If it doesn’t Rain, it pours… and in their new release, Radio Silence, Rain certainly do pour forth with an eclectic cascade of songs, played with great style and assurance. In their unexpected and celebrated debut album, Singularity, Rain responded intuitively with mixed emotions about the effects of the pandemic in a fascinating melting pot of musical ideas. That remarkable album was recorded separately due to the restrictions of that peculiar period, and that sense of disconnection and separation was somewhat reflected in the themes and atmosphere of the album. In contrast, Radio Silence was recorded collectively in the studio, and that liberating, even joyous sense of working closely together is clearly expressed in an album fizzing with collaborative creativity.
John Jowitt has described the very different development of this album, which commenced still under the shadow of the pandemic in the summer of 2021 when Andy Edwards sent around demos of some new songs, including pieces that became Hypnosis, Solid State, Bring it Back and Never Ending Circle. Some further writing sessions at Edwards’ place produced the Jowitt penned short opening instrumental fanfare Genaú (which Google tells us means ‘exactly’ or ‘precisely’). Rob Groucutt brought the impressive and imaginative album finale Fear in the Night and the guitar start of the track Radio Silence (originallly on piano) which Jowitt tells us the band ‘jammed into a form’. The seemingly playful but bitter Something New has more of a legacy in Rain history as it was a track guitarist Mirron suggested to the band when they needed more material for their first ever gig at the Prog for Peart festival in 2021, as they had to fill an hour!
As a new band, Rain had the advantage of including two significant musicians from modern progressive rock; Andy Edwards, formerly drummer in Robert Plant’s Priory of Brion before joining legendary Prog bands IQ and Frost* in the late 2000s, alongside John Jowitt, previously a long-time member of IQ who also played with Edwards in Frost*, as well as playing with Arena and Jadis amongst others, in a rhythm section to die for. However, the talents of Rob Groucutt and Mirron mean Rain is so much more than a couple of ex-members of well-known Prog acts… and it is also clear that Rain go well beyond the restrictions and the sterility of ‘old school Prog’. Singularity was quite some debut so the challenge was to maintain the momentum on Radio Silence.
The good news is that Rain have taken that initial blueprint and sparklingly expanded it with another excellent and diverse album. Hypnosis begins rather chunkily with drums and guitars as Mirron intones darkly. Jowitt’s bass rumbles along like a tank underpinning the song before things take a left turn (get used to them… there are LOTS of musical ‘left turns’ on this album!). A funky guitar and a slithering synth raise the song out of the darkness and the band embark on a glorious jam-like section with guitars, keys, bass and drums intertwining. Mirron throws in a screeching electric guitar line before the funk sets right back in. There’s a sense of release in the final section and Mirron tops things off with a brief but dazzling guitar solo – I have no idea what the song is about… but it felt good!
The title track typifies the approach taken by the band on this album, original ideas contributed by band members being worked on together to develop the piece. There is a sense of late-night sleeplessness with a mantra-like vocal which is briefly illuminated by a short guitar solo strafing across the darkness like a shooting star, and then the main gentle hypnotic theme is recapitulated. There is something dream-like about the whole song, and that sense continues initially in Solid State with a tinkling opening. Originally brought in as a musical idea by Andy Edwards, Solid State rests on a fluid drum performance, and it is notable that Edwards also provides additional guitars, keyboards and programming through the album – he is clearly more than ‘just’ a drummer, writing high quality songs full of invention which are also appealing and catchy.
A subtle, restrained opening section with keys and percussion underlays some surprisingly gentle vocals from John Jowitt in his first vocal performance with the band. A great feature of Rain albums is the interchange between different vocalists, mainly Rob Groucutt and Mirron sharing vocal duties in the same song, handing on the lead part – well, it seems John Jowitt has joined that vocal baton relay, and such is the quality that he should consider singing on more songs in future. Jowitt wrote the lyrics and Solid State may well be quite an acerbic political commentary on modern society with lines such as:
Another Rainbow drives me on.”
I am pretty sure most of us have felt that at times we drag our sorry arses to work on a Monday morning, forever chasing that pot of gold at the end of various rainbows. Of course, it may be nothing to do with that interpretation, but that’s the beauty of more ambiguous lyrics – we can all hear the same thing and take something different from it.
Bring it Back continues the consistent quality of this album, which alternates between Groucutt’s melodic vocals and Mirron’s anguished rock howls, with the band equally adept at rolling along or ripping it up. The middle section becomes rather more tumultuous with some eccentric keyboards over some piledriving drums and bass. Mirron’s voice reaches a real crescendo screaming ‘Bring it Back’, signalling a thrilling mid-section with Edwards and Jowitt locked together fluidly before Mirron really lets loose on the fretboard… and just as quickly things fall away to an acoustic guitar, fragile voice and languid, dreamy guitar. Indeed, the whole song fades away into the distance in a dream-like manner.
Never Ending Circle is the one song on this album that did not really work for this listener… it just seems to go round in circles with a rather repetitive jazzy riff and melody… but then again it may just be me, not being a jazz aficionado. You can’t win ’em all. I could touch on whether this album is ‘Prog’ or not, but frankly I cannot be arsed as it’s such a hackneyed, tired old debate – it’s just great music whatever label one puts on it.
Winter Sun is a short but delightful piano piece that Rob Groucutt put down on the very last day of mixing, and it acts like a palate cleanser before the finale. As I write this review a winter Sun is indeed shining, and this lovely piece evokes the contrasting cold bright beauty of such a day. In truth this piece also feels like an unofficial intro to the standout finale of this album, Fear in the Night, originally brought to the band by the impressive multi-instrumentalist and singer, Rob Groucutt. He seems to bring a Beatle-esque quality to the music as he sings wistfully over an acoustic guitar intro. The whole band joins for an injection of power, but in the manner of Rain they soon take a left run with Mirron picking out a delicate Spanish guitar style motif, which morphs in to a cool floaty jazz passage as Jowitt lays down a cool bass backing. Another left-turn brings an abrupt change to an acoustic guitar and softly chanted vocals which gradually gathers momentum. The tempo increases significantly with Mirron’s scintillating guitar swooping and soaring above the main and increasingly insistent theme. The guitar rises with some spectacular playing over a crunching backing… and then abruptly ends… like a dream. It is a remarkable end to an excellent album.
Did I enjoy it as much as Singularity? The jury is out on that one as that was a very special album for me, out of the blue in the middle of Covid lockdown. This is quite a different offering and there is less of the surprise factor, but the quality remains so high. Radio Silence is certainly a very worthy successor to Singularity.
It is difficult to think of other bands so able to write and play such diverse musical styles and ideas with such skill and imagination. Turn off your preconceptions, tune into Radio Silence and be prepared for a fine downpour of Rain – you’ll love it!
01. Genaú (1:40)
02. Hypnosis (5:42)
03. Something New (3:22)
04. Radio Silence (5:24)
05. Solid State (8:09)
06. Bring it Back (8:16)
07. Never Ending Circle (6:51)
08. Winter Sun (1:49)
09. Fear in the Night (8:29)
Total Time – 49:42
Andy Edwards – Drums, Additional Guitars, Keyboards, Programming
Rob Groucutt – Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars
John Jowitt – Bass, Vocals
Mirron – Guitars, Vocals, Programming
Record Label: Giant Electric Pea
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 27th January 2023
– Singularity (2020)
– Radio Silence (2023)