Although having been in existence for more than twenty years, IZZ improved their profile considerably with their last album, the excellent and well received Don’t Panic in 2019. Whilst working on the follow up album, they unearthed an old unrecorded song Half Life, and decided to release it alongside some more new material as an EP, perhaps to keep their momentum going whilst playing live is put on indefinite hold.
The three new studio tracks here have a different atmosphere to the last album whilst being recognisably IZZ music. First up is The Soul of Music, lyrically based on a nineteenth century poem by Freeman Edwin Miller, and which celebrates the power of music: “Man reads the longings of his days, And finds amid your lofty lays, Glad music. Glad music for his gloomy times.” Apt for these trying times perhaps? Prefaced by a classically inspired piano intro, this gives way to a sprightly jazzy drum pattern and prominent Rickenbacker rhythm, then the harmony vocals. The voices blend beautifully, wafting around in Jon Anderson fashion before Paul Bremner’s guitar spirals cloudwards in a Howe-like ascent. It’s all very uplifting, (and Yes-like circa Wondrous Stories).
Into the Sun is a gentle love song, very Big Big Train at their most pastoral, acoustic guitar and Mellotron to the fore. Paul Bremner plays a very restrained guitar solo before the bass picks up the pace with an insistent chug and Tom Galgano provides playful keyboard burbles giving way to a brief fuzz-bass wig out to finish. It’s delightful and packs so much interest into four minutes.
Half Life is an altogether different sound again, with a modern but melancholy feel not unlike Steven Wilson. There are big drums from Greg Dimiceli giving the chorus a real presence. What exactly the song is about I really can’t say; lines like “The beauty that surrounds me, Caresses me like polyester” are memorable but mystifying! The song does have something about it though which makes me return to it often, and if it is indicative of their future direction, the next album should be very interesting.
The EP is completed by a live track recorded at CalProg, a version of The Wait of It All, originally from a release dating back to 2004, Ampersand Volume 1. This version is much nearer Don’t Panic in style, and goes some way to showing us what we’re missing with live shows off the agenda for now. Again the harmony vocals of the ladies Anmarie Byrnes and Laura Meade together with the Galgano brothers (I assume they are brothers!), work superbly well, and give the band such flexibility in the vocal department.
So that’s it, twenty minutes of music to tide you over until next year, but it’s twenty quality-packed minutes. Quality over quantity every time for me! Oh, and worth noting for vinyl fans, the vinyl version has an additional 20 minute piece from Paul Bremner’s forthcoming solo album, on which the rest of IZZ appear. I’ve not heard it, but it sounds interesting.
01. The Soul of Music (4:49)
02. Into the Sun (4:03)
03. Half Life (4:27)
04. The Wait of It All (live at CalProg) (6:31)
Total Time – 19:50
Paul Bremner – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Anmarie Byrnes – Vocals
Brian Coralian – Acoustic & Electronic Drums, Percussion
Greg Dimiceli – Acoustic Drums, Percussion
John Galgano – Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar, Additional Keyboards, Vocals
Tom Galgano – Keyboards, Vocals
Laura Meade – Vocals
Record Label: Doone Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 28th July 2020