It seems way too long since we heard from one of the best bands too few folks know about, Tin Spirits. Adventurous poppy prog with seriously meaningful lyrics. The first two albums are must owns, and I’m sure the third will be as well.
Here’s the post that appeared on social media about an hour ago:
Dear Tins fans, we are delighted to let you know that after a lengthy leave of absence, work on the new album has begun. Will keep you updated but it’s so great to be back in a room making music
I’m not sure if I could exactly articulate my reasons as to why, but I’m not the least surprised that Dave Gregory’s birthday is two days away from the Autumnal Equinox. There’s a fullness and a force of the seasons not only in the calmness that radiates from Gregory’s humane qualities (he’s a true gentleman), but there’s also an intensity of life in all of his art.
Clearly, his music resides somewhere in that last joyous blast of summer love and freedom.
Regardless, happy birthday, Mr. Gregory. I know I speak for many upon many when I thank you for all you’ve given to the music world over the past four decades. Whether it’s pop, punk, new wave, rock, chamber, or prog, you give your absolute all.
The best way to celebrate such a feast? Listen and watch away!
And best of all, a brilliant interview with Dave. Well worth watching it all.
Seeing the little girls in their Easter dresses, witnessing the arrival of the first flowers, and feeling the cool pine air coming off of the Rockies, I couldn’t help but think of this glorious song from almost a year ago. Ave, Tin Spirits!
In the process of putting together an end-of-the-year book list for CWR, I came upon my 2004 post on my favorite books and music of 2004. The music list is quite interesting, with just one overtly prog album (Pain of Salvation’s “Be,” which is, in hindsight, one of my least favorite POS releases), and a fair amount of jazz (no surprise) and country (some surprise). I’m glad to say I still listen to much of the music on that list.
This year, I’ve decided to break my music picks from 2014 into three categories: prog/rock, jazz, and the kitchen sink (country, electronica, weirdness). I want to emphasize “favorite” here because there were so many releases I simply didn’t get to, despite uploading over 6500 songs in the past 12 months. Ah well!
And I’m going to try to keep it short and simple, with the exception of my thoughts on my #1 pick in prog, which is also my Favorite Album of the Year. What is it? Read on!
Favorite Prog and Rock Albums of 2014:
12. “Live at Rome Olympic Stadium” by Muse and “Tales from the Netherlands” by Mystery. Muse is about as proggy as a mega-selling, world-famous band can be, known for putting on live performances that are equally energetic and well played. This July 2013 performance is no exception, with the trio ripping through nineteen of their eclectic songs, ranging from from electro-tinged funk (“Panic Station”) to Queen-ish pomp (“Knights of Cydonia”) to Floyd-ish slyness (“Animals”). The DVD is very impressive, not only because it was filmed with HD/4K cameras but also because the band is at the top of their game.
Mystery is fronted by Benoit David, who was lead singer for Yes for a short time a few years ago, before illness led to his firing. David never seemed comfortable with Yes, but his work with Mystery is of the highest caliber. The Montreal-based group is lead by multi-instrumentalist Michel St-Père (guitars, keyboards, bass, production) and has an epic, soaring sound built on fabulous melodies and exquisitely structured songs. The production, for a live album, is excellent, and David (who has since left the group) is in top form; this is not easy music to navigate vocally, yet he nails it at every twist and turn.
11. “Magnolia” by Pineapple Thief. Bruce Soord has more talent in his toes than most alt-bands have in their entirety, whether it be as a writer, producer, player, or singer. I’ve enjoyed everything from Pineapple Thief, but this collection of incisive, beautifully burnished tunes is Soord’s best work yet, the sort of intelligent, catchy, and detailed modern rock that deserves to be all over the airwaves. Classic Rock magazine sums it nicely: “Small but perfectly formed pockets of 21st century prog.”
10. “The Ocean At the End” by Tea Party. I was thrilled that this Canadian trio (now based in Australia) got together again after several years apart; I still listen to their early albums (“Splendor Solis”, “Edges of Twilight”) which feature an overt Led Zep vibe with a brooding, even epic, melancholy, rooted in Jeff Martin’s powerful voice and bluesy guitar playing. The latter quality is more in evidence here, and the rocking cuts (“Brazil” and “The Cass Corridor”) are the least enjoyable for me. The highlights are the dark cover of “The Maker,” the aching “Black Roses”, and the tour de force “The Ocean at the End”. Distinctive, powerful, emotive rock.
9. “Beyond the Visable Light” by Ovrfwrd. This album made a late charge on my playlist, as each listen revealed deeper layers of detail, melody, and interplay. The four-man group from Minneapolis is instrumental only, with an emphasis on group dynamics and song structures that are complex but very accessible. There is a lot of territory covered in the 5-song, 48-minute-long album, with grungy, propulsive passages melting into subtle, jazz-ish sections, and then giving way to Deep Purple-ish organ, and so forth. Great use of piano throughout, which brings a distinctive detail to the entire, enjoyable affair. Continue reading “From Carl’s Critical Kitchen: A Baker’s Dozen of Tasty Prog/Rock from 2014”→
And, my final “best of” post for 2014. Let’s hope that you’re not getting too tired of these!
I’ve saved the albums that hit me the hardest—at level of mind and soul—for the last.I guess it’s somewhat goofy to have a “top eight,” but these are my top eight.These are the albums that did everything right, the ones that pulled it all together, offering real glimpses of the turning spheres.The first seven are in no particular order.I like them equally, and I think they’ve each attained the highest an album can reach but in quite different ways.
What can one say about Poland’s greatest, Newspaperflyhunting?Craig Breaden has already explained—in perfect detail—why this is a perfect album.From atmospherics to piercingly intelligent lyrics to mood swinging melodies, these Eastern Europeans have created what is certainly one of the most innovating and interesting albums of the last few decades.The album, ICEBERG SOUL, has much in common with early 1990’s American psychedelic revival, and there’s a real Mazzy Star and Opal feel to much of the music.But, whereas Mazzy Star was really good, Newspaperflyhunting is simply excellent.Droning, walls of sound, haunting guitar lines—this album has it all.
Salander, a new band from England, has blown me away as much as Newspaperflyhunting, and the two bands have much in common.Slander is only two guys, each named Dave, but you’d never know it listening to the music.Much as Cailyn plays every single thing on her album, the two Daves do the same.Their two albums this year, CRASH COURSE FOR DESSERT and STENDEC, are really one album, a journey through the wonders and terrors of the world, seen and unseen.The two Daves move effortlessly from one style of music to another, but they always hold it all together with what can only be described as a Salander sound.These two albums provide a journey that you hope never ends.
Armed with some new producers and engineers and a barrel full of confidence, the Anglo-Dutch-American band, Fractal Mirror, has proven the worth of community and friendship a million times over with GARDEN OF GHOSTS, a landmark album.As mentioned previously, there’s a lot of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets in this album.But, whereas those 1980’s bands felt as though they had one cool trick, Fractal Mirror is the real deal.GARDEN OF GHOSTS is mind-bogglingly good—stunning in every way—and we are so blessed to be catching them at the beginning of their journey.Certainly, it’s Gothic in tone, but it’s always soaring and light and dark and maddening and enlightening and loving. . . .It’s also quite defiant, and, at times, the lyrics make Neil Peart look like a softy.
I think the first album by the Tin Spirits one of my all-time favorite albums.It would certainly be in my top ten all-time albums.In particular, the song “Broken” is a masterpiece, a progged-out Allman Brothers kind of song.I eagerly awaited SCORCH, and I’ve not been disappointed.This is guitar prog, pop prog, rock prog—however one might label it, it’s just amazingly good.The four guys in the band obviously really like one another, and their friendship comes out in a myriad of ways in the music.The best song on Scorch, “Summer Now,” might very well be the best song of the year.As with Flying Colors, the Tin Spirits should be playing on every single album-rock radio across North America.The contrast between the two bands?Where Flying Colors might cross the line and go “over the top,” the Tin Spirits go for taste, class, and a dignified restraint.
Not to be too jingoistic, but one of the best aspects of 2014 has been the emergence of a number of North American prog bands.I’ve already mentioned several over the last few posts.The very best of the American prog bands, though, is Fire Garden.Holy Schnikees these guys are good.Scratch that.These guys are amazing!They clearly love Dream Theater, but they’re also 20x better than Dream Theater.Just as the Tin Spirits goes for dignified restraint, so does Fire Garden.Rather than play 30 notes in a millisecond, master musician and lyricist Zee Baig goes for just the necessary ones, the ones most needed for creativity and beauty.Again, that dignified restraint, when employed properly, can be such a beautiful thing.As I noted with Threshold and Haken, I don’t generally gravitate toward the heavier stuff.With Fire Garden, I happily embrace it.Of course, their heaviness is more Rush than Metallica. But, again, everything is perfect.I’ve focused on the band’s ubercoolleader, Zee, but everyone is in top form here.Zee pulls it all together.
I’m almost afraid to mention John Bassett.I’ve praised the that English stocking cap-wearing bard so many times, folks might start to wonder if I have some bizarre motive or some mancrush.Trust me, I’m married and have six kids.Yet, I do really love Bassett—just not in THAT way.Bassett’s music, through Kingbathmat, appeared in my life just a few years ago, but I can’t imagine my love of prog or music without him now, even as I look back to four decades of music obsession.Bassett’s first solo album, Uneßarth, is a psychedelic folk album, the kind of album that Storm Corrosion should have been.Somehow, Bassett’s actual voice (vocals) have a guitar-like quality.It’s bizarre.Beautifully and wondrously bizarre.And, despite his own self-deprecating remarks about merely being a “muppet”, Bassett is one of our best cultural critics.Of course, I love Animal, and there is a slight resemblance.Equally interesting, Bassett went the Matt Stevens/Fierce and the Dead route with his second album of 2014, a vocal-less progressive metal affair called Arcade Messiah.Each reveals a fascinating side to this very fascinating artist.What would I love to see—Bassett to bring these two styles together in Kingbathmat, writing a full-blown prog epic, unapologetic and unrelentingly so.
Once again, here comes the bro-mance.Sorry, Sally!I love your man, too.Just in very different ways than do you.I’m not sure Andy Tillison is capable of a misstep.Not only has he been one of the two or three most important musicians of what he’s insightfully called “Third Wave Prog,” he’s now becoming one of the two or three most important musicians in what I’ve attempted—admittedly, not very successfully—“Fourth Wave Prog.”His only release this year (what a funny thing to type) is under the name, cleverly, The Andy Tillison Multiplex.The album: ELECTRONIC SINFONIA 2.Just as Cailyn has brought classical music back into the world of prog, Andy is bringing jazz and jazz fusion back into prog.This album is beyond stunning.It is the very essence of taste itself.Every note, every line, every segue is just astounding.Tillison is a perfectionist, and it shows on and in all that he does.Thank you, Mr. Diskdrive.Rage on.
And, so I come to my favorite album of 2014.It took a while for me to get here, and if you fine progarchist reader are still with me, bless you.God has granted you immense patience.Though, as I’ve noted, this has been one of the best years ever in prog—and I’ve loved everything I’ve mentioned in the previous posts—I’ve loved this the most: Cosmograf’s CAPACITOR.Made by master of chronometry, Robin Armstrong, CAPACITOR is the perfect album.To those of you who write and produce instrumental music, thank you.And, please accept my apologies.I love what you do, but, not being trained in music, I don’t always get what you’re doing, even if I love it.For me, prog has been centrally about the lyrics and the story telling, with the music augmenting the two.I love the Word and the words.And, that brings me to CAPACITOR, a story that has everything.It’s a mix of science fiction and the occult, a play on religious revivals and scientific fetishes of a century ago.It’s not steam punk, it’s seance punk!And, what a story.Simply put, it’s the best sci-fi story of 2014.Part Arthur Conan Doyle, part Ray Bradbury, it’s purely Robin Armstrong.And, as we all know, Robin is not only a perfectionist, he’s an aural genius.He knows exactly how to mix word and note.This album is so good, it, almost by itself, redefines the entire genre.This is an album to match CLOSE TO THE EDGE, SPIRIT OF EDEN, and, much more recently, ENGLISH ELECTRIC and LE SACRE DU TRAVAIL.
N.B. Please forgive any typos. I have a three-year old princess acting rather grumpy as she deals with the flu. Lots of distractions in the Birzer household.
Andy Tillison and Brian Watson have convincingly argued in favor of dividing the history of prog into three waves, the third wave beginning around 1994 or so.
If Tillison and Watson are correct, and I suspect they are, I believe we might have entered what we could call the fourth wave.
The turning point came in 2013 with grand and profound releases from Big Big Train, The Tangent, and Glass Hammer. These albums were so excellent, perhaps the best in prog history, that they might very well have represented the apex of third-wave prog.
Take a listen to any of the above mentioned artists in 2014. Their music, especially when compared to the releases of the previous several years, offers something much more experimental and reflective. The story telling is less narrative and more punctuated, the lyrics more imagistic.
Anyway, I’m thinking (and typing) out loud. I’ll give it more thought.
A review of Scorch by the Tin Spirits (Esoteric Records, 2014; officially released on September 15).
8 Tracks: Carnivore; Summer Now; Old Hands; Binary Man; Little Eyes; Wrapped and Tied; She Moves Among Us; and Garden State.
The Tin Spirits are: Dave Gregory (guitar); Mark Kilminster (bass and lead vocals); Daniel Steinhardt (guitar, vocals); and Doug Mussard (drums and vocals). You can visit the band at: http://tinspirits.co.uk
Highest recommendation. A must own for any lover of music.
A match explodes into flame, and so it begins.
The opening song, an instrumental, possesses the infectious personality of the best of post-Hackett Genesis, especially with “Turn It On Again” and “Abacab.”
Armed with driving bass, soulful guitar, and persistent drums, “Carnivore” moves the listener rapidly into an unknown future, and it does so without a trace of trepidation. And, yet, it contains a voluptuous kind of beauty.
This description applies specifically to the first of the eight tracks, but it could just as easily apply to much of the album. However one describes Scorch, the Tin Spirits are back, and I, for one, thank the good Lord. These guys are absolutely brilliant, and they seem to be even more so than they were with their first album, Wired to Earth.
This is no feint praise.
That album, Wired to Earth, hit me rather hard when it first came out. As far as I know, I was the first American to own and review a copy. I’m rather proud of this. Greg Spawton, maestro of Big Big Train, had recommended it on his own blog, noting it was a guitar kind of prog.
And, so it was.
Beginning with a somewhat airy instrumental and having a total of only five tracks, Wired to Earth called for full immersion. From airy, it moved quickly to hyper and heavy, then to 1974 Genesis, then to a gut-wrenchingly beautiful Allman Brothers style epic, concluding with a great guitar-pop rocker in the style of Nebraskan Matthew Sweet.
Even after three years of listening to the album, I’ve never tired of it. I play it at least weekly, and, in fact, the entire Birzer family loves it.
Following the intensity of “Carnivore” on Scorch, the second track, “Summer Now” gently guides the listener into a hypnotic state. Most likely, every reader of progarchy has already watched the first video from the album, and you’ve heard and seen what Tin Spirits is capable of. The video, of course, is gorgeous and psychedelic in a late 1980’s Tears for Fears kind of way. All four members look as though they’re having a blast, and Mark (vocalist and bassist) looks surprisingly GQ and non-prog! Guitar god Dave Gregory, who never seems to age, offers what is arguably the most tasteful guitar solo of the last decade. In every way, the Tin Spirits have captured the essence of summer with this song.
I’m not exactly sure about what’s going on with the cover (see above). It looks as though two bolts of lightning have fried some poor guy. It’s also possible the guy is shooting bolts of lightning from his body in an explosion of energy. Maybe this is a kind of a “glass half empty” or “glass half full” thing.
With the title, Scorch, though, I suspect that Icarus flew too close to the sun. Gods will be gods, and they generally don’t like man to upstage them. As Worf once explained, the Klingons found their gods more trouble than they were worth, and so they killed them. I must admit, as I look at the cover of Scorch, I’m hopeful for Icarus, siding more than a bit with the Klingons on this issue.
The interior artwork of the CD booklet flows easily from psychedelic to pyrodelic, the flowers of the first pages having become nothing more than swirled outlines of flame by the end.
I choose to believe that through the Tin Spirits, Icarus has finally prevailed against the gods.
Ok, back to the review. After all, shouldn’t a review of a prog album have an interlude?
The third track, “Old Hands,” begins deceptively. Starting as a somewhat simple World Party-like pop song, it suddenly morphs into a rather fulsome puzzle about deceptions and realities. The interplay of drums and bass especially stand out on the track.
Returning to the early 1980’s Genesis-like thrumming of “Carnivore,” “Binary Man” simply rocks. Perfectly placed on the album, “Binary Man” reveals not only the excellence of each member of the band as an individual performer, but it also highlights the power of Kilminster’s voice. “Your hypocrisy is deafening,” Kilminster laments.
“Little Eyes” is another beautiful song in the vein of “Summer Now.” Thematically, it deals with fortitude, and the guitar work on it fits wonderfully.
Grungy, angsty guitars explode at the beginning of the sixth track, “Wrapped and Tied.” The entire song has the feel of being caught in a tornado in the intial stages of its formation.
Track seven, “She Moves Among Us,” brings the listener back to the indescribable beauty of a flowering meadow. Imagine a Steve Howe solo without the overbearing flashiness, and you have “She Moves Among Us.” The whole piece whispers “taste.” As the song is an instrumental, we’ll probably never know who “she” is. But, if the guitar matches her elegance, I’m in love.
At a little over fifteen minutes in length, the eighth and final song, “Garden State,” is epic. But, it’s certainly not the length that makes this so utterly brilliant. Every aspect of the Tin Spirits comes to the fore in this finale. The song effortlessly flows from moment to moment, all parts of a coherent and cohesive whole, held together by four instruments and a voice.
Indeed, from confidence to concern to anxiety to a dreamlike state to determination and, finally, back to confidence, Kilminster again proves his sheer skill as a vocalist. There’s not a single thing about this album I could criticize, as it’s, frankly, a perfect piece of music. Still, if some one forced me, I could state with only minor reluctance that “Garden State” alone makes this album worthwhile. It is a song that good and that powerful. This epic even ends with an homage to Elton John and Bernie Talpin and a “Funeral for a Friend.”
A perfect end to a perfect album. Were I grading it, I’d give in an A+.
A few years ago, I proudly proclaimed Dave Gregory one of the three greatest living guitarists. This album only affirms my rather bold statement. Holy Moses. What an absolute delight. I also proclaimed the lyricists of Tin Spirits to be in the line of Keats, Wilde, and Yeats. And, again, my declaration has proven true. Again, an absolute delight.
As far as I know, I have the very proud distinction of being the very first North American to review “Wired to Earth,” the first release from the Tin Spirits. Greg Spawton had recommended it as a unique form of guitar prog, and I ordered it immediately. That Dave Gregory played on it didn’t hurt my decision, either. I had just written something about Alex Lifeson, Matt Stevens, and Dave Gregory being among my all-time favorite guitarists, and I was certainly elated to have more proof of the truth of this. So, yeah, I’m proud to have reviewed Wired to Earth immediately upon its release. It grabbed me from the moment I first heard it. And, as my wife can verify, I pretty much listen to it all of the time, especially when The Birzers are on the road. Which is quite often. And, because of some very personal family history, the fourth track on the album, “Broken,” means as much to me as any song. If you’re not religious, forgive me–but I can’t help but thank God for the health of Penny. You’ll see why in the interview.
When I heard that “Scorch” (forthcoming, September 15, from Esoteric Records) would be the second release from the Tin Spirits, I put away my very shy nature [for those of you who know me, you’re laughing] and ask Mark Kilminster about the album. Not surprisingly–after all, he’s an incredibly nice guy–he responded with enthusiasm. So, wonderful, say I! Thank you, Mark.
Progarchy: Mark, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us. We know you have to be incredibly busy, and we’re honored [honoured for our English readers!] you’d spend some time with us. About half of our readership is North American, and, despite my best efforts, Tin Spirits is still not as well known on this side of the Atlantic as it should be. For our benefit, would you mind giving a bit of history of the band? How it came together? How you knew and recruited Dave Gregory? Where the name comes from?
Mark: No problem Brad, the honour is all mine. I’ll attempt the short version! Dan, Doug and I had been in a functioning band together since 2006, playing standard rock covers. Dan was already friends with Dave through Dan’s GigRig company (amazing guitar pedal switching systems) and through a bit of superfan stalking (sorry Dan!).
Our first meeting with the four of us came about when Dan wanted to create an “Amp Shootout” video to demonstrate the different tonal capabilities of different amps. He asked Doug and me to play drums and bass respectively in the video and as a long shot, he asked Dave if he’d like to take part, too. Much to our surprise and excitement, Dave happily agreed, and we spent the day jamming in a studio. It was clear to all that the four of us made a pretty decent racket so Dan suggested asking Dave if he would be interested in joining us to create a new band, initially playing covers we would normally not be able or allowed to play. Dave happily agreed, and Tin Spirits was born.
With regards to the name, it’s actually one of the hardest things to come up with. That and album titles. We spent weeks bouncing name ideas backwards and forwards via email. If no-one replies, you know it’s a duffer! Then, all of a sudden, Dave just turned up at rehearsal one day and said “What about Tin Spirits?” and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Incidentally, exactly the same thing happened with the album titles, “Wired To Earth” and “Scorch.”
Progarchy: Youtube is full of videos of the Tin Spirits covering great rock and prog songs. You cover XTC (naturally), Rush, Steely Dan, Yes. Can you tell us a little bit about this? Why these, and how much did they influence the style of original Tin Spirits music?
Mark: Well, the initial idea was “let’s play the songs we love and have always wanted to play but couldn’t.” Mainly because if you play Roundabout at a wedding, you won’t get paid! [The interviewer is laughing very, very hard at this—ed.] So we each went away and created a “dream setlist,” and it became clear very quickly that we were all big prog fans. So once we’d gone through everyone’s list and picked the ones we all agreed on, that’s what we ended up with.
We also covered Radiohead, Frank Zappa, Free, and Jellyfish to name a few. After we’d done a few local gigs we decided to have a go at writing our own stuff and see how far it went. That’s basically what “Wired To Earth” became, an experiment to see if we could write songs as a band. There was no agenda as far as whether it should be prog or rock or whatever, but I guess because we all have a penchant for that genre, “Wired to Earth” naturally leans towards it (without keyboards).
Progarchy: In the end, you chose to cover a Genesis song for “Wired to Earth.” Was this a hard pick?
Mark: In hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t have included a cover but as we’d spent such a long time rehearsing the songs, we thought it would be worthwhile sticking one in. I think we chose “Back in NYC” as it was the one we could knock out fairly quickly.
Progarchy: Mark, as you know, my favorite [again, favourite for our English readers!] song on the first album is “Broken.” The lyrics are much more than lyrics. They really reach toward poetry. Can you give us the background to that song?
Mark: Thank you very much Brad.
It was the last song written for “Wired To Earth” and nearly didn’t make it, to be honest.
We had a deadline of early March 2011 to finish the album and were still working on it up to the Christmas 2010 break. We recorded a rough demo without vocals so I could work on the lyrics over the holidays.
My wife was pregnant at the time so the lyrics were initially about my second chance in life, essentially going from being single at 32 to having a family at 35. She was due in May 2011, so the album would be all done by then. However, on 6th Feb our daughter was born 14 weeks premature, weighing just 785 grams [1.73lbs.] and everything turned upside down.
As I remember it, the lyrics were written around the end of February and convey what we were going through at the time. It was a 50-mile round trip to the hospital each day, hoping our little girl was doing ok. So the song was recorded right up to the wire and, in fact, Dan and Dave recorded the twin guitar parts in a freezing, converted church hall one night until 3AM in order to meet the deadline.
Penny is now 3, by the way, and you’d never know to look at her what a tough start to life she had.
Progarchy: We’re in the middle of a glorious moment for prog and for rock—despite what the doomsayers claim. How do you see the Tin Spirits? That is, when someone is looking back at 2014, twenty years from now, how do you want the Tin Spirits to be placed and remembered?
Mark: You know what? It would just be nice to be remembered. There is so much new music out there these days that it’s very difficult to hold anyone’s attention before they move on. I’m as guilty as anyone of that. Ooh, great album. Next! It would be great to think that in 20 years, someone will see a Tin Spirits album in their collection and think “Ah, I think I’ll listen to that today.”
The Tin Spirits are: Mark Kilminster (vocals; bass); Dave Gregory (guitar); Daniel Steinhardt (guitar; vocals); and Doug Mussard (drums; vocals). “Scorch” is produced by Tin Spirits and Mitch Keen; mixed by Paul Stacey (Oasis).
The tracks for “Scorch”: Carnivore; Summer Now; Old Hands; Binary Man; Little Eyes; Wrapped And Tied; She Moves Among Us; Garden State.
Progarchy will let you know as soon as it’s available for preorder. Or, of course, go straight to the official website: http://tinspirits.co.uk
You can order “Wired to Earth” from amazon.com and other outlets, including directly from the record company: http://www.cherryred.co.uk/esoteric-exd.asp?id=3598. Please do. Not only do I give the Tin Spirits my highest recommendation in 2014, but I think I’ll still be promoting them in 2034, should I still be wired to this earth.
Tin Spirits has issued the following press release
Esoteric Antenna are pleased to announce the release of the album ‘Scorch’, the much anticipated follow up to Tin Spirits debut album ‘Wired to Earth’.
As you would expect of a band that includes XTC’s 6-string genius Dave Gregory, ‘Scorch’ is a celebration of guitars and harmony with songs that immediately captivate and engage. Lovingly crafted over two years ‘Scorch’ was mixed ‘old school’ with fingers on faders by acclaimed producer Paul Stacey (Black Crowes, Noel Gallagher), resulting in a sonic experience guaranteed to be a highlight of this year’s new releases.
Along with Dave Gregory, Tin Spirits’ fellow Swindonians Mark Kilminster (Vocals, Bass) and Doug Mussard (Drums), as well as the Australian import Daniel Steinhardt (Guitar, Vocals) notably of TheGigRig, have carved themselves a unique niche being unashamedly progressive yet entirely accessible. From the rapturous tones of the instrumental opener ‘Carnivore’, to the introspective anthem ‘Little Eyes’ and the progressive epic ‘Garden State’, “Scorch” is an album that shows Tin Spirits have truly come of age with one of the most exhilarating and satisfying releases of 2014. The album will be preceded by a digital single “Summer Now” released 8th September.
Yes, I’m thrilled. The first release, WIRED TO EARTH, has been a favorite since it came out. What I appreciate most, however, are the lyrics of the fourth track, “Broken.” Few songs have moved me so much.
Feel free to call me a “Glass Hammer Junkie.” Steve and Fred might not approve, but it is the truth. Ever since my great friend, Amy Sturgis, introduced me to their music, days or so before LEX REX appeared in 2002, I’ve been hooked. As you can see by the accompanying photograph, I’m pretty much a completist as well. After all, why like anything halfway? Besides, Glass Hammer isn’t a “half-way” kind of love. You either love them completely, or you don’t know them.
Some reviewers have–in an almost obligatory way–compared their music to that produced during the first decade of Yes. As Babb has joked, GH admires Jon Anderson and Yes deeply, but he’s merely acknowledging the debt in his own music, not mimicking it. And, frankly, from my perspective, GH has much more of a “Leftoverature” feel than a Yes one. Regardless, Babb and Schendel are artists, pure and simple, indebted and original all at once.
There is so much I could write about GH, a book really. But, for now, let me state that there will be more much about GH at progarchy, as well as an extensive analysis and history of the band over at Carl Olson’s brilliant, Catholic World Report. Additionally, we’ll have a long interview with GH co-founder, Steve Babb.
As many of you know, I’m not a huge fan of labels, as they tend to narrow the beauty of a thing. If you forced me to label Glass Hammer’s music, though, I’d probably claim it as “Ransom Prog,” the kind of music Elwin Ransom would’ve written while on Malacandra. For one (or three, really) of the things to love about GH is the “voice” of the band. And, I don’t mean the vocalists. There are lots of vocalists for GH, and there have been since the band’s beginning, the release of their first cd back in 1993, twenty years ago. There quite good. I’m especially fond of Susie Bogdanowicz. Phew, can she sing or what? Her rendition of Yes’s “South Side of the Sky” is simply breathtaking. The vocal equivalent would be Dawn Upshaw singing Gorecki’s Third Symphony. Yes, Bogdanowicz is THAT good.
The real voice of the band, however, can be found in three very different things. Second and third, the distinctiveness of the bass and keyboards, a profound mixture of the punctuated, the soaring, and the lush. But, first and foremost, are the lyrics. Glass Hammer contains some of the best lyrics in rock history. No exaggeration. Last year, just as 2012 was winding down, I was utterly blown away by Perilous. I even held up my “best of” because of the album. It went from not being on my radar in October to being one of the top releases of the year by early December. The music is, certainly, excellent. But, the lyrics are top notch–meaningful, imagist, and philosophical.
I think the lack of recognition of excellent lyric writing is one of the great faults in reviewing and assessing this third wave of prog (as our own Brian Watson labels it). After all, look at the lyrics of Spawton, Longdon, and Tillison, the lyrics of the Tin Spirits, of Gazpacho, or Ayreon (the plot of Ayreon is also mind boggling–but this is for another post), and others. The lyrics for GH are at this top. They are as good as the music, and the two–lyrics and music–serve one another. The lyrics are at once mythic and deeply moving. Here’s just one example from Inconsolable Secret:
This is where we draw the line
And here is where we make our stand
You’ll gather all our forces here for
Here we stand on hallowed ground
And here the foe will surely fall
We’ll send his army scattering for
This is where we draw the line
And here is where we make our stand
Now sound the trumpets, form the battle line
Hold the line
Babb’s lyrics reflect those of the Beowulf poet as well as the poet of the Battle of Maldon. Certainly, Babb is drawing upon these medieval sources, and, probably, a bit of Chesterton’ s Everlasting Man.
There’s a really nice review of the rereleased and remixed version of Glass Hammer’s masterful, Inconsolable Secret, over at http://www.progrocket.com. Sadly, I can’t figure out who the author is, or I’d give her or him explicit credit.
One of the quintessential modern-day symphonic progressive rock bands, Glass Hammer recently re-released their 2005 album The Inconsolable Secret. The new “deluxe edition” contains all the original material from the two-disc album, as well as a third disc featuring remixes of several of the songs, two with new vocal tracks from present lead singer Jon Davison, who is currently the lead singer for Yes. Glass Hammer is led by multi-instrumentalists Steve Babb and Fred Schendel.–Progrocket.
To keep reading this excellent review, click here.