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The Bierkeller, Bristol
Sunday, 17th September 2017

If I may, I’d like to propose a toast to the Gods of Serendipity.

Now I don’t often pay homage to deities of indeterminate origin – or any others for that matter – but in this case I’ll make an exception as the recent goings on within The Pineapple Thief camp must be the result of intervention by some higher being.

And it would be easy to suggest that this ‘higher being’ is called Gavin Harrison, but that would be unfair to the legacy from which Bruce Soord and his band are now reaping richly deserved rewards.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, first up Godsticks. For the second time in a row I missed the start of their support set, the last time being a couple of years ago at this very venue with The Aristocrats. This tardiness – brought on by the vagaries of travel rather than any disrespect to support bands – is a great shame as I have followed Godsticks closely since the release of their first EP waaaaay back in 2008 (where does the time go?!).

Godsticks - photo by Mike Evans

During this near decade long journey the band have developed and changed their sound considerably, from a quirky jazziness to the harder edge of 2015’s Emergence and onward into the hugely mature Faced With Rage, due out next month on Kscope. During this time Darran Charles and his men have not only experimented with the music but also how to deliver it in a live setting, from the early shows where the band – and Darran in particular – came across as very nervous, through trying to integrate live keyboards and on to the current hard-edged two guitar line-up. Today the band have bags of confidence and a menacing intensity to their sound, well-drilled by this tour, the result being a storming performance of dexterity and power, all hung on Darran’s canny ear for a melodic hook. The band are on top form, the rhythm section of Tom Price and Dan Nelson have developed into a very impressive unit with Dan cultivating his stage persona, a million miles away from the 17 year old youth who originally joined the band. Gavin Bushell is the perfect companion for Darran and their techniques mesh well whilst adding variety to the performance. To cap it all Darran’s singing was majestic tonight, and overall the package appears complete. The sound levels were set a little on the loud side but the detail was still present so not a major quibble, and with the set split equally between Emergence and the unreleased songs from the new album to underline the band as they are now, it was a great performance and well received by a receptive audience.

Much Sinister
Hard to face
Exit stage right
We are leaving
Lack of Scrutiny

Darran Charles – Guitars, Vocals
Dan Nelson – Bass
Gavin Bushell – Guitar
Tom Price – Drums

Godsticks – Website | Facebook | Twitter

A quick turnaround and The Pineapple Thief emerge, expectations high based on the praise forthcoming for the previous tour with Gavin Harrison and Darran Charles, including the London show in February which is set for release as the Where We Stood Blu-ray package at the end of the month.

The Pineapple Thief have never fully clicked with me; I’ve heard a number of the albums and saw them once, in a sports hall in Chippenham back in 2004, but I was never really engaged.

This has now changed.

Last year’s Your Wilderness was a great release and Where We Stood underlines what this band have now become, but catching the majesty of a full live performance is where it all falls into place. Quite rightly, the whole of Your Wilderness is played, Gavin and Darran fully integrated into these songs, and they are fabulous. Bruce has always written songs of real quality, but now he has the vehicle to properly deliver them, and you get the feeling that the rest of the band have stepped up in the process, growing in confidence with every turn.

TPT - Bruce Soord - photo by Mike Evans

Darran Charles puts in a fine second shift of the evening with some exquisite soloing, his virtuosity augmenting Bruce’s playing to expand the sound and give it additional depth. Darran has proved his versatility over the years and is a player of real note. Here he is a vital component, both in the performance and as a comedy foil for Bruce, his pithy comments adding to the good humour of the evening (I particularly liked the wicked goading of Bruce to actually remember the name of the forthcoming Godsticks album after Soord told the audience how good it was!).

The laugh out loud banter adds to the show, but it’s the man at the back who sprinkles the magic dust over the music. Gavin Harrison is rightly lauded as one of the finest drummers of his generation and you can’t help but marvel at his skills. As the perfect choice to lead the three drummer front line of the current incarnation of King Crimson, his profile has been raised to a higher level and to a far wider audience, but here he is playing to a pleasingly rather full Bierkeller. I had to pinch myself that the last time I saw him was in the regal surroundings of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall with King Crimson, pounding seven bells out of his kit in one of the most dexterous displays of precision I’ve ever witnessed.

TPT - Gavin Harrison - photo by Mike Evans

And his playing tonight is nothing short of exquisite. For example, No Man’s Land is just fantastic; little fills, tinkling percussion at all the right moments, slide rule kick drums and power as and when required. Absolutely astonishing, and if the rest of the band just stopped playing it would still be a wonderfully melodic experience. He’s the master of the perfectly weighted augmentation, in no way showy whilst defining everything by his playing. Some of the fills were just so outrageous that I laughed out loud, and with the wonderful sound quality every tiny movement and addition could be heard. However, the finest quality in Gavin’s playing is the sensitivity and understanding of the source material; he did not take over but added exactly what was required to raise Bruce’s songs to the place they deserve to be.

TPT - photo by Mike EvansTPT - Gavin Harrison - photo by Mike Evans

The Pineapple Thief have never sounded as good and Bruce is clearly rightly proud of what they have achieved, a vindication of what he has been doing all these years as they play to more people with a fantastic line-up and the technical support to deliver a beautifully judged show. The quality of the songs speak for themselves, the setlist consistent with the previous tour with Shoot First, 3,000 Days and Where We Stood added, Reaching Out and Simple As That dropped with Fend for Yourself pushed forward in the running order.

The encores were a celebration with an audience completely on side, the result being a fantastic evening, completely enthralling from start to finish. Should this line-up get to tour again – and hopefully they will – then attendance is a complete no-brainer. Just get a ticket and marvel at it all.

Tear You Up
The One You Left to Die
No Man’s Land
Shoot First
Alone at Sea
That Shore
3000 Days
Fend for Yourself
In Exile
Take Your Shot
Show a Little Love
Where We Stood
Part Zero
The Final Thing on My Mind
~ Encore:
Nothing at Best

Bruce Soord – Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Steve Kitch – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Jon Sykes – Bass, Backing Vocals
Gavin Harrison – Drums, Percussion
Darran Charles – Guitars, Backing Vocals

The Pineapple Thief – Website | Facebook | Twitter

All photos by Mike Evans and used with his kind permission.

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What to Expect from STEVEN WILSON's "To the Bone" Album

Steven Wilson has launched a video for the song “Nowhere Now” taken from his recently released, fifth studio album To the Bone. Watch it below.

The video, directed by long-time collaborator Lasse Hoile, was shot on location at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile. The song was described as a “gloriously soaring paean to the joys of everyday escapism.

Along with the release of the new video, Wilson has also announced that he will play a third show at the Royal Albert Hall in London on March 29th next year. About this third concert, Steven commented:

I know that some fans may consider attending all 3 nights, and to those people I say that while each night will have a fair amount of overlap in the repertoire, I will aim for there to be at least something special and unique on each night, though I’m not quite sure what that will be yet!

Tickets for this show will go on sale on Friday (September 22) via Gigs And Tours.

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“Central District” is the first single by Italian progressive legends PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI (PFM). The song has been released simultaneously in its English and Italian version (“Quartiere Generale”), and marks the first brand new track after 14 years. It comes from the new album “Emotional Tattoos”, which will be released worldwide via InsideOutMusic on October 27, 2017 as English and Italian version.
The different language versions offer completely different lyrics, making the track even more accessible for an international and Italian audience.

You can listen to both tracks here:
“Central District”:
“Quartiere Generale”:

“Emotional Tattoos” is an album that looks towards the future as the artwork clearly shows. Created by Stefano and Mattia Bonora with art direction by ArtKademy and concept by Aereostella, it was revealed as an impressive mural painting in Milan, Italy. The band explains:

“On the album cover we can see a spaceship headed by Franz and Patrick, which leads the fans in unexplored territory: The new PFM’s world where music has not only one identity but embraces many different musical genres. “Emotional Tattoos” is an album which will print feelings on your skin.”
“Emotional Tattoos” is already available for pre-ordering in various formats. If you pre-order the digital album, you will instantly receive the first single “Central District” and its Italian counterpart “Quartiere Generale”.

“Emotional Tattoos” formats include:
– Black 2LP+2CD (English vinyl plus English & Italian album on 2CD)
– Limited transparent orange 2LP+CD (Italian vinyl plus Italian CD / only released in Italy, outside Italy you can order it here:
– Special Edition 2CD Digipak (English plus Italian album / International version)
– 2CD Jewelcase (English plus Italian album / US version)
– CD Jewelcase (Italian album only / only released in Italy)
– Digital album (includes English & Italian album)
Order it now!

Furthermore, PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI have announced various new live shows:
September 29, 2017 Modena – Piazza Roma (Italy)
September 30, 2017 Montesarchio (BN) loc. Cirignano – Piazza San Sebastiano (Italy)
November 14, 2017 Torino – Teatro Colosseo (Italy)
November 15, 2017 Genova – Teatro Carlo Felice (Italy)
November 25, 2017 Zoetermeer – De Borderij (Netherlands)
December 01, 2017 Padova – Gran Teatro Geox (Italy)
December 02, 2017 Varese – Teatro Openjobmetis (Italy)
January 09, 2018 Tokyo – Billboard Live (Japan)
January 10, 2018 Tokyo – Billboard Live (Japan)
January 11, 2018 Osaka – Billboard Live (Japan)
January 31, 2018 Bologna – Teatro Duse (Italy)
March 02, 2018 Milano – Teatro Dal Verme (Italy)
March 10, 2018 Brescia – PalaBrescia (Italy)
March 11, 2018 Santa Maria degli Angeli – Teatro Lyrick (Italy)
March 12, 2018 Roma – Teatro Olimpico (Italy)
March 13, 2018 Napoli – Teatro Augusteo (Italy)
April 09-16 Brazilian Tour – Exact dates to be announced soon!!!
May 03, 2018 Ciudad de Mexico – BlackBerry Hall (Mexico)
May 06, 2018 Gettysburg – Majestic Theater (USA)
May 12, 2018 Legnano – Teatro Galleria (Italy)

Ticket links and more info can be found on

PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI is a very eclectic and exuberant band with a distinctive style that combines the powerful expression of rock, progressive and classical music into one fascinating entity. Formed in 1971 and celebrating its live debut in the same year opening for Yes in Milano, the band quickly gained a prominent place on the international scene by making it to the Billboard charts (for 1973’s ‘Photos Of Ghosts’), winning a Gold record in Japan while constantly ruling the charts in their home country up until today. Recently, PFM was honoured with position #50 in the “UK Classic Rock Hall of Fame” of the 100 most important artists in the world.



Visit the new Insideout Shop:

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September 15, 2017 — SONS OF APOLLO–former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force)-have just released the video for “Coming Home” from their highly anticipated debut album, PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY. Watch now here:

The song is now available on all digital outlets starting today. Set for release on October 20 via InsideOutMusic / Sony, PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY, is now available to pre-order on 2CD Mediabook (featuring a second disc of instrumental mixes), Gatefold 2LP vinyl + CD, Standard Jewelcase CD & digital download. Pre-order now here:

“‘Coming Home’ immediately felt like the SONS OF APOLLO ‘grand entrance’ as soon as we wrote the song,” says Portnoy. “Almost like a fighter entering the ring. I knew this had to be the first video and first time people see us playing together. The video was shot at Ocean Studios in Burbank, CA, where we wrote and recorded the album. So you’re essentially seeing the exact place and environment that SONS OF APOLLO was born.”

“I assume most people’s expectations of the band from its lineup is for SOA to be a self-indulgent ‘wank-fest’ (and granted, there are three 10-minute Prog epics on the album!), but ‘Coming Home’ is an example that we are just as much a rock band cut from the cloth of classic bands like Van Halen as well.”

The full track-listing of PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY is as follows:
1. God of The Sun
2. Coming Home
3. Signs of the Time
4. Labyrinth
5. Alive
6. Lost In Oblivion
7. Figaro’s Whore
8. Divine Addiction
9. Opus Maximus

An album teaser can be seen on InsideOutMusic’s YouTube page here:

PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY was produced by the dynamic production duo of Portnoy and Sherinian, also affectionately known as “The Del Fuvio Brothers,” which is the nickname given to them over 20 years ago during their time together in Dream Theater.

SONS OF APOLLO got together very organically, as Portnoy explains: “Derek and I reunited shortly after I left Dream Theater in 2010 and we put together an all-instrumental touring band with he and I, Billy Sheehan, and Tony MacAlpine. That was my first time working with Derek since the ’90s when he was in Dream Theater and it was just great to be working with him again. Ever since that tour, which was really just a one-off live thing, he has been nudging me to start a real, original, full-time band. The timing just had never been right, because I had too many other things on my plate. Long story short, the time was finally right to take the bait and put together a band.”

“Mike and I work at a relentless pace in the studio,” continues Sherinian. “The music is modern, but we have an old school soul. What is unique about SONS OF APOLLO is that we have true rock n’ roll swagger along with the virtuosity– a lethal combination!”

But what to call the next great supergroup? “Derek was mainly the one behind the name,” says Portnoy. “I have a list that I keep on my phone of about a hundred different band names, which I constantly have to refer to every time I have a new band every year (laughs). So, I pulled up the list and Apollo was one of the names on the list. It was a word that both of us really liked. We started fiddling with different variations of the word. One of the original band names we were working with was Apollo Creed, the character from the ‘Rocky’ movies, but after lots of different discussions on different variations, Derek suggested SONS OF APOLLO and it seemed to stick. Apollo is the God of Music so with that in mind it seemed like a fitting name.”

Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian and Billy Sheehan previously toured together in 2012 and 2013 as PSMS (along with guitarist Tony MacAlpine), playing all instrumental versions from each of their previously recorded music. SONS OF APOLLO is the next logical progression by adding a vocalist and creating all-original material. The band incorporates the progressive style and individual technical prowess that Portnoy & Sherinian shared together in Dream Theater combined with the swagger and groove of Van Halen, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

“I have known Mike and Derek for a long time, so when they came to me with Sons of Apollo, I jumped on this straight away,” says Thomas Waber, Label Manager/A&R International of InsideOutMusic. “However, the album they ended up recording exceeded my already high expectations by a long mile! We couldn’t be happier about it!”

SONS OF APOLLO will hit the road in 2018 for their first worldwide tour.



Visit the new Insideout Shop:

Marillion – Gazpacho

The Flower Kings – Flight 999 (Brimstone Air)

Ain Soph – Mizzle

Yuka & Chronoship – Dinosaurs:Suite (III – Ruler Of The Earth)

The Who – Eminence Front

Mike & The Mechanics – Word Of Mouth (East West Mix)

Kaipa – Vittjar

Can – Moonshake

Guy Manning – Margaret Montgomery (Acoustic)

Knifeworld – Clairvoyant Fortnight

Porcupine Tree – Signify/Signify II

Jump – The Eagle Has Landed

A.C.T – Cat Eyes

Major Parkinson – Madeline Crumbles

Rael Jones – Silflay


This news story was originally published here:

With news of a new studio album from Alan Emslie scheduled for late 2018 and with the new re-mastered editions of his first four releases appearing in April this year, it seems a timely opportunity to revisit the early years. Between 2001 and 2005 Alan Emslie released four albums, three under his own name and one, and my introduction to his work, as Soft Monster.

Alan Emslie? Re-mastered reissues? Composer, classically trained orchestral timpanist, drummer and multi-instrumentalist Alan Emslie, that’s who!

Primarily a drummer and percussionist, so the worry might be that his main instrument of choice may overtly dominate, but happy to report this is not the case and across these four albums, it is certainly an ace card, but not the full hand. With the help of some stellar guest performers and his crafty inclusion of electronica it makes for a varied and interesting deck.

Soft Monster – Floating

‘Sinking’ may be more appropriate in 2017, with a market awash with an endless stream of new music, it’s so easy to concentrate on the new and overlook the past. So these timely re-mastered re-releases from Alan Emslie come as a welcome opportunity to take stock and reflect on music that has sat in my burgeoning CD shelves for far too long – sadly without too much airplay.

Working chronologically we start with the calming keyboard wash that opens Soft Monster’s Floating album. As remarked upon, in the review I did of the album some fifteen years ago, this tranquillity is short lived as “…the drums just sort of explode after the delicate dreamy introduction and are reminiscent of perhaps Rush or Genesis.” Certainly Alan displays all the fire and gusto of Mr. Peart and Mr. Collins here.

A great opening statement and followed by the equally impressive Da Monstas which features guitarist and constant companion across Alan’s career, John Irvine. John adds some tasteful guitar, which we pick up for the first time here on track two. In fact John’s guitar is refreshingly thoughtful throughout the album, often restrained, but always harmonious to the surroundings.

Floating proves to be a very appropriate title, as much of the album does exactly that, mention here therefore of keys man Euan Drysdale who, along with Alan, lays down the fine canvas that the album rests upon. The title track is a prime example – superbly understated.

Mindful that there are another three albums to cover I’ll forego the somewhat tedious (to read) track by track look at Soft Monster’s album and simply move on to the summation.

Reading back through my review in 2002, I was perhaps a little misguided, or perhaps my tastes have changed? Either way, revisiting Floating has been an absolute pleasure and unlike 2001, when there was no audio to tempt, 2017 presents us with a golden opportunity to check out this album in it’s entirety via Bandcamp. I was impressed with Alan Emslie’s production values back in 2001, so the added clarity of the 2017 reissued re-masters is an added bonus.

01. Ooger (4:56)
02. Da Monstas (4:41)
03. Floating (6:25)
04. Pushing Free (7:24)
05. Doughnut Warden (4:20)
06. Approaching The Ice (8:21)
07. Behind The Dark Mirror Machine (4:46)
08. Three Rooms (4:43)

Total Time – 45:36

Alan Emslie – Drums & Percussion
Euan Drysdale – Keyboards
~ with
John Irvine – Guitar (tracks 2,4,6 & 8)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Scotland
Originally Releases: 2001
Date of Reissue: 13th April 2017

Alan Emslie – Emotive Bay

Released a year after Floating and under his own name this time around, but in many respects a sympathetic companion to that release. Alan is once again joined by guitarist John Irvine who adds some tasteful guitar to a couple of the tracks. Mention here of the John Irvine Band’s progressive jazz/rock albums – where Alan Emslie returns the favour and forms the formidable backbone for some stellar music. Taken from the Next Stop (2013) album – checkout the Means To An End drum recording video HERE.

BEWARE! – track by track review (albeit mercifully short ;).

The opening piece, Downforce, would have sat very comfortably on the Floating album, with percussive techno-synth, melodic synth hook-line and fiery drumming kicking the album off to a cracking start.

As might be implied, Emotive Bay takes a far mellower, tranquil course and during the next four pieces the emphasis is on mood and atmosphere. The title tune sets the mood, with Emotive Bay‘s rippling, early Genesis-like arpeggios and surrounded by swelling synth washes. In similar fashion this is followed by Watching The Waves, although this time bolstered by a solid, but unintrusive drum beat. Regardless of what the track’s title might conjure up, The Distortion That Drives Us is more in keeping with Vangelis and only John Irvine’s Gilmour-esque guitar takes us to other thoughts. Concluding this section of the album is the more up-beat Groovy Jelly, and as the title implies, it’s a groove driven piece.

Listening to both Floating and Emotive Bay it struck me how refreshing and valid both albums sounded. In this, dare I say, more diverse progressive climate, both albums might benefit from this broader spectrum of acceptance. Cue up the hypnotic, almost entirely percussive Quarqaba, barring the monastic chanting from Mr. Emslie to close. So a not entirely instrumental release and the tongue-in-cheek Something Wrong? gives our first real taster of AE’s vocals. Well he’s definitely no chanter – but with the lyric line…

“I hate singing so much… and my voice sounds like a loo brush”

… I gather he is aware of this fact. It’s refreshing to find a serious musician who is able to not take himself too seriously at times.

Okay, and mindful that once again I have drifted into a track by track scenario of the music I’ll swiftly take a quick look at the two concluding pieces. First up is the wonderful Beyond The 11th Dimension, with both Alan and John in fine fettle – BUT rather than waffle on I’ve linked the track from Bandcamp:

And finally We Went To Bed Too Late, “…a gently constructed ballad but without the inclusion of any vocals”.

I’m really glad Alan Emslie decided to re-issue his back catalogue, if for no other reason than it prompted me to listen to the albums again. And what a pleasure it has been.

01. Downforce (4:49)
02. Emotive Bay (3:14)
03. Watching The Waves (5:42)
04. The Distortion That Drives Us (8:01)
05. Groovy Jelly (4:39)
06. Quarqaba (4:12)
07. Something Wrong? (6:24)
08. Beyond The 11th Dimension (13:14)
09. We Went To Bed Too Late (4:32)

Total Time – 54:47

Alan Emslie – Drums & Percussion
John Irvine – Guitar

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Scotland
Originally Releases: 2002
Date of Reissue: 13th April 2017

Alan Emslie – Driven Heavy

With album releases in the previous two years, Alan returned again in 2003 with Driven Heavy. Again guitarist John Irvine is in the fold and joining the flock this time around are Greg Lawson on violin, Jo Nicholson’s bass clarinet and Pat Jackson’s bass trombone, the latter two perhaps a token gesture towards the lack of a bass player on any of his releases.

As the album title indicates, Driven Heavy is a more robust album than it’s predecessor, Emotive Bay, although the now familiar signature sound is still present. Other changes on Driven Heavy are the inclusion of vocals and a movement towards a more aggressive sound, a precursor to the heavier material Alan would eventually head towards.

Mindful that I have covered the previous two release in some depth, and not wanting to completely lose your will to live before covering the following two releases, I will focus on some of the album’s highlights. We start with the stunning Help Me – a track that really should be heard. So here we go…

Greg Lawson’s electric violin is truly emotive and beautifully underpinned by Pat Jackson’s processed bass trombone. As mentioned above, an odd quirk of Alan Emslie is that he doesn’t use a bass player, curious, but in no way detrimental to the music. Greg also features in two of the album’s other stand out instrumental tunes, the alluring Meditation and the Floydian Through The Valley.

There is much in the way of hidden depths and the longer I’ve had to revisit this album, the more has been revealed. The outro section Something In Your Eyes, for instance, is wonderful. Before leaving Driven Heavy, mention of the two final “bonus” tracks. Firstly Bitter Boy [Instrumental Mix] which stands up surprisingly well without the vocals. Secondly Downforce [Live Rehearsal] which appeared on the original release in the interactive section of the CD – an indication of how little of the releases are overdubs.

01. Bitter Boy (3:39)
02. Help Me (4:26)
03. Big One (4:41)
04. Meditation (4:21)
05. Simple Groove (3:54)
06. Causeway (5:26)
07. Through The Valley (4:58)
08. Something In Your Eyes (6:49)
09. Bitter Boy [Instrumental Mix] (3:39)
10. Downforce [Live Rehearsal] (4:54)

Total Time – 46:47

Alan Emslie – Drums & Percussion
John Irvine – Guitar
Greg Lawson – Electric Violin (tracks 2,4 & 7)
Jo Nicholson – Bass Clarinet (tracks 5 & 7)
Pat Jackson – Bass Trombone (track 2)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Scotland
Originally Releases: 2003
Date of Reissue: 13th April 2017

Alan Emslie – Dark Matter

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to re-visit Alan Emslie’s earlier work and in a relatively short period of time. What is evident, in hindsight, is that with each new album, Alan has progressed his sound and each release has shown a marked level of maturity, even if not all has suited this reviewer – but that is just a matter of personal taste. With the final album in this retrospective it’s also evident that Alan’s musical pathway was heading towards a heavier destination. This he has undertaken, since 2010 onward, with his Plastic Noose project, a much darker affair, releasing three albums, described as “Misanthropic Industrial Metal”. Despite this troubling title, the second album, Fractured Despondency revealed a rather absorbing listen.

Returning to Dark Matter, the opening two tracks echo previous releases, certainly within the dynamics and precision of the drums, and of course the fine guitar work of the ever present John Irvine. What Dark Matter does mark is a transition to a distinctly less studio-like recording and a more “live” and organic sound, something Alan will embrace wholeheartedly in his later releases. Alan also seems to have passed his “loo brush” vocal phase and adopted a punkish guttural approach to his vocalisation, which not only works in the heavier material but sits comfortably with the lighter tracks, epitomised during Dark Matter and Charon.

The title track, an instrumental, whilst retaining the more aggressive tone of the album, does tie in the previous releases nicely. With Alan’s fiery drumming, John’s great guitar work and sweeping synths, we have a track that might well have emerged from the Rush camp.

Similarly with the following track Charon, and as remarked in the review I undertook of Dark Matter back in 2005, there is a strong correlation across all four albums. “…Charon, at times it has the feel of a late ’80s synth pop song, but one that is continually interrupted and savaged by choppy driving metallic chords and a precise drum rhythm.” Topping it all off is a atmospheric guitar solo from John Irvine.

For those who enjoy their prog gritty, then Dark Matter is well worth investigating. The fact that Alan has a keen sense of melody, as we can hear clearly in All The Time, will also appease those who may struggle with the heavier end of the spectrum.

01. Misanthropic Myopic Man (5:47)
02. Incomplete (5:09)
03. Dark Matter (5:32)
04. Charon (6:36)
05. Living Monster (7:03)
06. All The Time (6:27)
07. On Your Knees (4:47)
08. Two Threads (3:10)

Total Time – 44:34

Alan Emslie – Drums, Percussion & Keyboards
John Irvine – Guitar

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Scotland
Originally Releases: 2005
Date of Reissue: 13th April 2017

And there we have it, Alan Emslie revisited in 2017. By way of a taster I’ve added a direct Bandcamp audio link to one track for each albums featured in this retrospective review – certainly well worth the few minutes of your time to check out some of the fine music available.

At the time of writing all the above albums, along with the Plastic Noose releases, are available on Bandcamp and with a “pay what you want” offer – it’s got to be worth taking the plunge.

As mentioned above there will be a new Alan Emslie album release in late 2018, but prior to this the new Plastic Noose album Enmity will be released on 21st December 2017.

Alan Emslie – Website | Bandcamp
Plastic Noose – Website | Bandcamp

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Jet Black Sea came into being in 2013 as a new musical project for Adrian Jones and Michael Simons, after they had been working in the studio with Adrian’s band, Nine Stones Close. It became apparent that they both wanted to explore other musical themes, using their individual experiences to enhance each other’s contributions, and the debut Jet Black Sea album, The Path of Least Existence, was released in November 2015 to critical acclaim.

Adrian and Michael describe their music as experimental, ambient and progressive with a dark edge, which has drawn comparison with Ulver, Nine Inch Nails, King Crimson, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. It is true that these influences and more can be felt in the music, but it definitely becomes clear that this is a sound created by Jet Black Sea.

There are seven songs here, which flow very well from the start to the finish of the album. The music is ambient, melancholic and dark at times, but there are always moments of beauty and melody woven through. Second albums can often be tricky affairs, but Adrian and Michael have created a work that is markedly different from the debut, but still identifiable as Jet Black Sea. All the songs were written by the duo with mixing, mastering and production handled by Paul van Zeeland.

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Two of the tracks are clearly influenced by the Apollo 13 mission, the first being the title track which follows on from the short Jumping to a Conclusion (part 1), its static effect start followed by a chiming guitar and atmospheric keyboards as the tracks segue nicely. The use of sound effects, in the shape of dialogue between Houston control and Apollo 13, help create the mood, along with the keyboards before a Floydian guitar cuts through. The closing track, 133 hours, so named for the length of time the world waited for the safe return of Apollo 13, offers up some feelings of hope.

Their previous album was instrumental, but here they have used vocals on two tracks, inviting Adrian O’Shaughnessy to sing on Cathedral and Tony Patterson on Hours Slip Into Days. This works well; Cathedral starts with sound effects creating the mood, accompanied by keyboards. The overall feel is somewhat dark, almost sinister, before the guitar comes in with a Floydian sound adding some brighter, grandiose textures. The vocals arrive after about four minutes, almost when you are not expecting any at all, helping to build to a climax before falling away to moody sound effects for the end. Hours Slip Into Days starts gently with a beautiful piano, Patterson’s voice giving a dreamy Radiohead feel to the proceedings.

There is a lot of variety within these songs, which may not be obvious at first but is revealed on repeated plays. Opener Wrong Turn with its ambient start has an unsettling but almost dance-like drum pattern, provided by Pieter van Hoorn, accompanying the drone of keyboards, changing to deliver a somewhat harder edge at the midpoint. The Sixth Wheel gives us a Tangerine Dream start, evolving into a Middle Eastern feel, guitar riffs added towards the end.

This is a masterful album, wonderfully crafted and created to provide the listener with a rounded experience, the seven songs working well together with a natural flow across the forty four minutes running time. Just the right length, creating enough interest to prompt you to jump up and hit repeat, and in doing so you will be rewarded with further hidden depths. An album worthy of investigation and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to review it.

01. Wrong Turn (4:18)
02. The Sixth Wheel (6:51)
03. Jumping to a Conclusion (part 1) (2:00)
04. Absorption Lines (10:54)
05. Cathedral (7:17)
06. Hours Slip Into Days (8:31)
07. 133 Hours (5:19)

Total Time – 44:52

Adrian Jones – Guitars
Michel Simons – Programming
~ With Guests:
Pieter van Hoorn – Drums
Brendan Eyre – Keyboards
Paul van Zeeland – Bass
Adrian O’Shaughnessy – Vocals
Tony Patterson – Vocals

Record Label: Freia Music
Catalogue#: THOR 40
Date of Release: 16th July 2017

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