Reviews in this issue:
- Godsticks – Godsticks [EP] (Duo Review)
- Oceana Company - For The Boatman
- Vienna Circle – White Clouds
- The Tea Club - General Winter’s Secret Museum
- Fun Machine - Sonnenhuhn
- Fabrice Bony - Between Day
- Edensong - The Fruit Fallen (Duo Review)
- Simon Railton - Here It Is
Godsticks – Godsticks [EP]
Tracklist: Not The Face (4:21), Only When Provoked (4:41), Puppy Gardener (5:27), Venial (4:50), Clinical (3:30)
Jez Rowden's Review
This 5-track EP is the first release from South Wales-based trio Godsticks featuring Darran Charles (vocal/guitar/piano), Jason Marsh (bass) and Steve Roberts (drums). Having originally formed in 2006 as a cover band playing existing progressive rock classics they have developed their song-writing talents and the material on this disc offers a tantalising glimpse of what could be a very bright future indeed. They seem to have appeared fully formed from nowhere with a style of their own which is accessible yet complex enough to keep prog fans happy. Though currently unsigned this self released disc, which is available via their MySpace page, should give them the exposure they need to get a deal.
The first thing to note is the cover art which immediately tweaks the interest being different and striking. The copy I have just comes in a card sleeve with no lyrics so I won’t be commenting on them, suffice to say they fit into the framework of the music very well. Three of the tracks feature Aaron Evans on drums, current member Roberts contributing to Only When Provoked and the bizarrely named Puppy Gardener, and despite all the material being of excellent quality it is these tracks that stand out with a vibe between the musicians that should translate well to their live shows.
So what does it sound like? Not The Face kicks proceedings off with a very interesting guitar section over a low bass thrum and nice drum pattern. The vocals come in early, rich and resonant with some nice harmonies boding well for the rest of the disc – a promise that is not disappointed. Some sparingly used fragments of piano add sparkle, the sound being pretty unique to my ears making it difficult to offer clear references. After a quirky guitar solo the mood changes and we get some jazzy guitar over a bubbling bass. The guitar is multi-tracked to good effect and the feel is bright and breezy, the mood changing towards the end as a heavier riff picks up to top off an excellent opening piece that is both different and exciting.
Throughout the CD the guitar is uniformly excellent, Darran Charles’ work being very different from what might be expected. In fact each individual is worthy of note in their own right with the drums working hard to keep things moving in new directions and some fantastic bass from Marsh whose grooves often dominate the tracks giving a funky edge that keeps the feet tapping. The rhythm section locks in when required but have enough freedom for flights of fancy. Perhaps unusually the only keyboard used is piano which is a nice touch but with Charles handling both I wonder how they pull it off live.
Whilst it isn’t uncommon for bands to have musicianship in spades, what sets Godsticks apart is their writing style. There aren’t many acts of this nature that can write short punchy songs with plenty of movement that sound so new and cram in this much detail. It is to their credit that they don’t stretch things out but keep it sharp and direct; many could make a full album – if not a career – out of the material in these 22 minutes yet nothing feels cut short and the flow is seamless through the many changes, repetition being kept to a minimum and attention retained throughout. The overall feel is uplifting and there is a positivity about the material that is palpable, the whole given an extra polish by the crisp production.
Only When Provoked starts with a jazzy guitar reminiscent of a mutant cross between Roine Stolt and Allan Holdsworth followed by an excellent melody line. A busy rhythm drives things along and there is some great interplay between the instruments, some rhythm guitar added for balance. There is a nice verse, again with some great vocals, coupled with bass harmonics and other tasty fiddly bits. The guitar surfs over the rhythm during the instrumental sections with a nice tempo change in the middle and some lovely harmonies before a very prog instrumental. Something vaguely reminds me of Jadis here and there.
The bizarrely named Puppy Gardener has a heavy and funky bass intro with dissonant guitar and much else besides. There’s a bit of Jeff Berlin, jazzy and up-tempo, which is then slowed right down retaining the funky rhythm and adding guitar harmonics followed by a very nice and unconventional guitar solo which, topped off by some solo bass, takes us to the end of the song.
The last two tracks on the disc offer a different side to the band. Both have an acoustic feel that adds to the summery effect. Venial is possibly the straightest song on the CD, opening with acoustic guitar, funky rhythms and bright piano. The rhythm drops out for a guitar solo then comes back in a sort of Holdsworth yet not Holdsworth way! Again, bass and drums are superb. Clinical has a slightly more sombre mood, again acoustic guitar and piano adding colour. There is a solo piano spot to reset the vibe and a sparse section that creates an oasis within the lovely group feel with some solo acoustic guitar to finish. Beautiful stuff.
Charles’ phrasing is superb, the words ably delivered by his charismatic voice. The band is not in the standard power trio mould and the structures are not standard “verse chorus verse” but they retain a high degree of accessibility. Melody is high on their list but there is a pleasing and enjoyable instrumental edge with excellent tunes sweeping off into funky and complex sections. Hopefully their debut album will be along soon keeping up the very high standard set by this opening salvo.
What we have here is a band that is fresh, new, vibrant and accessible with enough going on to keep the listener focused. The playing is uniformly excellent and inventive in all areas and there is enthusiasm and energy in the playing. The addition of virtuoso twists and turns are used to good effect and always seem logical within the context of the pieces. I’ve been listening to this disc constantly since receiving it and the memorable hooks and tricksy style has already made it a favourite. I urge you to check them out.
Bob Mulvey's Review
With a mountain of CDs currently awaiting our attention, I did consider the madness of a Duo Review, of a relatively new band. However as Godsticks are my tip for best newcomers in the 2008 DPRPoll and as this taster EP from the band is an absolute joy, I thought why not! Just keep it brief, and as Jez has already painted a fairly detailed and deservedly glowing picture, I will keep it brief.
A difficult band to pigeonhole, (if we need to pigeonhole of course), as they call on a number styles that may not necessarily sit comfortably together - prog, fusion, funk, rock and even pop. However what the band have successfully managed to do is incorporate these seemingly disparate styles into cohesive and listenable songs. No better captured than what was my first introduction to the band, and the intriguing Puppy Gardener. A lively song with nicely interwoven guitars, great fretless playing alongside inventive and solid drumming. What a groove from Messrs Jason Marsh (shades of Jaco P and Jeff B here) and Steve Roberts. And then it only gets better with Darran Charles adding his excellent vocals, thoughtful lyrics and well arranged vocal harmonies. As a pointer Steely Dan sprang to mind here - as they did throughout this EP.
I was pretty much sold on the band just by this one track, (but there again I've bought many a disappointing album on the strength of one good track), so how did the remaining tracks fair. The rocky opener Not The Face was possibly the most difficult of the tracks to get into. The opening had flashes of 80s era King Crimson, although the vocals steered us away from those thoughts. Again, like Puppy Gardener, the track has a great groove, but this time in a much rockier vein. Nice jazzy intonations from the guitar and an interesting solo. Probably the proggiest track and certainly the latter part suggests what may lay in store for the future.
In contrast Only When Provoked returns us to the funkier elements of the rhythm section and an altogether lighter mood. The variation in the guitar sounds add a pleasant touch and again strong vocals from Mr Charles. The last two tracks reflect a different approach to the band and a more acoustic setting is displayed. This said Venial retains the characteristic funky drive and crafted vocals. On top of this Darran Charles demonstrates his musical skills with a nifty little solo halfway through. Closing this EP is Clinical, again acoustically led, but this time the vocals are layered more extensively and a more straightforward rhythm is the order of the day. Interestingly the first couple of runs through I didn't particularly notice (or miss) the keyboards, which tend to play a fairly minor role within Godsticks' music. And although piano can be found throughout the CD, it was this track which triggered their inclusion within the music. Subtle and extremely effective...
It's not often now that a band comes along and blows me away as Godsticks have. With great chops, a keen ear for a melody and with hooks aplenty - what else do you need? A full length album would be nice? But seriously this EP has been played fairly constantly over the last couple of weeks and I see little chance of this changing in the foreseeable future. Therefore I would just like to conclude by saying that if Godsticks are progressive rock, then the future looks bright and assured. Go and check out the samples on their MySpace (linked above) and then go and buy this excellent EP!
JEZ ROWDEN : 9 out of 10
BOB MULVEY : 8.5 out of 10
Oceana Company - For The Boatman
Tracklist: Landing (4:26), Trenchfever (4:20), Freedom Of Mind (5:20), Imaginary Time (4:32), Silent (7:05), A Wayfarer’s Travel (4:05), The Warning Light Stays On (6:58), Boatman (3:57), The Big Sky (11:17)
The first time I learned about the existence of the Oceana Company was when I was looking at the website of progressive magazine Colossus, where they were mentioning a new project they were doing with Musea Records, a four CD box set about Dante’s Inferno. Scanning through the names of artists who would be contributing I saw a Dutch sounding name that I had never heard of. It was the name of Matthijs Herder, vocalist, guitar player and mellotronist of the band Oceana Company. The other members of the band are Michiel Ferweda (guitars), Han Schilder (bass) and Robert Koole (drums). For The Boatman is the band's debut album, although they did release a three track promo album in 2007.
The band's website mentions that in earlier reviews they were compared to bands like Motorpsycho, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Isis and Radiohead. I would like add a few more bands to that list; Queens Of The Stone Age, Anekdoten, Valinor’s Tree and Landberk. With two guitar players and ‘just’ the mellotron as keyboards the rock side is more evident on the album then the progressive side. The progressiveness of the music lies in the relaxed way the band combines all their influences to something that sounds familiar but at the same time new and fresh. So what’s the album like?
After a beautiful instrumental opening with sci-fi voice samples and upfront drums the first song, Trenchfever is a good example of the rock side of Oceana Company’s music. It’s based on a great guitar riff combined with again upfront and tight drumming whilst the chorus reminded me of Nirvana. Coincidentaly this song came to the attention of a couple of Dutch radio stations like Kink FM...
On the other hand, track number three Freedom Of Mind is a very melancholic song. In the quieter tracks when Herder sings alone the vocals are not perhaps the band's strongest point, however when backing vocals are added the result is, like in this song and also in A Wayfarer’s Travel, stunning. Silent is another great track where the spirit of Anekdoten is never far away. It also perfectly showcases the diverse influences. The Warning Light Stays On is a largely instrumental track where again voice samples are used to great effect and it also features a short spoken word performance by producer Marcel van de Vondervoort, which gives the song a certain radio play effect. After a heavy climax they use the voice samples again to accompany us into the next track Boatman, an instrumental piece and the most psychedelic track on the album. The Big Sky is the albums closing track, starting of with just acoustic guitar and Herder’s vocals. After which the song gradually builds until the vocals come in and then fianally very slowly gets quieter and comes to a halt.
It’s really difficult to find a fault with this debut release from Oceana Company, other than those comments I've made about the voice. The only other critical remark I can make is that when the band chooses to go on maximum volume and speed the sound gets a bit muddy. But other than that this really is a high quality debut. It successfully mixes prog rock with stoner and psychedelia and I can recommend this album to anyone who’s into bands like Anekdoten, Landberk (or the mix of those two bands called Morte Macabre) and Valinor’s Tree.
NB: Matthijs Herders instrumental contribution to Colossus' Dante’s Inferno is also of a very high quality.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Vienna Circle – White Clouds
Tracklist: White Clouds [Beginning] (2:01), First Night In Berlin (3:01), Stars Of May (5:52), The Morning Fields Of Amber Grey (11:25), Argonne Wood (1:30), Falling (4:34), A Break In The Clouds (5:44), Conquered Air (9:16), Her Green Eyes Blew Goodbye (6:29), White Clouds [Finale] (5:08)
Vienna Circle is a UK based project from two brothers, Paul and Jack Davis. Influences of the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Neal Morse so the accompanying information reads. White Clouds is a concept album about a man who moves from South England to Berlin on the verge of World War I. Together with drummer Russ Wilson, Paul and Jack recorded this album. Paul is playing guitars, piano, keyboards and does the lead vocals, whilst brother Jack plays bass, piano and provides backing vocals. Judged by the photos on their site, Paul and Jack must be in their twenties still.
Sounds of seagulls in the opening track are followed by gentle guitars and the soothing mellow voice of Paul, but when more guitars are added, a striking resemblance with Porcupine Tree (nineties) can be noted. First Night In Berlin is a mellow symphonic track with influences of Barclay James Harvest. In Stars Of May the strings remind of Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles but the sound and technique of playing the bass is much different, a more prominent role as should be in such a solid progressive tune with nice instrumental parts. Both melodies and vocal harmonies seem to be influenced by Pendragon. There’s a really neat climax with excellent guitar soloing and nice drumming, before the track is ended by a sensitive acoustic piece.
The organ opens the longest track, The Morning Fields Of Amber Grey, then a slow symphonic piece follows, nicely orchestrated and an atmosphere as used to be created by Pink Floyd, earlier Porcupine Tree or Eloy. In Argonne Wood we hear gentle somewhat psychedelic sounds topped with several recordings of voices talking about the war. Falling is a mid-tempo track, starting with mellotron-like orchestration. With Paul’s singing also guitars both acoustic and electric, we have a sort of mix between Marillion and Pink Floyd. Here too exquisite fills by Russ Wilson and a good display of Paul’s guitar technique. Next song is Break In The Clouds, also a melodic track and because of the piano and the melody lines it could have been a Gazpacho song. A somewhat jazzy feel in the track Conquered Air alternated by catchy symphonic pieces. In Her Green Eyes Blew Away a sort of backing by a wah-wah guitar and piano, but also again great bass playing by Jack and this time Paul’s vocals are recorded with an octave difference. This is in my opinion the most varied, original and therefore best track of the album, also a superb finale with lots of keyboards and a heart beating until a gunshot ends it. The same guitar melodies as in the first track return, but piano, strings and electric guitars give it a more ‘pop’ feel, just like BJH used to do.
In conclusion this debut is a very nice offering. Albeit not highly original, the songs prove that Paul & Jack have lots of talent for both writing AND playing some really nice melodic progressive music. They say ‘this is just the start’ and I confess: I’m eagerly awaiting the successor to White Clouds! These lads deserve our attention and support: the album is now available directly from the band.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
The Tea Club - General Winter’s Secret Museum
Tracklist: Werewolves (6:09), Cool Smack (5:59), Big Al (6:12), Castle Builder (4:38), Purple Chukz (4:45), The Clincher (6:27), Will O’ The Wisp (5:32), The Moon (4:41), Ice Clock (5:08)
The Tea Club were formed in 2003 in Deptford, New Jersey; Patti Smith's city of birth. The band comprises of Patrick McGowan (vocals, guitars and bass) and his brother Dan McGowan (vocals, guitars) who together with long time friend and drummer Kyle Minnick founded the band. Initially they started out as a four piece with James Berger on bass but Berger quit the band in 2005, so the remaining musicians decided to carry on as a trio. They recorded four EP’s one of which drew the attention of producer/engineer Tim Gilles, (a punk/hard core producer having worked with bands like Agnostic Front, Anthrax & Dog Eat Dog along with Red House Painters, Sussana Hoffs and Tracy Bonham). On The Tea Club's first full length CD this experienced producer succeeds in giving the album a dynamic, but crystal clear sound.
When listening to General Winter’s Secret Museum (a very cryptic title btw) it’s hard to believe that this is the band's first proper album as the whole CD sounds very self assured. Musically it is hard to describe the music of The Tea Club, there are traces of 80s King Crimson (the first guitar parts on album opener Werewolves, on Big Al and the Fripperian guitars parts during The Clincher); Jeff Buckley (the vocals in Werewolves and The Clincher); Oceansize, Aereogramme and Radiohead (on the beautiful Castle Builder) and the brilliant but very unknown Terraced Garden (the verses in Purple Chukz); and finally another influence I hear in the vocal department is Echolyn. But as I said we are talking about traces and/or snippets of all the bands mentioned because The Tea Club immediately show they have a style of their own, with the main attractions being the brothers vocals and their guitar playing. Patrick & Dan share the lead vocal duties and both have excellent voices. Their vocals also work very well together as can be heard during the many beautiful vocal harmonies that grace the album. For example Purple Chukz starts with a beautiful vocal melody where the brothers each sing a part of the verse.
Musically there is also a lot to enjoy. As you might have noticed none of the band play keyboards. The only track to feature keyboards is The Moon, played by producer Tim Gilles, and here fails to add anything. The strength of this song lies with the beautiful vocal harmonies, very varied guitar playing, tight drumming and up front distorted bass. So the keyboards are not missed at all, the band is more than capable of delivering progressive song structures, keeping the songs varied and the listener interested without them. So during the songs much happens musically. Let's take Werewolves for example. It starts with some heavy riffs with great drumming by Minnick, which after a while we are treated to a short instrumental part where the guitars weave around each other accompanied by some distorted bass and then a short loud vocal part. The track then transforms into a very atmospheric song where at first Patrick and Dan McGowan produce some nice vocal harmonies. Finally the tempo picks up until the song ends. Or Cool Smack which starts as a heavy Echolyn song, but also contains some beautiful acoustic guitar.
As I said the main attractions are the vocals and the guitar playing but Kyle Minnick’s drumming is essential to the bands sound. With all the changes in melody and tempo you need a talented drummer to keep everything together and that’s just what Minnick does. Listen for example to the instrumental middle part of Big Al. The Fripp like guitars are backed with strong but also subtle drumming. Excellent!
The Tea Club’s first album is a very self assured affair. This is modern progressive rock and it’s exciting to hear that young bands like Black Mountain, Oceana Company, Diagonal, Pure Reason Revolution, Zombi and now The Tea Club are using progressive rock as a start point while adding a lot of new influences and energy to it.
Btw: After recording the album the band went in search of a bass player. Becky Osenenko, a long time friend, fitted the bill, making The Tea Club a four piece band again.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Fun Machine - Sonnenhuhn
Tracklist: Sun Chicken (1:50), Blok People (9:05), Liquid Pants (5:59), Lost In Glasgow (2:57), Blok 1 (4:49), Flaking Reality (1:57), Family Vapor (15:14), Rope Swing (3:37)
Coming from Fords, New Jersey in the United States? The machinists of the Fun Machine are John Piatkowski on keyboards and vocals, Andrew Wetzel on guitars, bass and vocals, Renee Maskin on bass and guitars and Colin Ryan on drums and percussion. Sonnenhuhn is their first album.
And that finishes the easy part of this review. So now we come to the part where I start to tell you about the music...
What are we hearing, Spock? Well captain, it’s... music, but not as we know it.
The first song is a soundscape - someone walking, creaking doors and drilling sounds, but then the madness really begins as we enter Blok People. The song starts with long drawn out chords alternated by fast short chord progressions - this is certainly The Mars Volta territory. Short but loud mellotron choirs, shrieking organs, fast and loud guitars. When the vocals kick in you think that normality returns, but then... a jazzy almost easy listening section, returning to the mad vocals and once again a beautiful part with mellotron strings. Choir like voices slightly out of tune... phew, finished. But it’s not just The Mars Volta, there are also a strong Mothers Of Invention influences from their first three albums (Freak Out, Absolutely Free and We’re Only In It For The Money).
The staccato fashion I wrote about Blok People is how you feel when you listen to Fun Machine for the first time, it sounds like complete madness. However when you give the album a couple of spins things start to make a little more sense. It’s still mad music but it’s arranged, controlled madness. Moving on Liquid Pants starts to sound relatively normal and by the time you get to Lost In Glasgow things even start to sound catchy. There is a verse and a chorus (sort of) and even an acoustic guitar/piano part that ends the song. This could have been a Cardiacs track, and an influence that crops up in more of the songs. Another thing you start to realise when you get to the next track Blok 1 is the fact that these guys can play! Because through all the madness we can hear some tight playing - and by the way Blok 1 sounds even catchy in places. But no repite as a couple of minutes later things start to go mad again. And that’s how things are during the entire album. When you think you can relax Fun Machine hits you in the face again.
Flaking Reality is very short but very accessible, whereas Family Vapor has that Mothers Of Invention feel again in the choruses, while the verses are almost funky (Red Hot Chili Peppers). But that’s only during the first couple of minutes. The song goes through many different styles and emotions during its entire fifteen minutes. Highlight of the song is the full on progressive rock at the end of the song (out of tune anyone??).
I must say that it took me quite a while to get into Fun Machine’s debut album. The first time I sat through the entire album I was exhausted! But still it was intriguing enough to make me listen to it again. And slowly Fun Machine pulled me into their world and then I started to realise how much energy and especially fun went into making this record. And though they can go mad every now and then they always keep things accessible.
Still this is not going to be for everyone, but anyone who has an interest in bands like Cardiacs, The Mothers Of Invention and The Mars Volta, and who don’t mind a tempo change or three every half a minute should definitely check out this highly original band. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And if this review is a little difficult to follow then blame Fun Machine ;0)
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Fabrice Bony - Between Day
While listening to Fabrice Bony’s debut album Between Day I was wondering why progressive rock and France are two words that are not normally found in one sentence together. However; the more I thought about that the more interesting prog bands from France popped up from my memory. Bands like Ange, Magma, Agard, Clearlight and Minimum Vital. In recent years there seems to be an increase in band hailing from France. Bands like Nemo, Motis, The Black Noodle Project, Saens and Demians. And now there is Fabrice Bony from Paris, France. Bony (1970) was born in Besançon. He started learning to play drums at the age of six and finished his study with a cum laude degree from the Centre Musical et Creatif de Nancy. He then started to work as a session drummer touring and recording with many French artists including the aforementioned Ange (during the Larmes du Dalai Lama tour in 1993.
Between Day is a concept album about a man’s life. He wants to do great things but due to an accident he ends up in a coma, hanging on a thin thread between life and death, finally and at the end of the album he dies to start his infinite journey. The album is a solo album in the true sense of the word, as Bony plays all the instruments himself. As a very well trained drummer there always is the danger that the drums might dominate, however with this album that is not the case at all. Although it’s very likely that certain keyboard sounds are coming from an electronic drum kit this is not a drummer’s album. It’s clear that Bony is a great drummer but the drums do play a supporting role on the album leaving enough room for guitars, bass and keyboards. His musical influences range from progressive to minimalist and ambient music and that is exactly what the listener gets on the instrumental Between Day.
After a short ambient opening Thread Of Life is the first prog song - with a very strong melody and excellent guitar and keyboard playing. The sudden ending of the track is intended as a musical metaphor for the accident. Introspection is another strong offering with a melancholic atmosphere that a track with such a name needs is portrayed perfectly by the strings, timpani and piano. Four Birds As Witnesses starts with a Philip Glass like piano motive but it develops into a great progressive track with impressive but subtle drumming and again a beautiful guitar melody. Bony manages to maintain this high quality standard by mixing short ambient/minimal pieces with slightly longer progressive rock tracks. Especially Call Of The African Constellation is a magnificent track. Unfortunately by the time the main character starts his Infini Journey, Bony seems to have run out of steam, as the eleven minute track to portray this is the weakest on the album in my opinion. It’s too minimal and ambient and not much happens musically. That is a shame because despite the high quality of the other songs it still left me a bit disappointed.
After Demians, Fabrice Bony is another talented musician from France. If you are into a mixture of progressive tracks with more ambient tracks then you should definitely check out this album.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Edensong - The Fruit Fallen
Tracklist: Water Run (6:02), The Baptism (6:38), Reflection (5:05), The Prayer (8:03), Nocturne (9:20), The Sixth Day (9:59), One Breath To Breathe (4:23), The Reunion (9:50), [To See But Not Believe (8:41) 'hidden' track]
Mark Hughes' Review
Edensong's debut album arrived accompanied by its own manifesto that read like it was justification for daring to combine ostensibly radically different types of music together. Name checking influences such as the usual prog luminaries alongside composers like Hans Zimmer and Nobuo Uematsu (a composer of music for video games apparently) as well as Simon and Garfunkel, Metallica and Gregorian chant is setting one's self up for a fall if the album fails to even come close to the hyperbole (although managing to steer clear of any Metallica influences would be a bonus in my book!). The history of the band stretches back to 2002 when James Byron Schoen was at university in Connecticut. His first 'performance concept' (ummm, a bit pretentious?) was "Beyond Eden: A Surrealistic Pseudo Rock Opera" (yep, definitely pretentious!). Work on the album began in 2004 and live performances of the then line-up started in 2005 although the band was dissolved a year later because of "tensions over tour negotiations and extensive travel". The break gave Schoen a chance to finish the album using a wide variety of musicians contributing everything from flute to tablas. Schoen himself sings everything and plays most of the guitars on the album.
Right from the start it is obvious that Schoen is a very accomplished composer and arranger, there is a phenomenal amount going on even before one gets to the end of the first track. Layers of flute, violin, acoustic guitar, organ and drums present an orchestral front that draws one in. Things start to go eclectic with The Baptism with good use of cello and flute, although the ending of the song, with the heavy riffing and abrupt ending is rather disappointing. As with most of the songs, Reflection opens with acoustic guitar which is soon joined by the ever present flute. A mellow song with piano and organ providing subtle accents along the way, although to my ears the tablas are a distraction and add nothing to the song. Schoen has a reasonable, although not exceptional, voice and is a thoughtful lyric writer providing some rather poetic passages packed with ideas that are often stimulating, however, I did find myself getting a bit bored at times as there was almost too much emphasis placed on the lyrics as if getting the storyline across was more important than the music. This may be fine in a musical (sorry, performance concept!) but in an album can lose the listener. Seventy minutes is a long time to sit and listen to an album and too often I found myself thinking that the same ground was being covered time and again. The album is quite fractured with lots of stops and starts within the tracks. Maybe some editing would have helped.
Having said that, when things go right there are some very good periods of music, Nocturne has a couple of very good passages, although, again, I remain unsure about the heavier riffing section. One Breath To Breathe uses the strings well and has a fairly haunting memory and The Reunion does introduce a tad of variety with an electric guitar solo and a spicier passage with organ, guitar and violin. But again, the familiar and safe comes through again and again, with not a great deal to distinguish it from the other seven tracks on the album, and the ending is really quite limp. Although the last track is sequenced on the CD as lasting nearly 22 minutes, it is actually one of those annoying 'secret' tracks with a three-minute break before the hidden track To See But Not Believe is reached. Ironically, I found this one of the most enjoyable pieces on the album, a more adventurous spirit with a full band playing throughout and a definite different style to the rest of the album!
I have read a few reviews that consider this album to be the greatest thing ever, or at least the album of the year for 2008. Yes, we all have different tastes and I suppose there is something a bit different to a lot of modern prog albums that may spark the interests and edify people who have not necessarily been exposed to a wide variety of music. However, I found the album to be too long, too similar and too draining to listen to. I may be the odd one out and it might be that The Fruit Fallen improves on repeated hearing. However, whether I have the patience to sit through the entire album again and again to find out is another matter.
Andy Dybczynski's Review
By progressive rock standards this album is not fast food, it is gourmet cuisine served on custom plates. American band Edensong enters progressive rock scene with a very impressive debut album The Fruit Fallen. This album will surprise many people. The biggest problem with their music is to be patient. It will take many listens to appreciate this sophisticated, modern, and intelligent music by many refers to old British progressive rock like Yes, Jethro Tull (flute), Genesis, Led Zeppelin and modern bands The Mars Volta, Coheed And Cambria to mention couple.
Edensong was formed by James Byron Schoen in 2002 at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and has gone through multiple line-up changes. Beside James who sings and plays guitars the core members of the band are Stefan Paolini on keyboards & additional vocals and Mr. Paden on bass. Amid shifting personnel, it is James Schoen’s music that forms the core of the Edensong sound.
Water Run - The Fruit Fallen opens with acoustic guitar-driven track with nice touches of violin and flute, although the song is a little too catchy for my taste.
The Baptism – This song is one of the best on the album. The pounding rhythms, the impressive choruses, heavy guitar’s riffs (reminds me of Metallica, Dream Theater) and church organ with the balanced acoustic passages makes this song excellent.
Reflection – Although Reflection is very simple ballad it pulls you in with the beautiful balanced singing and acoustic guitar. Lyrically, the song is both an introspective look at a changing self and a retrospective "bid farewell to the only life I've known".
The Prayer - Is a deeply personal song that James wrote about his grandfather who passed away in 2004 after suffering a stroke a year earlier. James plays some classical guitar and the song moves amongst unsettling flamenco-inspired rhythms.
Nocturne – This song is the quintessential Edensong composition, featuring tight melodic songwriting, and album’s most creative experimentation. The story and concept for the song were inspired by listening to one of Chopin's famous Nocturnes. This surreal track has been cited as both a band and fan favourite.
The Sixth Day - Is a ten minute epic about role of organized religion in society. This dynamic, full of surprises song is a treat.
One Breath To Breathe - This is a dark and very melodic ballad. This masterpiece includes classical guitar, flute, and cello chamber piece with sections that feature a full rock band.
The Reunion - The finale to the album and a song about death. This composition has many layers, complex passages and excellent structure. It is a very good choice to close this album.
Overall this album is great piece of work, although what I missed was a little kick, (like say in the music of Magic Pie). A little more passion in way how James is signing would have helped and there is also too much background flute in many songs. However it will be interesting to see how they evolve on the next albums. Hopefully the wait will be not too long. Highly recommended.
MARK HUGHES : 5 out of 10
ANDY DYBCZYNSKI : 8 out of 10
Simon Railton - Here It Is
Tracklist: Here It Is (5:21), Delirium (4:04), Zenith (5:28), Oblivion (5:41), Bluegression (5:40), Intrusion (4:59), Dance Warrior (3:20), Hatred (8:07)
Here It Is, is the debut release from UK guitarist Simon Railton and in my opinion one that would have best been served, left 'where it was'. A harsh statement to begin a review I know, but having sat through this CD twice now, I hear little that convinces me to suggest to anyone that they check out this album.
So why so harsh?
OK a bit about the album... Here It Is is a eight track instrumental album, drawing loosely from the progressive metal and rock fields. All the compositions, arranging, and performances are by Railton, who plays guitar over the sequenced backing. Herein lies the major pitfall of the album. Digital, computer driven recording is a fact in modern day music production, granted, however Railton appears to have stepped back a couple of decades in his choice of software. The clumsy drumming and dreadful bass sounds have all the hallmarks of the early Atari music software - oh I remember it well. Add to this the clunky midi pianos and the 'analogue' synth sounds and we have what is at best an unconvincing foundation.
In fairness to Mr Railton, he is an accomplished guitarist, however there is little that emanates from his fretboard to salvage this CD. Granted he saves us from an endless shredfest and at least makes some attempt to add structure to the pieces. He also alternates his solos with keyboard solos, albeit from a programmed source. However even this could not help the woefully exposed, mechanical backing.
I could go on and dissect each track, but there would be little point. I may be wrong, but to my mind this smacks of Simon Railton having had some "programmed ideas" on the back burner and finally taking the plunge to record them. However going the whole hog and releasing them was perhaps misguided. With no web presence that I can find, (barring downloads available from Mindawn), you will just have to take my word for it that this is a pretty dire album and one to avoid.
Conclusion: 2 out of 10