Esoteric Antenna/Vibrola Records [Release date 15.09.14]
Every so often an album shows up that takes you completely by surprise.
I don’t know why, but my expectations of Tin Spirits second album were not that high – despite the fact that XTC/Big Big Train fretmeister Dave Gregory is on board.
I think, perhaps, it was because a few critics had likened the sound to ‘Discipline’ era King Crimson – a band whose forays into jazzy avant-garde noiseathons (and the critics’ sycophantic fawning thereof) have always brought to mind the Emperor’s new clothes.
The truth, happily, is that ‘Scorch’ sounds nothing like KC.
If touchstones are required I would suggest a marvellous musical amalgam of XTC (inevitably), Wishbone Ash and Yes with just a soupçon of ‘90s indie-rockers The Sundays – but all progged up to the max, and which is as musically enthralling as it was surprising.
Recorded in the ‘old-fashioned’ way with faders set to ‘stun’ and with Paul Stacey (Black Crowes, Noel Gallagher) in the mixer’s chair, the first thing that hits you is the quality of the recording which has a real live ‘in your face’ feel about it – and which is nothing less than the excellence of the music deserves.
Eight tracks in all and every one a gem in its own way – from the pounding rhythms of instrumental opener ‘Carnivore’ to the dreamy pastoral loveliness of ‘Summer Now’ and from the anthemic ‘Old Hands’ to the jazzy guitar figure of ‘Little Eyes’ the band are sure-footed and confident both in the material and their musical capabilities.
Nowhere is this more obvious than on the epic fifteen minute closer ‘Garden State’ – a real progressive tour-de-force whose effortless switches of mood and tempo, acoustic flourishes and stunning guitar work tied in with the outstanding vocal work of Mark Kilminster push it forward as the best of an exceptional bunch.
In summary, ’Scorch’ is so much more than a mere side-project of XTC, Big Big Train, etc. It really is melodic progressive rock at its finest – and in what is a genre chock-full of great bands making great music there is no better accolade.
Review by Alan Jones
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