added: 12 Feb 2013
// release date: 12 Feb 2013 // label: Esoteric Antenna
reviewer: Andy Snipper
A full length album with 5, count ‘em 5, tracks, the engineer named as part of the band and a track called ‘Fridge Full of Stars’ – it could only be prog.
When I first heard about Lifesigns I was a little sceptical. Nick Beggs was with Kajagoogoo for pete’s sake – mind, he was also with about a hundred other acts including Gary Numan, Toyah Wilcox and Steves Hackett & Howe. John Young, ex of Greenslade, Asia, Scorpions, John Young Band – hmm, this is looking interesting. Frosty Beedle on drums – crikey, these guys have more than history.
Ok, joking aside, this is a stunning example of when Prog gets it right. Glorious melodies and complex interplay of musicians and instruments, massive soundscapes and imagery that knocks you on your ass – all those things that can be so deadly dull when they aren’t done with the quality of playing and the sheer integrity that these four guys (cannot leave out Steve Rispin – the engineer) bring to the music.
But it is never, never, po-faced. There is a sense of wonder in the vocals and the harmonies and when ‘Lighthouse’ kicks off with a ton of sonic imagery before building to a peak you can close your eyes and follow pulsing of the light as it beams out across the wastelands. There are mood swings and changes in tempo – even becoming threatening at times – just like our lives and the universe we inhabit.
The music is predominantly keyboard based but even the ‘simple’ combination of Voices, Keys, Bass & Drums manages to create complexities that are shockingly dense as you look more deeply into them even though the album is still listenable to even at a more subtle level. The guests on the album include Steve Hackett on guitar, Thjis Van Leer on flutes on ‘Fridge Full Of Stars’ and Sir Robin Boult.
Prog was, rightly, derided for becoming bloated and losing touch with its audience, becoming interested more in complexity and difficulty than exciting the listener. This album is an example of that same complexity used in the best way – to involve and to take the listener to the same place that the musicians were heading. The album took 5 years to come to fruition – not because of the usual ridiculous attention to detail but because all the band members are busy with other projects – but always seemed to be moving forward as all the band were completely committed to the idea of bringing the music they loved to the attention of a generation who are beginning to throw off the shackles of the disposable culture and take on music that satisfies the sopul and the brain. .
Imperious, simply great music.
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