I recently wrote a tribute to Colin Tench over at the Dutch Progressive Rock Page. I also reviewed his two most recent albums, which he released under the Colin Tench Project banner. While I only ever “spoke” with him via email, he was great to interact with. He was so supportive of Progarchy, which we greatly appreciated. It was truly sad to see him go.
I just found that Colin Tench–Colin Tench Project, Corvus Stone, etc.–has passed away. It looks like he died on December 29. I didn’t know Colin personally, but when we founded progarchy back in the fall of 2012, he was one of the first two or three major musicians to take us seriously. I could not–nor would I–ever forget something like that. When you’re just coming of age, it means everything to know that those you respect are willing to let you play in the playground. And, not just tolerate your presence, but welcome you as an equals.
There are others at progarchy who could speak much better and more eloquently about his music, but it was clear to me that Colin valued his independence, having no time for conformity or uniformity or much of what passes as culture in our tapioca whirligig of a world. He cared, first and foremost, about the art and about those who practiced the art and those who recognized the art for what it was.
I did have the privilege of emailing with Colin several times. I found, even in our brief correspondence, that he was as hilarious as he was humble. One of my favorite moments in being an editor at progarchy came when Colin sent us a review copy of CORVUS STONE II. One look at the cover, and I replied, “Holy Moses, Colin, now I’m going to have to go to Confession!” We both laughed at that over a couple of emails.
I have no idea what Colin’s religious beliefs (if any) were, but I pray that he is happy now, resting in peace eternal, or, perhaps, more given his nature, dancing and performing happily in peace eternal. Earth’s loss is, to be sure, Heaven’s gain.
RIP, Colin. You clearly did everything to use the outrageous gifts God gave you, not for yourself, but for the good of creation itself. No one can do more in this fallen world.
Corvus Stone, Corvus Stone Unscrewed (Melodic Revolution Records, 2015)
Tracks: Brand New Day (3:52), Early Morning Calls (3:52), Joukahainen Without Chips (2:53), Horizon (Remixed) (1:52), Landfill (3:44), After Solstice (Remix) (4:05), Jussi Pussi (Remix) (2:45), Scary Movie Too (special release) (7:38), Petrified in the Cinema Basement (3:10), Lost and Found Revisited (3:29), Cinema Finale (6:02), Pack Up Your Truffles (2:07), Moustaches in Massachusetts (4:18)
Here we are, yet again, with another belated review of a great Corvus Stone album. It seems I’m off by about a year. But no matter, the music is wonderful! From the pounding of the opening bassline to the uniquely Colin Tench guitars, Unscrewed has it all and more. Nobody was really expecting a new Corvus Stone album last year, but that didn’t stop the band from making a good one.
Much like in the first two albums, Unscrewed is hard to nail down to any one genre. It has clear jazz influences, but the guitars definitely have a Floydian touch to them, much like in Tench’s work with Andy John Bradford’s Oceans 5. The keyboards offer a nice proggy vibe from all eras of progressive rock, courtesy of Pasi Koivu. The jazziest part of the music definitely comes from Robert Wolff’s amazing drums. Steady, yet understated, bass throughout, courtesy of Petri Lidström, keeps everything together.
Like earlier Corvus Stone albums, Unscrewed is primarily instrumental, even more so than the first two albums. However, when they do use vocals, they do a great job of breaking up the album. The vocals are often used as an added instrument, rather than the lyrics being the focal point of the song. Take the chanting of the line, “Early morning call” on the second song, “Early Morning Calls.” The singing melts into the music rather than standing apart from it.
As you can see from the tracklist, several of the songs are remixes from earlier songs. This is a nice way a revisiting earlier material while displaying the songs in a new light. “Scary Movie Too” provides a sequel to a song off of the first album, as well as a darker turn to the music. “Pack Up Your Truffles,” a new song, is driven by an almost bluesy guitar line, further demonstrating the wide variety of styles present in Corvus Stone’s music. My one complaint with this song is its length – I could have listened to it for a lot longer than 2 minutes and 7 seconds.
As usual, Sonia Mota did a beautiful job with the artwork. The raven is a recurring theme in the band’s artwork, and I love how the movie posters in front of the theater are all Corvus Stone artwork. There’s a lot going on, and it matches the music perfectly.
Corvus Stone Unscrewed is another great album from the obscure band. Their music is a lot of fun to listen to, and it is generally pretty lighthearted. The band has a lot of fun writing goofy names and lyrics, and their love of music shines through.
Corvus Stone, Corvus Stone II (Melodic Revolution Records)
Tracks: 1. The Simple Life (2:00), 2. Early Morning Call (3:52), 3. Boots For Hire(8:59), 4. Sneaky Entrance in to Lisa(0:30), 5. Purple Stone(3:22), 6. A Stoned Crow Meets the Rusty Wolff Rat(7:38), 7. Lisa Has a Cigar(0:47), 8. Mr. Cha Cha(4:50), 9. Dark Tower(1:49), 10. Scandinavians in Mexico(5:06), 11. Mystery Man(6:37), 12. Camelus Bactrianus (Tuolla Tuonnempana)(8:42), 13. Uncle Schunkle(4:38), 14. Eternal Universe(3:53), 15. Moaning Lisa(14:08), 16. Campfire (Tulen Luona) (2:17)
On the dawn of the release of Corvus Stone’s upcoming third album, I bring you an overdue review of their last album, “Corvus Stone II.” The band has 4 permanent members, but they are beautifully complemented by a variety of guest artists. The four permanent members:
Colin Tench – guitars
Pasi Koivu – keyboards
Petri Lemmy Lindström – bass
Robert Wolff – drums
Rather than list all of the amazing guests on this album, check out this handy page on Corvus Stone’s website. They add a lot of fantastic talent to the album, and most have collaborated with Colin Tench and other members of Corvus Stone in the past, most notably in Andy John Bradford’s Oceans 5. Oceans 5 was actually how I first heard of Colin Tench and Corvus Stone, and I must say, the people involved with the creation of all of this music have been incredibly friendly, as well as extremely talented. (Check out my review of Oceans 5’s “Return to Mingulay.“) For me, it always makes a difference when I know that the musicians aren’t… well, jerks. It probably shouldn’t make a difference, but I appreciate it when artists are approachable and appreciate their fans. Corvus Stone and their related musicians understand that well.
In an email to Colin from last fall, I told him that I loved Corvus Stone’s combination of prog, jazz, rock, and “whateverthehellallofthismixedtogetheris.” I firmly stand by that description. While mainly instrumental, the 80 minute “Corvus Stone II” covers all that and more. The music is incredibly layered, with exquisite guitar work (very similar to Colin’s guitars with Oceans 5), multi-layered keyboards, driving bass, and guiding drums. The added guest vocalists act as another instrument, with their particular vocals fitting in nicely with the theme of their respective songs. Initially, I didn’t like the gruff vocals on “Boots for Hire,” but after repeated listens, I think it fits quite well with the theme of the song, and the heavy bass matches perfectly with the voice.
Overall, the music has a very bright, uplifting tone, with Colin’s amazing guitars featured front and center. The guitars are clear, undistorted, and arranged beautifully. Fans of guitar driven rock will certainly find Corvus Stone of interest. (I’m not just saying that because I know Colin will be reading this. I honestly think his guitar work is outstanding!) Pasi Koivu’s layered synths compliment the guitars nicely. Sonically, the album flows very well, through all 80 minutes of it. One of my favorite songs from the album is the short “Purple Stone,” which would be perfect to play while cruising down the highway in a convertible (too bad I can’t test that theory, since it has rained here in Chicago basically every day for the past 2 weeks). The song even begins with a car starting and zooming off down the road. The singer reminds me of Damon Fox from Bigelf.
Throughout the album, Corvus Stone demonstrate their collective sense of humor, which can be seen in the cover artwork and is shining through in what I suspect is the sexual innuendo in the names of some of the songs. Interestingly, the lyrics never really seem to go in that direction. Despite what the album cover might imply, the music is safe for the kiddies. The band also gets a bit weird with the song “Camelus Bactrianus (Tuolla Tuonnempana),” which I think is being sung in Hawaiian, but I really have no idea. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this song is about Bactrian camels, but again, I have no clue. It is weird, but it is fun. In fact, that would be a good description for the band: weird, but fun.
Although there are several songs with vocals, it is important to remember that Corvus Stone are primarily an instrumental band. Indeed, their strengths lie in their musicianship. At times it sounds like jazz, other times like classic progressive rock, and others a blend of Lord knows what. However, it is always interesting and never boring. I can’t really compare it to anything else, because I’ve never heard anything quite like Corvus Stone. They are an independent bunch, and it is clear that they play music that makes them happy. That happiness is evident in the music.
An interesting facet of Corvus Stone is the integration of Sonia Mota’s artwork. From her work with Oceans 5 to the art I have seen her create with Corvus Stone, she has a talent of developing beautiful pieces that add depth and humor to the music. Without her work, the band would be completely different. The band utilizes her art to the fullest extent, with it also decorating their website.
Corvus Stone’s music cannot really be pigeonholed to any one genre, and I think that is exactly what the band wants. Their musical influences are likely too numerous to number, and yet the listener can still find elements of some of their favorite music throughout “Corvus Stone II.” Plus, at 80 minutes long, Corvus Stone really give the listener a lot for their money. With the release of another album this year, within the next few days/weeks, the band surprised their fans with an unexpected treasure trove of more Corvus Stone sonic adventures.
Yes, the title is a mouthful, but Andy John Bradford and his band Oceans 5 are awesome. In fact, I think Return to Mingulay is my favorite album of 2013. Their sound hearkens back to the British rock of the 1970s, with a calmer, thoughtful progressive feel to it. The band is made up of Andy John Bradford, a British folk singer/songwriter/solo artist, on vocals and 12 string guitar, Colin Tench on lead guitars, Stef Flaming on bass guitar, Marco Chiappini on keyboards, and Victor Tassone on drums. Originally, these guys got together to just make one song, “The Mingulay Boat song.” This song is a 200 year old song that Andy John Bradford wanted to perform in a new and unprecedented way, and he certainly accomplished that. In doing so, they discovered that as a group, they really clicked. And so, Oceans 5 and Return to Mingulay were born. Their website describes the process of creating Oceans 5:
When you think of Progressive music, you are unlikely to imagine a 200 year old tune with sea shanty lyrics. However this is what Folk Singer/Songwriter Andy John Bradford had in mind when he approached Progressive musician Colin Tench from Bunchakeze and Corvus Stone with the idea. The band actually formed around this one song. Despite the fact that they were all busy with their own bands already, more ideas kept flying backwards and forwards. Andy has a great feel for songwriting and Oceans 5 have proved to be rather good at twisting those songs into a whole new form. From bouncy and silly to epic rock. The 9 songs add up to one hell of an album that even the band members never imagined at the start of this.
The album flows out of “The Mingulay Boat Song,” with many images and themes from the sea evoked. The ocean themes are fitting, as Mingulay is an island off the coast of Scotland. Originally an island inhabited by fisherman, Mingulay was abandoned in 1912; thus the title, Return to Mingulay. Their sound recalls the sounds of the sea, and it also recalls the sounds of Pink Floyd, The Strawbs, David Gilmour, and even Big Big Train. There are many Gilmouresque guitar riffs and solos throughout the album. The biggest connection to Pink Floyd, however, is the appearance of Lorelei McBroom on arguably the album’s best song, “6000 Friends.” (Lorelei McBroom is known for touring with Pink Floyd, and is most recognizable on the Dark Side of the Moon’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.”) The song addresses the issue of technology and online “friends” versus reality and real friendships. While the song may feel out of place amongst the rest of the album, it fits by creating a juxtaposition of the older, sea shanty type songs with the problems of the new technological era. Overall, the music relaxes the listener, much like The Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here. The music probably fits best into the genre of Progressive Folk Rock, mainly because of its overall theme of the sea. Throughout the album, it feels like this music could not have been produced in 2013. Return to Mingulay honestly sounds and feels like something produced in the 1970s in what many consider to be the golden age of prog. It would not be out of the ordinary to hear Genesis, Pink Floyd, or even Jethro Tull play some of these songs. Andy John Bradford and Oceans 5 have created an excellent masterpiece that should be considered one of the best albums of 2013. I look forward to seeing more from them.