MobiUS - Make The Promise,
Here we have the debut album by mobiUS (their capitalization), a band who are inspired by Pink Floyd, Yes and Porcupine Tree. Keyboard player Tim Newcombe started thinking about creating this band as long ago as 2012, but never managed to really get it off the ground. Then in 2020 he met bassist Alistair McCaig at a music venue in the South of England, and during their conversation they realized that by combining their talents (Alistair also knows his way around a studio) they may well have the basis of a band. Tim had played sessions with drummer Andy Clifton and knew by reputation guitarist/vocalist Andy Hughes and the band was born. The advent of lockdown meant there was no opportunity to work together in person, so Tim wrote and distributed the material to the rest of the guys who all recorded remotely and then it was mastered by Alistair and here is the result.
Given that this is a new band who had not undertaken much work together prior to lockdown, perhaps it is not surprising that there are some rough edges and lack of connectivity here and there, yet there are also times when the listener can hear that this is a band of some promise. I note they have been put in the neo-prog subcategory on PA, and as a whole I would probably agree with that, but there are also times when they almost fit into Heavy, others JRF and also others when they are most happy in Crossover. Only four tracks, which strangely all decrease in length while increasing where the first word of the title is in the alphabet: I am not sure if that is deliberate, but it is the first time I have come across it.
Therefore, we start with the longest song on the album, “Odyssey”, which is more than 19 minutes in length. It is always brave for a band to start with a song like this, especially if it is a debut and even more so if it is with an instrumental, yet it comes over really well and for me is certainly the highlight of the album. If I was going to point to influences on this one, then Rick Wakeman, ‘Animals’ period Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre and Alan Parsons Project are the ones which immediately spring to mind. There is plenty of lush piano, as well as times when Tim just holds down chords on the synths to allow Andy Hughes to have a blast. Underneath we get some funky bass and drums interaction, while Tim also provides a little bit of vocoder, before allowing us to hear some nice jazz tinklings. It is hard to realise that this was recorded remotely as it really does feel as if the band were bouncing off each other in the same room. The song is divided into multiple sections, which allows differing melodies and phrases to be introduced which keeps it interesting throughout.
This is followed by the eighteen-minute long “Rain Another Day”, with reflective piano and a very different take indeed. Andy Hughes sings gently and high in this, and I strangely find myself being reminded of classic Styx when Dennis DeYoung was providing his slower ballads with Tommy and JY just picking in the background. It swells and develops, and just as it starts to climax, Tim’s wife Louise provides some wonderful delicate and emotive sax. Unfortunately, this then becomes an Eighties number with dated keyboard patches and those annoying electric drum sounds which used to be everywhere on pop records back then. One can still hear the base of a good song underneath, but here they lose their way somewhat, which is where having everyone in the studio and an outside set of ears makes such a huge difference. When it turns back into a rocker it becomes far more interesting (and there is a wonderful bassline hidden underneath), but it feels stretched further than it should have been, and if this had been heavily edited it would have been way more powerful.
“So They Tell Me’ is just over 10 minutes long and starts with narration, which continues into the song itself. Here the band are far more jazzlike in their approach, with fusion having a much bigger part to play. The lengthy instrumental passages work better than the vocal sections, where Andy is putting on a show, and pushing the melodies farther than they should. We end with “Spider”, which seems relatively short at just five minutes. This commences with some lush synths, creating a curtain of sound, then the bass and drums start driving it along. This is both the heaviest and most commercial song on the album, with the guys providing solid support to some great guitar solos.
It will be interesting to see what happens from here, with the band being able to work together and play gigs, and we will see what comes next. As it is, this is an interesting debut with some strong sections, and “Odyssey” is certainly worth checking out.