I’m always on the lookout for emerging bands and, thanks to a recommendation by my friend Andy Glass (of Solstice), I discovered Exploring Birdsong, a piano and synth-centric trio hailing from Liverpool. They’ve been around since circa 2017, having graduated together from Liverpool’s Institute of Performing Arts and, by their own admission, have been likened to the progressive elements of Kate Bush and Steven Wilson. They’ve also enjoyed festival performances at HRH Prog and Winter’s End and been given some traction by Prog Magazine; quite remarkable given that they are still developing their musical foundations.
Their 5-track sophomore EP, Dancing in the Face of Danger, is attention-grabbing stuff, largely due to the variety of musical genres contained within, ranging from delicate vocals through to an almost metallic element; one can almost sense that this band could be influenced by Opeth. As if that wasn’t enough variety, the band has form, working alongside none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Right at the forefront of this music are the beguiling and powerful vocals of Lynsey Ward. Lynsey knows her onions, she does…, as she acts out the stories of each track, whilst also taking on a keyboard role. And the band, comprising Jonny Knight on bass and keyboards (and he can apparently cover both simultaneously in a live setting) and Matt Harrison on drums, complement her style very well indeed.
The mini-album opens confidently with Pyre, a female vocal prog classic that fits neatly between the likes of Mostly Autumn and League of Lights. It sets the scene and tone for the remaining tracks, with some tender musical interludes amongst a bunch of energetic and uplifting rhythms. It segues into The Way Down, a whole lot heavier and more menacing in style with a prominent bass undertone before taking the listener on a purposeful journey with gorgeous layered vocal harmonies. This track has a wonderful soundscape and it warrants turning the volume as high as you can get it.
Ever the Optimist is the first single from this EP with accompanying video. Co-written with Sir Paul McCartney, an opportunity taken up by Lynsey and Matt whilst they were still undertaking their studies, this track is perhaps the most accessible on the EP. The band say: “It’s by far the poppiest song on the record and was the catalyst for centring our songs around synths as well as sole piano parts.” It is instantly recognisable as a radio friendly single, with opening tender vocals very reminiscent of 1980’s Kate Bush, and catchy melody before breaking into a song with much depth and rhythm. It evokes a true sense of happiness and joy whilst retaining the underlying traits of modern day melodic progressive music, courtesy of an engaging instrumental section mid-song that shows off Matt’s drumming skills to a difficult time signature.
Bear the Weight is the second single from the EP, also supported with an excellent video. With a beautiful piano and vocal introduction, its origins go back to 2019 and tells the somewhat dark story of building labour working against their will. As the band explain: “They are merely a number, and the only thing to relieve them of their duties is death – however they know they will only be replaced by someone else so, to prevent someone going through what they have experienced, they continue.” The poignant lyric “We bear the weight, to defend the man who would fall in your place” says it all really. The track builds momentum, illustrating the strains and efforts of the construction workforce, and it reflects the onerous subject matter well. This will be a cracker when performed live.
No Longer We Lie concludes this record. The band’s signature sound of classical piano and vocal is present in spades, coupled with layered vocal harmonies throughout, before building into a fuller sound with the trio giving it maximum energy and ending with orchestral elements to round out the story.
This is a very enjoyable mini-album, chock full of vigour and vitality, if a little repetitive; that is a very minor criticism as the band is clearly passionate about what they do and how they do it and there is a true sense that they have some fire in their bellies. It’s also a wonderfully mixed album, with fulfilling depth and spatial thunderous sound throughout. They are a young band, with bags of potential and enthusiasm, and I have every confidence that they will bed down further as they develop their sound. They will also be a treat to see live.
01. Pyre (4:53)
02. The Way Down (4:59)
03. Bear The Weight (5:04)
04. Ever The Optimist (4:15)
05. No Longer We Lie (5:25)
Total Time – 24:35
Lynsey Ward – Keyboards, Vocals
Jonny Knight – Bass, Keyboards
Matt Harrison – Drums
Tee Soulful – Programmed Drums
Elaine Ambridge – Violins & Viola
Luke Moore – Cello
Record Label: Long Branch Records
Country Of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 24th March 2023