Testament it sounds better but the level is still below par. Ironically during the song called A New Beginning for the first time I thought: "well hey, it could become interesting". The first part of the song is very diverse and heavy, the vocals in the second part sadly are not good, again. Blessing Clouds shows more diversity, Shades Of Quiet Terror is a mellow ambient piece with simple vocal lines even Mike Kershaw could not mess up. Reason To Believe is sort of a folky song. What can I say about it? And what can I say about Mask And Cape and They Follow? At this point I realize that I can only repeat myself as these are not really interesting songs and again with bad vocals.
So sadly this three albums in one review does not bring anything really worth getting. I had some trouble with the ratings. I am happy the quality increases with each release but listening to the last album I realize Mike Kershaw still has a long way to go.
Often Lost, Never Forgotten : 3 out of 10
An Ordinary Poison : 3.5 out of 10
Reason To Believe : 4 out of 10