Birzer Bandana: Becoming One

There’s a new band on the prog block: Birzer Bandana, which is Progarchy’s own Brad Birzer (lyrics) and Salander’s Dave Bandana (music and performance). According to Brad’s liner notes, his lyrics were jumpstarted by the science fiction classic A Canticle For Leibowitz, and the opening track, “Awash”, definitely conjures up images of a post-nuclear wasteland.

Awash in light, bathed and comforted
Head… deadly, deadly, deadly heat
Burns the skin and the retinas
Irradiated skies baptize the earth.

Bandana’s music is appropriately somber and evocative of someone trudging through desert sands. Olga Kent’s beautiful violin lends an exotic air.

Things pick up a bit in the second song, “Dance”. I love Bandana’s double-tracked vocals here, and the combination of acoustic guitar,  hand percussion (tabla?), Kent’s bewitching violin, and some classic-era prog organ make for a terrific track. Imagine late-period Beatles collaborating with Pink Floyd, and you get an idea of how this one sounds.

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Tim Bowness Lost in the Ghost Light

Years ago, when I was 16 I found an organization that helped with my curiosity about progressive rock, it was called the Classic Rock Society, they were based in Rotherham (a short bus ride away from the small village I lived in at the time) and they met on a Wednesday night in a pub. Beer and prog, all within a short distance from my front door, what was not to like?

One night at the pub talking about prog music in 1995 a friend lent me an album by a band I’d never heard of called No-Man, the album was Flowermouth, and it’s mix of shifting sounds and emotive vocals was my first introduction to the works of Mr Steven Wilson and Mr Tim Bowness, and I was hooked.

Luckily I got to see Porcupine Tree not so longer afterwards, but despite following No-Man and Tim Bowness solo work, it took me slightly longer (nearly 20 years in fact) to see Tim live, with Henry Fool at Eppyfest in 2014, followed quickly by seeing him at the Louisiana in Bristol in 2015.

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Two more from the Elephant


Finally I have unpacked the trunk of album reviews that backed up last year, and this reviews catches up on two albums Bad Elephant released back in October last year, and which are worth having a listen to, before they unleash the new Tom Slatter album on the unsuspecting world.

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The Far Meadow: Given the Impossible

 

Formed back in 2014 this is the first album on Bad Elephant from London based 5 piece, The Far Meadow and was released back in October last year.

As is common with so many of the wonderful artists signed to Bad Elephant, the band defy categorisation, veering from traditional progressive sounds to folk and back with a dazzling array of performances and sounds that make this an excellent album to listen to.

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Patchwork Cacophony Five of Cups

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Patchwork Cacophony is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Ben Bell, (keyboard player with Fusion Orchestra 2, and now keyboard player with Gandalfs Fist) in fact it was Stefan Hepe (Fist drummer) who passed my details onto Ben who dropped a nice little note asking if I’d be kind enough to listen to this, his second ‘solo’ excursion under the Patchwork Cacophony name.

I duly downloaded the album, and was blown away by what I heard.

Bit of background first, Ben, as a multi-instrumental plays pretty much everything on here, apart from a couple of guest guitarists (more about them later) and in a small genre like ours, it’s easier for albums like this to slip out unnoticed and slowly build up their reputation by word of mouth, particularly if bigger bands have new releases out there.

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Threeviews

Afternoon Progarchists, as someone who writes for a variety of different sites I find myself getting sent diverse and eclectic albums to listen to, all of which roughly fall into the margins of the progressive genre, and today I have three radically different releases, all of which have been bouncing round my brain as I ride the mean streets of Bristol on the bus to and from work. Two are freshly minted (one so fresh it’s not even officially released yet – but it’s one hell of a pre-order!) and one EP which has been out for a while, so without further ado, lets introduce today’s picks.

verity

Verity Smith – Parenthesis

http://www.veritysmith.net

I first encountered Verity at the Classic Rock Society Awards back in 2014 where she was performing as part of Clive Nolan’s Alchemy musical, where she played the parts of Jane Muncey and Jessamine and was truck by her vocal prowess and stage presence.

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Bad Elephant keep on surprising…..

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It seems no sooner have I cleared the  (self-created) backlog than bad Elephant add more interesting releases to this years schedule, which means there will be a couple more to add to this site in due course, it also means of my journey to work on the bus is enlivened by interesting new music, and odd toe tapping and finger drumming, which must be a delight to all the other passengers. Still at least I don’t play this loud through a tinny speaker in my mobile phone…maybe I should. Have you ever noticed that the worse the music, the louder it is likely to be, and the most likely it’s going to be coming from a smart phone?  Anyway, I digress, I shouldn’t let my mind wander as it’s not old enough to be out by itself.

I may have mentioned before that the earlier part of this year has involved moving, and so from March to the middle of May we were living out of boxes and struggling with finding what we needed, never mind anything else, I don’t think my stereo system was set up until the end of May, luckily I could still get to my laptop where the releases from Bad Elephant kept coming through thick and fast, and blimey what a diverse and eclectic release schedule they have had so far this year.

A well-known outspoken progressive rock ‘character’ has been quite forthright (again) this week on Facebook about how modern prog is dull and boring, or to quite his words ‘Prog is Bog’and how there’s no truly progressive bands out there. I think that Robert John Godfrey could do with joining the BEM fan page on Facebook, and then he’ll be able to see which bands are doing the creating and where the new voices in prog are coming from. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but to slate an entire contemporary genre, which some could argue is leaving him behind, without putting in the hard yards and listening to large chunks of what’s out there does him, and the genre he’s supposed to be part of and has been a champion for in the past, a great disservice. God there’s a whole chunk of music out there I haven’t heard yet, but as any good reviewer knows, your mind is like a parachute, it works best when it is opened. Anyway I’ll put away my little book of reviewing clichés now and crack on with another batch of music from those Elephant boys. I hope once you’ve had a read you take the time to investigate some of this music, which is at the cutting edge of contemporary prog.

Pardigm Shift

Paradigm Shift – Becoming Aware

 

Released back in June, this début album from North London 4 piece mix the best of contemporary prog, with nods towards prog metal and electronica, taking a broad musical palette that brings to mind so many different bands that is hard to know where to start.

Paradigm Shift aren’t shy about covering heavy topics and Becoming Aware is chock full of them, drawing inspiration I imagine from the darker world that we are currently living in. However if you’re expecting the album to depress you and bring you down then you’re wrong, the topics may be heavy but the mood set here isn’t.

A lot of that is down to the musical prowess of the band, the taut musical ability of this four piece who were founded back in 2007 by Ben Revens (vocals & keyboards) and Reuben Krendal (guitars) joined by Bryson Demath (drums) and Leon Itzler

(Bass). Moving through styles and moods with dexterity and grace, and with some fantastic piano pieces from Revens.

From the opening power of A Revolutionary cure, with its sampled speeches about freedom and slavery, topics that recur throughout the album, as the band are interested in the ideas of politicians telling the people what to do and the counterargument that these ideas fail, and it is this that drives A Revolutionary Cure, this and the powerful guitar and keyboard combination of Revens and Krendal, whose versatility taking in what some would describe as classic prog tendencies, mixed with metal, and running the whole gamut to some finely textured jazz piano means they are covering all bases musically, and to do so with such aplomb and self-assured confidence is great to hear.

The fact that these guys are so young gets forgotten, as this album builds and builds, with some amazing guitar work throughout. The album flows organically each track leading into the other, and it shows a lot of care and thought has been put into the programming and running order, which is wonderful to hear, an album designed as such.

There are certain traditional prog sensibilities on display here, from the epic 14 plus opener, to the two beautifully performed instrumentals, The Void, segueing nicely into the Shift, here Revens piano playing is to the fore, and it’s an instrument that helps define their sound, as integral to the album as the drum and bass combo of Demath and Itzler who provide real power and momentum on tracks like the closing two epics of Masquerade and Reunification.

With 4 tracks all clocking in at over 8 minutes, they give the songs room to breath, room to expand and grow, and yet nothing seems or feels superfluous, the tracks are this length because that’s how they are, no padding or waffle throughout.

This is an assured and confident début from another strong young prog band with plenty to say, and believe me it’s well worth you listening.

Nine stones close

Nine Stones Close – Leaves

 

Founded by guitarist Adrian Jones, five piece Anglo Dutch proggers Nine Stones Close released this, their fourth album in May, and see’s the band build on their legacy and a few line up changes, as the band has coalesced round Adrian Jones, drummer Pieter Van Hoorn, Aio O’Shaughnessy on impressive vocals, Peter Groen on bass and stick and Christiaan Bruin on keyboards. With the new line up comes a change of direction as well, although as this is the first album of theirs I’ve heard I can’t really comment, although I do know that Aio’s vocals are of a very different style to previous vocalist Marc Atkinson.

There is a lot of power here, and it’s hard to imagine on tracks like Lie that there’s only 5 men performing, as the intensity and groove they build is fantastic, as the instrumental precision and power here builds and builds as Adrian’s guitar work matched with Peters bass climbs and climbs in intensity and power and pulls you in.

The only short song on the album is the 5 minute opener Complicated, which eases you in gently before the power of the album kicks in, and what power, with some amazing musical work throughout the album it’s difficult to say which one of the 5 songs is my favourite, although I am edging towards the 16 minutes plus epic Spoils, where the symphonic textures and guitar create a tension that simmers throughout the track, with Aio’s fantastic vocals shining throughout this track, he has impressive range and a subtle skill in moving through light to dark, reminiscent of great singers like Dio or Bruce Dickinson, whilst the musical symphony that the band creates is fantastic, and the acoustic interludes and musical riffing throughout are superb.

This is a rather amazing record, which ends with the title track, Leaves, when you consider the power and darkness that has been on display throughout the album the title track is almost a counterpoint to what has gone on before, with an ambient undertow and almost minimalist playing until it builds to a hauntingly beautifully climax.

There is a lot going on with this album, and a complex sound that echoes long after the record has finished, this is definitely a left field album that is pleasantly surprising.

Konchordat

Konchordat – Rise to the Order

 

Third album from South East based prog 4 piece Stuart Martin (vocals and guitars), Neil Hayman (drums), Steve Cork (bass) and Neil Watts (keyboards) unleash, after much delay, their third album on an unsuspecting public through the Bad Elephants, and after having started out as a studio project, the current line up has evolved into a popular live band, and the power of a live band is reflected in this album.

Moving to a heavier sound, with the opening Like a Heart Attack kicking straight in and grabbing you by the throat with its heavy sound and driving keyboard work, you know you’re in for a treat. Operating firmly in the more traditional end of neo-prog, and adding symphonic touches to the sound, reminiscent of Threshold the sound they make is mighty and on Nowhere left to Go there is a wonderful driving Hammond influenced vibe. With the shortest song clocking in at just over 6 minutes, the rest of this material has room to grow, and plenty of opportunity to show off their power and skills. The bass and drums of Steve and Neil (Hayman) anchor the sound and allow Stuart and Neil (watts) to go nuts in guitar and keyboards, giving us a rich and warm sound that is a delight to listen to.

Konchordat are purveyors of prog that sits on the heavier side, but unlike other bands who throw the baby out with the bathwater and focus on the technicality of the metal and lose the soul, Konchordat have the songs to pull it off without it ever drifting into a technical bore fest, they have remembered the key part of any album is starting with the songs, and as a consequence have created a well crafted album that packs both a musical and emotional punch which rewards listen after listen.

Heliopolis

Heliopolis – Epic at the Majestic – Live at Rosfest

 

American prog band Heliopolis mark their new relationship with BEM by releasing their set at last years American prog landmark festival Rosfest.

The 5-piece band, Jerry Beller (drums and backing vocals) Matt Brown (keyboards, lead & backing vocals) Kerry Chicoine (bass and backing vocals) Scott Jones (lead vocals) and Mike Matier (guitars and backing vocals) perform their 2014 album, City of the Sun in its entirety.

Again this is my first introduction to the band, and from playing it I like what I hear, there’s plenty of old school prog tricks throughout the album, with some of the wonderful harmony vocals shining throughout, particularly on the uplifting and elegiac New Frontier, listening to the audience’s reaction to the band’s performance it’s clear that they are loving the bands performance, and it is a confident and strong performance, as the band take the audience with them and treat them to some barnstorming performances, Scott Jones vocals are excellent throughout and he reminds me in part of Steve Hogarth crossed with Geddy Lee, whilst musically Heliopolis are a traditionally old school prog band, with plenty of epic keyboard pieces like the soloing in Take a Moment, and with some fantastically powerful drumming. There’s even a hint of Yes in Mr Wishbone/Optical Delusion, whilst Elegy has a gentler piano driven vibe to it that nicely counterparts the more complicated songs with a simpler sound. Live albums are always a different beast to their studio counterparts as they show the evolution of the songs and how the music has grown to fill a live venue, and I am sure that if I sat down and listened to City of the Sun I would be able to play spot the difference, as a live experience is something to be treasured and for those lucky enough to be at Rosfest would have enjoyed this performance, and this is an excellent souvenir of a one-off gig, and for those who couldn’t be there, this is a fantastic document of a band playing to their strengths and an incredibly supportive audience.

Under a Banner

Under a Banner – The Wild Places

 

Lets not forget that Bad Elephant don’t just operate in the prog world, they are home to such songwriters as Tom Slatter, jh, and Mothertongue, all of whom are operating in totally different genres. As anyone whose spoken to David Elliott knows, he loves his prog but he also loves his folk rock music, and Under a Banner from the midlands are definitely operating in the rock end of the folk scene.

Following on a long line of political bands from this scene, like Billy Bragg, The Oysterband, The Levellers amongst others, Under a Banner have been plying their trade for around three years.

The band Adam Broadhurst (vocals/guitars) Jake Brooks (guitars and backing vocals) Simon Hill (bass guitar) Tim Wilson (drums,percussion, backing vocals) and Kat Davis (keyboards) are a powerfully tight folk influenced rock band with a mighty mighty sound.

From the opening In the End, you are drawn into the story telling that Adam weaves around the superb music from the band, his distinctive vocals draw you in, and the power of songs like Birdsong hit you from the speakers, the big choruses and elegiac quality to tracks like Sunburst leave you blown away.

I confess to having a loving of folk rock and the whole political movement behind the bands, with folk songs literally being the music of the people, the oppressed, the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the ones who want to see a change, and lord knows the way the world is at the moment we need a change, and it is refreshing and pleasing to know that there are bands like Under a Banner out there documenting today’s struggles, with some passionately played and relentlessly driving folk rock, the guitar solos on Snow Song, complete with it’s harmonic vocals and instrumental piece building until the guitar sears through the sound is particularly amazing.

I have had this album in my lug holes as I ride the bus to work, and each time I listen reveals new and intricate sounds and the sheer power behind the songs is superb. No overtly complicated arrangements, and certainly no 20 minute epics, instead the whole ‘less is more’ ethos works here in spades, and as new folk rock crusaders go, these guys are one of the best of the bunch. It’s an album that leaves you wanting more, and I cannot wait to see this brand of fiery anthemic folk rock performed live, with the connection that you would undoubtedly get between the band and the audience.

I cannot recommend this release enough, buy it, put it in your ears and let it live!

All albums are available as always through the Bad Elephant website www.badelephant.co.uk

Bad Elephant – Good records

Hello Progarchists, how are we all?

You may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet recently, due to a house move from hell and all the real life stuff that gets in between the music and the reviewing, so apologies to anyone who has sent me albums to review and the delay I’ve had in reviewing them, as John Lennon once said ‘Life is what happens to you whilst you’re busy making other plans’, he also said ‘James, don’t use a friend of a friend as a decorator’ but I ignored him on that one, to my cost. He knew what he was on about old Johnny L.

One of the most consistent record labels releasing new music that spans the gamut of the contemporary prog genre is of course our friends over at Bad Elephant Music, who have artists like We Are Kin, The Fierce and the Dead, Simon Godfrey and Tom Slatter on their books, not to mention many other great bands, and that is exactly what I’ll be doing today, in the first part of a series of articles focusing my attention on a round up of their releases for the first half of this year, and hopefully causing you to spend some more money to keep David Elliott in curries….

 

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N.y.X The News

 

This release escaped into the world, kicking and screaming back in February (yes I know it’s August, have you ever had one of those years??) and I use that term advisedly, as I haven’t heard anything like this album in a very long time. In fact part of the delay in reviewing it was because it’s taken me a while to marshal my thoughts about it to be confident enough to put them out there.

Italian art/prog/who knows what outfit N.y.X (Walter F Nyx on vocals, bass guitar, electronica, Danilo A Pannico on drums, percussion, piano organ, marimba, electronica and Klod on guitar and vocals) have put together a 46 minute audio experience, blending elements of the more out there sounds of King Crimson (with Adrian Belew and Trey Gunn adding their distinctive sounds into the disparate mix) early Tangerine Dream and psych Floyd N.y.X is truly uncategorizable.

From the opening tumult that is Restless Slumber (At the break of dawn) you can rest assured this isn’t an easy listening album, there is disjointed electronica, jarring sound effects and it takes a few listens to get into the album.

That, to my mind is always the strength of a record, if it’s one you have to persevere with, and play a few times to get into then the work is worthwhile, prog is supposed to be the first music in space, and lets face it, if musicians aren’t pushing musical boundaries and challenging themselves and their audience, then you might as well go to watch Coldplay behind the screen of your iPhone in a big old metal barn along with a million other people in their identical SUVs.

This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and whilst this album is full of hardcore psychedelic moments, mixing the best of early Kraut Rock with the more esoteric end of English prog, like Crimson or Henry Cow, you then have the wonderful Discord (Domestic Policies) blindsiding you with it’s direct acoustic driven number, with some sublime guitar solo, almost the calm before the percussive The Paper (Titles & Subtitles) which keeps the whole News theme going throughout the album, and with it’s haunting guitar work, and the way the track builds and builds it sounds like a soundtrack to a dark film that no-one dare make yet.

The whole ethos of the album is encapsulated in the closing track, 13 minutes of The Daily Dark Delirium, if nothing else the titles on this album are cracking, with some fantastic vocals and the musical meld that N.y.X do so well, it’s a cracker of a journey with elements of techno, metal guitar (courtesy of Trey Gunn) and many other genres that shouldn’t work on the same record, never mind the same song, and the fact it does with its bewildering dark beauty is a testament to the band.

This album is not for the faint hearted, and probably has the potential to be the most polarising album I’ve ever reviewed, in fact to be honest I have been listening to it since January and still can’t decide whether I like it, or whether it’s one to be admired for it’s skill.

It’s a musically complex album, with lots going on and it’s always great to hear a band that aren’t concerned with sounding like anyone else and making the music they want to hear, it’s not a record that can be pigeonholed, mainly because it’s not a pigeon and because it transcends anything as banal as genre.

Fair play to N.y.X for their confidence in their ability, and in Bad Elephant for taking a punt on this real one off record.

Rube Goldberg

The Rube Goldberg Machine – Fragile Times

 

Nothing sums up the world we currently live in, for better or for worse than the album title on the debut album from London based prog trio Elliot Coombs (guitar, keyboards, lead vocals) Dan Bowles (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) & Jordan Brown (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) and the album cover, whilst sparse is very striking and if, as I often do, you buy an album based purely on the sleeve, then you would pick this up, take it home and pop it in your CD player.

Your money wouldn’t have been wasted at all, as BEM have found another amazingly talented band to add to their roster as TRGM as no one ever calls them specialise in that melodic brand of prog that bands like The Pineapple Thief have perfected.

They are no copyists however, as the band have a warm sound that is all their own, despite channelling the spirit of Steven Wilson on the title track, with it’s warnings of bad times to come, and it’s wonderfully sparse guitar solo and atmospheric sounds.

In fact the less is more ethos is spread across the whole album, with the wonderful Little Funerals drawing the listener in with its warmth.

The music is superb, and is full of little quirks, In Symmetry being a case in point, whilst the lyrics and the music match up perfectly, being more questioning and reflective about the state of the world, rather than bringing you down.

Elliot’s voice is superb, and its his vocal warmth that draws you into the album, whilst the musical skills at work from the trio should not be underestimated, throwing elements of folk rock (your contemporary folk sound of bands like The Levellers or the Oysterband) into play on the delicate Man of Glass, the slide between styles and themes is part of this albums strengths, as it seems more like a well constructed concept than a mere collection of songs.

Meanwhile The Captains Blackjack is wonderful character piece with a great catchy chorus, and reminds me very much of Badly Drawn Boy.

With it’s great music, its superb lyrics and production, Fragile Times is one of those wonderful contemporary prog records that appears from nowhere, and with it’s hooks pulls you in, until you find yourself humming parts of the title track so you have to dig it out and put it on.

Like N.y.X its one that rewards repeat listening, unlike N.y.X it’s not going to alienate 50% of the readership, indeed this album is probably the best musical commentary on 2016 that we’ve got so far, and if we are living in Fragile Times, we might as well relax and enjoy the music.

Mothertongue

Mothertongue – Unsongs

 

It’s been a year of contrasts for BEM, from Jack Arthurs to N.y.X David Elliot hasn’t let the grass grow under the labels feet, and for sheer joie de vivre you don’t get much better than Mothertongue.

Mixing the joy of Ska, the anthemic quality of folk rock and some odd prog bits, Mothertongue throw everything (including the kitchen sink) into the musical mix to create a sound that puts a big daft grin on your face, and some toe tapping music.

Manchester based 6 piece band Phil Dixon (guitar, backing vocals) Will Holden (bass, backing vocals, saxophone) Andy Malbon (trumpet, cornet, backing vocals) John Simm (drums, percussion, programming, synths, backing vocals) Louis Smith (vocals, guitar, synths, ukulele) and Mark Wall (guitar, mandolin, violin, synths, backing vocals) combine their sheer musical skill and powerful energy into one noisy fantastic euphoric sound.

The great lyrics to The Devil Can Steer sets the album off at one hell of a pace, and the Ska sound runs through this track like the word Scarborough does through rock, whilst the brilliant titled A Poem that the Sky Wrote with its jagged guitar and vocals sounds like a Polyphonic Spree track recorded by Young Americans era Bowie, in fact the impact of the brass section on this album of prog/pop does for the genre what pioneering folk rockers the Home Service did to that genre with their sound.

Coming from t’North Brass runs through my blood like Sam Smiths best bitter runs from my glass, and so when the brass section kicks in on the album it’s a joy to hear.

The way this six piece manage to make a sound that makes you think there’s at least a dozen of them is wonderful, and the way they flip between prog, pure pop, psych and brass, like the wonderful Perfect Zero is nothing short of genius.

Whilst Nautilus manages to mix disco, samba and funk into one catchy tune before an amazing rock interlude kicks in and the chorus blasts out.

Whilst the ensemble vocals and brass on Shango with its percussive power is superb.

The musical dexterity and power that this band bring to their music is astonishing, and the way they mix and hop from rock, to prog to Ska and back has to be heard to be believed, and if you want a joyous album to put a smile on your face, and revel in the music then this is a fantastic summer record.

Perfect to put a smile on your face as you walk in the English rain!

We Are Kin

We Are Kin <and_I_know>

 

I’ve been waiting for this album, since We Are Kins debut Pandora was released, al album that appeared as if by magic in my in box one day, and was so powerful that I had to buy the physical CD. For me it was one of the albums of last year, a finely realised debut concept about the Pandora project, and this, their second album is also set in that world, and (spoiler alert features the return of wonderful voice of Alex Dunedin as Isaac…. but I will say no more!) having coalesced around the four piece quartet of Dan Zambas (guitars/keyboards/vocals) Gary Boast (drums/production) Lee Braddock (bass) and new vocalist Emma Brewin-Caddy this is a confident and bold album.

Having received the download a while before it’s release (but after I pre-ordered the album, with the limited edition live album!) I decided that I would listen to both Pandora and then flow straight into <and_I_know> and boy does it work.

It’s the aural equivalent of binge watching boxed sets as the story just picks up where it’s left off, but with much stronger musical statements on here, and far more diverse sounds, the opener …that one day… starts with some fantastic guitar work and a brilliantly powerful percussive sound, then the bands new ace kicks in, when you have a vocalist as powerful and with such a range as Emma, then you use her as much as possible, and the way hers and Dans vocals fit together are superb, a wonderful contrast.

Throughout the album there are recurring motifs, and the eagle eyed among you will spot the way the album has been titled, and the name of the tracks that form the start, the middle, and the end of the album give what I suspect is the albums full title, and a phrase that is repeated several times on the album, one which has significance to Isaacs story.

The band have got a wider musical palette to play with on this album, and with them performing live shows and the reception Pandora got, I sense they are growing as a band with the concept.

Take the wonderfully late night jazz club vibe of No Evil, with some wonderful piano work, or Emma’s free form vocal improvisation over the starker elements of radio, where the band pare things down to a sparser darker less is more approach. Meanwhile one of the musical motifs from Pandora is revisited with some wonderful flute playing by Ramsey Janini accompanied by more of Dans fantastic piano on the haunting …we’ll have to say… Meanwhile reaper, with it’s fantastic guitar work, and more of Emma’s sublime vocals, has a very Floydian air about it, particularly Dans guitar solo, however that is the only real musical touch point to any other band. As We Are Kin sound like no-one else out there, from the distinctive vocals of Dan and Emma, to the musically rich tapestry that the band weave, and the tight narrative that allows the band to dictate there sound and not vice versa.

exhale, with more of Dans piano playing and Emmas vocals, echoes the way the album has been constructed, there are very few elements of bombast and the way the music has been composed is as much about the space between the performances, as the performances themselves, with a powerful finish.

…goodbye starts with the repetition of a lyrical phrase that has repeated across the album, and it’s a 12 minute epic that ties the whole album together, with some amazing musical performances from the band, fantastic guitar work and an amazing ensemble work to bring this part of the story to a close, and like all the best dramatic works or films in the cinema where you need to stay to the end, play close attention to the end of the album.

This is an assured and intelligent follow up to what is one of the strongest debut albums I have ever heard, and it moves the story on in new and musically interesting ways, and is a strong contender already for an album of the year.

I also need to mention the artwork for the album by Leon Arts and We Are Kin, which again flow from the debut albums work and is a superbly realised concept with shades of Hipgnosis about it.

If you were one of the lucky 500 who pre-ordered the album you also got a cracking limited edition live show from Manchester, where the Pandora material is brought to life in fine form.

I am hoping that they are going to do more shows, where they can tell the story so far to what will definitely be appreciative audiences.

I cannot state enough what a great album this is, and if you liked Pandora then this album will delight you as it takes the story to the next level.

The band have made massive leaps forward across both these albums, so I cannot wait to see where they take their sound next.

 

All albums are available from www.badelephant.co.uk