Although founded some 18 years ago by composer, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist Chris Gill and Petrichor is Band Of Rain’s seventh release, I can safely say all are completely new to me. Some digging, along with a lot of listening, reveals that BOR pretty much revolves around Mr Gill, with each release having a fairly transitory line-up, which goes a long way to explaining why all the albums retain a commonality of sound. There are identifiable musical threads – a predilection for instrumentals, cinematic in scope, with Gill’s fluid arpeggiated guitar featuring prominently and acting as the linchpin across the time span.
Not that I have had the opportunity to cover all their previous releases in any great depth since first coming across Band Of Rain, but my initial reaction is that Petrichor is a more visceral beast. The pounding opener Daughter of the Moor confirms, with hallmarks of a ’70s blues rock anthem, but without all the bluster and cliché.
Initial thoughts – gosh the bass end is deep on this album, so much so that I checked there was no added low-end boost on the old amplifier. As track two, The Craft, kicks in, I nod in a reassuring fashion – the bass really is cavernous, both EQ wise and instrumentally. So perhaps as good a time as any then to mention the ‘mix’ on Petrichor, which I initially found a little odd. I mean the bass guitar is high in the mix, I kid you not! As the album unfolds, however, it starts to click, and when you realise the man behind the bass guitar is none other than Jon Camp, you start to think, ‘Yeah, why not?’
The Craft really does seem to indicate a departure in BOR’s musical pathway as there’s a strong band feel here on Petrichor. Like the preceding track, and to a certain extent the album as a whole, The Craft is fairly pedestrian in pace. Not a criticism, merely an observation and the inclusion of a couple of up tempo ‘rockers’, chucked in to liven things up, would have completely destroyed the atmosphere.
Low-end keyboard ‘donks’, synthy leads, followed by a well crafted keyboard arrangement herald not only “proggier” notions, but fully alert us to the presence of Robert Webb. Robert will of course resonate with those who remember the band England, who released the highly regarded Garden Shed in 1977. Larkspur also sees Matthew Corry stamp his authority on proceedings. Not only responsible for the excellent vocals, but also the poignant lyrics – a fantastic track, which on the first listen through the album confirmed that I might be onto something rather special here. Not one for comparators really, however, atmospherically Larkspur touched on Rush’s Tom Sawyer whilst sharing a distant DNA with ELP’s Black Moon.
Earlier I commented on the ‘mix’ of the album, which took a little time to adapt to. No such issue on the production however, which is warm and thunderous. Considering my first few run throughs of Petrichor were via Bandcamp and that was impressive enough, higher quality audio files revealed great sonic depth. One for the hi-fi buffs looking to put their system’s low-end through its paces.
On the first of two instrumentals that follow, the stately Merlin, like so much of the music on Petrichor, is about the aforementioned atmosphere and that aura is plentiful here. Rick Hambleton is metronomically rock solid, allowing Jon Camp’s slithy toves to gyre and gimble along the fingeryboard, all mimsy with the melody is he. Jesting aside, Robert Webb provides a lush bed of strings and the perfect foil for Chris Gill’s hypnotic guitar arpeggios. The rockier, mid-tempo Tupelo follows, the shortest track on the album and the only time that the band ‘cut loose’. The concluding 12-bar, perhaps a reference to the Mississippi city of Tupelo, I not sure, it did however seem somewhat incongruous to me. Or maybe not? Perhaps a link to the US Southern states, referenced by the ‘Halfway House Male Voice Choir’ samples that introduce Witchfinder.
Witchfinder, despite the title’s heavier connotation, is a real smoking stomper and another highlight from the album. Gill’s muscular guitar, Corry’s silky voice and Camp’s initially pounding and latterly fluid fretless, make this a stunning track.
Petrichor: “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”
So, with the sound of rain, we close out with the title track. Clocking in a just over twelve minutes the opening section is light, with a delicate musical Q&A between the instruments and vocals. A now familiar, but welcome, band arrangement kicks in for the main body of the track, fleshed out with some nifty synth lines from Robert Webb. Now it has to be said, a few of the tracks have end sections that are a little, erm, different, bewildering even, however not so here. Chiming guitar, subtle bass and Matthew Corry’s harmonised vocals, truly sublime. As the rain returns we are left with a sweet and pleasant smell indeed…
And that’s it folks.
Following the adage “Never judge an album on the first listen” definitely applies here. Barring Larkspur and Witchfinder, my initial impression of Petrichor was that it was good in parts, lacked the variation that normally attracts me, and was a little too one-paced. The latter two comments still apply, but in a positive way. Granted, there’s little evidence of odd meters or fiery instrumental salvos, but as mentioned previously, it is the stately tempi, employed across the entire album, along with the subtlety of the parts, that ultimately gives the album its enormous charm. Oh… and did I mention that lovely deeeeeeeeeeeeep bass?
01. Daughter of the Moor (7:49)
02. The Craft (6:34)
03. Larkspur (7:53)
04. Merlin (7:18)
05. Tupelo (5:43)
06. Witchfinder (7:33)
07. Petrichor (12:12)
Total Time – 55:02
Chris Gill – Guitars, Programming
Matthew Corry – Vocals (tracks 1,2,3,6 & 7)
Robert Webb – Keyboards
Jon Camp – Bass
Rick Hambleton – Drums, Percussion
Ria Parfitt – Whispers (track 4)
Halfway House Male Voice Choir – Choir Samples (track 6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 30th March 2020