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New Album Reviews - The Pineapple Thief, Anathema & Demians

The Pineapple Thief – Someone Here Is Missing  (Kscope)

thepineapplethief.com

I have to admit that because of not being totally convinced by the band’s previous release, Tightly Unwound (2008), I wasn’t going into this album with high expectations. That is why I was so thoroughly and pleasantly surprised! I hadn’t even decided to buy the album until a friend posted the video clip for the album opener Nothing At Best on my facebook profile. I was hooked instantly.

Someone Here Is Missing”is the bands 8th studio album since founding in 1999 as a musical outlet for front man Bruce Soord. After only a couple of band changes though it’s 11-years in existence, the Sommerset-based band now consists of Bruce Soord (guitars, lead vocals), Jon Sykes (bass, backing vocals), Keith Harrison (drums), and Steve Kitch (keyboards).

They’ve been with the post progressive Kscope label since 2008. In fact Tightly Unwound was the inaugural release for that label.

Many reviewers consider this album to be much “punchier” than their previous releases. This is clearly demonstrated by the pounding opening track Nothing At Best.

 

One of the unfortunate aspects of reading or hearing reviews of albums, including my own, is the inevitable comparison to other artists. TPT is not immune to this either I’m afraid. Many of their critics suggest they are Radiohead / Porcupine Tree wannabes, and pinch a lot of their sound from band such as those. One critic even suggests that Bruce Soord sits around waiting for the next Steven Wilson piece to copy.

I try very hard to judge bands on their own merits, but I definitely couldn’t help but make the Thom Yorke and Billy Corgan comparisons from the vocals. While the combined experimental psych and heavy riffing of Preparation For Meltdown does indeed have an early Porcupine Tree feel to it. Although it’s not a copy, I can think of far worse sounds to try to emulate. Keep in mind that Steven Wilson blatantly plagiarised parts of Pink Floyd’s Time in Porcupine Tree’s last album The Incident, even naming the track Time Flies. If it’s good enough for the godfather of modern Prog, we surely can’t be too critical of TPT sounding a tad like other bands.

Special note should be made of the artwork on this album, designed by the legendary Storm Thorgeson, probably best known for designing the cover for Dark Side Of The Moon. The album’s mini-site, via www.kscopemusic.com/tpt has Bruce describing the process of having his lyrics in post-it note form pasted all over his body for the photo shoot for the cover. He says:

“Storm usually doesn’t like the ‘band’ featuring in his work, so imagine my surprise when he said it was ok for me to transform into Mr Post-it™ for the album cover.  Even though I’m covered head to toe, the guy who engineered SHIM said he knew it was me the moment he saw the cover. So there you go!

I remember the day – I got the dawn train from Yeovil to the venue, a house near Putney in London. The train broke down in Salisbury, about 40 minutes into my three hour journey. I waited for the next one, which was packed to the rafters with other stony faced, stoic souls. By this time I was feeling rather the worse for wear due to the excesses of the night before. No seat and no coffee compounded the situation. Still, I eventually got to Putney where I met Scott from Kscope (their chief designer) and with the help of his iphone, we eventually found the venue, a tad late.

The Post-it™ notes were there waiting for me, hundreds piled on the table, with my lyrics scribbled all over them.  It was quite unsettling to see my soul exposed like that, let alone when they started sticking them to my face. But by this time I didn’t care, my health was deteriorating rapidly and I was focusing all my energies on preventing last night’s intake popping out over the floor, which would have been a tad embarrassing. I think that helped Mr Post-it™ look so enigmatic! Although if they had caught the moment on camera I bet Storm would have loved it.

Luckily, I managed to hold it together for what seemed like an eternity, the sun came out and the guys got a great shot which became the front cover. Scott and I then bid the Storm crew farewell and had a well earned pint down the road at the Half Moon in Putney, a favourite venue for The Pineapple Thief over the years. A fitting way to end the day.”

Rather than being a full prog album, Someone Here Is Missing is more of a straightforward pop rock album with enough experimentation to keep me interested from start to finish. I was only slightly disappointed by the repetitive nature of some of the tracks. I prefer to be consistently surprised. And the contrast between their earlier sound and today’s is bound to draw criticism from long time fans who’ll feel they have deviated too much from their more epic roots. I however, having only being turned on to TPT since their Tightly Unwound album in 2008, feel this is a much better effort and look forward to the next one. This album is not a grower, it hits you between the eyes and if you’re going to like it, you’ll like it instantly.

Dwayne's Rating - 4 Mellotrons


Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here (Kscope)

anathema.ws

As a self-confessed Steven Wilson tragic, I must admit that the initial appeal of Anathema’s We’re Here Because We’re Here was due to the fact that Wilson was mixing it. It is released in a digibook version and contains a 5.1 surround mix, so at only a few extra dollars, I question why anyone would go for the standard release?

The only other Anathema release I have in my collection is their last album, released in 2003, A Natural History. While I played it a couple of times, it never really grabbed me in the way I expected to, considering the amazing things that are said about them. But on a recent re-listen, I get the point of it now. It’s more about blending rock with ambience than anything else. And being a guitar fan foremost, ambience is something that sometimes has to grow on me.

Considering Anathema formed in Liverpool England as a gloom metal band in the early 90’s, this would have to be a group that has strayed from their original extremely heavy roots more than any other. And for taking the chance to do that, you have to respect them at the very least. Or maybe they have nothing to lose. They have been drip-feeding fans for the last 7 years with download singles to help fund their music while they have been without a label. Now they have signed to Kscope, and the result, We’re Here Because We’re Here, is a spiritual journey indeed, both in its ethereal and uplifting sound, and in its philosophical lyrical content.

The concept of We’re Here Because We’re Here is one of coming to terms with one’s own mortality. It is an interesting and highly philosophical idea and one that contradicts my own on some levels and agrees with it on others. Connecting with spirituality via music is something generally done subconsciously, but Anathema here is bringing the sub-conscious firmly into the conscious, which I guess is what ambient music is all about. But this is more than just ambient music, the lyrical content blends seamlessly with the music and takes you well and truly on a journey, so in terms of progressive rock, this checks many of the boxes. Don’t listen to this at the airport whatever you do, you might find yourself on the Astral plane!

I am sure you’ll be impressed with Anathema’s latest offering, if for no other reason than to hear how incredibly diverse their musical styles can be. If you’re buying it because Steven Wilson is involved with it you may be disappointed if you’re looking for a similar sound to Porcupine Tree. However there are elements that reminded me of his Insurgentes album. But they are simply production techniques and if they work well, why not use them again? If your into ambience, introspection and mystical spirituality, then you’ll love We’re Here Because We’re Here. 

Dwayne's Rating - 4 Mellotrons


Demians – Mute (Inside Out)

demians-empire.com

I interviewed the man behind Demians, Frenchman Nicolas Chapel, last year about his first album Building An Empire. We got talking about my musical preference tending towards the darker and heavier elements of rock music. He replied mysteriously “You’re going to love my new album.” I say he replied mysteriously because he wouldn’t say any more about it. And that sums up Nicolas Chapel. He is very private and almost reclusive when it comes to his music. There was even a track on Building An Empire that he refused to speak with me about because it was too personal for him to share.

That was over 12 months ago. I have been anxiously awaiting this album ever since. This week it arrived. And it doesn’t disappoint. If the first album was accessible for its amazing production values (considering this is a one man show) but relatively conservative lyrical content, Mute hits you right between the eyes within the first 30 seconds with its raw aggression. It screams “follow me into this record if you dare”.

Nicolas claims Toris Amos, Radiohead and ambient music in general as his influences. A big nod must and does go to the boys from Porcupine Tree. Not only did Steven Wilson give Demians’ first album a huge endorsement that caught this listener’s attention, but Nicolas Chapel formed a live band to tour his music and has supported none other than the legendary Tree on many of their appearances in France. In terms of endorsement, you can’t get much better than that.

Nicolas did say to me in our previous interview that he doesn’t like touring much. He much prefers to work on his own in his studio playing all the instruments, with no other egos getting in the way.

He’s not immune to the personal effects of his hermit-like approach to music though, which could be interpreted from a line from Rainbow Ruse: “Quick to judge me, yet so slow to understand.”

Notable on Mute are some of Demians’ other influences, none demonstrated better than the eastern musical backdrop incorporated into Overhead.

Mute comes packaged in a beautiful six panel pocket-pack with die-cut cover. This gives it the look and feel of the old vinyl cover that hopefully is coming back into fashion. Downloads be gone!!

Demains has managed to not so much reinvent itself as expand its horizons. Nicolas Chapel has been quoted in Prog magazine as having over 300 songs to choose from for his first album. He was then going to start right from scratch with his second album. So Mute is much more of an original work in a way, in that Building An Empire was basically a collection of what was left of the tunes that Nicolas felt were his best songs at the time. The new album more readily focuses on a consistent mood throughout, and therefore makes a better if slightly less accessible album in my opinion. It’s accessible to me because as I said earlier I’m more inclined to raw sound anyway, but it’s definitely one to add to your 2010 collection. 

Dwayne's Rating - 4.5 Mellotrons

2 comments:

Phil said...

Copuldnt listen in this eve as the stream wasnt working! Im hoping to track down these albums in the next week or so.

Jek said...

You'll love 'em Phil!!

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