Climax Blues Band – The Albums 1973 – 1976 boxset review

3 07 2019

Esoteric Recordings are releasing a 4CD clamshell boxed set by the Climax Blues Band, titled The Albums 1973 – 1976. This release is the second collection of Climax Blues Band albums and features their work issued between 1973 and 1976, consisting of the albums FM Live, Sense of Direction, Stamp Album and Gold Plated.

The first disc contains FM Live, a recording of a concert that was broadcast on WNEW-FM in New York in 1973. FM Live gave the band their first major US success. The album highlights the more blues orientated sound of their late 60s / early 70s output.

The original UK release was a single album – this version is the USA double vinyl running order. Highlights on this live album include the wonderful harmonies on I Am Constant and the high-octane, Bo Diddley influenced Shake Your Love.

Disc two in the set is where it gets more interesting for me, with the 1974 studio album Sense of Direction. At this point the band are heading off in a more rock and jazz fusion direction and providing the sounds that would blast out of classic rock / FM radio stations for the next few years.

Amerita / Sense Of Direction opens the album, with a 6 minute track that owes more to the sound of artists such as America or Chicago than to the Climax Blues Band’s Chicago blues origins.

Reaching Out is one of my favourite tracks on this collection, with the song served up on a lovely early 70s groove, with some great guitar lines from Peter Haycock. At this point in their career, the band were really stretching out and hearing this music now instantly transports you back in time to those heady seventies times.

Bonus tracks on this disc consist of the single version of Sense of Direction and a rawer, less polished version of Shopping Bag People.

The third disc is the Stamp Album from 1975, where the band headed further towards a more mainstream sound. From the Rhodes piano and sax driven Using The Power, to the pop-reggae of Mr. Goodtime, the band were now inhabiting the same musical universe as contemporaries such as the Average White Band and the mid-70s work of Robert Palmer.

The smooth harmonies of I Am Constant and the Doobie Brothers style funk of Running Out Of Time are another two early album highlights. The addition of new member Richard Jones opened up the bands pallet at this point, with an added emphasis on keyboards that is really noticeable on the fusion of Rusty Nail / The Devil Knows. The album closes with the expansive arrangement of Cobra, a short instrumental.

The final disc is the bands most successful album, Gold Plated from 1976. Notable for giving the Climax Blues Band their biggest hit, Couldn’t Get It Right, which peaked at No10 in the UK and No3 in the US, the shift to a more pop-friendly sound continued.

The dual guitar and clavinet of Together and Free finds the band setting out their stall early on. Couldn’t Get It Right remains the bands signature tune to this day, and has appeared in film (and game) soundtracks.

Bonus tracks for this album include an extended version of Chasing Change and a rare (and very short) Climax Blues Band ballad, Shadow Man, which reminds me a little of mid-period 10cc.

The Albums 1973 – 1976 is a good introduction to the music of the Climax Blues Band, which will be of interest to lovers of early to mid-70s rock music. This collection houses each disc in replica album sleeve wallets and also includes a new poster.

Buy The Albums 1973-1976 at Amazon

Also available:

The Albums: 1969-1972

Tracklisting for The Albums 1973-1976

Disc One

FM Live (1973)

  1. All The Time In The World
  2. I Am Constant
  3. Flight
  4. Seventh Son
  5. Standing By A River
  6. So Many Roads
  7. Mesopopmania
  8. Country Hat
  9. You Make Me Sick
  10. Shake Your Love
  11. Goin’ To New York (Full Version)
  12. Let’s Work Together

Disc Two

Sense of Direction (1974)

  1. Amerita / Sense Of Direction
  2. Losin’ The Humbles
  3. Shopping Bag People
  4. Nogales
  5. Reaching Out
  6. Right Now
  7. Before You Reach The Grave
  8. Milwaukee Truckin’ Blues (Chipper’s Song)
    Bonus Tracks
  9. Sense Of Direction (Single Version)
  10. Shopping Bag People (Alternate Version)

Disc Three

Stamp Album (1975)

  1. Using The Power
  2. Mr. Goodtime
  3. I Am Constant
  4. Running Out Of Time
  5. Sky High
  6. Rusty Nail / The Devil Knows
  7. Loosen Up
  8. Spirit Returning
  9. Cobra

Disc Four

Gold Plated (1976)

  1. Together And Free
  2. Mighty Fire
  3. Chasing Change
  4. Berlin Blues
  5. Couldn’t Get It Right
  6. Rollin’ Home
  7. Sav’ry Gravy
  8. Extra
    Bonus Tracks
  9. Fat Mabellene
  10. Together And Free (Single Edit)
  11. Chasin’ Change (extended take)
  12. Shadow Man




Prince – Originals album review (track-by-track)

9 06 2019

Originals is the third release using material sourced from Prince’s Vault / archive, following on from 2017’s expanded Purple Rain deluxe reissue and 2018’s Piano & A Microphone 1983.

Originals is a 15 song collection of Prince’s own versions of songs he gave to other acts, 14 of which are previously unreleased. As the album progresses, it is very clear that all the acts who received these songs totally trusted Prince’s vision, rarely altering the arrangements of the music or vocal lines that were provided.

Unlike archive releases from other artists, where the songs are often vague sketches or unfinished low-fi recordings, Prince did not make demos in the traditional sense. All the songs here are 16 or 24 track studio recordings, and considering their age (the oldest track is from 1981), they sound remarkable.

The sequencing of the album, mixing up the well-known hits with deeper cuts and interspersing the uptempo songs with ballads, makes this feel like a legitimate Prince album from the early 80s.

Originals opens with Sex Shooter (recorded in 1983), a song that was released on the Apollonia 6 album in 1984, and also featured in the Purple Rain film. The cheekily suggestive lyrics are driven by a nasty synth bassline and is very much of its time. Jungle Love is a delight and so damn funky, and the first appearance of Prince’s electric rhythm guitar grooves on the album.

“Somebody bring me a mirror!”

Manic Monday is the first of 3 songs that became massive, career-defining hits for other artists. Manic Monday shows that the song was pretty much fully-formed when given to The Bangles for their 1985 Different Light album. The iconic bar-room piano riff is intact, as are the breezy backing vocals and harmonies. Feeling like a close relative of Raspberry Beret, the song is Prince delivering pure, unadulterated pop and its a joy to hear.

Noon Rendezvous is the first of two songs that featured on Sheila E.’s The Glamorous Life in 1984, and highlights how Prince’s early to mid-80s ballads were his best. Stark and raw, with minimal percussion, just voice and piano, this is my favourite ballad on the album.

“The sound of your voice makes me weak”

Make-Up is one of the oldest songs on the album, and is pure electronica, featuring a synth line that would be recycled on the title track of Around The World In A Day. With deep bass and stuttering percussion, the song that was given to Vanity 6 in 1982 is the most experimental, left-field track on this collection. 100 MPH (1984) eventually appeared on the Mazarati album two years later, and is probably one of the less well-known songs on this collection, but works so well in this incarnation, and is a hidden gem.

You’re My Love is one of the real surprises in this collection, and is unlike any other song in Prince’s vast catalogue. The arrangement feels a little like it could have featured on Prince’s first album, but the vocals are unique. A pop / Country croon makes it clear why it was picked up by Kenny Rogers four years later.

Holly Rock (from 1985) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Sheila E.’s version appeared on the Krush Groove soundtrack. This is classic mid-80s Prince, with his trademark pitched funk guitar. Holly Rock hints at the sound of the uptempo parts of Sign o’ the Times, and highlights how often, and how effectively, Prince could get inside the groove. Its one of those Prince songs that gets you on your feet. I dare you to try to keep still when listening to Holly Rock.

Baby, You’re a Trip was recorded by Prince in 1982, and was released by Jill Jones in 1987. Apparently Prince wrote the song for Jill Jones “about the time she snooped in his diary after he read hers.” The arrangement, the breakdowns, and the monotone backing vocals from Jill Jones lift this above the status of a standard ballad.

“Baby, you’re an ocean that’s too wide to cross”

The Glamorous Life has always been one of my favourite Sheila E songs, so it was emotional hearing Prince’s vocal on this song. The originals take does not disappoint.

As the album heads towards its final songs, we get a solo Prince recording of Gigolos Get Lonely Too, which later appeared on The Time’s What Time is It? album. A sweet, lyrically playful early 80s soul groove, what’s not to love?

The track I was looking forward to hearing most, the Prince take on Love… Thy Will Be Done, is the highlight of the album for me. I will always love Martika’s version, but the Prince original makes more use of the layered vocal harmonies, and as well as being one of Prince’s finest compositions, its also one of his best arrangements. Simply stunning.

Dear Michaelangelo heads back in time to the mid-80s and is a track that Prince provided for Sheila E.’s Romance 1600. With a naggingly addictive chorus, Dear Michaelangelo would not have sounded out of place on Parade.

“A life without love”

Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me? is a Prince song with its origins stretching way back to 1976, but the Originals version is from 1981. The song was covered by Taja Sevelle in 1987.

Sounding a little like it could have featured on 1980’s Dirty Mind album, Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me? is one of my most played tracks on Originals, and whilst it drops slightly below the production quality of the other tracks on this album, its a very good song, from one of Prince’s most exciting periods. Prince’s trademark falsetto is in full effect here, as is a subtle nod to The Beatles at around 2.25 in?

“I’m not trying to tease you
I only wanna turn you on”

The album ends with Prince’s take on Nothing Compares 2 U. Most people know Sinéad O’Connor’s massive hit single from 1990, but my favourite version has always been the 1985 version by The Family (a CD reissue would be appreciated please, Prince Estate!). This Prince version from 1984 was released on 7″ vinyl and download in 2018, but feels like a good way to close the album.

Posthumous releases are always difficult, as there is the risk of the artist’s legacy being tarnished by labels releasing music that the artist did not approve. Originals does not fall into this trap.

Whilst I am not sure Prince would have ever sanctioned this release during his lifetime, from a fan’s point of view the Prince Estate have done an excellent job in honouring his legacy, and releasing an excellent album that stands alone in its own right, not as a nostalgic curio, which was my initial (now unfounded) worry. If you are a fan of Prince’s work in the 80s, you will love Originals.

Sex Shooter (1983)
Jungle Love (1983)
Manic Monday (1984)
Noon Rendezvous (1984)
Make-Up (1981)
100 MPH (1984)
You’re My Love (1982)
Holly Rock (1985)
Baby, You’re a Trip (1982)
The Glamorous Life (1983)
Gigolos Get Lonely Too (1982)
Love… Thy Will Be Done (1991)
Dear Michaelangelo (1985)
Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me? (1981)
Nothing Compares 2 U (1984)

Buy Prince Originals on CD

Buy Prince Originals on vinyl





Exit North – Book of Romance and Dust album review

30 05 2019

Exit North are Thomas Feiner, Steve Jansen, Ulf Jansson and Charles Storm. Lead vocalist Feiner first worked with ex-Japan musician Steve Jansen on his 2007 solo album Slope, and Thomas also had a connection with David Sylvian, who released an updated version of The Opiates – Revised by Thomas Feiner & Anywhen on Sylvian’s samadhisound label in 2008. Feiner and Jansen continued working together, adding Jansson and Storm to what became Exit North in 2014.

The band’s debut album Book of Romance and Dust was released on CD in October 2018, but has recently been added to streaming platforms.

If you are a fan of Japan / Rain Tree Crow or Talk Talk, you will find plenty to love on the Exit North album. I also hear touches of another jazz-influenced band that I love, Cousteau.

Comparisons aside, this is a stunning debut. A heady mixture of dark nordic electronica, interspersed with acoustic instruments, Book of Romance and Dust makes great use of space and restraint.

Bested Bones is a beautifully paced opener, underpinned with sumptuous strings, and a slowly building rhythm.

“What could have been, what will become”

Short Of One Dimension is an early highlight. An Americana inspired guitar line is slowly buried between piano and trumpet lines, and a heart-beat bass drum provides the pace. The music suggests huge open-spaces and dry-heat, and has a little of the feel of some of the mood of no-man’s returning jesus album (which also featured Steve Jansen).

Sever Me contains one of Feiner’s best vocal performances on the album. Underpinned by piano and minimalist strings and electronic buzzes and hums, this is a moving and measured arrangement and performance.

“The hurt I can disguise, the bruises hide, far below”

Passenger’s Wake features decaying notes and bar-room piano, before mutating into a heavy chorus, that feels a little off-kilter compared with what went before. There is nothing wrong with an unexpected turn in a song.

The haunting instrumental North ushers in the second part of the album. Lessons In Doubt feels like it was born in the previous century, and reminds me a little of Jacques Brel. Samples, strings and percussion drift in and out of this touching torch-song, delivering a chorus that stays with you long after the final notes end.

Spider features lyrics by Ndalu de Almeida (aka Angolan writer Ondjaki), with music that builds and expands to one of the album’s fullest arrangements as the track progresses.

There is no let up in quality for the closing tracks. Losing features the most unique vocals on the album. Feiner’s drawn-out baritone wrestles with the wordless female vocal line, and the reverb drenched strings and piano refrains tug at your emotions. This song (and indeed the whole album) works best on CD, with the lights off, and the volume high.

Losing is by far the longest track on the album, with half of the song devoted to a slow-paced, minimalist ambient piano and electronics repeated refrain.

Another Chance has the feel of Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees, one of my favourite albums of all time. Decaying strings and deep synths underpin the piano, with Thomas Feiner’s wonderful double-tracked vocals finishing off a powerful closing statement. The album ends on a really optimistic note, and I hope we hear more music soon from Exit North.

Book of Romance and Dust is a beautiful debut album that deserves to be heard by a wider audience.

“Give me one minute more”

Bested Bones
Short Of One Dimension
Sever Me
Passenger’s Wake
North
Lessons In Doubt
Spider
Losing
Another Chance

Buy Exit North – Book of Romance and Dust on CD from Amazon

https://thomasfeiner.bandcamp.com/
https://exitnorth.bandcamp.com/





I-Level – albums available digitally for the first time

11 05 2019

I-Level were a 1980’s British Funk/Dance band who released two albums and eight singles between 1982 and 1985.

The trio had UK club hits with Minefield and Give Me from their first album, and are also remembered for the rare groove classic In The Sand from their second and final album Shake.

I-Level were Sam Jones on vocals, Joe Dworniak on bass & Duncan Bridgeman on keyboards. Jo & Duncan also appeared on John Foxx’s stunning 1981 album The Garden.

In early 2019 Give Me [U.S. Remix] featured on Gary Crowley’s Lost 80s compilation album, and shortly afterwards the two I-Level studio albums were released digitally for the first time. The albums are not available on CD but can be streamed and purchased via amazon (links below).

Download I-Level (1983) and Shake (1985) from Amazon.

The first I-Level album was a huge part of the soundtrack to my summer of 1982. I was a huge fan of the 12″ mix of single Teacher (sadly not included on this reissue), and I bought the album on vinyl.

There are so many great pop / dance tracks on the I-Level album. From the horn topped Minefield, with its wonderful jazz-funk bassline and the slow-burning ballad Heart Aglow, to the percussive Simmons-drum driven pop of Stone Heart, the debut I-Level album is 80s pop at its very best.

I love the arrangements on the first album, and Sam Jones soulful, often double-tracked vocals work so well with the electronic pop songs.

1985’s Shake has dated a little more than the debut, due to a heavy use of mid-80s sampling technology, but In The River and the more down-tempo In The Sand are classic pop singles, and worth investigating if you love eighties music.

So if you are a fan of early to mid-eighties pop, or are a fan of Level 42 or Seal, I can recommend the two I-Level albums.

Download I-Level (1983) and Shake (1985) from Amazon.

Follow I-Level on twitter @iLevelMusic.





Big Big Train – Grand Tour album review

28 04 2019

Big Big Train release their new studio album Grand Tour on May 17th 2019. As with all Big Big Train albums, the songs tell stories that steer clear of the usual topics touched upon in modern rock music. The new album is inspired by the 17th and 18th century custom of the ‘Grand Tour’, where young men and women travelled to broaden the mind.

The band state that the Grand Tour takes you on an “epic journey over land and sea and through time and space…” with songs “…inspired by the legacy of the Italian Renaissance genius, Leonardo da Vinci; songs telling the story of the rise and fall of Rome…and of the shipwreck of a great poet, lost in a tempest off the coast of Italy.”

It’s clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the sequencing of Grand Tour, with clear ebbs and flows as the album progresses. Although there are three lengthy epics as part of Grand Tour, album opener Novum Organum is short, sweet and succinct. A percussive synth bell backing slowly builds as piano and voice enter the soundscape.

“For science and for art”

The albums lead single Alive is an uplifting track that showcases the quality production and intelligent arrangements that filter through on every track. The backing vocals and vocal interplay is a noticeable highlight on Alive and many of Grand Tour‘s tracks. I love the bass and drums duel around the three-quarter mark.

The Florentine features some of the most intricate performances on the album. Around 3 minutes into the track, a naggingly addictive guitar line teases in and out of the strings and Nick D’Virgilio’s intricate drum parts. The outro seemingly has lyrical nods to the Elvis Costello / Clive Langer song (also recorded by Robert Wyatt), Shipbuilding. Or maybe Close Your Eyes by no-man?

Roman Stone is a movement in five pieces, and became one of my favourite tracks on the album after the first few listens. The mood and pace shifts from melancholy progressive textures, to dark jazz interludes, then to a more pastoral (a term you will read in a lot of Big Big Train reviews) and gentle pace. Greg Spawton delivers a masterclass in powerful, and at times restrained, bass playing to underpin a complex, shifting arrangement.

“Trade new gods for old gods”

Pantheon is a haunting instrumental track, and the most progressive performance on the album, with some delicious time-signature twists and turns. Theodora in Green and Gold features soaring Fripp-like guitar lines and David Longdon is joined by Nick D’Virgilio on lead vocals for the middle eight.

Ariel is the longest track, and contains the albums most powerful vocals from David Longdon. The various vocal parts throughout the eight different sections are simply stunning – with warm, multi-part harmonies slipping in and out of the evolving arrangement. By the end of the 14 minute plus track you will be left breathless.

“Laudanum plays the poet’s soul like
Orpheus’ lyre, Prometheus’ fire”

Except there is no respite, with another 14 minute track, in the shape of the gentler Voyager carrying on the story of exploration, this time far away from our planet, lifting off into space.

The changes between the sections on Voyager are more subtle, so it has more of a feel of one continual piece. The orchestration on this track, and indeed the whole album, elevates the bands music to new heights. The feeling of elation as Voyager returns will stay with you long after the song has ended.

As I mentioned earlier, the sequencing is top class. Ariel and Voyager are two long tracks that would not normally be placed side by side on an album, but in this instance placing them together feels right. Fans of Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd are likely to fall madly in love with Voyager, a modern progressive masterpiece.

The theme of a return continues as the album wraps up with Homesong. Feet firmly back on the ground, the song lifts your mood with familiar imagery, and an appreciation of the places and the landscapes that we love.

“We are home now
We have found a way back home”

Grand Tour is an album that rewards you with repeated listens, which is the sign of an album that will stay with you over the long haul. The album has so many strong lyrical, vocal and musical highlights, that picking out a favourite is difficult, but the final three songs are such a powerful statement, and it’s rare for an album to have so many emotional highs in swift succession.

The more I play Grand Tour, the more I become convinced that this will turn into my favourite Big Big Train album so far.

Novum Organum (2:33)
Alive (4:31)
The Florentine (8:14)
Roman Stone (13:33)
Pantheon (6:08)
Theodora in Green and Gold (5:38)
Ariel (14:28)
Voyager (14:03)
Homesong (5:12)

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on CD from Amazon

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on vinyl from Amazon

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on CD from Burning Shed

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on vinyl from Burning Shed

Visit the Big Big Train website.





Tim Bowness – Flowers At The Scene

13 02 2019

Tim Bowness’ fifth solo album Flowers At The Scene is released on InsideOutMusic/Sony on the 1st March 2019. Described as being “produced by no-man and Brian Hulse”, there is definitely the spirit of no-man in the DNA of some of the songs, whilst there is also a feeling of renewal with the wide-ranging guests and new musicians, who have breathed new life into this run of solo albums.

Flowers At The Scene has its own very clear musical identity and a cohesive sound, but still with plenty of variety in tones and mood. Album opener I Go Deeper features powerful (treated) drums from Bowness newbie Tom Atherton, and a great Mick Karn-like bassline from Colin Edwin. The edgy kitchen-sink drama lyrics perfectly suit the musical ebb and flow of the track.

“Wild, desperate kisses, fire escapes, near misses.”

The Train That Pulled Away feels somewhat like a distant relation of Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting, before exploding into a more powerful outro section (drummer Tom Atherton is a real find by the way).

Rainmark is the first track that really channels the spirit of no-man, dressed to impress, wearing a lovely Flowermouth outfit. One of several tracks to feature the trumpet playing of Ian Dixon and also home to a fine guitar solo from Jim Matheos (Fates Warning / OSI / contributor to Memories of Machines).

Not Married Anymore is the first song to feature Dylan Howe, and probably the albums saddest track. Which of course, makes it one of my favourites. Building on the recent Plenty album (and featuring Brian Hulse and David K Jones from the band), Not Married Anymore is simple, uncluttered but devastatingly melancholic. An early album highlight.

The title track dials in further sadness and regret, over a mesmerising drum and double bass pattern (the bass reminds me of Danny Thompson). A tale of visible signs of a painful loss (we have all seen wilting flowers at the scene of someones passing), Flowers At The Scene is achingly beautiful.

It’s The World is a musical oddity on the album. Metal guitar (along with Comsat Angel-like harmonics) from Jim Matheos, plus guitar and backing vocals from Peter Hammill and a synth coda from Steven Wilson, leads to the most startling / jarring piece on the album. It is uneasy listening.

Things calm down a little with Borderline, which features a vocal (and flute plus melodica) appearance from Big Big Train’s David Longdon. The organ and interplay between the flute and trumpet lift this song to a higher plane, and over the past few months this song has become one of my favourites from the album.

“Friends keeping tabs – You just say that you’re fine,
They’re watching you slip, across the fragile borderline.”

Ghostlike features instrumentation and a mix of styles that on paper simply should not work. A post-punk, seemingly (Banshees) Budgie inspired drum pattern underpins a Drive / LA synth soundtrack, topped off with some wonderful guitar tones. The haunting mood is deepened by the voyeuristic lyrics, heavily treated lead and backing vocal lines and frenzied guitar. If you were a fan of Thomas Dolby’s The Flat Earth album from the mid 80s (particularly Screen Kiss), you will love Ghostlike.

The War On Me strips the arrangement back to the electronic textures, whilst channelling no-man’s My Revenge on Seattle and Heaven’s Break for good measure. The War On Me is my favourite Bowness vocal performance on the album. Like Tony Visconti with David Bowie, Steven Wilson knows how to add that extra sheen to the production of Tim’s vocals.

The most uplifting song on the album is Killing To Survive, with its inventive, constantly evolving vocal arrangements, and it’s Plenty on steriods musical palette.

The album ends on one of its strongest pieces, and what I consider to be a Bowness career highlight with What Lies Here. With Returning Jesus recalling treated electronics, What Lies Here features Andy Partridge (XTC) delivering an emotive guitar line and Kevin Godley (10CC / Godley & Creme) supplying a rare guest vocal. With both guests shimmering in and out of the mix, it is an inspired collaboration.

Godley’s vocals are sadly missing from the current musical landscape. I personally think that the first four Godley & Creme albums are some of the most interesting and influential releases of the late 70s, early 80s, and its great to hear his voice again. The abrupt end to What Lies Here catches me out every time.

“You, you’ll never make your way back home”

Flowers At The Scene is perfectly sequenced, and whilst it is not as obviously musically framed as Lost In The Ghost Light, the variety of moods and stylistic twists and turns makes this the most satisfying solo release to date from Tim. Lost In The Ghost Light also only really worked as a complete listening experience for me (which suited the theme), whereas a lot of the songs on Flowers At The Scene stand up in isolation.

Tracklisting
I Go Deeper (4.16)
The Train That Pulled Away (4.04)
Rainmark (4.15)
Not Married Anymore (3.31)
Flowers At The Scene (3.05)
It’s The World (3.04)
Borderline (3.46)
Ghostlike (5.09)
The War On Me (3.48)
Killing To Survive (4.00)
What Lies Here (4.01)

produced by no-man and Brian Hulse
mixed by Steven Wilson, mastered by Steve Kitch
no-man is Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson

Flowers At The Scene is available as a CD in deluxe digipak, 180g black vinyl in gatefold cover with insert and CD, and a Burning Shed only 180g red vinyl edition in gatefold cover with insert and CD. All pre-orders from Burning Shed come with an exclusive signed greeting card and an mp3 EP of alternate versions.

Pre-order (CD / vinyl) from Burning Shed
Pre-order the CD from Amazon
Pre-order the vinyl from Amazon





Cobalt Chapel – Variants

16 01 2019

Variants is the companion piece to the debut album from Cobalt Chapel (released in 2017). Cobalt Chapel is the psychedelic folk-rock pairing of Cecilia Fage (Matt Berry & The Maypoles) and Jarrod Gosling (I Monster, Regal Worm).

Variants takes the songs from the bands debut and re-imagines them using a vast array of effects, cassette loops, found sounds and field recordings, spitting the tracks out in a very different format to the originals. What this does is give the release a real consistency, and a more stripped back, sparse feel to the album, which is quite gothic at times.

My original review described Cobalt Chapel’s debut as being “perfectly suited to the Autumn and Winter seasons” and this is even more so for Variants, which works well as an album in its own right, whether you are aware of the original album or not. As the temperature drops, and as the snow starts to fall, Variants could well be the perfect soundtrack to your winter.

The album opener, We Come Willingly (Variant), turns the original song on its head – gone are the loud drums and the fairground waltz, and in comes a disquieting, dream-like arrangement. Cecilia Fage’s vocals appear through the fog as Jarrod Gosling manipulates and twists the drone-like synths and dark electronica.

Fruit Falls from the Apple Tree (Variant) is delivered over slow building accordion lines, retaining the main melodies from the original, but with an added darkness in its variant form. The song switches gear around the half way mark, with delay-laden percussion splashed on to the canvas.

Two of the highlights from the band’s debut album are up next, both in very different guises. Who Are the Strange (Variant) is a spine-chilling hymn to the absurd whilst The Lamb (Variant) moves on from the vocal-only original, with deep, distorted organs under-pinning the track.

The Lamb (Variant) sounds as if it was recorded in a deserted, haunted church on the Yorkshire moors. Maybe it was? Anyway, I prefer this new variants version of the song, even though it makes me feel a little uneasy.

Singing Camberwell Beauty (Variant) has the feel of a more pastoral Portishead, and would be perfect for use in a Channel 4 Christmas Ghost story. Producers take note.

Horratia (Variant) is a disturbing soundtrack to accompany “the story of an aging B-movie actress revisiting her life and career.. all but forgotten, except in the minds of obsessed horror/sci-fi convention-goers.” One of my favourite performances on the album, I love the way the keyboards gently drift into the mix before the heavily-processed drums make their presence felt.

The album ends with it’s longest track. The 11 minute plus Positive Negative (Variant) feels like the soundtrack to a late 60s psychedelic film, with off-kilter drums and sharp ride cymbals on top of mournful keyboards and the cleanest vocals on the album. The clarity of the vocals makes the clever production effects, added at the end of some lines, all the more powerful. This song has to be experienced with headphones, there is so much happening, with little nuanced touches revealing themselves on subsequent plays.

Positive Negative (Variant) is a powerful end to this well sequenced album, and offers a good taste of what might be in the pipeline for Cobalt Chapel for their next album.

Buy Variants by Cobalt Chapel on Amazon

We Come Willingly (Variant)
Fruit Falls from the Apple Tree (Variant)
Who Are the Strange (Variant)
The Lamb (Variant)
Black Eyes (Variant)
Singing Camberwell Beauty (Variant)
Two (Variant)
Horratia (Variant)
Positive Negative (Variant)








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