Record Label & Sound Samples: Low Point (2012) LP049
Artist Website: https://sites.google.com/site/kylebobbydunn/
CD 1 Time: 57:34 CD 2 Time: 64:10
Tracks CD 1: 1) Canticle Of Votier’s Flats; 2) La Chanson De Beurrage; 3) Ending Of All Odds; 4) Douglas Glen Theme; 5) An Evening With Dusty; 6) The Hungover; 7) Diamond Cove (And Its Children Were Watching)
Tracks CD 2: 1) The Troubles With Trés Belles; 2) Innisfal (Rivers Of My Fathers); 3) The Calm Idiots Of Yesterday; 4) Parkland; 5) Complétia Terrace; 6) In Search Of A Poetic Whole; 7) Kotylak; 8) Moitié Et Moitié
I consider listening to Kyle Bobby Dunn’s work to be like how I imagine time travel could be; sitting in a chair in a dimly lit room, the button is pressed, and the journey begins. Then the walls and world around dissolve and nothing matters, but everything is there through the passage of time.
A Young Person’s Guide To…
Being a relative newcomer to KBD’s work (having A Young Person’s Guide To… , Ways Of Meaning, and this double CD), I find his work to be mysterious and boundless. I also sense in some of his writings (around the internets and within the liner notes of his albums) that KBD has a rather wry sense of humor (I note the “beurrage” and the stick of butter on CD 1)—an homage to the mundane, but pleasurable. The instrumentation (I have read) is mostly processed guitar, loops and treatments, yet throughout the album almost none of the sounds are readily identifiable—makes it all the more mystifying. The ethereal simplicity of the resonance belies its depth.
Ways Of Meaning
While his work can sound serious at times, there is a charming and timeless delicacy that instills a sense of wonderment and discovery, but without overt sentimentality. It is like being set free in weightlessness and seeing new things at every turn or blink-of-an-eye and wanting to see and hear more. There is also a sense of being at peace and a reverence to places (of note, Votier’s Flats, Douglas Glen and Diamond Cove; areas close together in the Calgary, Alberta, Canada locale…and is Innisfal actually Innisfail?). I think there are deeply cherished memories in this work.
This latest double-CD has a mix of long and short tracks. Canticle Of Votier’s Flats (in Fish Creek Provincial Park) is a short preamble to the journey. There is soft warmth in the slow layering of La Chanson De Beurrage and imagery of trains or ships in the far away during a deep night in Ending Of All Odds. There are some points where there are comparisons to the works of others (not SOTL!). There is a subtle idée fixe that appears in the Douglas Glen Theme that is reminiscent of An Ending (Ascent) from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks by Eno, Lanois & Eno (which just happens to be one of my favorite tracks from that 1983 album). And what about An Evening With Dusty? I smile.
Douglas Glen Theme and The Troubles With Trés Belles have the slightest of hints of sonorous brass similar to the recent Tape Loop Orchestra (Andrew Hargreaves – CD 2) album The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart. The latter KBD piece possesses a deeply held sense of another time and place, as if the journey is temporarily paused to have a look around…and to remember. The expansiveness of Parkland contrasts with the apparent visceral darkness of the introverted Complétia Terrace. In Search Of A Poetic Whole gracefully surges like an awakening. The album closes with two rather somber pieces and I speculate that Kotylak is a calm dissonant statement of reaction.
Works such as this take time to gestate—they’re not just knocked-out in the studio. Understanding memories (often appearing in dreams) are sometimes nebulous, and with time to ponder and sculpt, do clarify into ageless and timeless music such as this. The cinematic parallels are also clear…when I see the long takes of Tarkovsky’s Solaris (flowing water, sinewy highways…) it is as if KBD has translated visions into fluid sonorous existence.
This is powerful stuff and I would love to hear it live too.
Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red Label: CD/LP/Stereo/5.1Mix EANTCD #21002 46:20
Label Website: http://cherryred.co.uk/
Chris Squire Website: http://www.chrissquire.com/
Steve Hackett Website: http://www.hackettsongs.com/
Squackett Website: http://www.squackett.com/
Tracks: 1) A Life Within A Day; 2) Tall Ships; 3) Divided Self; 4) Aliens; 5) Sea Of Smiles; 6) The Summer Backwards; 7) Stormchaser; 8) Can’t Stop the Rain; 9) Perfect Love Song
Collaborators include: Roger King (album producer, keyboards, programming, and 5.1 Surround Sound Mix), Jeremy Stacey (drums), Amanda Lehmann (backing vocals), Christine Townsend (violin and viola), Richard Stewart (cello) and Dick Driver (double bass). Songwriting credits are Hackett/Squire/King with Nick Clabburn on Divided Self, _?_ Healy on Aliens, Gerard Johnson/Simon Sessler on Can’t Stop the Rain and Johnson on Perfect Love Song
PLEASE NOTE: Apparently, the Record Label has long since removed the track samples from Soundcloud, but I have since relocated the Divided Self Youtube clip.
It took a while to get to these fair shores, and I resisted listening to the previews…
Progressive Rock is by now a fairly broad genre and I am quite happy that it has seen resurgence in popularity recently, with both younger and older listeners (thanks in part to artists like Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree). At its worst, some Prog Rock tracks can carry on far too long and collapse under the weight of their own bombast, instrumentation or blatant commercialism, and at best can yield some really inventive music, pulling from a variety of influences and periods (rock, blues, folk, classical, instrumental, vocal…). This is not at all to say that longer pieces are all bad—far from it (my lasting fondness for the Genesis works Firth of Fifth or Cinema Show support this). Since my primary experience over the years has been with the works of Steve Hackett and Genesis, my point of reference is more Hackett than with Chris Squire and his band Yes.
This has been a busy and very productive time for Steve Hackett (SH), since the release of his album Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth in 2010. Chris Squire (CS) appeared, somewhat mysteriously, on the tracks Fire on the Moon and Nomads, and again on the 2011 SH album Beyond the Shrouded Horizon on tracks Looking For Fantasy, Catwalk, Turn This Island Earth and bonus CD tracks Four Winds: North and Enter The Night. Some may recall my recent review of SH’s album Beyond the Shrouded Horizon:
The Squackett project had apparently been brewing for about four years while SH could settle personal matters and scheduling with CS. I more or less parted ways with the works of the band Yes at about the same time that Bill Bruford left for King Crimson; I remained laterally interested in their subsequent releases and followed Jon Anderson’s earlier solo career before his work got a bit too mystical for my taste (although I enjoyed much of Anderson’s collaborative work with Vangelis).
Chris Squire’s work comprises some twenty studio albums, ten live albums and numerous compilations with Yes in addition to his three solo albums and many collaborative works with Rick Wakeman and others. The Yes Album is perhaps my strongest connection to CS’s work. The song I’ve Seen All Good People, and in particular part b: All Good People (penned by Squire) and then later the driving bass line in the song Roundabout from the 1971 album Fragile.
As for Steve Hackett, in his long career, he has constantly reinvented and explored many music genres, styles and formats (having practically invented the “unplugged” album with the acoustic/instrumental Bay Of Kings in 1983). SH has also explored shorter format songwriting, having penned beautiful ballads like the early Hoping Love Will Last (from Please Don’t Touch) to the sardonic Little America (from Guitar Noir).
A Life Within A Day may be too song-oriented for diehard Prog Rock fans that desire longer instrumental works. With one exception, eight of the nine songs vary from four to six minutes in length. Squire, Hackett and Roger King (long-time SH collaborator) have produced an album of concise, well-crafted and accessible songs. For the most part, the album takes few breaks and stays sharp with minimal forays into a more (and often dreaded, in Prog Rock circles) “commercial” sound. I appreciate that the songs are for the most part NOT overly polished; there are some rough edges, quick key and rhythm changes (Jazz and Blues fills). There are enough familiar Prog Rock elements present for this album to strike a successful balance between the shorter format and instrumentation.
A Life Within A Day: Although not as stark in instrumentation or spoken-word, the opener has an air of the SH song Darktown about it; majestic opening, sudden rhythm shifts, aggressive percussion, sharp guitar, bass solos and SH’s clustered vocals with Roger King’s sinister (and familiar) orchestral production. This is the most aggressive track on the album.
Tall Ships: A nylon string guitar opening followed by vamping guitar, bass and percussion riffs (constructed similarly to works penned by Mike Rutherford, but with sounds of Robert Fripp and Bill Nelson-like guitars) sail with this ocean-going journey. CS’s vocals coupled with a rather catchy rhythm, guitar reminiscent of Steve Winwood’s album Arc of a Diver followed by a broad vocal chorus—funky too.
Divided Self: Instantly, The Byrds Turn, Turn, Turn comes to mind—homage to the 1960s? SH sings lead vocals with an infectious rhythm, catchy and quick guitar solo chorus and melodic bass line. Following the main part of the song there is a hauntingly playful ending like that of SH’s Circus of Becoming (with whistling). Some might also notice a similarity to the Genesis song Tell Me Why. This is a great song!
Not An Official Video
Aliens: CS is the primary vocalist and there are times that this easily could be heard as a Yes track (the vocal chorus is akin to Jon Anderson’s sound); the lyrics being of future travels and science fiction. The keyboard opening is a bit timid. This also has a sound that is similar to the opening SH’s Loch Lomond (acoustic guitars sounding a bit like zithers). It remains relatively tame. Layered vocals and guitar solo fills.
Sea Of Smiles: Clustered vocal opening, melodic percussion, keyboards, bass line, up-tempo rhythm that repeats. A guitar solo coda that eventually develops into a dense almost relentless rhythm similar to Group Therapy from SH’s 1982 album Highly Strung.
The Summer Backwards: Is the shortest track on the album and it has a comfortable and reflective quality. The opening is very similar to one of my favorite vocal pieces by SH, Serpentine Song, descriptive of the scene—almost a waltz (trading three and four beats)—no pencil-grey days here though.
Stormchaser: Guitar, bass and drums open with more sinister vocal treatments; reminiscent of Duel from Till We Have Faces. It is the sound of raucous pursuit.
Can’t Stop the Rain: CS is lead vocalist, and at first the processed vocals threw me (auto-tune I find to be a bit distracting), and then the pleasantly layered vocal chorus by Amanda Lehmann washed that feeling away and the contrast seems to fit. It has a rather relaxing, but steady beat with Jazzy acoustic guitar fills. It then shifts to a more somber mood as it blends into a reflective…
Perfect Love Song: This piece seems to me to be more of a building coda to Can’t Stop the Rain than a stand-alone song. The vocals are shared by SH & CS.
Long distance and long-term collaborations are often tricky (compromises made and sometimes continuity lost). At times, A Life Within A Day seems a bit safe for Hackett, Squire and King aka Squackett who have been known as musical innovators throughout their careers. Yet it is a spirited gateway to the rest of their collective works and a solid introduction, I think, to a wider audience. A great change of pace, and I enjoyed many of the songs on this album, almost immediately.
Record Label: http://12k.com/ #12K1071
CD Time: 43:10
Artist Website: http://simonscott.org/
Tracks: 1) __Sealevel.1; 2) __Sealevel.2; 3) __Sealevel.3; 4) __Sealevel.4; 5) __Sealevel.5; 6) __Sealevel.6; 7) __Sealevel.7
Simon Scott has given us a great gift—finding music in nature, while the rest of the World is flashing by. Below Sea Level is not only an expansive work of academic and historic significance, but it captures the feeling and sounds of being in and near the Fens of East Anglia, UK. The work often abstracts the literal and produces a sense of contemplative reverence for an area that has endured great and tragic changes since the 17th Century, due to ill-advised human intervention over nature.
Simon Scott – Courtesy of 12k
I have been fortunate to explore some parts of this region (as far north as Stiffkey—both farm and fen). Taylor Deupree’s 12k record label has assembled this beautiful work including a deluxe edition (CD, illustrated hardbound journal, inked sketch by Scott and a 34 minute live recording download). I recommend purchasing this edition, though the CD alone is a fine alternative and is also beautifully packaged.
Below Sea Level is clearly an exploration with some very personal roots and memories, “Over the two years I visited the Fens to record, my childhood memories were reawakened and I realised as I explored a landscape that was personal to me, but contained unfamiliar and hidden acoustic details.”, writes Scott. With each track, the listener is taken ever-deeper into this mysterious landscape.
__Sealevel.1 is almost as if eyes open from a dream, and we are in the Fens, first observing from the outside before entering. The birds, insects, water underneath, and the drifting breezes fill the vision, as a lone electric guitar is the beacon for the marvelous journey. Other treatments and electronics weave their way into the flora and fauna.
__Sealevel.2 rises as of the morning sun, geese fly overhead and the fabric of the environmental and instrumental sounds is woven deftly and seamlessly. The attention to the production of this work is so masterful that it is often difficult to discern where the natural and synthetic begin and end. Water filters through, rhythmic buzzing and guitar arpeggios mesh together with ambient sounds and avian denizens. As this piece closes, first there is a building drone of sound and then it subsides into a hint of acoustic guitar.
__Sealevel.3 begins in the visceral depths (low frequencies) with birds aloft overhead. It’s the feeling of pushing deeply into the unknown of the mysterious Fens of peat while getting lost in the droning electronics and deep rumbling and distorted guitar before reemerging.
__Sealevel.4 is near the water, at the edges and down low. The instrumentation is reminiscent of flowing water weeds and marsh grasses as they pass by on the journey, ever-deeper into the marshland.
__Sealevel.5 begins with the shrill and mystical and then a return to an identifiable acoustic guitar theme, which to me, appears as the human element observing the landscape, before being absorbed again back into the sounds of the surroundings. The memories of Scott’s childhood seem to filter in with a short passage from a music box before fading.
__Sealevel.6 is dense with an almost sensory overload of sound; the layered and diverse gives a sense of the incredible simultaneous activity occurring even in this natural landscape.
__Sealevel.7 closes the work with a calming and melodic aquatic voyage, flowing slowly and soon returning to the ambient sounds of insects above the water that inhabit this expansive other-worldly realm.
In an era where the artist and their works are often undervalued (file-sharing, Spotify and the utter drivel being released by many of the corporate record labels), it is so heartening to see, yet again, an independent record label such as 12k paying tribute to a work such as this. Simon Scott has produced in Below Sea Level an authentic, thoughtful and informative work that is a real treat to behold and explore.