“Above the towers of prayer and hope
Polishing their Poundshop halos by the score
They’ve never seen the ground below
Whispering their fallacies behind closed doors.”
(A Million Heartbeats)
Some lyrics instinctively catch your attention; they have a unique and provocative ability to capture a mood, a feeling, a sentiment with a clarity and a focus which instantly conveys the meaning of what is being communicated. The searching lyrics woven in and through the ESP Project’s magnificent third studio album, The Rising, carry a beguiling beauty and an incisive gravitas which elevate this release into the realms of something special.
Damien Child possesses that uncanny ability to blend the alluring artistry of poetry with clear-sighted insights drawn from noticing episodes of the life we live and the state of the world in which we live.
“We are dandelion seeds
Floating on the winds of
Space and time
The parallel lines
Through hydrogen skies.”
The tranquil elegance of the observations are perfectly aligned with the penetrating vision we are being offered. Struggling in all the ways we can to make it through each day:
“I’m drawing lines around my ego
Doing all I can to face a better day
A fleeting carnival
An echo of a spark
For one, glorious life
Each moment is where we belong.”
(On Lunar Tides)
The entire album is infused, inspired and, indeed, animated by the playfulness of the language being used and the possibilities it opens for us to experience delicate moments of discernment and appreciation.
Lyrics alone, however, are nothing without a matching musical canvas against which they can spread and find expression. Tony Lowe’s songwriting is utterly intoxicating. Delightful soundscapes are entwined around sophisticated, carefully crafted structures. Alluring melodies echo across intense, shifting rhythms; gorgeous harmonic layers segue through wonderfully elegant shifts of mood and intensely creative changes of atmosphere. The sheer scale and extent of the musical vision is mesmerising.
On Lunar Tides is a dazzling example of what this album does best. The longest track at over ten minutes, the combination of changes, not just in rhythms and tempo but also in the shifting prominence given to the different instruments involved, contrasted with vocals which permeate each transition create a spell-binding ebb and flow to the musical experience.
The languid, teasing guitar and haunting vocal which open Stranger In My Skin has a chilled, dreamy mood before transforming into an upbeat chorus and refrain, sounding a note of temporary alarm and urgency before sinking back to the calmness of the original beat and a fantastic guitar solo which gently lifts and carries you along. Yet the urgency returns, this time transforming into a fast-paced, pressing rhythm building to a tingling crescendo.
In all of this, Greg Pringle’s drumming brings a seemingly effortless vitality and dynamism. The opening salvo of the title track is a disciplined injection of driving pace and sustained attack. This is mirrored in the glorious Flowers In The Snow; an upbeat burst of momentum drives the song forward until a natural entropy changes the velocity of the music to a more gentle, calmer beat. New World Disorder is a veritable clinic in the range of tones and textures it is possible to achieve with a drum kit. Formidable.
If you get the chance to isolate the basslines, Pete Clark provides something of a masterclass in the art of skilful and ingenious bass playing. The Rising in part isolates the bass for you, opening a window which lets you focus on a fabulous, pulsating bassline which underpins the entire track. A Million Heartbeats carries the same spirit and enthusiasm but this time yields to a more relaxed, refined and deft contribution. Once you hear and become aware of what he’s up to, listening to the subtlety and nuance he brings to each song adds a different character and dimension.
By the time we reach the end, music and lyrics blend as one in a glorious upsurge of hope and optimism: “Trust your heart / A new day is coming / Trust your heart”. The brilliant thing is, such is the depth of the emotion and the musical excitement of the journey we have been on, you believe it – whole-heartedly. “A million heartbeats turn a tide” leaves us with something to which we can aspire and a confidence that this is no wishful thinking.
This is an album brimming with invention and imagination, where exceptional instrumental artistry embraces a rich lyrical poetry to create tantalising musical sketches to surprise and delight in equal measure. Highly recommended.
01. The Rising (9:17)
02. Connected (5:44)
03. On Lunar Tides (10:49)
04. Flowers in Snow (6:41)
05. Stranger in my Skin (7:36)
06. New World Disorder (6:50)
07. A Million Heartbeats (6:40)
Total Time – 53:41
Damien Child – Vocals
Pete Clark – Bass
Tony Lowe – Guitars, Keyboards
Greg Pringle – Drums
Label: Sunn Creative
Format: CD, Digital
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 11th October 2019