The core trio of Joff Winks (guitar, vocals, piano, string arrangements), Matt Baber (keyboards, synths, drums, field recordings) and Brad Waissman (bass, Chapman Stick, upright electric bass) are back with their fifth studio album, alongside drummers Paul Mallyon and Andrew Booker, who have both previously been involved as well. I was impressed with their last release, 2018’s ‘Now We Have Power’, and was looking forward to hearing this one and I was not going to be disappointed. What makes this album work so very well indeed is the quality of the arrangements, with the guys somehow making their instruments seem much more than they are, with the bass tone, in particular, being incredibly wide and permeating through the songs. This gives the guys a wonderful framework to build on, so the drums hang off the side doing their thing while Joff and Matt twist through multiple styles and phases.
Nowhere is this truer than on the epic “The Yellow Ship”, which is more than 13 minutes long. In this we have some wonderful staccato moments, others where it is way more relaxed and drawn out, with the melodic lead switching throughout. There is a delicacy within their music, a restraint which seems almost fragile on the surface, and it is only as the songs progress that one can hear the strength within. “Pyramids” is a precious thing which sounds almost as if it is going to disappear with the acoustic guitar and keyboards providing just the right amount of support for the vocals, and it is only when the bass and drums come in that the listener starts to realise the power. This is one of the highlights of the album, really bringing us deep inside and allowing us to understand what is going on.
Someone asked me yesterday if people undertook active listening anymore, and although I replied in the affirmative, I do know there are many who no longer do so. This is an album which really benefits from the listener paying close attention, as otherwise much of what they are doing will wash right over, so when you have the time to really listen, sit and play this while concentrating on what is going on and you will be surprised just how much there is in there for you to discover. There is a beauty within this which is an absolute delight, and while not the most in your face progressive rock you will come across, it is certainly worth investigating.