Tony Lowe and Mark Brzezicki’s collaborative project, ESP, may have finally captured the spirit and sound of the music that I, and many others of my generation, grew up with. Their new album Invisible Din, set for release in November, is a wonderland of sounds that will take you back to a different era.
Multi-instrumentalist Lowe has previously worked with such creative talents as Julian Lennon, Roger Daltry, Simon Townsend, The Pet Shop Boys and Julien Clerc, to name a few, as well as producing many projects including Bram Stoker, David Cross & Robert Fripp and John Foxx. Brzezicki is best known as the drummer for Big Country, but he has also worked with Phil Collins, Sting, Procol Harum, The Cult and Ultravox’s Midge Ure.
With their vast experiences and the friendships these two musical creators have developed over the years, the outcome of any new collaboration is expected to be stellar. However, they have brought in additional talents to kick the quality of this masterpiece up several notches with guest performances from the likes of David Cross (ex-King Crimson), David Jackson (ex-Van der Graaf Generator), Phil Spalding (Elton John, Mike Oldfield), Steve Gee (Landmarq, John Wetton), John Young (Asia, Fish, Paul Rodgers), John Beagley (Simon Collins, Tom Kraus), Yumi Hara (Daevid Allen, Chris Cutler), Pat Orchard and long-time Tony Lowe associate Alison Fleming who provides some enchanting vocals.
The cover image was created by Gerd Altmann with design and layout by Cheryl Stringall, the inside panel adapted from original artwork by Mark Brzezicki. The intricate story and lyrics were written by Tony Lowe and Alison Fleming, and this is how Lowe describes the concept: “The songs evoke a man’s childhood memory of illness and a ghostly, healing presence of beauty as he ventures into the realms of the astral world. The music and lyrics encompass the yearning we have for that elusive other, the dream partner, crossing the line between reality and fantasy as he ventures into the unknown.”
Invisible Din kicks off, as all good prog concept albums should, with an Overture of soaring guitars punctuated by Tony Banks–like keyboards and piano with drum rolls and bass. The use of saxophone is truly remarkable – thank you David Jackson – as it sets the music in motion, the soundscape building to a momentous torrent as these multi-talented instrumentalists reignite your passion for progressive music. As the crescendo slows, Lowe’s first vocal:
“I keep waking up – in someone else’s life
Just don’t know where I am half the time
Am I lost inside a dream I can’t control?
Or sent from heaven – Just for me.”
His voice is a good blend of Phil Collins and Roger Waters, with strings and flute adding depth and dimension to immediately reunite you with the music of your past in a way that most neo prog bands cannot re-create.
Through the Dream is another stand-out on an almost ‘greatest hits’ level recording. Imagine Roger Waters singing Trick of the Tail or Wind and Wuthering; the song that comes to mind most from that era being Evidence of Autumn. Mark Brzezicki sings this one and his vocals will definitely take you back, as will Lowe’s keyboards and guitar which together create magical sounds that capture the feelings and emotions of the past without replicating them. Then, as if from a dream, Jackson’s saxophone solo takes the emotion even deeper. Steve Gee’s bass rumbles in perfectly like Chris Squire’s and the musicianship on this track is overwhelming. Only two songs in and you know you’ve been lucky to hear something this brilliant.
Uninvited Guest opens slowly with sleepy, ‘fog rising from the lake’ guitars before Brzezicki’s drums set the pace as he sings “I remember the day when you became just a ghost in my head”. Carried Away is the best instrumental section within this song, opening with those instantly recognisable Mellotron notes and flute which lifts proceedings like Peter Gabriel’s used to with Genesis. The magic is back – additional flute, spirited drums and electric guitars filling the soundscape.
Song from a Waking Dream is as good as the title suggests, but unfortunately it only last a little over a minute and a half with beautiful piano and mysterious dream-like background effects with Alison Fleming’s ghostly voice. The perfect interlude. Where is my Home, featuring John Beagley’s vocals which are also similar to Roger Waters, is one of the heaviest songs here with powerful electric guitar until the Right Angled instrumental section picks up Mellotron and Hackett–like lead.
Searching the Banks for a Memory is by a long shot the best song on the album. It opens with birdsong and sounds of waves and surf, Yumi Hara’s electric harp a beautiful mood setter as Lowe’s piano and Jackson’s flutes take you away to a perfect memory dreamscape. Beagley’s vocals fit well with the Genesis–like harmonies which spill out during this masterpiece, Alison Fleming’s ghostly voice echoing in the distance. I just wish for this song to never end, it may be my favourite of this year.
Caught in the Streaming opens with loud sax and keyboards to disturb the tranquil beauty we were experiencing on the previous track, but it fits the storyline. Thankfully Jackson’s flute and the keyboards take us back to calm before the song ends. Lowe’s Hackett–like guitar and the background effects create that Wind and Wuthering sound again before the reintroduction of saxophone. The Hackett sound continues with dreamy keyboards in Waiting for the Rush, sung by Lowe in Waters’ tones, then Riding the Thermal is primarily an electric guitar instrumental with John Young’s unique keyboard notes adding dimension.
Quiet Days brings Lowe’s vocals, lead guitar, piano and keyboards with Jackson’s saxophone and flute adding volumes to the sound. The title track is another brilliant piano filled instrumental with David Cross’ violin and Alison Fleming’s echoing voice. The pace picks up with some excellent keyboards and fantastic drumming from Brzezicki, with violin returning on closer Almost Seen where Pat Orchard’s acoustic guitar adds much to one of his original compositions, Beagley singing supported by the wonderful keyboard sounds that Lowe has been creating throughout the album;
“I will not become lost.
I follow the river like a lens,
As it bends all along to the sea.
Follow me. I am free.
I am free!”
Then the perfect closing lines;
“These many lives we live are one. Just as sure as the light behind the sun. Follow me there.”
Invisible Din is an excellent album, the kind that the leaders of prog used to make, fashioned over hours of careful and thorough practice. I have been waiting for an album like this for a long time. Yes, it probably will be on my top ten album list come the end of 2016. Right now, the Cloud Distortion part of Searching the Banks for a Memory is my favourite song of the year.
Get this album and experience music made by consummate professionals, the way it used to be.
[Tony and Mark have lined up the album launch gig for Invisible Din at 229 The Venue, Great Portland Street, London on 11th November, which will involve performances from many of the album’s contributors as well as the immensely talented Mickey Simmonds (who has previously worked with Mike Oldfield, Fish and Camel) on keyboards.]
01. Overture (7:07)
– a) Overview
– b) Fall Back To Life
02. Through The Dream (7:13)
– a) Soaring The Vapour
03. Uninvited Guest (6:57)
– a) Carried Away
04. Song From A Waking Dream (1:34)
05. Where Is My Home (3:39)
– a) Right Angled
06. Searching The Banks For A Memory (8:44)
– a) Cloud Distortion
– b) Caught In The Streaming
07. Waiting For The Rush (5:40)
08. Riding The Thermal (3:22)
09. Quiet Days (8:47)
– a) Over The Edge
– b) No Return
10. Invisible Din (5:42)
11. Almost Seen (7:24)
– a) The Light Below
– b) Falling Through
Total Time – 66:09
Tony Lowe – Bass, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
Mark Brzezicki – Drums
David Cross – Violin
David Jackson – Saxophones & Flutes
Phil Spalding – Bass
Steve Gee – Bass
John Beagley – Vocals & Keyboards
Alison Fleming – Vocals
Yumi Hara – Harp
Pat Orchard – Acoustic Guitar
Record Label: Sunn Creative
Date Of Release: 11th November 2016