May. 18th, 2013 | 05:17 pm
posted by: lee_in_limbo
Seems that Progressive Rock’s reemergence from the shadows as an acceptable musical genre is being vindicated by the plethora of new acts coming out with full on Prog Rock epics and no consideration to other musical genres that might make the medicine a little more palatable (or salable). However, one thing is marking this reemergence that the original incarnation and various efforts to reawaken the beast often failed to do: be tuneful. This album is a perfect example of epic rock made with tunefulness in mind.
tl;dr Version: Another day, another Prog Rock Supergroup… or is it?
‘Splain, Lucy Version: A supergroup with a difference, because the musicians involved are largely unknown on this (North American) side of the pond, but are well known amongst musicians and progressive rock fans in the UK and Europe.
Boring Version: I’ve been a passive follower of John Young for a few years now, since we sort of brushed against one another a year or two ago on Facebook while talking about other music. I vaguely realized he was a great keyboardist, but I really didn’t know much about him, even after we started following one another on Facebook. Now, the thing is, as a passive follower, I hadn’t actually gone out and hunted down any of his music, because as near as I could tell, he didn’t have any that wasn’t music by bands with established songwriters. If I was going to invest in some new music, I wanted to know it was coming from John, so I could take the full measure of the guy.
Ironically, I technically knew the work of Nick Beggs (
Drums)(Bass & Chapman Stick) and of Frosty Beedle ( Bass, Chapman Stick)(Drums; thanks for the corrections, JY. ~Lee) a little better, based on my prior knowledge of Kajagoogoo and Cutting Crew respectively. But John, the keyboardist and lead vocalist of Lifesigns, was a bit of an enigma to me, even though we had been chatting briefly for some time. I knew he played keys for the modern incarnation of The Strawbs, and did other studio and live gigs to order, as well as playing in his own solo band, but still, not a note had I heard.
So when the Lifesigns promo finally came out, I checked it out with great interest, and was highly intrigued by what I heard. I waited quite a while before finally getting hold of a copy to review, and that’s why we’re hear so many months after the release. I’m behind on my reviews by several months, and stuff I thought I was going to review I probably won’t, simply because I don’t have a lot of time on my hands (except for this afternoon, when I’m taking a much needed ‘break’ from other duties). But this album has something, and I want to talk about it, if I may.
Lighthouse opens with moody atmospherics and a bit of cinematic flavour, but as this is an epic of almost thirteen minutes, of course it wouldn’t stay like this for long. Drums, keys and guitars start creeping in, and then the first riff starts; a bright guitar and synth riff with some very nice bass playing, but this is merely the calm before the storm, when the bridge kicks in and the real progressive hook power of this band is revealed. The chorus is an edgy and moody, and a brief instrumental passage guides us to the first proper verse opens with a slightly Genesis-like melody, and John’s voice is revealed to be capable of pastel shades as well as dark washes. A not-quite-Yes-like vocal refrain passage follows, vocal harmonies and pastoral instrumentation; a lovely section, perhaps more Genesis than Yes, which leads to a bridge segment that turns it up a notch in intensity, though not in tempo or raw power. A new section follows this, with a slightly pop-inflected melody that could very well come from a tune by A-Ha or some other hit-making 80s band. Very tasteful and gorgeous, though; not a tweezy synth and drum machine feel. It has the sound quality of a David Hentshel production. This leads into a rather stunningly moody and effective instrumental passage that takes you on something of a journey through a cloudy landscape, fine guitar and stormy seaside sounds. Lovely close, and it hardly feels like it played for over twelve minutes.
Telephone bass and drums start this exercise, sounding for all the world like a Peter Gabriel number, because Nick Beggs (corrected) has that rare ability to play a Chapman Stick and capture that near-inimitable Tony Levin sound. The chorus eventually lands, and it’s an interesting hook because the melody is very radio-friendly, but the counterpoint bass line adds a density and complexity that just demands a more careful listen, and when the riff comes around for a second pass, it’s layered in harmony vocals that make it sound almost fugue-like. This in turn leads to a pleasant instrumental passage riffing on the same melody, before it shifts slightly in the bridge, including dueling lyric lines. The song is slightly longer than nine minutes, which affords the band a chance to explore themes a little more, bouyed up by a positive vibe and some lovely keyboard work. There is another hook introduced, a bridge beyond the first, I suppose, and then we move to a Pink Floydesque verse section that just feels like it’s going to explode, until the positive vibe melody returns, and eventually leads to an alteration of the opening Gabrielesque rhythm, and the original chorus melody. Nice finish on this. Makes you wish for more.
Fridge Full of Stars sails in on a huge synth pads and a minimalist rhythm, before piano and vocals introduce a sparse, spacious verse section. Then the intro hook returns, this time with strings and classical guitar (provided no doubt by guest guitarist Steve Hackett), when the chorus proper arrives, it’s very Yes-like without feeling derivative (I love using that phrase, but it’s true. Hammond under Squire-like Rickenbacker bass playing and dense major key vocal harmonies do that.). Then we’re treated to a section of flute playing by the legendary Focus leader Thiis van Leer, somewhere between Ian Anderson and Zamfir, without the excesses of either; a jazzy treatment that spans the quiet divide. Guitar creeps in in the background, and we are reminded that this piece, which is over eleven minutes long, has other things to do. The synth solo makes this apparent, as the whole song shifts into late 70s Genesis/Styx territory, followed by that Yes-like chorus again. Lovely, and we’re only two thirds there. A piano bridge section with backing vocals sails through briefly, followed by a return to soaring guitar. This drops down to a section of piano and vocal duet, which jumps up into the Yes chorus again, and nearly rides out on a sea of synths and Rickenbacker bass glory, until an extremely Yes-like vocal fugue breaks out, followed by a curious mix of Yes and Genesis for the outro. Great piece.
At The End of The World starts off atmospherically, with pads of bass and carefully sedate Chapman in the low registers, followed by classical guitar and piano, as the vocals enter and the harmonies kick in. This is a lovely piece with a peculiar mix of Peter Gabriel and The Eagles, but not in the way you might expect. There’s a lovely return to the bridge harmony section, which builds up a bit, and then slides into a soft passage with vocal harmonies, joined by a few splashes of classical guitar, and then cello and haunting vocal harmonies. It occurs to me that the piano here reminds me of a pianist most of you haven’t heard of: Liam ‘Corwyn’ Birch. This section eventually makes it around to the real chorus, and a hook big enough to nab Moby Dick. Very cool. A late 70s Genesis vibe, but with something else a little harder to explain. This piece successfully rides in at 8:23, a fully satisfying piece with radio appeal, though we know we’ll never hear it on regular radio.
Carousel meanders in on a sea of guitars and keys, the rhythm section just carrying them along until the organ introduces a real melody, which is another infectious hook, this time of a Rabin-era Yes flavour. The piece is another epic, at almost twelve minutes, and the verse is the first positive sign of this, as it breaks down to piano and vocals, surrounded by restrained guitar and synth, followed by flute and keys playing in harmony, joined by guitar, and then breaking into a slightly jazzy downward progression, which itself shifts into a slightly Jethro Tull instrumental middle section that soon gains some synth to make it a tad more upbeat, only to slam into a wall of moody synth vox humana, and an Emersonian piano figure, leading to a vaguely Gabriel-era Genesis segment featuring electric piano and vocals. Guitar joins in, and vocal harmonies clinch the Genesis comparison, and THEN… twelve string and synth flute. Nailed it. The drums just add to this, and suddenly I’m back in Foxtrot, but this too cannot last, as the refrain takes us out to a Yes-like segment and back to the flute-laden segment that sounds to all the world like Yes and Tull had a bipolar child together. The Rabin section returns, and then shifts to the Gabrielesque refrain segment again, which breaks down to an ELP piano fugue moment, and after a moment adds vocals and closes the section on an almost Crimsonian vibe, until it shifts to a Genesis vibe once more, and then a true instrumental fugue that crashes and into a delicate wash of synths sailing the whole album away.
I apologies for resorting to the comparison game on this album, but in so many places, it’s hard to resist the urge to play trainspotting on this one. The important things to keep in mind are, these guys are NOT the usual suspects on a prog album of this magnitude, the vocals are actually really quite unique (in a good way), and the album has the added benefit (if you care for such things) that it definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome. Five pieces at approximately 8-12 minutes a piece means it doesn’t even crack the 60 minute mark. Not bad for a start, but we could definitely do with another helping over here.
With much apology to John for waiting so long to finally actually listen to some of his music, and with the hope for much more from this band. Great stuff, guys.
© 2013 Lee Edward McIlmoyle
May. 18th, 2013 | 01:35 pm
posted by: erynn999
Bisexual Book Awards & Bi Lines VI: A Multi-Arts Celebration of Bisexual Writing
We hope you can join us for our inaugural Bisexual Book Awards and the most amazing bi arts event of the year! Readings! Music! Art! Awards! After Party!
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Address: 236 East 3rd Street between Avenue B and Avenue C, NYC 10009.
Tickets: $10 Advance tickets available on Nuyorican Poets Cafe website or at the door.
6:30 Book signings
7pm Bi Lines Program, Bisexual Book Awards Ceremony, Book Signings
10pm After party
Host: Sheela Lambert, Founder, Bi Writers Association
Annette Lapointe/ Whitetail Shooting Gallery
Basil Papademos/ Mount Royal
Donnelle McGee/ Shine
Ellen Kushner/ Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction
Erynn Rowan Laurie/ Fireflies at Absolute Zero
James Earl Hardy (B Boy Blues Series)/ Can You Feel What I'm Saying?
Janet Hardy (The Ethical Slut)/ Girlfag
Kelli Dunham/ My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B.
Vincent Meiss/ Tio Jorge
Art: Efrain Gonzalez/ Ink & Steel: tattoo photography book slideshow presentation
Music: Rorie Kelly, Ben Silver
Organized by the Bi Writers Association
info at biwriters dot org
May. 18th, 2013 | 02:31 pm
posted by: lee_in_limbo
A new gunslinger is in town, and his name is Simon Collins. For those new to the program, we like to foster new Progressive Rock acts who have something distinct and entertaining to add to the canon, and this album certainly fits the bill. It is due for release on May 20th, 2013. Don’t ask me how I came by it two days early; you don’t want to know. But I will say that I will be buying my copy as soon as I get some money in this house again. This is a keeper.
tl;dr Version: A concept album co-written by the son of a famous pop star? Can that possibly be any good? You bet your ass it can!
‘Splain, Lucy Version: Sound of Contact may be new, but Simon Collins and his band mates (David Kerzner, Kelly Nordstrom and Matt Dorsey) have been around a while, and this album is proof that they know what they’re doing. It’s not quite a supergroup project like Flying Colors or TransAtlantic, but it’s very much in that vein of Moving Forward/Looking Backward Progressive Rock acts, but with a difference, because Simon has made his name as an electronic musician as well as a world class drummer in his own right, and this album reflects that, too. Yes, you will hear Mellotrons, but you will also hear cutting edge synths, modern guitar effects, and top shelf production values from the one and only Nick Davis. And you will hear some fantastic songs, because that’s what this concept album consists mainly of; toe tapping, thoughtful and infectious melodies that sacrifice nothing to either the small deities of pop radio OR the Gods of Prog.
Boring Version: Simon Collins is a funny figure in rock music. So few sons or daughters of famous pop stars really ever emerge from under the shadows of their famous parents, despite being gifted musicians, singers and songwriters in their own right (e.g. Alexa Ray Joel, James McCartney, Sean Lennon, and perhaps Dhani Harrison, although his band, thenewno2, is making inroads as well). Even famous and successful solo musicians such as Julian Lennon still have to answer questions about his famous father, almost thirty years after starting his solo music career.
Simon, as some know, is the the son of famous singer/songwriter and retired Prog Rock drummer Phil Collins of solo and Genesis fame (tell me you didn’t know that). And he has released a short but distinct catalogue of electronic pop albums under his own name over the last decade, whilst moving towards building a band he could tour and record with. Well, after meeting and working with keyboardist David Kerzner (whom I cannot say enough nice things about, so I will refrain here; the highest praise I can give him is that he is a modern day synthesis of Tony Banks’ and Kevin Moore’s writing and playing styles) on his last solo album, including the remarkable Genesis cover ‘Keep It Dark’ (with guitarist Kelly Nordstrom), Simon found the songwriting partner he’s been needing to take his music to the next level. Building from the band he created for that album, they went on to found a remarkable (there’s that word again) Progressive Rock band, and wrote and recorded what is threatening to be my favourite album of 2013; Dimensionaut, by Sound of Contact.
Dimensionaut is a concept album, but don’t let that moniker deter you, or for those with dreams of theaters of progressive compositions gilded in distortion and drenched in the blood of musicians playing in 13/6, relax. There are chops on display here, but they aren’t the main feature. This is one of the most accessible-but-powerful progressive rock albums I’ve heard in a while, and believe me, I’ve been listening. And for those keeping score, this truly is a band effort. There are co-write credits on all of the songs, and in case there is any doubt, Simon’s name is in every one of those credits.
01. Sound Of Contact (02:05) (Collins/Kerzner)
02. Cosmic Distance Ladder (04:43) (Collins/Dorsey/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
03. Pale Blue Dot (04:44) (Collins/Dorsey/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
04. I Am (Dimensionaut) (06:24) (Collins/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
05. Not Coming Down (06:01) (Collins/Kerzner/Seigel)
06. Remote View (03:54) (Collins/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
07. Beyond Illumination Feat. Hannah Stobart (05:53) (Collins/Kerzner/Nordstrom/Stobart)
08. Only Breathing Out (05:56) (Collins Kerzner/Nordstrom)
09. Realm Of In-Organic Beings (02:52) (Collins/Kerzner)
10. Closer To You (05:05) (Collins/Dorsey/Kerzner)
11. Omega Point (06:29) (Collins/Dorsey/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
12. Möbius Slip (19:35)
Part 1 In The Difference Engine (Collins/Dorsey/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
Part 2 Perihelion Continuum (Collins/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
Part 3 Salvation Found (Collins/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
Part 4 All Worlds All Times (Collins/Kerzner/Nordstrom)
Sound of Contact are:
Simon Collins – vocals, drums
Dave Kerzner – keyboards, backing vocals
Kelly Nordstrom – guitar, bass
Matt Dorsey – guitar, bass, backing vocals
Hannah Stobart: vocals
Wells Cunningham: cello
Sound of Contact opens the album with radio signals and then a quick burst of rock instrumentation, followed by some ambient sounds and acoustic guitars and piano. Simon’s voice is joined by Hannah Stobart’s, and then a very Yes-like vocal chorus of snippet vocals, like something from Tales of Topographic Oceans, closes the short numbrer, but leads directly into…
Cosmic Distance Ladder is a mid-tempo prog rocker with drums and guitars to the fore, a long instrumental passage with great 80s and 90s synth textures and riffs, and some outstanding bass playing in the background. The song diverts into a slightly jazz fusion-fueled middle section, a real proof of concept section to demonstrate their musicianship without bludgeoning you endlessly with scales and time shifts. Think late 80s Rush with a bit more keyboard. That closing passage builds in tension before releasing and leading into…
Pale Blue Dot opens with synths and guitars buzzing and humming quietly while the cymbals tap out an intricate pattern that lead into the main riff. This is followed quite suddenly by the chorus, which jumps to the first verse, and the revelation that Simon has a great lead vocal voice that only sounds the slightest bit like his father’s which is the first revelation. The second is, the lyrics are really smart and well-fashioned. The bridge arrives at almost three minutes in, and it becomes clear that this band has no trouble coming up with hooks. The bridge leads to a refrain and then a chorus that builds to the outro. No notes wasted, no efforts to squeeze in a few riffs or scales, just a very effective rock song.
I Am (Dimensionaut) starts quietly, just Simon with a bit of fretless bass and chiming electric piano. Somewhat Marillion-like, here, but as the band starts to work its way into the chorus hook, the song comes to life. The verse returns, and again, I get a slightly Marillionesque vibe, but there’s a distinct quality to Simon’s vocals here which makes this feel fresh. At about three minutes, they go into a very Marillion/Saga style instrumental passage, which is just beautiful in scope and brevity. The chorus returns in a quiet refrain, and the verse returns likewise, before the slow build to the hooky instrumental chorus passage, and then the chorus proper, which just feels like a rallying cry to come outside and breathe the fresh air in the sunlight. Beautiful.
Not Coming Down is a well-constructed rock song with a classic Marillion feel (think Misplaced Childhood/Clutching At Straws) in the verses, and something a little more like Catherine Wheel in the chorus, plus some Hogarth-era Marillionisms in the instrumental passages. Very effective use of strings here. This is the lead-off single, and the story is illustrated pretty strongly in the accompanying video, which you should really scoot over to Youtube to watch. The instrumental section is dark and moody, while the outro is bright and uplifting, like a psychedelic Beatles outro. Very cool choice for a first single.
Remote View enters with psychedelic keys and guitars and big Bonham drums, before the chorus hook kicks in, which just sounds so fresh and interesting, I have trouble drawing immediate comparisons. There is more affected psychedelic vocal treatment in the bridge section, and the guitar solo is vaguely Beatlesque. The refrain leads back to the verse, and the chorus is joined with call and answer vocals, and all the while, you’re hearing Simon singing in a fashion you haven’t heard before.
Beyond Illumination opens like a Vangelis piece, CS-80 sounds in full effect, followed by a reggae verse section that succeeds in sounding both like and unlike Ghost in the Machine-era the Police and early-80s Genesis flirting with reggae before opening up into a beautiful, affected chorus. The reggae verse returns the third time, with Hannah Stobart adding a beautiful vocal performance that then shifts into a bridge section with call and answer vocals, and a beautiful return to the chorus. Very moving piece.
Only Breathing Out creeps in disguised as a lovely ballad with a few telltale sustained buzzing Hackett-Steurmer-type guitar notes, but then a great hook to the chorus arrives, and the song builds into a barnstormer of pop rock grandeur. Strongest chorus hook on the album so far, and it doesn’t overstay before the quiet verse treatment returns. That chours makes its way around again, and it still doesn’t lose its flavour. The instrumental kicks in quietly enough, but with a dextrous show of tom runs to punctuate the otherwise fairly ambient mood. Then a return to an instrumental chorus riff, and then the chorus itself, and the outro builds with strings until a release on pianos and vocals, with a bit of fretless bass ebbs away, affected vocal samples punctuating the sussurus.
Realm of In-Organic Beings slips in sounding for all the world like a combination of The Great Gig in the Sky and The Waiting Room, overlaid onto a catchy rhythmic riff with enough layers of reverb to drown an oncoming Egyptian cavalry. Gorgeous meditation.
Closer To You chimes and a soft wall of guitars join a piano to introduce this song. Here I can almost, ALMOST hear some of Simon’s father’s sensibilities in the vocal melody. It’s a pretty intro, and the second verse builds with a harmony vocal that then leads to the chorus (another very cool hook), which actually has some pretty complex background vocals. The second verse burbles along with some heft before the chorus returns, and then repeats more stridently, leading to an instrumental passage that features a brilliantly understated guitar pattern. The build up to the outro is like something straight off of a Genesis album, but I can’t decide if it’s Wind and Wuthering or Duke. Lovely. Big chorus outro. Nice finish.
Omega Point is a chopsy intro affair that builds to the verse, with a heavily affected, powerful vocal performance from Simon. Strong piece that rumbles by like a train. Some great bass playing underneath the solid drum pattern and ambient waves of guitar and padded piano. Gorgeous chorus hook. Relentless drive. Washy, treated keys in the instrumental break, which leads back to that irresistible chorus. The song goes into a second instrumental passage, this time with a synth string passage and wending, intertwined guitar leads. Very cool and not at all overblown. The drums pick up a little more insistently during the bridge, which leads to a break that carries into the outro, winding down slowly to make room for…
Möbius Slip is the four-part epic closer to the album, running at over nineteen (19) minutes long, and filled with very modern sample sounds of signals and static, building on string box orchestral sounds, like a modern revisitation of Little Neutrino from Klaatu; a beautifully constructed instrumental section with some wonderfully tuneful playing and great atmospherics. The segue to the second part is reminiscent of Pink Floyd, including the slightly chugging sound of rotors in the air. This makes may for a slightly middle Eastern riff, which makes room for Simon’s vocal introduction at about five minutes into the piece. This second section sounds just a little like a mash-up of Soundgarden and Porcupine Tree, but doesn’t sound derivative, for all that. The acoustic bridge brings us to a strange melding of Pink Floyd and Steve Howe-led Yes, and this bridges into a PT-type instrumental passage, complete with slightly heavy metal riffing, which transforms into a Led Zeppelin section, but again using vocal effects taken from Steven Wilson’s playbook. This section transforms into an instrumental section that chops it up even more, with a slightly Dream Theateresque instrumental section, complete with very prototypical Portnoy-type drumming. Very cool. The instrumental shifts to a quieter but equally choppy section, a little less Dream Theater, establishing Sound of Contact as its own creature, before the main Finally, part four arrives, a change-up that sounds a bit like a Synchronicity era Police piece, but with a drum sound closer to John Bonham again. A lovely bridge here, very Phil Collins in drum flavour, the vocals sounding like a young Peter Gabriel, and yet not sounding like a Gabriel-era Genesis piece. HUGE CHORUS sound, including walls of guitar not entirely unlike Brian May, but a little less melodically perfected. Then we get synth melodies like Tony Banks on And Then There Were Three, as the band maneuvers through a beautiful Genesis-style outro, lots of uplifting notes and riffs here. Gorgeous. You have no doubt that the story ends well, even if you haven’t been following the lyrics too closely. Which, really, you should, because this band’s lyric writing is as good as it comes. A Day In the Life closer, wending treated piano and synths and walls of guitar and Mellotron and winding down drums… ahhh… the radio signals return, and the album ends.
I need you all to go out and buy this album, capice? This is modern Prog, and it’s accessible and lovely and built to appeal to a wide range of audiences, without throwing in an obvious radio-accessible hit. It IS a concept album from start to finish, and it doesn’t stray from that. It merely takes pages from other successful concept albums, including Duke and other such not-quite-a-full-concept-but-close-enoug
© 2013 Lee Edward McIlmoyle
May. 18th, 2013 | 11:50 pm
posted by: raygarraty
May. 18th, 2013 | 09:48 pm
posted by: raygarraty
May. 18th, 2013 | 08:06 pm
posted by: raygarraty
May. 18th, 2013 | 12:00 pm
posted by: andrewducker
- Welcome to Google Island (Hilarious, and probably more true than it sounds)
(tags: transparentsociety thefuture google )
- I really like the look of this new, improved, umbrella
(tags: technology rain )
- Band to give audience free access to concert videos to prevent them holding their phones in the air.
(tags: concerts music video )
- Genetic risk for schizophrenia is connected to reduced IQ
(tags: schizophrenia intelligence )
- How can Amazon pay tax on profits it doesn't make?
(tags: uk tax amazon )
- Seven million Brits have 'never used the internet'
(tags: uk demographics internet )
- How racist is your country?
(tags: racism )
- Why is violent crime so rare in Iceland?
(tags: iceland crime )
- Speaking the truth about the sodding Sonic Screwdriver
(tags: drwho )
Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comments there.
May. 18th, 2013 | 11:57 am
posted by: raygarraty
May. 18th, 2013 | 11:42 am
posted by: raygarraty
May. 17th, 2013 | 07:32 pm
posted by: erynn999
I'm not going to think too much about it right now until I have been to neurology, but I'm going to have to start coping with the idea that this might actually be long term or permanent.