By definition, synaesthesia is a condition better known as “union of the senses”, a fusion of two more of senses working overtime. If you have ever tasted colour or heard a painting, you could be well on your way to becoming a synaesthete.
For my part, it is a name I have been hearing for several months, ever since a chance meeting at the hallowed Aubitt Studios, when I made the acquaintance of a handsome and very self-confident young musician called Adam Warne. During the visit, I heard about 30 seconds of one of his compositions being produced and engineered to perfection by IQ’s Mike Holmes and of course, our old friend Rob Aubrey.
This was in the summer of last year and a fortnight ago, the fruits of their collective labours, which also involved several other musicians but more about them soon, were unleashed through the release of this, the debut Synaesthesia album.
All I can say is I blame the parents. Rather like the parents of Maschine’s young guitar maestro Luke Machin bringing him up on It Bites and later, solo Francis Dunnery, without Adam’s prog loving Dad, Synaesthesia could have ended up sounding a great deal different and probably would not merit a mention here.
However, with Dad raising him on a healthy diet of IQ, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Frost* and Muse – to name but a few, 20 year old Adam has honed his musical chops on some prime prog cuts. Their influence and inspiration is there for all to see on the album.
And like Machin and his band-mates, Daniel Mash and Georgia Lewis, Adam is a musical student, studying at the BRIT School of Performing Arts and Technology where he began his adventure in prog composition. He is now in his final year as a music undergraduate at Middlesex University.
Augmenting the Synaesthesia line-up alongside Adam on synths, keyboards and vocals are guitarists/backing vocalists Ollie Hannifan and Sam Higgins, drummer Robin Johnson and bassist/backing vocalist Peter Episcopo. Already, they have supported IQ at their Christmas party in Holland’s legendary De Boerderji.
Here we have another of the new generation of Prog supported by some big names including record company Giant Electric Pea. That’s not all though because the band also enlist another progeny of a prog legend. This happens to be Freyja, daughter of Yes’s visionary artist Roger Dean, who has created the striking cover art.
Oh, and they also pick up the Tip for 2014 category in Classic Rock Presents Prog’s readers’ poll, voted for ahead of more mature luminaries like Cosmograf and Lifesigns.
As for the music, well, it does exactly what it says on the tin, because it does have the effect of blurring the senses. Even after numerous plays, I am still trying to uncover its essence. It is in there somewhere but there is still some way to go, which is what you want and you need with a cracking prog album.
Also, you cannot argue with a debut album whose first track Time, Tension & Intervention has six “movements” and comes in at 22 minutes and eight seconds, longer than any of IQ’s epic openers. Precocious, ambitious, courageous? You bet!
It’s mean, moody and magnificent, with countless twists and turns as synths morph into acoustic guitars and tempos constantly change. You can also see the lights fade and dawns break, as Adam sings about lost love and past times.
Thus begins the journey which also takes in the rockier Sacrifice, majestically melodic instrumental Noumerion, Epiphany, the other rousing instrumental Technology Killed The Kids and oh, Good Riddance. This fits into the theme of finding love, losing love on acrimonious terms and then through the stunning closer Life’s What You Make It which begins with characteristic Aubrey-engineered turbo-charged drums, new love is found again so it all ends on a high note.
The prog influences keep on leaping out with snatches of Mike Oldfield guitar here and Camel synths there. But let’s make no mistake: this is fresh modern prog made by new torchbearers, who want to keep the flame burning and who have set the bar very high for their contemporaries to follow.
If there is one criticism and I am not the only commentator to have highlighted this, it is Adam’s vocals which tend to stay pretty much in one comfort zone with with several added effects to mix it up at certain junctures. A more distinctive voice would add greater emotion and venom to the occasionally cutting lyrics.
However, it is a mighty curtain-raiser on the new prog year and nipping in before Transatlantic unleashed their new magnum opus Kaleidoscope was a bit of a masterstroke, albeit a happy co-incidence rather than intentional.
If this is what they can do on their debut release, the ever tricky second album is going to be another huge treat for the senses. I cannot wait to hear what colour it is going to be!
PS Thank you Mr Warne Snr!