All posts for the month June, 2017

This news story was originally published here:

‘Melancholy Death of a Gamekeeper’ was the rather sad headline which appeared in Welsh local newspaper, the Monmouthshire Merlin, in the late 1800s. This article told the sorry tale of the sudden and mysterious unexplained death of Thomas Prosser, the great-great grandfather of multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong. Armstrong drew inspiration from this family history for his latest Cosmograf project, and considered using that headline as the title of the album before choosing the more expansive The Hay-Man Dreams. The article did make it into the album, as the name of a suitably sad and mournfully sung piece with subtle piano and at times bluesy guitar. As such it encapsulates the rather different and fascinating approach and theme taken on this album, as we delve into a more grounded and simple rural world, suffused with dream-like melancholia.

But where does this album stand in the context of previous Cosmograf releases?

We are a long way from the science fiction but very human tale of The Man Left In Space or the cinematic concept of alien abduction (or mental breakdown?) documented in The Unreasonable Silence. There is an element of the after-life in The Hay-Man Dreams, but not with the same Gothic grandeur of the ghost story and spiritualism inspired Capacitor. It is perhaps the outstanding and more personal When Age Has Done It’s Duty from 2011, inspired by his mother’s side of the family and Armstrong’s experience of dementia, which can most closely trace its musical and lyrical DNA down to The Hay-Man Dreams. This latest album, stemming from Armstrong’s father’s side of the family, is steeped in a sense of the countryside and family, conveyed in the classic rock sounds of guitar, drums and bass, interlaced with skillful and atmospheric keyboards.

The drone and birdsong underpinning David Allan’s narration from Walter de la Mare’s poem The Scarecrow introduces the album in Tethered And Bound. There is a sonorous, gloomy and foreboding atmosphere with the music successfully suggesting a feeling of being held or bound to one spot. There is a very real sense of tragedy as the straw effigy that the widow of the gamekeeper erected in his memory stands there forever in all weathers, watching the world around him and dreaming of his life and what might lie beyond his field:

“You Buried me here, then made me of Hay, Tethered and Bound day after day.”

The rich timbre of Robin Armstrong’s voice goes from strength to strength on this song and album. Trouble In The Forest commences with delicate acoustic guitar, highlighted with subtle ambient effects from Matt Stevens of The Fierce and the Dead. This is a restrained and atmospheric song, featuring some particularly lithe bass work, imagining a conversation between the spirit of the dead man and his son in which he extols the virtues of hard work. Matt Stevens pours a tasteful and delicate electric guitar solo over this piece, but Armstrong wisely maintains the restraint which actually heightens the emotions, resisting the temptation to expand the song more dramatically.

The Motorway is a standout track, with echoes of Jethro Tull in its tuneful and delicately picked acoustic guitar intro. This evocative song brings to mind dreamy journeys down motorways through the countryside with the wind rippling the fields, presumably evoking the far away dreams of an ancient scarecrow within sight of the highway. There is a great synthesis of the rural folksiness associated with the acoustic guitar in contrast with the crunching electric guitar riffs of the cars, reminiscent of Armstrong’s much loved Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Rachael Hawnt, who featured so memorably on The Unreasonable Silence, returns to add some full throated and powerful backing vocals. Eventually Robin takes flight with a great guitar solo. This song and the whole album is clearly steeped in the classic vintage sounds of the ’70s with Les Paul guitars and Hammond organs, but there is no sense of imitation or clichéd derivatives – there is too much imagination and skill in the compositions.

In contrast, the haunting Cut The Corn, with its gentle piano intro, has more than an echo of later era Marillion’s Steve Hogarth in Armstrong’s beautifully sung and emotional delivery. It’s bucolic and stately progress is punctuated with a delicate, almost Spanish guitar passage, and like Trouble In The Forest the artist reins back to strangely give the song more emotional impact.

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The final multi-faceted song, Hay-Man, is probably the one most closely resembling the more expansive and cinematic songs of recent Cosmograf albums. The wonderful voice of Rachael Hawnt takes on the lead vocal to great effect whilst Armstrong initially intertwines a lovely flowing and languid guitar solo. The song goes through various stages and styles with subtle blues licks over Hammond organ rising to a crunching heavy rock crescendo and a stunning coruscating guitar solo against Kyle Fenton’s powerful drumming… and then when you think it’s all over, Big Big Train’s Rachel Hall lays down some wonderful violin mixed with birdsong and gradually diminishing finely judged bass and drums. The final song… and presumably the spirit in the Scarecrow gradually fades away in a deeply resonant way as Robin’s mournful voice finally evokes the spirit of his tragic ancestor.

Robin Armstrong has done it once again – he’s produced one of the Progressive Rock albums of the year… but in a completely different style. This only goes to underline his skill and quality as a musician and writer, continuing to define him as one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation. However, be aware that whilst his last few albums have been akin to widescreen pieces of musical cinema with immediate and spectacular effects, his latest work is much more evocative of a finely written musical novel with more emotional resonance and subtlety, revealing more and more with every reading or listening.

01. Tethered And Bound (4:58)
02. Trouble In The Forest (7:32)
03. The Motorway (8:22)
04. Cut The Corn (5:08)
05. Melancholy Death Of A Gamekeeper (4:58)
06. Hay-Man (12:38)

Total Time – 44:36

Robin Armstrong – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards & Bass
Kyle Fenton – Drums
Rachael Hawnt – Vocals (tracks 1,3 & 6)
Matt Stevens – Guitar Solo/Ambient Effects (track 2)
Rachel Hall – Violin (track 6)
David Allan – Narration (tracks 1,2 & 6)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 14th July 2017

– The Unreasonable Silence (2016) [Cosmograf Music]
– Capacitor (2014) [Cosmograf Music]
– The Man Left In Space (2013) [Cosmograf Music]
– When Age Has Done It’s Duty (2011) [Festival Music]
– End Of Ecclesia (2009) [CD no longer available – downloadable from Cosmograf website]
– Freed From The Anguish (2008) [No longer available]

Cosmograf – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp


This news story was originally published here:

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Edition 100 of Sounds That Can Be Made is now available as a podcast!


Uriah Heep – I’m Alive (from Fallen Angel)
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb (from The Wall)
Jethro Tull – Elegy (from Stormwatch)
Genesis – Cul-De-Sac (from Duke)
Barclay James Harvest – Just a Day Away (Forever Tomorrow) (from Ring of Changes)
Electric Light Orchestra – Bluebird (from Secret Messages)
Black Sabbath – Angry Heart (from Seventh Star)
AC/DC – Meanstreak (from Blow Up Your Video)
Blue Öyster Cult – Imaginos (from Imaginos)
Deep Purple – Love Conquers All (from Slaves and Masters)
Rush – Heresy (from Roll the Bones)
Yes – Children of Light (from Keys to Ascension II)
Iron Maiden – The Wicker Man (from Brave New World)
Marillion – When I Meet God (from Anoraknophobia)
Magnum – Everyday (from Breath of Life)
Radiohead – Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased) (from Hail to the Thief)
Asia – I Will Remember You (from Phoenix)
Mostly Autumn – Glass Shadows (from Glass Shadows)
Porcupine Tree – Remember Me Lover (from The Incident)
Dream Theater – Lost Not Forgotten (from A Dramatic Turn of Events)
Nektar – Talk To Me (from Time Machine)
Devin Townsend – Z² (from Z² Dark Matters)
Archive – Axiom – Reprise (from Axiom)
Muse – The Handler (from Drones)
Foo Fighters – The Neverending Sigh (from Saint Cecilia EP)
Big Big Train – Mudlarks (from Wassail EP)
The Pineapple Thief – No Man’s Land (from Your Wilderness)

Edition 89 of Steve Blease’s Heavy Elements is now available as a podcast.


My Soliloquy – Dream In Extremis
Dream Theater – A Rite of Passage
Derek Sherinian – Ghost Runner
Ne Obliviscaris – Of The Leper Butterflies
Siluetless – Child of the Shadows

Epic at 11: HeKz – Journey’s End?

Voyager – Disconnected

Album of the Week: Symphony X – Paradise Lost

The Walls of Babylon
Paradise Lost
Revelation (Divus Pennae Ex Tragoedia)

Acolyte – Space and Time

The Progressive Tracks Show #216 (Nice Surprises), originally broadcast on Friday June 23, 2017, is now available to download or listen to any time you desire.

Everyone likes surprises… especially when they’re nice ones.

WARNING:  King Crimson 2017 US Tour Spoilers Contained Within!!!


  • NP:  Styx – “Gone Gone Gone” from The Mission on Styx Concept
  • NP:  Monkeybat – “Pockets” from Pockets – Unreleased on Independent
  • NP:  Ghost Ship Octavius – “Saturn and Skies” from Ghost Ship Octavius on Ghost Ship Octavius
  • NP:  King Crimson – “The Battle Of Glass Tears” from Lizard (Expanded Edition) on Discipline Global Mobile
  • NP:  Machines Dream – “Black Science” from Black Science on Progressive Gears
  • NP:  Damanek – “Dark Sun” from On Track on GEP
  • NP:  Styx – “Red Storm” from The Mission on Styx Concept
  • NP:  Roger Waters – “Picture That” from Is This The Life We Really Want? on Columbia Records
  • NP:  Machines Dream – “Noise To Signal” from Black Science on Progressive Gears
  • NP:  King Crimson – “Islands” from Islands (40th Anniversary Edition) on Discipline Global Mobile

If you have comments (always welcome), or suggestions for show topics/music, feel free to contact me anytime via email:

But first… enjoy the show!

Mike “ProgTracks” Pollack

This news story was originally published here:

When Boston-based Elder first arrived on the scene in 2008 they were working safely within the confines of Sleep-derived stoner metal. It was well-played but derivative and the doom/stoner scene was well saturated, so they simply got lost among the flood. They made their first creative leap with sophomore release Dead Roots Stirring. Their sound began to veer away from sludgy doom riffs and more toward a classic heavy power trio roar; influenced just as much by the formative weight of bands like Mountain and James Gang as Black Sabbath. While elements of the stoner metal approach remained, they were becoming less pronounced and Elder was beginning to get really interesting.

But nothing prepared me for Lore. What an absolutely glorious, hydra-headed beast that album is! While still retaining their core sound, everything became richer. The arrangements became longer and more structurally complex, guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo’s chordal approach expanded into beautiful new harmonic territory and the already solid rhythm section of Jack Donovan and Matt Couto became even more frightening. But what really impressed me was how effortlessly they could veer from heavy guitar rock to hypnotic psychedelic jams to progressive rock flourishes and have it sound cohesive, organic and not in the least contrived. It has been one of my most-played albums for the past few years.

Reflections Of A Floating World finds Elder continuing their forward progression; expanding on the creative success of Lore and further refining what is now their own identifiable sound.

Opening track Sanctuary is the oldest composition here, dating back to the Lore era. Because of that it effectively works as a bridge between the two albums. The opening section of the song has a heavy melancholy vibe that brings to mind Wheels Of Confusion from Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4. But unlike the majority of bands in this genre that stubbornly remain inside the Sabbath wheelhouse, Elder plumbs deeper for inspiration. They don’t generally employ a standard song structure; their compositions are more like extended suites that progress through a series of movements. They build layer by layer in a process of construction and deconstruction, slowly building tension then relaxing while never losing forward momentum. Vocals are used sparsely; Sanctuary begins with two short verses and then becomes instrumental for the next 5 minutes, the single-word chorus doesn’t appear until 7 minutes into the piece. The instrumental coda is breath-taking, a lovely wash of layered guitar parts creating warm waves of analog distortion.

The Falling Veil shows off the expanded lineup to good effect. After a brief space-rock introduction it sprints into action with a very bright tempo and a sunny guitar riff, lightening the mood considerably from the opening. The additional guitar of Michael Risberg allows for more layered chordal arrangements and harmonized lines; during the instrumental mid-section I found myself imagining a turbo-charged variation of Wishbone Ash. There is an album worth of good riffs in this track and it also demonstrates a continued maturation in the songwriting department.

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The undeniably timely Staving Off Truth is one of Elder’s most impressive arrangements to date. It starts with a harmonized riff so beautifully thick it threatens to bend your spinal column. It then weaves in Clavinet, pedal steel, acoustic guitar and a splash of Mellotron along its 10-minute journey. Elder writes in long form, but their compositions actually merit the running time, they last as long as is required to tell the tale.

Blind is a distillation of all the points on Elder’s evolution thus far; an epic mix of traditional Sabbath-inspired doom, ’70s heavy rock and prog powered by Nick DiSalvo’s always heroic axe-work. It’s noteworthy because of the prominence of keyboards in the mix, alternating between electric piano and Hammond organ, a new element that expanding to a four-piece allows. It’s a good introductory track for those unfamiliar with Elder’s approach, because it ventures into areas wholly unexpected based on where it begins.

The instrumental Sonntag is a pleasant excursion into krautrock territory, an unexpected treat and it functions as a nice breather between the more intense pieces that surround it. The arrangement is essentially built off a single groove that progresses in linear fashion as new elements are methodically applied. It’s a slow burn but the payoff is glorious.

Thousand Hands is a fast-paced, muscular closer that also contains one of the albums most beautiful moments in the wistfully melodic mid-section.

Reflections Of A Floating World is an intense experience, but a truly enveloping one. It’s not background music and it refuses to be. I found it impossible to write this review while listening to the album, I’d get distracted mid-sentence and then realize that an hour had passed once the last song fades out. That doesn’t happen often. Obviously, I highly recommend it, but I also strongly suggest picking up Lore as well, they go together perfectly. Guitar rock is most definitely not dead, Elder is living proof.

01. Sanctuary (11:14)
02. The Falling Veil (11:13)
03. Staving Off Truth (10:18)
04. Blind (13:23)
05. Sonntag (8:40)
06. Thousand Hands (9:37)

Total Time – 64:21

Nicholas DiSalvo – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
Jack Donovan – Bass
Matt Couto – Drums
~ Guest Musicians:
Michael Risberg – Guitar
Michael Samos – Pedal Steel

Record Label: Armageddon (North America) / Stickman Records (Europe/World)
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 2nd June 2017

Elder – Facebook | Bandcamp


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Northern Star   220617

Tangent Andy Tillison Interview

Northern Star  Pallas Theme

  • GPS Culture – The Tangent
  • Two Rope swings – The Tangent
  • Dr Livingstone (I presume) – The Tangent
  • Lost In London – The tangent
  • Andante for Dorothy – Andy Tillison’s Multiplex
  • The Pursuit Of Oil – Andy Tillisons Disk Drive
  • Slow Rust of the forgotten machinery – The Tangent

The new album can be obtained from

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This news story was originally published here:

Rising young metallers Next To None recently announced the release of their forthcoming second album ‘Phases’ through InsideOutMusic in Europe and EMP in North America on the 7th July 2017. This comes off the back of the band’s first ever European tour alongside label-mates Haken, as well as forthcoming dates supporting Mike Portnoy’s much anticipated Shattered Fortress show which start later this week in London.

The band have now launched a lyric video for the new track ‘Pause’, and you can check that out here.

Drummer Max Portnoy comments: “Our song Pause shows both sides of the band. While being really brutal and heavy, it shows a lot of the progressive side of our playing as well!”

‘Phases’ is now available to pre-order, and digital pre-orders through iTunes and Amazon come with an immediate download of ‘The Apple’ & ‘Pause’:

The band recently launched a behind the scenes teaser video, giving you a glimpse into the recording of ‘Phases’, and you can watch that here.

The band recently launched a video for the albums first single ‘The Apple’, watch now here.

You can find the full track-listing and artwork below:

• 13
• Answer Me
• The Apple
• Beg
• Alone
• Kek
• Clarity
• Pause
• Mr Mime
• Isolation
• Denial
• The Wanderer

The full list of upcoming tour dates alongside Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress are as follows:

28th June – Koko, London, UK
1st July – Trianon, Paris, France
2nd July – Slagthuset, Malmo, Sweden
3rd July – Kulturfabrik, Esch Sur Alzette, Sweden
4th July – Teatro Della Luna, Milan, Italy
5th July – Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
6th July – 013, Tilburg, Holland

Formed in 2012, and based in Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, the foursome released their well-received debut ‘A Light In The Dark’ during 2015 on InsideOut. But if this set a template for the band’s style, then this has now been excitingly stretched.

“We actually began to write songs for the new record as soon as we finished the first one,” explains drummer Max Portnoy. As previously, this involved the duo of Portnoy and vocalist/keyboard player Thomas Cuce collaborating in this part of the process. And, also to some extent mirroring ‘A Light In The Dark’, there’s a partial concept here. “On the previous album we had six tracks which were lyrically linked. But it did not stretch throughout all the
songs. This time, we have four tracks which deal with the idea of grief. However, that isn’t reflected on the entire record.”

The new 12-track album (including two short instrumental passages) marks the recording debut of new guitarist Derrick Schneider who replaced Ryland Holland last year, (the line-up is completed by bassist Kris Rank). “Ryland wanted to go to college, and is now going to Berklee College Of Music, whereas the rest of us wanted to be in the band full-time. So, there was no way that he could carry on with us. And we were very lucky to find someone immediately to take over. He was recommended to us by Bumblefoot (the ex-Guns N Roses guitarist who guested on the first record) and he was the only guy we tried out that fit perfectly. Musically and personally he fit straight in with us. One of the things he does so well is shred on guitar but he also has great voice and plays very heavy which has made a difference to our style and sound.”

Although the album was mixed by the Grammy nominated Adam “Nolly” Getgood (Periphery), the band have produced themselves this time, a decision Portnoy insists has been of immeasurable help. “It’s a collective production, with all of the band having their say. We had strong ideas as to how we wanted this album to turn out, and if we’d brought in an outside producer, then this could have changed. So, it was best for us to stick together and follow our own vision.” The recording process started early last October, with the drum parts being recorded at Neal Morse’s Radiant Studios in Nashville; these sessions were engineered by Jerry Guidroz. “We then spent about four months at Thomas’ home studio (Battery Powered Studios) doing the rest of the work; Thomas was the engineer for those sessions. We were in there every day until 3am. I don’t know how Kris coped, because he was going to school after we’d finished in the studio and getting just a couple of hours’ sleep.

Portnoy believes Next To None have become a sharper and more challenging band with ‘Phases’. “I suppose you could say that we’ve done here is do more of everything we did before, but the greater experience we now have has helped us become better at what we want to do. This time around, there are no guests featured, as was the case on ‘A Light In The Dark’, and as it’s just the four of us you are getting more of what we want to express to everyone, musically and lyrically.”

Next To None online:
NEXT TO NONE on Facebook


Visit the new InsideOut Shop:

This news story was originally published here:

A nice mild Friday evening in early March sees Phil Chelmsford, and his assistant Lisa, heading off to Denmark Street in London to meet Andy Rowberry and Nick Jackson, from the band IT, and talk about their new album We’re All in This Together, released on 1st March 2017, including why the album took so long to make, the influences behind the songs, what motivates these musicians to do what they do and their plans for a Christmas single. As ever with IT, it’s fun and very interesting and there is always plenty to say…

So how has the album launch been going so far?

Nick Jackson: Since the launch day I have been to the post office every day posting off CDs and introduction packages (the release special packages included IT postcards, T-Shirts and a limited CD/DVD edition of the new album). So far we are pleased with the interest in the album and sales. Compared to our last album, Departure, the initial sales are already up on that so that’s a really good sign.

Andy Rowberry: I think this album has more attraction and is differently promoted. We were more focused this time. We got promotion started early, had an official album launch and got review copies out well in time for the release date.

Nick: We have a couple of articles and adverts lined up in various magazines from the U.K., Poland and Canada so far.

[embedded content]

Good to see things moving well. The last time we spoke (in this capacity) was 4 years ago. You were making the album then. What on earth have you been doing for 4 years?


Andy: Nick now has a brand new studio. That took a lot longer than anticipated. Of course the studio was quite pivotal to our recording process.

When I saw you 4 years ago you estimated then that this new album would be released later that same year…

Andy: Well so much happened shortly after that… I became a dad, Nick had lots of other work coming into the studio and of course later there was the studio renovation (which also flooded whilst works were in progress). The focus just went off of the album.

Much of the album had been actually written though at that stage 4 years ago. It was just piecing it together. I think it did us a favour in the long run as we were not in the right frame of mind for recording or finishing off songs. We almost had a year where most things IT were pushed to the background. We were always in contact and still socialised.

Nick: There were 3 or 4 tracks that we were just not totally happy with at that stage. We actually ended up re-recording them at a later stage as we didn’t like the sound and feel of the songs.

Andy: We were jaded and had too many distractions away from the band. It all felt so fresh and right when we eventually revisited the material.

Nick: The other problem is that we are own worst critics. If we are not pleased with how a song sounds and feels then we just won’t entertain it.

Andy: That’s another reason why we take so long recording, etc.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. You invest time and money into these projects and you have to be happy with it before anyone else is. A lot of musicians, artists, etc. are like that, I believe.

Nick: We have had songs that have been played right, sung right but for some reason (sometimes unexplainable) it just doesn’t seem or sound right. There is something missing, something there that shouldn’t be… just not right!

How long has this collection of songs actually been written and when was the last one written?

Nick: The last track to be written was The Path of Least Resistance and it’s actually also the longest.

Initially it was intended to be a 3 or 4 minute track but it didn’t feel right at that so we continued pursuing the song and ended up with it running out at over 11 minutes.

Andy: It has been within the last 12 months.

Nick: The first track we actually wrote, that appears on the album, was Last Chance and that was about 5 years ago. The actual first track we wrote, which only features as a bonus track to the CD/DVD version of the album, was called Out of Time.

Andy: The early demo versions of the songs sound so very different to the versions that made the album.

… Have you kept those demos?

Nick: We did consider using them for a special edition of the album but Andy can’t stand them.

Andy: Yes… some things are just best left private (all laughing!). If someone has just listened to the complete as released album and then listened to the demos they’d be thinking how the hell did they get from that to this. Is it really the same band?? (laughs!).

But some of those songs did take a long long time to develop and get them to where they are today.

Nick: The track Voices actually took the longest to write and finish and doesn’t resemble anything like the song we started with.

Andy: That is the longest writing process of a song I have ever been involved with. Even when we were recording the last few parts of the song I was saying “this isn’t going on this album”… and Nick said “Yes it is!”. The irony of it is that it has turned out to be many people’s favourite track on the album. I really didn’t see that coming.

[embedded content]

[Revolution is the first single taken from IT’s We’re All In This Together album.]

I must admit, for me there isn’t one stand out track. I just love the whole album and the way each track flows from one to the other.

Nick: I must say with the feedback I have had, it seems that people have picked different favourite tracks. In fact at least every track on the album seems to be someone’s favourite. I’m happy with that.

How has the writing changed from the album Departure as Andy joined during the making of that album?

Nick: I already had some songs in the bag from Departure when Andy joined. He then helped with writing the rest of the album. Of course now all of the new tracks have both Andy’s and my stamp on them and we have had a consistent band throughout the entire recording. This album feels more like a complete band effort and more cohesive. Three of the tracks were co-written with James (Hawkins – bass) and Will (Chism – drums).

Andy: We probably notice more than the listener but if you compared the two albums quite closely you would notice the better coherence of the new album due to the consistent musicians. IT are finally a band and not just a project.

When we talked about Departure 4 years ago you told me you couldn’t have written the album without George Bush and his politics/antics, etc. Who was the person that needs to take the credit for your writing on this album?

Andy: Well that’s easy. The clue is in the title of the album……We’re All in This Together… it’s David Cameron.

With Departure we didn’t hold back. What with everything going on at the time it was great fodder for our writing and what we wanted to say about it. George Bush just gave us so much material to work with. With the new album it’s a little more subtle although the political and social references are still there.

In fact in many ways this new album is a follow on to Departure as what we are writing about now is as a result of what happened back then under Bush and Blair.

Nick: The biggest thing for me is that I didn’t want to make any American references with the new material, I wanted it to be about what’s happening here in England. Hence the title of the album being a statement made by Mr Cameron and the street scene graphics on the album packaging and promotion, etc.

Andy: Don’t worry… Trump’s next!!! We could make a double album about the things he’s said and done!

I think it could even be a triple album!

(all laughing…)

Nick, I believe you have had a sort of political up bringing, is that right?

Nick: Yes, my dad taught Political Science.

So you find writing about politics just to be a natural thing?

Nick: Yes, it’s something I grew up with and it’s just in me. It’s something I have an interest in and it inspires me.

I think it’s good that you write about meaningful subject matter. You don’t just write a song for the sake of writing a song which is full of clichés, stock phrases, wizards, dragons or love songs.

Nick: I watch the news and see something that has happened and it really gets me fired up and then it inspires me to write about it.

Do you have material sitting there in the background already that hasn’t yet been recorded?

Nick: Oh Yes! I have a couple of tracks already. I keep sending Andy song titles, parts of lyrics to look at. The thing is about the world we live in and experience there is always something to inspire you.

We actually have a track that was left over from the last sessions that we were thinking of releasing for Christmas… A Christmas single if you will.

Andy: It could have been on the album but we decided to keep it back. It’ll come in handy one day. So we thought we’d hold back and have a Christmas release. Nobody does that anymore!

Has anybody questioned or criticised the subject matter of your lyrics?

Nick: Not that I can remember… specifically!

Andy: Some people might not like it but that’s what we do! Some people think that musicians shouldn’t express political opinions… That’s utter nonsense! This is how we express our thoughts, opinions, get our point across. We don’t preach; we just write about what we see and how it makes us feel.

Nick: We have had a complaint about one of the samples we used. The George Galloway sample…

Andy: Oh yes, of course… People shouldn’t get hung up on who he is but rather what he says in the sample we used. Everything in the statement sample is a fact!

I personally don’t have a problem with it. I love the fact you write about what you are passionate about. Some artists/bands try so hard to write about something profound or different they end up just being a cliché of themselves.

Andy: If we were writing songs about love (or even dungeons and dragons etc…)…(laughing) then from our point of view that would be false.

Nick: There have been a couple over the years that you could say are relationship based, but they are still based on my own experiences.

Andy: Hey… don’t start expecting the next material we write to be ‘Love Songs by Nick and Andy’! (laughing). If that ever happened then put me down. We will continue to write about what we believe in and be honest about those beliefs.

Mind you… you haven’t done it in a way that you are trying to preach to the listener.

Andy: As with anything the songs/lyrics are still open to interpretation.

I must admit for years I was only interested in the melody and music in general. I listened to the lyrics but never tried to read in any meaning. But then I’m sure that many people are the same.

IT Band

[L-R: Will Chisum, James Hawkins, Nick Jackson, Andy Roberry, Ryan McCaffrey]

Moving on… The band line up is finally more stable…

Andy: No band line up can ever be described as stable if a drummer is involved (laughing)… no drummers are stable!

Nick: Will has worked with me previously on other projects but has been in IT for around 6 years.

Andy: He started as a dep… But then quickly became part of the band. We realised that we really liked him and, let’s face it, you want to be in a band with people you like and don’t mind spending a lot of time with which is so important to the a band scenario.

Nick: The keyboard player, Ryan, hasn’t been with us that long. He came in quite late towards the end of making the album. He is a wicked keyboard player though and also plays sax. His day job is working on cruise ships so that means that he often isn’t available to us for a few months at a time.

Andy: Typical of us to pick a band member who has that kind of outside commitment… (laughs)

Nick: James came on board about 5 years ago and has been a friend of Andy’s for some time before he joined.

Andy: James and I lived together for a little while before I met my wife… he then ended up moving into a house just down the road to me. We were chatting one day and I said to him… “you play bass don’t you… do you want to be in a band?”. Of course he said “yes, why not?” and has remained since.

There have been some similarities drawn with your sound, and ethos, to Porcupine Tree. I don’t think that’s a bad accolade by any means but I assume that’s not deliberate?

Nick: Well I have followed Steve Wilson’s work for some time. We have trod similar artistic paths with us both starting as project artists them morphing into a band. We are also both producers. Of course Steven is far more successful and is well known. My time is yet to come.

Andy: I think that’s a great compliment if people compare us to Porcupine Tree. We are both huge PT fans so the influence will be there. We will not hide or deny that.

Nick: One reviewer recently compared our lyrical content to that of Roger Waters and Steve Hogarth… Again both great compliments.

Andy: Again we are both great Pink Floyd fans and Nick is a huge Marillion fan so those comparisons are not surprising.

Nick: We have even had a Simple Minds comparison which neither of us had even thought of. When we thought about it again we could see what was meant.

Of course what we all want to know now… Any plans to play live?

Both Nick & Andy: It’s coming, It’s coming…

Nick: We have one date planned to date. It’s on 29thOctober at The Bedford at Balham. The plan is then to try and fit other gigs around that date to get some momentum.

The thing I really want to do is perform the album in its entirety at a small venue somewhere where we can put on the full visual experience. I’m looking at the smaller theatre at The Roundhouse where hopefully we can do this. Watch this space.

Andy: That’s not the gig you want to throw yourself into straight away. We need more shows before that to get our stage show finely tuned. What really takes the time with gigging is getting the band together for rehearsals, getting the dates booked based on everyone’s availability, etc. That’s the hard bit… the gigs are the easier part of that process. Nick and I are really keen to get out there and playing.

Andy… I have a question directly for you… Since we last spoke 4 years ago much has changed in your life. You got married, you have a daughter… How has that changed your life and perspective on music?

I drink less for a start… but the biggest change is that I have to be more organised when it comes to anything band related. I have to think about things, how they affect my family and the time I get to spend with them. The time I get to spend with my daughter and Claire, my wife, are very precious to me.

Of course Claire understands she is married to a musician so that comes with certain restraints to our time together. By the same token I cannot neglect one side of my life while having fun with the other… It’s all a balance. I love spending time with my daughter and hate leaving her to go off and do other things.

So just briefly coming back to the album… I believe that you travelled the country to get the photos/artwork for the album?

Nick: Yes we did… my friend Melissa, who lives in Canada, she is an amazing photographer and agreed to come over on a kind of working holiday.

We both jumped in the car and drove to Barnsley. A couple of years ago, when visiting Barnsley, I saw all these derelict houses there and of course when we arrived we found that they had all been demolished. By now it was around 4.30pm on a Spring afternoon and I’m now thinking we’re not going to get the shots I wanted. So I then had to make a decision and a change of city so we hastily made our way to Liverpool. We thought we could just make it before the sun went down. We arrived in Liverpool and made our way to Toxteth and found five streets of empty houses. I found our photo opportunity… much to my relief.

The photos were taken and Melissa took them away, returned to Canada and applied her magic. We ended up with the album art we have today. She has also helped out with shooting a couple of the promo videos. She is a very talented lady and proved a very good friend.

[Image copyright © Melissa Connors]

Just to finish up then… Do you remember the last time we spoke I told you both of famous people with whom you shared birthdays? Well obviously I couldn’t do that again so, with the political flavour to your songs, I have two political based facts that coincide with your birthdays.

So Nick on your birthday, in 2002, George Bush made his ‘Axis of Evil’ statement and of course it’s used in your song Killing Me from the album Departure.

Andy: That’s brilliant! I love it… (laughing)

Nick: What about Andy.

Well for Andy on his birthday in 1984 Ronald Reagan tried to make a joke during an election campaign by saying “I’ve signed legislation to outlaw Russia forever and we start bombing in 5 minutes”.

Nick: Wow!! That’s so cool!

Andy: That’s amazing! I so love that.

Good to finish with a bit of fun and thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Needless to say the conversation then moved to the pub!

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[The Working Man is the second single taken from IT’s We’re All In This Together album.]

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This news story was originally published here:

Bent knee, who hail from Boston, Massachusetts, have signed to Inside Out Music for their fourth album, Land Animal. The band was formed in 2009 as a democratic collective, with the aim of pushing boundaries, releasing their self-titled debut in 2011, followed by Shiny Eyed Babies in 2014 and last year’s excellent Say So, one of my favourite albums of 2016.

For those who do not know this band they are difficult to categorise, not that it serves any real purpose to do so. There are many influences here but the listener would have difficulty saying they “sound like” whoever, the reason is that they have created a unique and innovative sound of their own. The band themselves put it like this on their Facebook page: “Bent Knee is unlike any band you’ve ever heard. Its borderless sound combines myriad influences from across the rock, pop, minimalist, and avant-garde spectrums, into a seamless, thrilling whole”. Well they got that right, as that is probably the best description you could have for what they do.

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Their sound is built around the amazing soaring vocals of Courtney Swain, whose voice is soulful yet powerful, emotive and engaging, effortlessly able to convey the feel of the song. But this is not a one woman show, the contributions from each band member as important as the next in conveying their vision. The music is filled with addictive hooks, melodies coupled with odd twists and turns in carefully constructed songs. It can be an unsettling listen at times with its odd rhythms, challenging your preconceptions of what music should be, but is this not how music should be? It is for me. This is not background music, it demands your attention, needing repeated plays for the full experience to be realised. Invest a little time and you get to really understand what this band do.

The album opener Terror Bird eases you in with its pounding beat accompanying Courtney’s astonishing vocal performance as the track builds and develops with some sweeping highs and lows before exploding towards the end. For me, Holy Ghost demonstrates really well what this band can achieve; a sparse picked violin opens the song before being joined by the other instruments, each contribution of equal importance with Courtney’s vocals as the centre point again, bass and drums accompanying the insistent guitar lines from Ben Levin. There are some great vocal harmonies here which counterpoint Courtney’s voice very well, the song coming to a big finish, leaving you wanting more. This album has themes based on societal and technological divides, about the struggles of modern life, with subject matter including global warming and family strife, to name but two.

Insides In is an interesting song, with a gentler start which provides an almost lounge jazz feel that draws you in, but this feeling of comfort soon changes in the final third of the song. Here the focus changes and it starts to become a little unsettling with the drums becoming more forceful and Courtney’s vocals more insistent, soaring towards the finish. There is a lot of variety; the title track gives us a song full of cinematic scope, despite its sometimes stuttering rhythms. Belly Side Up features wonderful backing vocals and Ben’s precise guitar playing, in a beautifully presented song.

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The album closes with Boxes, exploring the facts of our own mortality, and that we should make better use of the time we have; with its pounding bass and minimal drum opening, as things progress the rest of the band join in an almost sad but at the same time beautiful song. The ending plays itself out almost like a heartbeat which comes to a sudden stop.

As noted, devoting time to this album reaps rewards. Having said that, my better half, who usually runs from the room when I play most of the music I enjoy, said that she liked this and asked who it was; “What do you like about it?”, I asked. “Well it is pleasantly unpredictable, and you know me, I usually have an immediate connection to any music I like.”

This is a great follow up to Say So that continues to improve with every play. It is a creative, inventive, unpredictable and at times challenging piece of work. I do recommend that you invest a bit of time through repeated plays, don’t just cast it aside as you will be missing out on what this great band have to offer. An album that will definitely be in my top ten of the year, it is available as a Limited Editon CD Digipak and 180g Vinyl Edition, as well as the standard CD and digital download.

[You can hear Land Animal in its entirety HERE.]

01. Terror Bird (4:09)
02. Hole (3:22)
03. Holy Ghost (5:33)
04. Insides In (6:29)
05. These Hands (5:37)
06. Land Animal (5:14)
07. Time Deer (4:20)
08. Belly Side Up (4:15)
09. The Well (5:31)
10. Boxes (5:44)

Total Time – 50:14

Chris Baum – Violin, Vocals
Jessica Kion – Bass, Vocals
Ben Levin – Guitar, Vocals
Courtney Swain – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth – Drums
Vince Welch – Sound Design, Production

Record Label: Inside Out Music
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 23rd June 2017

Bent Knee – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp