[Release date 27.05.16]
The second solo album from Panic Room and Steve Rothery Band guitarist Dave Foster is a remarkably different beast from his excellent debut (Gravity, 2011). While the former was a showcase for his ability to deliver a comprehensive variety of guitar styles – and as a consequence sometimes felt like a collection of disparate, and for the most part instrumental, numbers Dreamless has a distinctly homogenous ‘band’ orientated feel.
Dinet Poortman steps forward from his debut to continue her lead vocal role on the majority of tracks, with Panic Room colleagues Anne-Marie Helder stepping in for two, Yatim Halimi playing most of the bass parts, and Jonathan Edwards providing piano on a couple of numbers. Other notable contributions include Mr So & So bandmates drummer Stuart Browne and singer Charlotte Evans on backing vocals, and Steve Rothery making a guest appearance on ‘Ache’.
Poortman’s role is fairly central to Dreamless, and coming more from the vocal school of Shirley Manson and Dolores O’Riodran she makes a welcome change from the androgynous ethereal style deployed by many contemporary female fronted prog bands. It fits particularly well with the opening pairing of ‘Cabello’ and ‘Amitriptyline’ – both dark and broody numbers with the latter laden with bludgeoning intent.
‘New York Rain’ offers a more conventional shimmering ‘pop’ delivery, Poortman’s vocals again impressing, with Jon Edwards adding some delicate piano touches and Foster delivering some lovely – all to brief – fade out bluesy guitar lines.
‘Black Sunrise’, one of the album highlights, simmers and boils with restrained power equal to that of Sabbath, with some suitably unrestrained axe wielding which, if Foster were ever to take the album on the road, is a sure crowd pleaser.
‘Lingering’ and ‘You Have No New Messages’ are almost folk, Poortman’s vocals again lending themselves well to the material, while the title track – a powerful slow burner – echoes Gilmour/Floyd, particularly in Foster’s vocals and those of backing vocalists Charlotte Evans and Sara Vernengo.
Steve Rothery and ex-Reasoning bassist Matthew Cohen step into the breach for another smouldering humdinger – ‘Ache’, with some blistering lead guitar work the perfect counterpoint to some particularly effective vocals shared by Foster and Poortman.
Poortman exits at this point Anne-Marie Helder taking over vocal duties for ‘Brahma’ and ‘Counting Clouds’. The former is another broody piece that builds to an incendiary crescendo, while the latter is a gentle, almost soft rock piece accentuated by Jon Edwards’ subtle piano lines underpinning Foster and Helder’s traded vocals.
The album closes out with ‘Morphine Sleep’ – a number performed entirely by Foster with experimental ambience bookending a central, typically Gilmour style mid-section. It’s a fitting end to what never really sounds like a ‘solo’ album. In many ways Dreamless is the album a younger David Gilmour might have made rather than the more recent, somewhat lim, Rattle That Lock. ****1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
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