The Rising Brilliance of Mike Kershaw – What Lies Beneath

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Mike Kershaw – What Lies Beneath (Bad Elephant Music, 2016)

Tracks: Gunning for the Gods (9:30), In Floods the Light (4:20), Dice (4:42), The City Revealed (6:53), Two Eyes (4:20), Wounds (4:45), Another Disguise (5:23), The City of My Dreams (7:04)

a0097340229_16I’ve been following Mike Kershaw’s work for a few albums now, and I’m truly impressed with how he has grown as an artist over the past few years. His earlier music, while displaying excellent insightful lyrical content, wasn’t the easiest music to get into. It required a lot of effort on the part of the listener, although that effort was rewarded. What Lies Beneath, however, finds Kershaw at his best to date. Fans of Fractal Mirror will find this music remarkably familiar, yet more upbeat than FM’s music. Featuring a diverse, yet progressive sound, Kershaw’s music sounds fresh and unique.

The similarities between Kershaw and Fractal Mirror exist because FM contributed to this album, much as they did on Kershaw’s previous EP, Departure. In addition to providing lead vocals, backing vocals, and playing keyboards, Kershaw collaborated with quite a number of people on this album:

  • Gareth Cole – electric and acoustic guitars, piano
  • Leopold Blue-Sky – bass, pedal steel, keys, drums
  • Leo Koperdraat – guitar, keys, backing vocals
  • Tom Slatter – vocals (track 6), acoustic guitar
  • Frank Urbaniak – drums
  • Rohan Jordan-Shah – drums
  • Joshua Leibowitz – drums
  • Marco Vàsquez – keys
  • Allyson Blue-Sky – backing vocals
  • Stuart Stephens – backing vocals
  • Clare Stephens – backing vocals

These collaborations have brought a breath of fresh air and diversity to Kershaw’s wonderful lyrics. This spark of energy shines clear in every aspect of the music, including Kershaw’s vocals. While I believe he still underestimates his vocal abilities, this album showcases his best vocal work to date. One of the best examples of this is on the upbeat track, “Two Eyes,” one of my favorites from the album. The lyrics to this song find the narrator searching through old family photos trying to figure out where he came from in order to find his purpose in life. The drums, courtesy of Urbaniak, set a wonderful rhythm for the song.

“Wounds” features lead vocals from Tom Slatter, whose voice reminds me of Andy John Bradford. Kershaw’s backing vocals work perfectly here, and the change up adds a nice variety to the music. Kershaw’s keyboard solo in the middle of the song is a great high point, as well, bringing back some of the sounds of his earlier albums.

While often keyboard oriented, What Lies Beneath does have its more rock-oriented elements. Throughout the album, the bass guitar keeps a steady, yet complex, flow. Excellent guitar work appears throughout, with some of the best coming at the end of the album with “Another Disguise” and “The City of My Dreams.” The instrumentation is solid throughout, although these songs are definitely lyric oriented.

“The City of My Dreams” builds wonderfully through both the music and the lyrics, and they meld together perfectly, with Kershaw’s vocals taking the spotlight towards the middle. Kershaw ends the album by contemplating on the passage of time through a city, yet it is so much more than that. The beauty of Kershaw’s lyrics is their depth – the more you listen, the more you get out of the music. Indeed, Kershaw is one of the most thought provoking lyricists of the last few years, and he is someone deserving of attention.

This album marks a wonderful step forward for Kershaw, and any fans of Fractal Mirror (whose recent album was also magnificent) should particularly take notice. Fans of prog in general should also take note, for Kershaw’s lyrics continue to impress. Now, with excellent musical collaborations, these lyrics can be appreciated by a more diverse crowd.

https://mikekershaw.bandcamp.com

http://www.kershmusic.com

Don’t miss James Turner’s interview with Mike Kershaw: https://progarchy.com/2016/08/28/what-lies-beneath-bad-elephant-special-part-2-an-interview-with-mike-kershaw/

PET SOUNDS, 1966-2016: Fifty Years of Prog

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Arguably, the very first prog album.

Though I’m sure someone could make the case for either REVOLVER or SGT. PEPPER’s being the first prog album, I’ve always turned to PET SOUNDS by the Beach Boys.  I’m sure there’s a bit of the American in me that desires this to be so, so I can’t completely claim to be unbiased.  I know English proggers–understandably–think of Prog as one of their many national gifts to the world, somewhere above the Magna Carta.  And, it is!  Still, it’s conceivable that it came about in California but then was perfected by the English.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

 

As Brian Wilson has noted, he found his own inspiration for the album in RUBBER SOUL by the Beatles.  Is it possible the influence went both directions across the Atlantic?  Most certainly.

Regardless, PET SOUNDS is fifty years old.  And, what an extraordinary achievement it is.  Though one might regard it somewhat probably as a Brian Wilson solo album, it came out under the name of the Beach Boys, and it carries with it many of the trademark Beach Boy sounds and touches.

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Fire Garden’s second album now available!

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FAR AND NEAR, now available.

For those of us who love everything Zee Baig and Fire Garden, REJOICE!  Album no. 2, FAR AND NEAR, is now available for those of us wise enough to have pledged our undying love, support, and devotion to this amazing band through PLEDGEMUSIC.  Reviews and others cool things to follow. . . .

9 songs, 55 minutes, featuring the work and talents of Zee Baig, Jordan Rudess, Jimmy Keegan, and Bruce Soord.  I get the feeling everyONE wants to hang out with Zee.

pledgegarden

soundstreamsunday: “1970” by the Stooges

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stooges1970_2Three months after Miles Davis unleashed Bitches Brew on the rock and jazz worlds, the Stooges second record, Fun House, appeared.  Like Davis, like a lot of music in 1970, the band was looking for the elemental, pushed by psychedelics to the fringes of structure, open minds creating extremes of focus.  For the Stooges that meant following the train to the auto plants of Detroit, putting into music the sisyphian rhythm of the line, in the same way that Maurice Ravel cited in Bolero his memories of the factory his father worked in.  The merciless repetition, the stamping power of machinery.  Already one album into creating a trinity of punk rock templates, the Stooges on Fun House sound at once heavier, funkier, freer than they did on Stooges.  Bringing in fellow Michiganer Steve Mackay on saxophone, whose presence created both space and chaos, the band occupied a far more complex and dangerous place than probably anyone around them truly expected, finding at their crossroads a vévé made of free jazz and Louie Louie, summoning the era’s riots and Kent States and Vietnams, holding up the same mirror that Hendrix traveled through in “Machine Gun” or Funkadelic gazed into on “Wars of Armageddon.”  But at the end of it there’s no message of peace and love or some kind of lesson learned.  It’s really a blank stare, a do-what-you-will-with-this, a Punk manifesto.  It’s no wonder, although still kind of remarkable, that Miles Davis thought the group was good, or at least that their cocaine was excellent.  The song “1970” begins the album’s second, disintegrating half, an answer to “1969” from Stooges, with Iggy’s proclamation “I feel alright!” feeling anything but.  It’s the dark stuff, completely and totally honest, because Iggy probably always did feel alright when things went to the edge.  The Stooges cut deep, to the bone, burning towards the true dark star of rock and roll.

soundstreamsunday playlist and archive

Concert Highlights: Tears for Fears Red Butte Gardens & Idaho Botanical Garden (20 & 22 Sept) — Tears and Kooks International (Tears for Fears Travel Fans)

This blog post is dedicated to Molly P.M. who went out in all kinds of weather to be that dedicated fan in Idaho. Many of these are her photos. Thank you Molly! The band played despite the rain. From what we and others saw, the stage got a little wet despite it being covered. We were […]

via Concert Highlights: Tears for Fears Red Butte Gardens & Idaho Botanical Garden (20 & 22 Sept) — Tears and Kooks International (Tears for Fears Travel Fans)