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A. Willans (UK)

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Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float
Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float
Price: 9.15

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars calmer waters?, 7 Sep 2010
Reviewing an Oceansize album in its first week of release is always going to be a tricky and wildly inaccurate exercise. Using the epic Frames as reference point, and applying the clichéd Pandora's box notion, you can revisit this score and add an extra point per month until your preferred numerical value is achieved.
Early reviews using track duration as a measure for accessibility are, in my humble opinion, lazy journalism. I doubt we'll be seeing Oceansize on "The One Show" just yet. Thankfully.

Serving as a coarse welcome mat to the new album, "Part Cardiac" sets out with almost deliberate glee to warn off any criticism relating to the softening of the new soundscapes. Devoid of hook or chorus its pounding, dirty, downward progression is accompanied by what can best be described as a lyrical exorcism. So you thought this was going to be an easy ride? Not just yet, a glove slap to rattle the senses is required first.

In stark contrast to the opening middle finger salute, "Superimposer" is probably the most accessible and radio friendly track on the album. It successfully combines a series of signature riffs and sounds from the back catalogue, but still has something fresh to say. The message is delivered in a timely fashion, tickling all the right spots but never quite reaching the peaks that clearly require a bigger climb.

"Build us a rocket then..." hits you with wave after wave of fresh, frenetic, elevating riffs. This reminded me of The Mars Volta when they were in their prime. Not that this sound is borrowed, far from it, but that essence of raw energy is present in abundance. Speeding along at a blistering pace this one left me reeling, and reaching....for the repeat button.

There's time to come up for air as Mike delivers his hauntingly beautiful "Oscar acceptance speech". A vocal showpiece with melancholy overtones to sooth the battered soul. The second portion of this track would not sound out of place as a film score with its gentle and lovingly crafted outro setting the tone for the next chilled track to amble in.

Retrained drum work introduces the watery jazz club at the end of the universe that is "Ransoms". Dip your feet in the sea for a moment and enjoy this rather sedate midpoint to the album. Dark lyrics offset this tranquil escape though, so maybe this is the Oceansize take on what constitutes "the blues".

"A penny's weight" is an ethereal duet that is perfectly balanced with the additional vocals of Claire Lemmon. Without digging too deeply into the lyrics I suspect this may be a gentle exit theme for our end of days. If so, it paints a rather serene portrait with almost childlike innocence.

"Silent/Transparent" is without doubt my favourite track so far from the new album. This is the song that, when performed live will leave a crowd in stunned silence before they can even comprehend applause. The first portion of the song, beautiful as it is, simply lays the foundations for the wave upon wave of guitars that give the album its tallest peak. This is the Oceansize that sends a shiver down my spine and has me gurning like an MDMA fuelled Cheshire cat. If you don't feel it after this one, you're probably looking in the wrong place.

After being left suspended in mid air the next track throws out a brief lifeline with another gentle opening riff. No sooner is the listener firmly lassoed and "It's my tail and I'll chase it if I want to" delivers its full sonic blast. Screaming backing vocals compliment an almost Michael Stipe style narrative delivery while the guitars and bass patiently wait for their moment to pounce. Mark is finally unleashed behind the kit and the percussion keeps everything belting along at a pace that will again leave you wanting more.

"Pine" won't scratch that metal itch, but again welcomes warm vocals set to another semi orchestral sounding track. Some subtle tremolo guitar waves again wash against the back drop of this gentle offering.

A treacle rich bass groove underpins this final track for those without the limited edition version. "Superimposter" is another exercise in restraint, and ultimately time will be the real judge of whether this is a suitable bookend to the album or a slightly downbeat signoff. Being a bass player my opinion here is more than a little biased to the former.

In conclusion this is a fantastic album from one of the UK's finest. I can't wait to see then perform live in Newcastle next week. Sure these are calmer waters than we've come to expect, but the peaks are still present and when they deliver it can easily rival the dizzying altitudes achieved in Frames. This is week one after all, and albums like this are built for far longer journeys.

Pariah the Parrot the Delusion
Pariah the Parrot the Delusion
Price: 16.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Looking for a saviour?, 24 Jun 2009
Being an avid fan of Dredg since Leitmotif the air was indeed heavy as I dove into this new album.

"Leitmotif" was and still is a work of pure genius. "El Cielo" refined the bands eclectic mix of influences further and added a touch of skywalker ranch polish to the delivery. The tricky third album "Catch Without Arms" was a mixed bag in my humble opinion, with moments of exceptional song writing and performance occasionally marred by too much art college contemplation. I had fingers and toes firmly crossed as I hit play for the first time on a sunny drive to work...

There are so many reasons why you should own this album and so few words available for me to accurately attribute the praise it deserves. Existing fans will love it regardless of when they first discovered the band's music. Newcomers will be introduced to the distinct Dredg soundscape in an album that is once again produced to highest acoustic standards and adorned with meaningful prose in every lyric.

To lay too much praise on any member of Dredg would in some way devalue the contributions of the others. Let's just say the musicianship is top notch throughout, a tight and focused family unit that most bands can only ever aspire to become.

The album wears it's "concept" theme with pride and its tale is one that is handled with maturity and an overall feeling of love and forgiveness. Bold, brave and totally intriguing. As the pages on the songs were turned I never wanted it to end. Sadly it had to. The fall of many albums with such a strong narrative becomes apparent when individual tracks are re-visited. Thankfully this is not the case here. The songs have a life and purpose of their own. Each one with the strength and identity to recreate the desired emotion away from the collective. Beautifully crafted.

Never dipping too far into the heavier moments from the first two albums it still manages to capture all the right peaks and "shiver" moments in the chorus sections. Continuing to layer sounds to create a crescendo that you would never imagine a four piece to achieve. Seeing them perform live is an equally awe inspiring experience. I only hope they include more UK dates on their next tour.

Thank you Dredg! For another album that will hold a special place in my heart.

See you in Sacramento :)

Fear Of A Blank Planet
Fear Of A Blank Planet
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: 14.40

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Musical Pandora's Box, 13 April 2007
This review is from: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Audio CD)
Firstly I totally agree with the previous comments that this band has earned its deserved reputation through a lot of hard working years in the industry. What is most incredible is that the quality of their output is constantly of such a high standard, and if there are any cracks they certainly aren't visible here. When you finally prise Deadwing from the HiFi you'll be greeted with a killer acoustic riff that signifies the next stage in the journey.

Definitely a "concept" album (cough...) but in perfect Porcupine Tree style, there's some very clever weaving on display here with lots of musical references to previous PT songs and shed loads of cheeky hidden reminder riffs throughout the 6 new songs. A genuine musicians paradise, but still very accessible throughout. I take my hat off to MR Wilson yet again, this could well be my album of the year and its only April.

As predicted, "Fear of a Blank Planet" is my current fav but only because of its familiar warmth (Deadwing 2?) and superb lyrics. "My Ashes" is the vocal showcase vehicle for those signature harmonies and provides a chance to gather your thoughts before diving into the main course that is "Anesthetize". This may well be referenced as the "Arriving Somewhere" of this album but to comment at this early stage would be denying the song its chance to fully unravel. I will say that its 17+ minutes are a thing of beauty. Sombre and reflective in places, and brutal in others. The intro alone had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. You know you are in for a ride and pay off is worth its weight in gold. Long songs can be a mixed bag but thankfully PT have the experience and skill to fully justify its lengthy running time. "Sentimental" was already lost in a sea of new information that simply can't be processed in such a short time. I did note the reference riff from "Trains" and I'm sure this one will be a grower. "Way out of here" starts on a misleading downer before hammering in with one of the best riffs on the album. After the first chorus the tempo is upped and we're right back on track with yet another crowd pleasing anthem. This theme is then carried over to the final track "Sleep Together". Its pounding bass lines and synth's are put to full effect and round off a fantastic album that will have you wondering where that 50mins disappeared to and skipping straight back to track 1 to start all over again.

For those new to Porcupine Tree this is truly a great time to be introduced. Fans of Deadwing and In Absentia will see this as the natural progression of an already accomplished and criminally underrated band. I strongly urge anyone interested in this genre to give them a try. They're the UK equivalent to Tool and that's highest praise I can offer.

Live at the Fillmore
Live at the Fillmore
Price: 7.91

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sonic mind candy from a band at the peak of their creativity!, 14 Nov 2006
This review is from: Live at the Fillmore (Audio CD)
Live albums are always a mixed blessing for me. On the one hand you get a glimpse at the magic you may have seen onstage in person, but the trade off is usually a reduction in audio quality that more often than not taints what was previously a cherished memory. Not so here. The quality of this recording is exceptional. Vocals are clear and perfectly imbedded in the mix preventing the usual ethereal qualities that most recording suffer from. The guitar is equally well handled and drifts seamlessly from haunting subtlety to gritty punchy power chords (Of the Room). Being a bass player myself I always take issue with the lack of presence in live recordings, but again Dredg have struck a blinder with the production offered here. Pounding grooves are perfectly captured and even surpass the studio produced albums in terms of bass presence. The only chink in an otherwise unblemished suit of armour is with the drums. They still sound fantastic and the overall balance is great but having seem Dredg live at this years Download festival I have a personal reference for just how good they could have sounded. It's a minor point but worth mentioning for any hardcore skin beaters out there.

Overall this recording perfectly captures the soundscape of a band at the top of their game. The musicianship is tight and focused throughout and no time is wasted with ultimately hollow political statements or patronising audience pandering. Dredg are a much sharper band than most and choose to leave the message within the music as apposed to spoon feeding the listener with the obvious. All the best material from "Leitmotif", "El Cielo" and "Catching Without Arms" is present and beautifully weaved into a tapestry that serves as so much more than a collection of songs. Dredg have managed to create an experience, and a damn fine one at that. It's a rare occurrence that a band can so competently capture the live experience and hand it back to the fans for repeat performances. "Live at the Fillmore" is a success in all these areas and the feelings of community, love and a passion for the creative are just as present in this recording as they are in the live show. Astounding.

Catch Without Arms
Catch Without Arms
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 7.68

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Predictable and far too accessable for its own good..shame., 24 Jun 2005
This review is from: Catch Without Arms (Audio CD)
I'm a huge Dredg fan and perhaps I'd built this album up too much in my head but last night my hopes were shattered by an over produced, formulaic shot at the mainstream. Some people will love this album. Its beautiful, uplifting soundscapes have been crafted into 4 minute verse/chorus mini anthems. But loyal fans who have journeyed through "Leitmotif" and "El Cielo" will find the lack of any real challenge on behalf of the listener frustrating and the over produced instrument sounds quickly outstay their welcome thanks to an over reliance on building swirly,delayed,fast picking quitar noise. I cannot help but feel like a management meeting was called after "El Cielo", perhaps the band were asked to pick a direction and stick to it in order to attract a wider audience? By choosing one path for a whole album they have lost that eclectic mix of styles and influences that made the first two albums so special and unique.
On the plus side of things "ode to the sun" opens the album perfectly and shows that the band is in no hurry to hide its origins."the tanbark is hot lava" also stands out as being in touch with the creative and quirky sound blast that was "Leitmotif", and "sang real" is simply heart wrenchingly beautiful in its message and execution.(so much so I'd put it top of the playlist) All's not lost yet and I'll put this down to that "tricky third album" thing. I just hope the Dredg boys switch back to whatever mindscape crafted two of the finest cd's to grace my hi-fi.

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